Paul A Young

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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.

The cocoa pod – much bigger in size than I expected
 

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.

The next stage – at the plain chocolate stage before Paul works his magic
We learn that chocolate is harvested from the cocoa and plant and that some mass market chocolates such as the Kit Kat (and my personal favourite Twix) contain so little cocoa that they cannot really be called a chocolate. This is where Paul A Young chocolates differ. They are packed with cocoa, they even offer Valrhona Manjari Madagascan containing 100% cocoa solids. I wouldn’t recommend it. Too much of a good thing can be very bad indeed and the 100% cocoa chocolate tastes more like cough medicine than chocolate.

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.

The finished product – the sensational truffles and filled chocolates
 

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)

8/10

If you liked reading this you might like reading about my visit to Melt, the artisan chocolaterie in Notting Hill, or if you now have a chocolate craving try this recipe for cheats chocolate mousse.

Gourmet Chick was invited to attend Paul A Young and sampled products free of charge.  

14 comments

  1. oooo Pimms chocolate! I’d love to try that. Everything looks divine.. and that cocoa pod looks to me like the size of a watermelon in that photo! 🙂

  2. I can smell those chocolates. Incidentally, regarding your Twix affliction, I recently met ‘Levi Roots’ who claimed to have had the same for over 20 years. He’s now moved on to Kinder Bueno bars…

  3. Wish I could have been there!

    There are two Paul A Young posts on my blog: http://bacn.me/8ji & http://bacn.me/8jh

    I loved meeting Paul at the chocolate tasting – he’s such a friendly chappy and so enthusiastic! I ate (and took away with me, at his insistence) a frankly outrageous number of his basil truffles – one of my absolute favourites from his collection.

    I then went to his shop, bought myself a box and posted photos and review.

    I would agree that Paul’s chocolates are expensive. I went for the box of 18 for £25 and, whilst I loved them, I’d only spend that much for a very special treat.

    More recently, I also experienced Artisan du Chocolat chocolates. A different style but, to me, equally delicious. A slightly lower price point but still in the treat category. Again, there are two posts on my blog including one where you can win a box of these babies for yourself!

    http://bacn.me/8jj

    PS am not trying to pimp my blog, just wanted to make it easier for you to find relevant posts. Feel free to remove links if you prefer!

  4. What Ms G.C. doesn’t tell you in her review is that she spent a good 10 minutes grilling Paul about his involvement in The Apprentice final to try and get some gossip out of him.

    Shameless 🙂

  5. what a great write up! Was lovely to meet you, am still gutted that I had to leave just as he finished talking and the actual tasting started, boo!!

  6. I bought some of Paul’s chocolates as a small gift for a friend – she loved them – but the price puts me off going there to pick up a box for myself.

    I did indulge in one of his salted caramel chocolate bars though (£4/50g I think) and it was wonderful. The salty caramel against the bittersweet chocolate….mmmmm!

  7. I bought a box of these for my Girlfriend last Valentines day. I’ll never forget nonchalantly biting into a sea-salt caramel as I enquired about the price, and almost spitting the chocolate back into the shop assistants face upon hearing the reply.
    Bloody nice choccies though.

  8. Despite living near the Islington shop, I must admit that I first learned about Paul Young via the New York Times. Since then, though, I’ve dropped by regularly for gifts (for others and for myself!). In the summer, the hot liquid chocolate poured over ice cream is pretty kick-ass (I know it’s not the focus of the shop, but thought it worth mentioning, esp in this weather).

  9. He’s in good company, I saw a short ident on UKTV Food in which Raymond Blanc admitted a fondness for a Kit Kat bar…

  10. I haven’t heard of him. Thanks for the suggestion.

  11. *Thud* Ooh those chocs!
    And I’m not even a chocoholic!
    I love the way they lay them out.
    Who doesn’t indulge in the odd Kit Kat? I think it’s because I like trying to nibble the chocolate off, leaving the wafer bit in one piece lol…old habits die hard…

  12. Paul A Young is a genius, I did a post on him earlier this year. The tasting looks like fun! xx

  13. Chew chocolate?? People actually do this?? I have always been in the “melt on the tongue” campe ever since childhood – which often resulted in my brother getting a LOT more than half a shared chocolate bar…! Have not yet visited Paul’s shop but am going to do a course at William Curley at the end of the month… And I do like a good KitKat myself once in a while. The shame!

  14. Catty – the cocoa pod was huge not quite watermelon size but much bigger than I expected

    Douglas – good that I am not alone. Kinder Bueno sounds like an even worse addiction though.

    Kavey – will have to try the basil chocolates they sound great.

    Rob – he gave me nothing on the apprentice though no gossip at all!

    Gastrogeek – nice to meet you as well at least you got a goody bag!

    Ted – the sea salt caramels were my favourites as well

    Dan – for a treat I think it’s worth it but I agree not an every day thing

    American In London -hot liquid chocolate poured over icecream sounds amazing

    Grobelaar – kit kat most be the gourmets chocolate of choice!

    A Girl Has To Eat – or maybe you won’t be thanking me!

    Lesley – hadn’t heard of that method before I must admit!

    Top Bird – I really enjoyed your post on it. Such great gems in London…

    Jeanne – I must admit to being a chewing gobbling type of course I am now reformed

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