My first day back in London all day since I arrived. I got up later than I normally do, and had some actual cereal for a change.
I took the tube to Bayswater and wandered down towards Notting Hill. I had a chocolate tasting today at 12 - 12:30 to attend at Artisan du Chocolat. When I arrived, only one other lady was there. We began the tasting with a few standard chocolate bars, one from Java, one from Haiti, and one from Vietnam, of all places. I didn’t have a clue that Vietnam was growing cacao beans for use in chocolate. One learns new things every day.
We then followed those up with some infused bars, including a Masala Chai, Espresso, and a White Chocolate Matcha Tea. She then shared with us some artisan pieces, Mint, Praline, and the most unusual of flavours, Tobacco. I am a vehement non-smoker, yet I found the tobacco one to be really lovely. She last shared with us some salted caramel truffles. These are all liquid caramel truffles, and we had a regular, Banana, and finished with Balsamic Vinegar. Not a huge fan of that flavour.
Midway through this, two people came in for the tasting and gave some poo-poo ‘oh we had a hard time finding parking’ crap. If you’re scheduled for a time, be there at that time!
I asked a question in regards to ganaches, and the other attendant asked me if I had some time free that she would take me to another shop that sells water ganaches when the tasting was over. I was hugely excited about this idea.
The tasting finished and I purchased a tobacco bar and my new friend and I wandered out onto Westbourne Grove. I originally had plans to hit the major museums today but this seemed infinitely better as she was going to take me to a shop that sells the very chocolate bars I’m looking for!
She wanted a coffee, so we stopped off at the closest Caffe Nero and she had a coffee, whilst I had tea. She paid for it as well, which was rather nice. During our chat, she told me she was a retired pastry chef. How ironic we’d do the same thing for a living! I told her I was the same (she thought I was a scientist of all things!) We chatted and finished our drinks and headed back out. She felt the need to tell me she was going to introduce me as ‘a friend of a friend’ to anyone who asked her. I don’t know if the chocolate world is a serious and cut-throat business, if I have to be explained in any shops we would go into.
We stopped off in a small shop called Melt. I was offered a sample of a blueberry truffle. It was refreshing with a seeded liquid center. I ended up not buying anything there.
We moved on down the road a little bit, chatting and such along the way. She used the phrase ‘do you get what I mean?’ a lot. And, it turned out her name was Marian. She was a nice older bird, if not quirky.
We arrived at a shop called Alexeeva and Jones. She informed me they were a start up that carried various chocolatiers. They knew her very well in the shop and were extremely generous offering samples of loads of things. I had two samples of Damian Allsop (both a milk and a dark water ganache), and a Damian Allsop ‘Cloud’ of red fruits and vanilla. A ‘Cloud’ is much like a honeycomb consistency. Think Crunchie bar, but fruit honeycomb. It was delightful.
He then told me about a Scottish chocolatier named Iain Burnett who will be doing a lecture at the shop tomorrow from 12-3. He does beautiful chocolates with lovely transfers and scrollwork on them. He offered me a cinnamon piece. It had the consistency of fudge. It was alright, but I prefer the smoother ganaches like the water ones of Allsop and the ones from earlier at the tasting.
We finished there, and I bought Damian Allsop’s ‘Eat London’ series of bars. I had been looking for these a few other places in London and everyone didn’t carry them anymore.
We chatted a bit more, she gave me some career advice as far as trying to land a job in London and passed her email address on to me as well. We parted ways and although she was a bit unusual, it was a pleasant way to spend 2 hours and get a handful of free chocolates out of it!
I wandered Portobello Road a small bit and purchased some things. Having a few hours to go til my dinner evening, I headed down to Soho.
And, it just so happens, I ended up wandering down Carlisle Street. I was immediately saddened as there is scaffolding in front of the entire building facade of Number 6. Which only means, one cannot see inside the 1st floor windows AT ALL.
HOWEVER, one CAN see inside the ground floor windows. And one did. And one saw a very handsome man who may or may not answer to initials I.D.H, wearing a black suit, white shirt, no tie and glasses. One TRIED very hard not to stare and gawp and tried very hard to keep walking so one didn’t look hugely suspect. And, okay, one may have slightly walked past 3 or 4 times in the span of a few minutes. But, then one left as one was hungry. And one did NOT go back again. (That will be later in the holiday.)
Off to Moolis on Frith St for some Indian street food. I was going to go with a Goat wrap, but it had onions in it and I think onions are bastards so that was a no. I opted for a Pork with pomegranate salsa. It was tasty, but I realised when I bit into it, it had all manner of horrible things I hate inside - onions, lettuce, and cabbage. I just kept on eating. Sometimes you need to just get through it to immerse yourself in things.
Stomach sated, I ended up wandering from Soho to Covent Garden where I bought more Laduree Macarons. (I already bought a box of Salted Caramel & Chocolate Profiteroles from M&S today!) I feel like I’m buying food ALL THE TIME! I WILL weigh 10 pounds more when I get back, I can feel it!
Headed down Shaftesbury Avenue to Forbidden Planet to scope out some Doctor Who merchandise for a co-worker of mine. There are some GREAT t-shirts that make you appear like you’re wearing the costume of whatever your favourite Doctor is. If they weren’t £17, I’d consider getting The Fifth Doctor’s shirt.
Out on the streets again, it was time to start heading over to East London for my dining adventure.
It’s called Gingerline HQ and it’s a secret themed supper club in various locations along the former East London line (which is now the Overground, and is orange in colour, hence being called ‘Gingerline) Each time is different, and you get a 4 course meal AND souvenir menu art. You are sworn to secrecy not to tell anyone the theme of your event or where it was.
I can tell you it was a really unique evening, but I’m glad I’m not fatter than I am now, or I could have NEVER managed to get IN to the actual location, due to how the entrance was set up.
The food was great, although the First Course featured a bastard onion again. I managed to slurp it down so I didn’t appear ‘anti-onion’.
The Second Course was a really unique apple based soup.
The Third Course was a braised beef.
The Fourth Course, dessert, was a panna cotta. I’m not a huge fan of panna cotta but this was fairly good.
All in all, it definitely was an experience I’d do again, except this time I’d go with someone else, as sitting at a table with a party of three and a party of two, neither of the parties with any real interest in talking to me, each other, yes, but not me.
Tomorrow is another London day. I’ve got a chocolate afternoon tea at the Hilton Park Lane and HIGNFY tomorrow evening!!! Finally I get to see my darling (not through a window) but there in front of me being humourous and charming!