After an abortive start a couple of years ago, it looks as if chocolatiers are once again looking at Manchester with interest. Several new chocolate shops are appearing, some of them interesting.
Somewhere in the system there's a post I did about the Cocoa Emporium (couldn't find it or I would have added this as an update). Well, now they've set up shop in Manchester in Affleck's Palace. Interesting location – lots of foot traffic although not the “standard” clientele, perhaps: I recommend to Cocoa Emporium that they can probably be more adventurous with flavours here than in other locations they might have set up in. My previous post comments on the chocolates themselves, which are on the whole quite good, with some real winners. Now I have a nice excuse to try more. Meanwhile, they're also doing cupcakes; a nice touch. The cupcakes themselves are quite good, although it must be said that the cake part is much more well executed overall than the icings, which still need a lot more work. Some of the flavours are inspired. They have a rose-pistachio that my niece would love. Of course there are various variations on the chocolate theme in the cupcakes as well. You can also buy bulk chocolate, including all the Valrhona Grand Cru origins and a couple of Michel Cluizels. (Suggestion to Cocoa Emporium, if you're reading this: also stock Vila Gracinda and Los Ancones; well worth it. You might try making some chocolates with them, too).
Also well-reported by now, L'Artisan du Chocolat has set up a toehold in Selfridges. From what I can tell they seem to be doing reasonably well, to judge by the traffic through the shop. That part of Selfridges has often been a difficult spot and L'Artisan has done a MUCH better job on visibility than previous tenants. The range is very full; a good idea – there's nothing more depressing than seeing a limp, small selection especially in a concessionary location. However the shop help could do with more training; they don't yet know the products or know the best way to handle them yet. I always am a difficult test case because I hand-pick the specific chocolates out of the case; seeing who can get this right quickly is a good way to see who knows their stuff. I can tell the most knowledgeable because they soon can guess which chocolate I'm going to pick! The Manchester staff is still a long way off that. However, L'Artisan's presence vastly uprates the calibre of chocolate available in Manchester; they're easily the best chocolatier in the region and I think people are noticing fairly quickly the dramatic difference. There's space for a “chocolate bar” – it might be worth L'Artisan approaching Selfridge's and see if they would be interested in that sort of extension offering e.g. drinks and high-standard chocolate pastries.
There's also the Manchester Chocolate Festival, part of the larger Manchester Food Festival, to be held 2 October: there might be some chocolatiers still interested in attending who haven't signed up yet (Duffy Sheardown? Are you in yet? I would be VERY happy if you managed to show up…)