My local chocolate contact, Monique Bowley sent me a recent press release from Bracegirdles which proudly informed us that they had taken out three gold medal for chocolate at the Royal Adelaide Show this year.
Normally South Australian monolith Haigh’s or Swiss Glory get, well, all the glory in our local chocolate world, so for a relative newcomer to come in and get noticed it is very big news. I’d driven past their cafes a few times and thought it was just a coffee and hot chocolate place but when I then found out about their dark double chilli chocolate, shiraz and champagne truffles gaining such accolades it was high time for a visit.
Bracegirdle is actually the surname of Sue and Gary. No, they don’t resemble hobbits, but I didn’t check Gary’s feet too closely – mostly because he was too busy to stand still. He and wife Sue set up the business because of their passion for great chocolate, top notch coffee and to create the ideal atmosphere in order to enjoy the experience. “We want people to feel as though they’re guests in our own house,” which is why the main dining area has a fireplace, comfy chairs and a heritage home feel about it. This passion for their business also extends to each other – they wanted to work together but ironically they are now each managing a shop on opposite sides of the city and busy establishing another one in Beresford’s winery at McLaren Vale.
I was not only distracted by their Belgian selection on the shelves which form the basis of all their handmade chocolates, but also the chocolates themselves protected from my drool by a solid glass counter:
Interesting, as I watched – and was entertained by – the cheery customers entering the store like ‘Cheers’ sitcom characters, “The usual please Gary”, that at least half of their trade is coffee. Gary explained that they had worked hard to source the best coffee and their in-house Barista has been the state coffee making champion. Their hot chocolates are the other beverage that customers such as the artist planning her exhibition, a couple of burly tradesmen, two ladies catching up on gossip, a 90 year old electrical shop proprietor, a father and grown son picking up the sugar packets they’d accidentally knocked to the ground and what the grandmother, mother and two children were ordering. In his rare moment to draw breath, I remarked to Gary just how happy everyone was in his store and he noted, “Yeah, my mate’s a mechanic and everyone he sees is annoyed, inconvenienced and very unhappy when they see the bill at the end. He wants customers like ours.”
Gary made me a version of both beverages – the Bracegirdles Mocha – top notch espresso coffee with a generous layer of Belgian milk chocolate pieces slowly melting at the bottom. It was my choice whether to scoop up the liquid heaven lurking at the bottom or stir it into the coffee to add to the flavour. Either way it was delicious and made it hard to concentrate on what Gary was saying….. I should have written more careful notes about the flavours, the specific awards, the effort Sue had put into finding the best products and taken a photo of the mug-o-heaven, but….. oh, the mocha….
What was also impressive about Bracegirdles is that they stock the usual gourmet favourites – truffles, bars, chunks and filled cups, but also had some rather cute shapes and flavours such as the koalas, snails and penguins. I bought one of each to give to Sapphire when she returns from her school camp. The koala is milk chocolate with a honey and orange ganache; the penguin has a white mango ganache centre and the snail is a more adult coffee ganache. Yes, I’m going to insist that she share them with me (later: she did and they were both amazing and just as suited for sophisticated choco-palates as well as childish ones).
But let’s be honest, I’m a chocablogger, and a visit to Bracegirdles was most definitely NOT the time to be a martyr mother and do without any chocolate myself. After a long look and a chat with Gary, the selection I waddled out with included their award winning ‘gem’ range of filled truffle centres, the gold-medal shiraz truffle, white chocolate strawberry, peanut butter square, double chilli dark, orange dark, coffee pyramid, coconut centre, champagne truffle, cocoa dusted dark…
They are all as beautiful to eat, smell and taste as they are to look at and clearly reveal the Bracegirdles’ passion for presentation and excellence. All of them have that delicious, instant melt-in-the-mouth quality and I was particularly impressed with the white chocolate truffle with the lightest, buttery strawberry ganache inside – absolutely lovely. Other highlights were the strong-but-distinguished shiraz filling inside the dark truffle; the peanut butter square that was the perfect blend of milk chocolate and caramelized peanut butter and the champagne truffle. These are the kinds of delectables that I would dearly love to be able to carefully photograph, intently savour and nibble slowly in order to extend their lifespan, but I just can’t. They’re too good and too irresistible.
No wonder he’s smiling: hasn’t life changed from being a high school physical education teacher to serving coffee and chocolate to adoring fans?