I found out a little secret about Paul A Young this week. He occasionally indulges in a Kit Kat. Not such shocking news from the general population but from a famous chocolaterie who has based his reputation on a move away from trashy mass market chocolate to good quality chocolate it is quite an admission. That’s the thing about Paul (we are of course on first name terms now!) he genuinely loves chocolate and is not to precious about it all.
I managed to discover Paul’s dirty little Kit Kat secret when I was invited to a chocolate tasting session at his shop in Islington courtesy of Qype with a group of other people including Gastro Geek and London Eater. Full disclosure here folks. I will try not to be biased in my review but it is hard to not gush as the chocolate is of course divine and Paul himself is so lovely and very enthusiastic about educating people about the joys of real chocolate.
The Islington shop is like being inside a little chocolate box. It is tiny but opulent with a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and chocolates lining the walls. The shop is freezing as the chocolates are kept out on the counter rather than behind a glass pane and so health and safety concerns dictate a chilly temperature. However, the cold factor is more than compensated by the rich chocolate scent that wafts through the shop thanks to all those chocolates displayed everywhere.
After a long and considered tasting though I can say that while too much cocoa is well, a bit too much, a lot of cocoa is just perfect. My personal favourite was the 68% Porcelana which had a delicate honey flavour. Trust me to pick the most expensive, Porcelana is made from the rarest cocoa bean in the world. It is called Porcelana as when it is picked from the pod the beans look as white as porcelain.
Here are some other interesting facts I learnt about chocolate and Paul A Young chocolates in particular:
- the obsession with using 70% cocoa solid chocolate in cooking is misguided. It is all about the quality of the chocolate rather than the percentage of cocoa solids (although the amount of cocoa solids is one indication of quality);
- Paul A Young used to work as the head pastry chef for Marco Pierre White;
- cheap chocolate tastes like it is burnt – an unfortunate consequence of over roasted beans;
- at Christmas time Paul A Young sells (correction I am told at Christmas they MAKE not sell this amount) 20,000 truffles a day; and
- you don’t chew good quality chocolate you let it melt in your mouth.
After tasting and debating the merits of 12 different chocolates (the Dark Madagascan Valrhona Manjari at 64% was a hit with the rest of the group but not with me as it reminded me of Cherry Ripes an awful Australian chocolate bar) we then moved onto the truffles. The highlight of these for me was Paul’s signature sea salt caramel chocolate. This is a melt in you mouth and send tingles through your whole body taste sensation of a chocolate. Decadent, silky and somewhat salty all at the same time it is the best example of a sea salt caramel chocolate I have tasted. The truffles on offer include all your standard flavours along with some more wacky ones such as Marmite chocolates and a Pimm’s chocolate which is actually made using real cucumbers and strawberries to give the true Pimm’s flavour. How creative and crazy is that.
I promised I would try to be critical but it is a pretty hard job given how fabulous the chocolates were. The only slightly negative thing I could say is that these chocolates are expensive. You are talking £6 for four chocolates or £13 for a box of nine. Still, while not something I could afford very often I think the price is reasonable when you think of the quality of the ingredients used and the fact that each chocolate is hand made.
I am not prepared to give up my Twix bar addiction entirely but after this tasting I have vowed to try and eat less chocolate but more good quality chocolate.
Details: 33 Camden Passage, Islington N1 8EA (Ph 020 7424 5750)
Damage: Pricey (but free for me)
Gourmet Chick was invited to attend Paul A Young and sampled products free of charge.