Finding myself in Nottingham for the day I decided to see if I could find any noteworthy chocolate shops, and Chocolate Utopia popped up at the top of the list. Since the shop was only a five minute walk away I really had no excuse for not paying them a visit, did I?
When I arrived at the shop (which is also a café selling hot chocolate and other beverages) it was fairly busy – never a bad sign. It’s not a huge place, and has a continental ‘small café’ feel to it, and a distinctive chocolate aroma thanks to the chocolate machine churning away in the background.
There are over forty individual chocolates and a number of handmade chocolate novelties available at Chocolate Utopia, so it took a little while to narrow my choices down. Some help came from the ‘favourites’ tags on some of the displays – something I haven’t seen in a chocolate shop before. I eventually chose seven chocolates, some of which were new to me, others I picked out to compare with familiar flavours.
First up we have a white chocolate with a pineapple cream filling.
I chose this for a couple of reasons. One is that pineapple and chocolate is still a fairly unusual pairing, but also because it can be quite tricky to get right. Citrus fruits and cacao can be difficult to balance well but this chocolate achieved a great balance between the two main flavours. The white chocolate came through well and the pineapple was subtle and never tasted artificial or ‘perfumey’. I was surprised at how well balanced everything was, particularly the delicate balance of cream and pineapple in the filling.
My second choice was also a white chocolate, but this time the filling was both darker AND alcoholic – Bristol Cream Sherry, to be exact.
At first bite I was immediately aware of the alcohol, but not in an overpowering way. Once again, the cacoa flavours were to the fore, with the sherry element sitting in among the mix rather well. The filling was once again light as a feather, melting away quickly and leaving plenty of the shell to chew on afterwards.
The only milk chocolate I selected was another boozy number, only this time it contained Malibu. Not known for being a powerful tasting drink, I thought the coconut element might work rather well in a milk chocolate, and I was right. A mouthful of creamy soft filling wrapped in another thick shell, with good milk chocolate flavours and another light, melting centre with a hint of coconut and a smidgeon of alcohol. The Malibu wasn’t strong on the palate, so much so that you’d be hard pressed to say whether or not there was any alcohol in this one, but there was definitely ‘another element’ in there, and I found it a very pleasant, light combination.
The final four chocolates were all dark, and the first of them was a Tonka ganache.
My own previous experience with Tonka bean only goes as far as milk chocolate, so this Lauden lookalike was a definite must-try.
The dark exterior wasn’t as thick as the previous chocolates, but that just meant that I got to the ganache more quickly. I have to say that the Tonka Bean didn’t really shape the overall flavour as much as I had expected. There was a definite vanilla/nut not to the ganache, but this chocolate came across more like a ‘reduced intensity’ dark ganache than something one could directly pinpoint as Tonka Bean.
Next up was another Lauden clone, this time using Madagascan cocoa.
There’s been a lot said on Chocablog about how good Madagascan cocoa is, so it was an obvious choice, and I have to say that even the smell of this one was promising. Citrussy, green top notes flew off this morsel, and once bitten they developed into complex, well rounded cocoa with subtle hints of green, slightly woody flavours. The centre was obviously toned down by virtue of it being a ganache but the outer shell held a lot of that vibrant, fresh cocoa flavours which mingled with the softer, lighter filling in a very pleasing way. It was over too quickly and I immediately wished I’d bought two. Or three.
My penultimate choice was a Dark Ganache, packing 80% cocoa dark chocolate.
After the complexity of the Madagascar chocolate I had high hopes for this one. The centre was a little more dense than its predecessors, but no less quick to melt, flooding my mouth with a soft yet bittersweet combination. Never too sharp and too rich to be sweet, I didn’t think it was as interesting as the Madagascar, but don’t let that give you the impression that this is an inferior product.
Finally, another new combination of flavours – whisky and ginger, no less.
I could smell the ginger lurking beneath the surface of this one, so I knew I was going to be hit with that flavour, but how would the whisky fare? The centre was smooth, and the ginger was slightly sweet but when the whisky came into the mix, it provided a touch more warmth and a counterpoint to the ginger. The ginger was definitely the dominant component, but the alcohol definitely added to the overall flavour. I’m not a (Scotch) whisky drinker but this was a very enjoyable piece of work, and one I’m glad I found.
Chocolate Utopia does (of course) have a website but no online shop. They will, however, take mail orders so you don’t have to live near (or visit) Nottingham if you happen to be keen to try some of their creations.