It’s been quite some time since we reviewed anything from Hotel Chocolat, but at the recent opening of the chain’s wonderful new “Roast + Conch” store and café in Covent Garden (where you can actually watch chocolate being made from the bean), we were give a goodie bag stuffed full to the brim of seasonal chocolate, these included.
At first I was intrigued by the box. It features a typically stylish Hotel Chocolat design, but the cellophane wrapping is actually underneath the lid rather than around the whole box. But the reason became clear when I removed the lid – the box also contains a little Valentine’s card that you can include when giving it as a gift, and this way you can write on the card without ever having to unseal the box. It’s clever little ideas like that that keep Hotel Chocolat ahead of the competition in terms of design.
Inside, you get twelve chocolate hearts, with two each (perfect for sharing) of six flavours including two dark and four milk chocolates. Each flavour is decorated with a different coloured pattern to distinguish it and while not the most expensive packaging in the world, the overall effect is very pleasing.
The flavours are Strawberry & Black Pepper, Raspberry Rapture, Smooth Praline, Soft Chilli Caramel, Vanilla Truffle and Chocolate Brownie.
The Vanilla truffle I tried first was sweet, with a soft and creamy filling. Too sweet for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the texture.
The strawberry and pepper was equally soft, almost liquid, with a tangy fruitiness followed immediately by the flavour of black pepper, although there wasn’t much in the way of heat.
The Chocolate Brownie flavour is interesting, although I didn’t pick up much “brownieness” myself, and found it more like a sweet, slightly crunchy praline.
The Soft Chilli Caramels are the most liquid of the lot, with a sweet, buttery flavour followed by a fairly significant chilli kick. At first the sweetness and heat were a little too much for me, but I must have liked it as I found myself eating the other one straight after!
The Smooth Praline is exactly that. A simple hazelnut praline in milk chocolate. Sweet, smooth and nutty.
Finally, we have the Raspberry Rapture is a milk chocolate with an ultra smooth, tangy raspberry truffle filling. I love most fruit chocolates, particularly raspberry, so this would have to be my favourite of the bunch.
Overall, I’m impressed by this box. At £14, it represents great value, but the stylish appearance and interesting flavours mean but your loved one won’t think you’ve scrimped if you give it as a Valentine’s gift.
With a four month shelf life, they can’t really compare to the ultra fresh chocolates you would find at your local artisan chocolatier, but for those of us who don’t have access to such things – or simply can’t afford them – these are a great alternative.