And with his mighty cocoa bean ancient civilisations such as the Aztecs and the Mayans created wondrous things; namely hot chocolate. For centuries, cocoa was used to make the most heart warming, heart gladdening drinks, and then came that fateful day in Bristol, when in 1847, J. S. Fry & Sons, Ltd. developed the very first chocolate bar.
This can be considered a monumental, glorious achievement, but also the beginning of a slippery slope, in which high quality cacao was turned into sugary rubbish.
Nowadays we are inundated with cheap, high sugar, low quality 'chocolate' roaming every supermarket shelf. We have lost our appreciation for the good stuff.
Well, not all of us. Some chocolatiers still work hard at producing high quality chocolate, and they do it in ways that some people may not expect. Chocolate was not always a sugar confection; in fact pure cacao is actually very bitter. While most people consider chocolate something sweet to have for pudding, cacao also makes a superb accompaniment to savoury dishes.
Hotel Chocolat have set out to prove this with the launch of two new restaurants in London and Leeds. Rabot 1745 can be found in Borough Market, London, and opens on the 14th November. It is named after the Rabot Estate in St. Lucia, where Hotel Chocolat works on a bean to bar basis with the farmers on their cocoa plantation. Roast & Conch at the Trinity Centre, Leeds opens on the 21st November and is named after two of the processes for turning cacao into chocolate.
So what kind of savour delights can you expect from these two restaurants. Menu examples include:
Yorkshire Pudding - £6.50 Filled with slow-cooked pulled pork, garlic mash and red-wine cacao gravy.
Vegetables 'Ti Jardin (V) - £6.50
Marinated, nearly raw vegetables of the season, served with dipping pots of cacao pesto, chocolate aioli, house horseradish and a soft-boiled egg.
Steamed Plaice - £20.00
Fillet of plaice, cracked pepper and nib mousse, on sautéed leeks and salsify, port cacao nib sauce with trompette mushrooms.
Cacao Butter Carrot Confit (V) - £16
With cracked wheat and lemon-thyme dumplings, Japanese artichokes and Piedmont hazelnuts.
Hand-Cut Fries - £4
Hand-cut fries cooked in cacao butter
Sautéed Spinach - £4
Sautéed spinach with cacao nibs
Tasting Menu (London)
This is a special five course meal of small tasters for £55, and includes things like:
Soursop & Cacao Pulp Sorbet
We love soursop almost as much as cacao. Grows with the cacao around our estate.
Duck Confit Nib-Cake
Duck confit and white chocolate potato mash in a cacao nib herb crust, and bitter orange sauce
Each restaurant also has delicious desserts from cheesecake, brownies, meringues, and mousse to sorbet, pecan pie, and a fruit dipping adventure.
What's more, if you book before the 31st January you will get a 25% discount. Just quote OCT25.