Roast and Conch is a small cocoa cafe at Seven Dials in London. It is part of the Hotel Chocolate company and their Rabot Estate.
I am a member of Hotel Chocolat's Tasting Club, and receive regular newsletters from them. When the Roast and Conch cafe was first announced a year or so ago, I was really excited about going there. I saw the online menu that described savoury wraps infused with cacao and wanted to try one. There was also the option to have a cacao bean vs coffee bean cappuccino testing. I don't like coffee, but I was interested to see what the cacao version was like.
Since it was announced, I never got around to going; a trip to Covent Gardens just to go to a cafe seemed a bit pointless. But Yesterday I attended Chocolate Unwrapped, which was the weekend event finale to Chocolate Week. I had an excellent time there, and the event had vouchers for a free hot drink at the Roast and Conch cafe. The cafe was not very far away, so my family and I went over for a late lunch.
Above the cafe was one of Hotel Chocolat's shops selling their usual range of wonderful products. The cafe was in the basement, and didn't look aesthetically pleasing with all the overhead light circuitry exposed. I was also very disappointed to discover that in the week or two since I had last checked their menu, it had been altered. The range was much more limited and much less innovative. The duck comfit and vegetable wraps had been replaced by rather boring sounding sandwiches - the kind you tend to buy at the newsagents on the way to work. I had expected their food to be made to order, and that they would spread the cacao ganache filling in along with the savoury contents, but instead, the sandwiches were pre-made, preserved in a plastic film, and the ganache spread came as a plastic pot accompaniment that you had to put in yourself. Doing this would be quite impossible without making a very undignified mess as you would have to deconstruct the entire sandwich to spread the ganache on the bread.
When it came to the drinks, I wanted to try a cacao coffee, but they said that they had run out and were only doing plain coffee or hot chocolate. Since the cacao coffee is something they were promoting so heavily - and is one of its unique product concepts - I think it rather a poor show that it was not available.
While my parents both had soup and a coffee, in the end I chose some toast that came with cocoa nib butter. The sourdough was very nice (although it was warm bread rather than toast), but the butter was so solid that it was impossible to spread.
In the end, after all the hype made about this place by Hotel Chocolat, I was expecting something much better than what I got.