I think it’s fairly safe to say that for many people Paul Wayne Gregory was something fo a highlight at the South Bank in London last weekend. If the seemingly permanent crowd his stand were anything to go by, he and his team were certainly doing something right. When I got close enough to be able to introduce myself, I had had a few minutes to observe the easy banter that had obviously been going on all day, and you’d have sworn that these were full time market traders, not master chocolate makers. Of course, offering free samples of rum and whisky soaked ganaches never hurts when it comes to drawing a crowd either.
I did sample a couple of Paul’s chocolates while I was chatting to him. As far as I’m aware Paul is the only black British chocolatier at work in the UK, and like all food creatives his roots show through in his choice of flavours. His use of a rare Wray & Nephew rum (a Jamaican favourite) for a limited run of chocolates, his self-confessed love of spice (and lack of fear when it comes to spicing things up in his chocolates) and a playful attitude towards his work make him a very approachable and affable character.
I decided on this bag of three lollipops when I was told how they had been constructed. This is Paul’s playful side – his Willy Wonka, if you will. The chocolate is a dark, slightly bittersweet blend, but those irregularities you see in the surface are part of the surprise.
Bite down into this lolly and the little lumps and bumps are revealed to be popping candy. Caramel popping candy to be precise. Popping candy has been something of a craze among chocolate makers of late – you could say it’s been popping up a lot. (Sorry, I had to.) Finally, deep in the heart of this formidable creation, there lies a molten heart of rich, dark, salted caramel.
As you can see from the photo, some of the pieces of popping candy used here are fairly large, delivering a surprising level of pop as you chew your way towards the caramel.
And what of the caramel? Well, it isn’t the satin liquid we might find in a Paul A Young egg, but if it were then the eating experience would be terribly messy. What you get is a thick, gloopy caramel with a good dash of salt thrown in. It’s a great counterpart to the slight sweetness of the popping candy, and the chocolate is rich and deep enough to carry the whole thing through.
I liked these little lollies. I do think the dark chocolate makes them a bit too grown up to give to children, but older children (particularly those with children of their own) may enjoy a slightly more sophisticated version of an old childhood favourite. Unfortunately, Paul’s web site doesn’t yet offer these for sale, but I’m sure it won’t be too long before they’re more widely available.
Update: They’re now for sale on the web site.