William Curley Chocolates, Mayfair, London
An elegant chilled chocolate drink enhanced with mint, a small quenelle of vanilla dotted whipped cream and beautiful shavings of chocolate, an ensemble of textures.
The warm chocolate tart plays heavily through the complex flavours of the cocoa bean: fruit, earth and wood. Classic accompaniment of raspberry compote and raspberries resonates with the chocolate, but the green tea/matcha ice cream is too delicate, the subtle nutty flavour overwhelmed by the dark flavours.
The matcha tea cakes are cute -- first aromatic toasted sesame, then a sweetened matcha flavour, in a soft and moist package.
With truffles and other bon bons -- impressive tempering, thin shells with delicate crackles or thicker ones with serious snaps. With a few exceptions, flavours tend to be very subtle, chocolate usually comes first, then an undercurrent of alcohol, fruit or nut. All flavours were very well integrated with the chocolate.
Cassis and hibicus truffle - an exception -- more prominent fruit and flower than most flavourings, with smooth transitions from the tangy hibiscus to the riper cassis.
Matcha truffle - no rough edges at all, but I needed to concentrate very hard to catch the matcha flavour above the chocolate.
Sake -- a thicker shell topped with sesame that dominates; the slight alcoholic lick from sake is there but hard to make out on its own.
Champagne - the weakest one of all, the flavour is fine at best, but the powdered sugar skews the flavour balance toward simple sweetness, rather than supporting the personality of the champagne flavouring. Not much of a shell to speak of. this rendition is not a replacement for La Maison du Chocolat's classic imho.
Wasabi - BEAUTIFUL. The sweetness, rather than the pungence, of fresh wasabi is haunting but gentle. Miles ahead of The Chocolate Line in Brugge.
Pistachio - a solid rendition of this flavour.
Honey - subtle, but the golden sweetness rises behind the initial bittersweet chocolate.
Vanilla and salt - the salt is unperceptible, and I'm so used vanilla in chocolate that I had a hard time telling this one apart.
Japanese black vinegar - an intriguing layer of flavour, sweet fruitty nutty perhaps? Hard to describe, but worth getting.
Chuao - a brilliant expression of this Criollo varietal - layers of bright fruity flavours, tinged with the slightest possble bit of woodsy bitterness, a great lasting finish.
Sichuan pepper - hard to catch the spice and tingle here.
Sudachi lime - excellent use of citrus with chocolate; I especially liked the interplay between slight bitterness from the zest and the inherent bitterness of the chocolate
Port truffle - one with a thicker shell, perhaps I imagined a slight fruity alcoholic finish, but it's a touch too subtle.
Whiskey truffle - coated with little crispy crumbs and given to a pleasant amber flavour of whiskey in the ganache.
Thyme (and something else, can't remember) - suave use of the herb, a good blend with chocolate
Mango and passionfruit -- emphasis on bright fruit, tangy sweetness of passionfruit followed by the fuller, riper mango; a supporting role by the chocolate.
Overall favourites among the choc pieces (roughly in order of preference): wasabi by a wide margin, chuao, sudachi lime, japanese black vinegar, mango & passionfruit, thyme. Definitely a notch up from Paul A Young; chocolate temper were about the same in my limited experience, but the flavours were wielded more impressively here.
Glad you liked the chocolates, I love the hibiscus and cassis, looks a bit funny, tastes divine! Nicely acidic on the tongue.
I notice you don't mention the sea salted caramels - didn't they have any? They are really good - much better IMO than Paul A Young, I found his to be 'fudgy' which I didn't like while William Curleys are liquid and (I think) really yummy when offset with the bitterness of the dark chocolate.
Thanks for the report. You may have spotted that I am a sucker for all things Japanese so I am curious to try the wasabi, sudachi, black vinegar (more of a Chinese ingredient than a Japanese one, no?) and sake chocs you describe.
It's probably hard for some people to imagine wasabi working well in a sweet concoction but I know it can as one of my favourite foods from 2007 was wasabi ice cream which I had in Barcelona of all places. And, as you imply, the difference in flavour between fresh wasabi and processed wasabi is dramatic, the former being mellow, slightly sweet + fragrant.