The other week we were invited down to Hotel Chocolat’s Monmouth Street Roast + Conch shop for a sneak preview of their Christmas range (about which I shall write more later) and as ever Angus Thirlwell gave everyone a big bag of lovely things to take home at the end of the evening – most of which were decidedly Christmas-themed items.
This, however, was not especially festive, so in order to stop myself from directly referring to Christmas in early November I thought I’d ease my way in with a look at this Bûche Bar.
There is a more festive Cherry Kirsch & Hazelnut Bûche available, but we were given this triple-chocolate-gianduja layered coffee version and as any regular readers may guess, I did have my doubts. I’m not entirely sure exactly how many coffee-chocolate variations I’ve tasted over the past few years but I do know that there haven’t been that many, and for a good reason. It would seem that coffee and chocolate, while perfectly good bedfellows, aren’t always that easy to put together in bar/truffle/block form. (Memories spring to mind of the dreadful Coffee Creams rattling about in the bottom of a tine of Roses, or sniffed out and sneakily replaced in a bag of Revels.)
Of course times have changed and the world of chocolate is a brighter and better place these days, so I left my preconceptions in a corner and sat down for a taste.
We are promised ‘Luscious layers of latte, cappuccino & espresso in a bûche – ideal for slicing and sharing’ – three types of coffee flavoured chocolate – and that had me all the more intrigued. How well would the three different layers stand up?
You’d be right in thinking that something designed for slicing and sharing would be easy to cut through – the knife glides through his bûche like it would through a block of pâte, revealing the three strata which get darker as one goes down through them. There’s also an added surprise in the form of feuilletine scattered through the cappuccino layer, adding a delicate crunch to the middle layer, a very good idea given that we’re talking a triple-hit of gianduja here.
I’m very happy to say that the three layers work really well. The differences between them are distinct. From the milky white chocolate latte to the darkest (50%) espresso you can really discern the coffee flavours intensifying as you work through them, and the additional crunch in the middle layer was welcome in terms of texture and flavour. It’s a smart idea adding those little fragments of feuilletine to break up the gianduja up. Had it not been for them, this could very easily have become overwhelmingly rich very quickly.
These Bûche bars are meant to be left lying about so that you and your guests can casually lop a piece off as the fancy takes you. I left mine lying around and managed to get through it in a couple of days with very little in the way of help, and at £9 a bar it might be wise to hang back until the festive season, although I would imagine one of these and a round of top notch espresso coffees would finish off a dinner party very nicely indeed.