If you’ve ever seen an Arnold Schwarzennegger movie, you’ll know that when you see a man wearing shades carrying a 2 foot long cardboard box under his arm and walking toward your house, it’s time to hide behind the sofa.
A box that size only ever contains a shotgun, and the man with shades has one mission: to blow you away. So, you’ll forgive me for being a little hesitant when the doorbell rang this morning.
On peering through the peep hole, I was somewhat relieved to see the words “Royal Mail” on the man’s shirt.. but still not entirely happy. I mean, I’ve dealt with these postal service types before.
Luckily, the postman was benign and the box did not contain a shotgun. Oh no, this was something far more bizarre.
The “Rather Large Christmas Cracker” is exactly that. A huge, functioning cracker stuffed full of 40 Hotel Chocolat chocs and 12 party hats. It even has that little strip to make it go “bang” when you pull it. The web site claims this cracker also contains “mottoes”. I’m not quite sure what a mottoe is, but my cracker didn’t contain any. But we’re here for the chocolate, right?
The chocs are a good mix of dark, milk and white Hotel Chocolat chocolates. As you’d expect from Hotel Chocolat, the quality is excellent. All three chocolate variations taste wonderful and the fillings are exciting and packed with flavour. Compare this to something like the Thorntons collection I reviewed recently, which mainly consisted of ‘safe’ (and a little bland) praline type chocolate.
Which brings me to a potential flaw. At least half of these chocolates either contain alcohol or strong fruit flavours, and that means they’re probably not going to appeal to kids. But it’s the kids who will get the most enjoyment out of a christmas cracker bigger than any they’ve seen. I would really like to see a child friendly version of this next year. I don’t think it would be too difficult to create one version for the grown-ups and another for the kids.
There’s a couple of other minor design flaws here too. Firstly, the paper strip that makes that ‘bang’ noise is a standard-sized one. When I pulled it, it went “click” rather than “bang”. I had been hoping for industrial explosives and was a little disappointed. Also, the chocolates themselves are packed quite tightly into a nondescript plastic bag inside the cracker. A lot of thought has clearly been put into outer packaging, but inside it looks like someone just stuffed the chocolates inside. I’m sure this could be improved.
All in all though, this is a fabulous centrepiece to a Christmas dinner table. It has the wow factor, wonderful chocolates and clearly demonstrates Hotel Chocolat’s sense of humour. And that’s one of the reasons I love what they do. They make great quality products, but don’t take themselves too seriously – and it takes great skill to get that balance just right.