This selection of chocolates was sent over from Belgium for tasting courtesy of a young web entrepeneur called Thomas who has secured an exclusive web sales deal with a Belgian chocolatier by the name of Frederic Blondeel.
As Thomas said in his mail to me “It is also our passion for chocolate and chocolates in general that made us go for this product, together with the urge of showing the world that Belgium is capable of more than producing the world’s most complex government.”
Of course, we already know that Belgium is home to some of the world’s finest chocolate makers, which naturally led me to conclude that I was in for a treat.
More from Thomas;
“The reason why the site is currently in English only is because I worked for a multinational briefly with several colleagues from the UK. Each time I went on a work visit to the UK they asked me to bring chocolates from Belgium – so I knew there was demand. The UK is close by, it’s a big market so it’s our mission to make these wonderful chocolates available to a wide audience. We’re just starting off with the shop so we hope to get some UK traffic by the holiday season. In Belgium there are chocolatiers all over the place – not as good as Frederic but still, good enough for people not to look further than their local shop. That’s why we do not focus on Belgium.”
One thing that is worth mentioning is that these chocolates were excellently packaged. A stout cardboard box was home to a polystyrene box surrounded by soft packing material. The inner box was taped closed and held the actual ballotin. When I lifted it for the first time I was immediately impressed with the weight. That’s because M. Blondeel (or maybe Thomas himself) had managed to cram in no fewer than twenty three individual pieces. I shan’t go into detail about every single piece, but it’s true to say that these are indeed top quality chocolates in the classic Belgian mode with a few modern twists. All of the chocolate used is smooth, well balanced and full of flavour. There were of course a few surprises among the classics, and a couple of these are worth a mention.
There was a dark chocolate and spearmint ganache which was so alive with the most natural mint flavour I have come across in a long time. The flavours sat together perfectly, and were a shining example of why mint and chocolate should be paired. Rarely have I tasted it done so well, though.
A milk chocolate ganache with cinnamon held the balance between the smoothness of the milk chocolate and the warm spice of cinnamon perfectly. As the shell melted away the centre liquified in my mouth, releasing cocoa and spice notes that were reminiscent of chai.
This slender square concealed a tangerine (I believe) centre with tiny pieces of zest which delivered a gorgeous citrus burst, fresher and lighter than traditional chocolate/orange pairings and dangerously moreish.
More Belgian tradition in the form of a snail shell (there are a number of novelty shapes in M. Blondeel’s range) was home to half a caramelised walnut surrounded by caramel. The nut was crisp and fresh-tasting, and in combination with the light, liquid caramel and thick milk chocolate shell, it had me smiling as I allowed the flavours to slowly spread over my tongue.
A white chocolate heart with a burnt sugar finish didn’t really seem like it was going to be my kind of thing, but it cunningly held a dark,dark ganache centre with layers of thin, crisp crepe. Very much reminiscent of a Hotel Chocolat or Pascal Caffet chocolate, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this one.
Of all the dark chocolates I tried this one was the ultimate new taste. The three discs are slivers of crisp nougat which sit atop a mound of caramel, all of which is balanced on a chewy, nutty base. The fact that all of this is smothered in rich, dark chocolate with a superb soft mouthfeel just makes the whole thing devastatingly moreish. In fact, truth be told, had I just received the chocolates I have spoken of I would have been very happy, but here were many other great flavours – a blackcurrant ganache which was bright, sharp and tangy, classic Belgian Pralines, coffee ganaches with light, fragrant coffee aromas, a number of pieces that made great use of nuts, and more.
One thing I have to say is that the Chocolateque site needs to have more information about the chocolates themselves. I found myself referring to Frederic Blondeel’s site for identification purposes. I’m also unsure about how many people will be willing to pay £30+ for a box of chocolates. They are very good indeed, but at that price I’m not sure that many people will take a chance on an unknown quantity. On the other hand, if you’re in Brussels I’d recommend swinging by his shop for a browse.