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Food for thought as we celebrate World Chocolate Day


By Alina Haritonova

Despite Boris Johnson’s reassuring announcement on the final stage of England’s lockdown roadmap, there remains very little information about planned changes to travel restrictions, which I’m sure many of us find disheartening.

Before Covid, my husband and I would spend long weekends outside of the UK every other month, and, being avid chocolate eaters, we would always try to discover new chocolate shops wherever we went.

At some point we even had a chocolate diary where we wrote down reviews of chocolate bars based on impromptu tasting sessions at home. We lost the chocolate diary a few years ago while moving house so I won’t be able to share concrete examples and taste profiles of a given chocolate bar. But I do remember some of the best places we discovered as we relentlessly explored the world of chocolate in search of the perfect bar.

Unable to go back to my favourite chocolate spots, I will celebrate the World Chocolate Day by going on a journey down the memory lane and encourage all the chocolate afficionados out there to join me.


Chocolate was the main reason why we travelled to Brussels back in 2018. It is often referred to as the chocolate capital of the world, which I don’t think is fair. Of course, the sheer volume of chocolate shops wherever you go is mind-blowing, but after a couple of hours in the city you start noticing that the market is heavily dominated by mega-brands, like Godiva, Neuhaus or Leonidas. No offense to these companies – they produce decent-quality product but somewhat lacking in personality and a little to heavy on the sugar. Next.

Bruges, instead, offers a much more exciting chocolate scene, and once place particularly stands out.

Dominique Persoone’s The Chocolate Line is as much about chocolate as it is about the in-store experience – once you step in, you immediately feel like a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and in the back of the store you get to see live making of chocolates. Dominique’s chocolate comes in various shapes and forms often dictated by the season, which makes it a great place to stock up on gifts to bring back home. I’ve heard that his chocolate pills are particularly popular with tourists.


Having recently travelled to Porto (yes, I was among those desperate tourists who got on the plane as soon as the government added Portugal to the green list), I discovered Chocolataria Equador (it has several shops in Portugal) – the biggest bean to bar chocolate brand in the whole of the country. With retro décor, beautifully designed packaging and hand-crafted chocolate, it feels like a place from a different era. Worth mentioning that bigger shops host port and chocolate pairing sessions – a match made in heaven.


Paris is often (and rightfully so) referred to as the culinary mecca of the world, but its chocolate offering deserves a separate mention.

There are several places I fell in love with and once you visit them, you will see why.

Chapon Chocolatier – established by Patrice Chapon, who previously worked at the Buckingham Palace making ice cream and other treats for the Royal Family, it’s one of the best places to get single-origin chocolate from South America. Unlike many other chocolatiers, Chapon uses resealable metallic plastic sleeves adorned with Caribbean-like art, which helps preserve the chocolate. The chocolate maison also has a fantastic selection of truffles, pralines and ganache and even some sorbets and ice-creams. For every occasion – be it Christmas, Easter or Valentine’s Day – Chapon produces special-edition chocolate gift boxes and merchandise which you wouldn’t be embarrassed to display.

À la Mère de Famille – the oldest chocolatier in Paris, it’s been around since 1760. This is another one of my favourite French chains where buyers can find not only chocolate, but also a wide range of marmalade and chocolate medallions with nuts and fruits, as well as chocolate-coated marshmallows. The original store hasn’t changed since the end of the 19th century, oozing period charm and nostalgia.


And finally, London. There’s one item that never made it to the chocolate diary – probably because of how unforgettable our first encounter was. A few years ago, my husband introduced me to the most incredible chocolate cake in the universe that his office canteen used to sell every Thursday. Amazed by its gooey texture, balanced taste and lack of suffocating sweetness, he found out the cake was supplied by a wholesaler, Paul Rhodes bakery. Shortly after, we discovered that Paul Rhodes had a café in Notting Hill, which was freely selling the magnificent flourless chocolate cake to regular customers. Since then, no big occasion went without THE cake. It even accompanied us to Paris – and received a very warm welcome – and that’s how you know it was truly exceptional. Sadly, the Notting Hill café has closed down (thanks, Covid) but Paul Rhodes has another café in Greenwich, from which they operate both the wholesale and retail sides of the business.

On that note…happy tasting!