October 13, 2009
On the same trip involving the L’Artisan visit, I decided to warm up the palate with a visit to Curley’s first. It’s a bit of a shame that his shop is in such an obscure location, because with slightly more visible shop frontage I’m sure it would get more foot traffic.
Anyway, I tried the following cross-section: Chuao, Araguani, Guanaja Pave, Mint, Jasmine, and Guanaja Coffee. Some of you may know that the AoC gives the Chuao and Araguani chocolates a gold (these are the Curley confections, not the bars) and the Guanaja Pave and mint a silver. My experiences confirm the accuracy of their assessment.
The Chuao was a winner, but then again, when you’re using such a spectacular base chocolate, it’s hard to go wrong. Chuao is one flavour that will shine through almost no matter what, but still, the execution here was flawless with a supreme smooth texture and powerful Chuao signature flavour.
If anything, the Araguani might have been even better. This one was awe-inspiring in its power and is one of the best truffles anywhere. Curley is clearly using a 2:1 ratio here and the texture is thus dense and firm, another decided plus. About the only truffle that competes with it anywhere is the Theo 70% which as many will know I consider to be the best in the world. Here’s one that will stand up to it – and it would be interesting to taste them head-to-head.
By contrast, the Guanaja Pave, starting with a base chocolate arguably slightly more distinguished than the Araguani, doesn’t come off quite as well. It doesn’t have as high a ratio of chocolate, and as a result seems slightly too sweet. One almost thinks it might have additional sugar, especially since the flavour of liquid sugar shows up. Texture is still superb, although it doesn’t share the rich denseness of the Araguani. Nonetheless, here I will emphasize that these are very minor quibbles.
The mint is almost perfect, although again I must put it in context against L’Artisan’s mint Cryollo which is a far superiour chocolate. This has nice minty flavour, but probably too much cream: the texture is soft and fluid, suggesting 1:1 ratio, and all that extra cream seemed to smother the mint a bit, making it seem perhaps slightly old, not participating in the glorious freshness the L’Artisan (or for that matter La Maison du Chocolat or Theo’s) chocolates did. A bit of tweaking would make this one a vigorous competitor with those other reference standards. I suspect, however, it’s not going to be able to equal L’Artisan’s no matter what.
The jasmine, advertised as the flavour of the month, unfortunately didn’t live up to its star billing. The jasmine flavour was just too subtle. Also, there was a disconcerting ring of iron or blood in there – which previous experience has shown me can occasionally be the result of caramelised sugar, thus not necessarily a negative as such – that was distracting. But compared to Theo’s beautiful, floral jasmine chocolate this one came away as feeble and wan.
The coffee likewise needed more impact. It had a nice firm texture and good solid chocolatey flavour, but the coffee didn’t come through strongly enough. In fairness, Valrhona Guanaja is also not the best choice for a coffee chocolate: its fruitiness counteracts the bitter jolt of coffee. Staying with Valrhona, the Araguani would have been a more suitable partner, or better still, using Amedei instead Toscano Black 70% has the right powerful austerity to support coffee.
Overall, though, Curley unequivocally deserves his position atop the London chocolate scene. In comparison to L’Artisan he’s not perhaps quite as consistent: there are some disappointments as well as some successes, but his best outdistance all nearby competition. Where Curley really excels is in renditions of pure chocolate ganaches – as you get to more assertive and unusual flavoured chocolates he starts to waver but his basic technique is faultless. Strongly recommended.
August 6, 2006
It’s a bit of a shame that his shop is in such an obscure location, because with slightly more visible shop frontage I’m sure it would get more foot traffic.
Richmond is a tressure but I agree it’s a bit beside. Any idea why William and his Japaneese wife bougt The Chocolate Society?
“Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos” (Maricel E. Presilla)