I had this really irritating dream very early on Saturday morning. I dreamed that I’d gone out to lunch somewhere, and halfway through the meal, the restaurant moved me and my friend to a table with ten other people. Then, when I left, they wouldn’t split the bill, were really rude about my maths when I tried to work out my share, and billed us for the music that had been playing over the sound system (!), as well as for the fact that I had a food blog (the charge for this was $3.75, so clearly they didn’t think much of my blog, either). I woke up very cranky, and then couldn’t get back to sleep for half an hour, because I kept thinking of things I really should have said to them. Esprit d’escalier is totally wasted on my subconscious, but I couldn’t seem to let go. One thing I particularly wished I had said was that normally I only review places I like, but since they were charging me for my blog, I would make an exception…
The three course chocolate Degustation at Shocolate in Fitzroy was nothing like that. It was, in fact, utterly delicious, indulgent and decadent, the service was great, and not only did they not charge me for having a food blog (I’m still annoyed by that, even though it was a figment of my imagination!), our waiter was absolutely lovely about answering my nosy questions about allergies, and he even gave us a couple of chocolates for free.
(So there, subconscious. I won’t be returning to *your* restaurant until you dramatically improve the service. And I’m giving you a nasty review. Ha.)
I should start by saying that the only reason I am not still in a chocolate coma is that I decided to walk it off by strolling the 4km to my singing performance class in Northcote, which I think really was wise. I actually had a reasonably clear head by the time I got there, though I was still a bit silly from the Shiraz (only half a glass, but I’m a total lightweight).
We arrived, and were seated outside and offered our choice of coffee, tea or Shiraz. We were also given a *large* glass of water, which we needed, though I was fairly impressed by how well the wine cut the richness and sweetness of the chocolates. I’ve never really understood how wine goes with food, but this certainly did. It was raisiny, but not too sweet. Incidentally, outside is rather lovely, in a strange sort of way, with large, bare branches suspended under the verandah roof. Very fetching.
Our waiter then brought us our first course – two platters, each containing six chocolates. I immediately realised I was going to be in trouble – I love these sorts of french-style chocolates, but rarely eat more than two in a row, because two is generally amply sufficient. And this was just the first course…
He introduced the truffles – banana, pistachio, mint, milk chocolate velvet, something berryish, and “I’m not going to tell you what this one is.”
“Ooh, is it the vegemite one?” I asked, excitedly, having read the menu.
It was. It was quite good, too – like a salted caramel, though not that much like vegemite. I suspect it’s the one you buy to scare your visiting relatives (the ones from overseas…).
The others were good too. The banana, which I had been most dubious about, was quite mild, a bit like the flavour of banana when it is barely ripe, but with a caramel tinge to it. The pistachio was really excellent, with a very true pistachio flavour and lovely crispness in the filling.
The milk chocolate velvet was suitably smooth, and the berry one had a hazelnut tinge to it, but the absolute standout for me was the mint, which tasted like it had come fresh from the garden, not like the usual sharpness of peppermint essence. The filling was a lovely pale mint-green, too, and I suspect it was made by infusing the cream with blended mint leaves – I’ve made a fresh mint ice-cream this way, which had a similar sort of character. Anyway, it was altogether gorgeous and I was tempted to steal Andrew’s one, but that would have been mean, so I restrained myself.
The second course was a chocolate affogato and one of their award winning macarons. The affogato was amazing – the vanilla bean ice-cream was the best ice-cream I have tasted, I think, though this may be just a little bit because I so desperately needed something that wasn’t chocolate by that point!
We were given a big scoop of ice-cream in a bowl with a chocolate twirl and a little jug of melted chocolate to pour over it, which hardened instantly into what I can only described, with a marked lack of sophistication, as the Best Ice Magic Ever. Sorry. But it really was – the dark chocolate formed a lovely hard topping of really good chocolate over really good vanilla ice-cream and the whole thing was wonderful.
The macaron was also good, though I think it may have been a mistake bringing it out with the affogato, just because one automatically goes for the ice-cream before it melts, and once one has filled one’s palate with chocolate and ice-cream, the delicate vanilla and white chocolate of the macaron is hard to taste. The texture, though, was wonderful – very light and almost meringue-like, and not at all like most macarons I have tried (which tend to be softer and more chewy). I really liked that aspect of it and will definitely try their macarons in future.
When the waiter came back, I checked that it was OK to photograph things, mentioning that I had a small food blog (I had, in fact, been photographing things, but wanted really to check that it was OK to post said photos on the internet). He said that was fine, and was then subjected to a whole list of questions about the menu, which he answered with great good nature. I can therefore tell you their chocolates are almost all gluten-free (he believes there is one exception to this), as are their macarons, though some of their cakes have gluten, of course.
Most of their menu was egg-free, too, though not the macarons, of course, and not the ice-cream (which was marked in the menu as containing egg, something I appreciate). Dairy-free is a bit more difficult, but there were a few vegan choices (presumably the dark chocolate bars and mendiants, which are little swirls of dark chocolate studded with nuts, raisins, candied orange and candied violets), and he proudly informed me of a brand new filled vegan chocolate that they have started making recently. Some of the jellies are made with gelatine, but others with pectin, so vegetarians who are concerned about this should probably check before ordering. There were also a fair number of nut-free chocolates, which was nice – all too many chocolate shops focus pretty heavily on nuts and coffee, which I’m not too fond of.
The third course, as it turned out was a selection of 8 chocolates in a gift box to take away. A wise decision, since after two courses, even I was not entirely ready for any more chocolate. Theoretically, one does not get to choose the flavours, but when I asked about the basil chocolate, it transpired that our waiter was very happy to swap things for us, especially to make sure we got to try things we hadn’t had yet, so our selection included basil ganache, tonka bean, more mint and milk chocolate velvet, one with, I think, strawberry and passionfruit, a berry jelly, and two more that I have totally forgotten the identities of.
I then decided to buy a few chocolates and macarons as gifts for people who clearly needed them, and also decided to try the new vegan chocolate, which turned out to be a dark chocolate ganache with crystallised mint. Our waiter threw two of those in for free, which was nice of him.
Because I love you all, I actually have tried the vegan chocolate, even though I really, really did not need any more chocolate today. It’s pretty good, though less creamy than their other ganaches, with a very pleasing deep chocolate flavour – not so much of the mint. I would consider it more of a promissory note than a gift in its own right – this chocolatier is clearly one which is thinking about food preferences and intolerances and is trying to provide something for everyone, but I don’t think they are quite there yet with this one. I suspect, though, that they will be worth watching and coming back to down the track, because they will only improve, and they clearly have the capacity to be spectacular. I do wish, in retrospect, that I had thought to ask for a coconut chocolate, to see if they had made a coconut milk ganache.
(Oh, alright, and I tried the basil one because I *had* to know. That is one *weird* chocolate. It tastes like freshly picked basil, which is absolutely lovely, except that it is in white chocolate, which is rather strange. Good strange, I think. I’d certainly eat it again. But very odd, nonetheless. I mean, basil is sweet, and it does work, it’s just a very, very unexpected thing to find in a chocolate. I actually found the vegemite ganache much less challenging…)
All in all, that was a really lovely way to spend a couple of hours, and some truly amazing chocolate, especially the fresh mint one. I completely recommend this degustation if you are in the mood for a decadent afternoon out – I believe the normal price is around $90 for two people (we had a Scoopon and paid quite a bit less than this, until I went and bought a whole lot of chocolate for other people and more than made up the difference), which is pricey for my budget, but you definitely get your money’s worth, and it’s an absolutely gorgeous indulgence if, like me, you love chocolate and enjoy having someone choose a tasting menu for you.
I’ll definitely be going back.
Shocolate is located on the corner of Johnstone and Brunswick Streets in Fitzroy, Melbourne. It rather cunningly has a Brunswick St address, despite the fact that the shopfront itself is on Johnstone St and you can’t enter from Brunswick St at all. Fortunately, we were still able to find the chocolate!
This time last year…