With beautiful spring weather (hopefully!) taking hold and summer almost here, it’s a great time to get out for a walk around London. You could take your time and enjoy the wonderful mix of old and new buildings, indulge in a spot of shopping, and maybe have a nice cuppa to keep your energy up. Or, if you’re after something a little different, how about a walk devoted to exploring and eating chocolate?
Jennifer Earle founded Chocolate Ecstasy Tours in 2005 to share her love of chocolate. Her walking tours and tastings cover different parts of London, plus a Brighton tour. They include a good amount of chocolate to eat along the way, as well as providing some history of the local area. I first went on a Chocolate Ecstasy walk a couple of years ago when my husband bought me a ‘golden ticket’ as a present (he really does know the way to my heart). I ate a LOT of good chocolate. When Jennifer invited me along to a Mayfair walk recently, I thought it was the perfect excuse to reacquaint myself with some of that chocolate. As someone who has lived in and around London for quite a few years, I also find it fascinating to discover new facts about such an historical city.
The tour explores chocolate in many forms; things kick off with a hot chocolate, and truffles, cakes and nut filled bars follow over the next few hours. We were carefully guided through this by a true chocolate expert; Jennifer has travelled to many places around the world to see chocolate production first hand, as well as judging at chocolate awards and acting as a chocolate consultant to a range of companies. She brought along a cocoa pod and cacao nibs from one of her trips to show where all the chocolate comes from.
The great thing about chocolate is that there’s something to suit everyone’s taste – and the Chocolate Ecstasy tour gives a good opportunity to explore these tastes. For more traditional English chocolates, there are Charbonnel et Walker and Prestat. Both chocolatiers hold the royal seal and produce some royal family favourites, including the Queen’s choice of Charbonnel et Walker violet creams. We had the chance to try this sweet floral chocolate (a little too sweet for me as I like bitter dark chocolate), along with a crisp white champagne truffle. It gave me a good boost of energy to walk around the corner to Prestat. There were more fantastic truffles to try in Prestat, which was a riot of pink and gold after the more sedate tones of Charbonnel et Walker. I plumped for a dark sea salt caramel, trying very carefully not to let the filling dribble down my chin, and a deliciously smooth ginger and saffron fudge chocolate.
Carpo on Piccadilly offered something a little different, with an array of chocolate covered nuts and flavoured chocolate slabs (plus lots of non-chocolate seeds and nuts). Nibbling on macadamias took me right back to walking around a local market in Australia eating hot salted macadamia nuts out of bags.
Fortunately I saved enough room for our pitstop at Crumbs & Doilies in Kingly Court, Soho. I’m not always the biggest fan of cupcakes as they can be a bit dry, with too much icing for my taste. Crumbs & Doilies could not be further from this. My double chocolate mini cupcake was moist and moreish, with a good mouthful of chocolate icing. There’s an ever changing selection of cupcakes, bound to make you smile with their pretty colours and fun flavours.
A chocolate exploration into Soho wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Paul A Young on Wardour Street; marmite truffle anyone? There are lots of extraordinary flavours on display, but I have a thing for salty sweetness, so went for another (award-winning) caramel sea salt truffle.
If you reach chocolate saturation point, but want something to take home for another day, there are discounts for most purchases made on the tour. Even I hit my chocolate maximum by the end of the walk, but it was the right amount rather than too much chocolate. The instructions for a light savoury breakfast beforehand definitely paid off. Jennifer was also very careful to check along the way that we’d had our fill. So get your walking shoes on, channel your inner Willy Wonka and immerse yourself in a few hours of chocolate treats; it’s a very different, and tasty, way to see London.
There are chocolate tours every week; check out the Tour Calendar for more info