It’s probably safe to say that chocolate comes pretty high on a list of our favourite things, and to be clear, we’re talking about the sweet treat variety, for those who were thinking tall, dark and handsome!
But it turns out, (like Jon Snow) we know nothing! We were invited to a chocolate and gelato tasting session at the Covent Garden store of Venchi, chocolate connoisseurs, who’ve been operating since 1878.
As you walk through the doors of the store, there is a real sense of being in a tasteful and upmarket Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Floor to ceiling, rows and rows of brightly coloured loose chocolate and creamy chocolate spreads.
The shop is arranged across two floors and dominating the first floor, is the gelato section, where a long line of eager shoppers, patiently waited to buy their choice of gelato, which included exotic sounding names like Nougatine, Cuor di Cacao, Cremino and Azteco. I personally sampled the coconut and passion fruit gelato and it was heaven!
However, the flagship product for the company, which has 88 stores across 70 countries, is chocolate and a real-life Willy Wonka is leading the operation, in the form of GB Mantelli, one of the guardians of Venchi’s secret traditional recipes. What he doesn’t know about chocolate, isn’t worth knowing; it’s said that when he was a baby, his grandfather baptised him with a drop of chocolate!
As GB took us through the tasting session, it was clear that I was a chocolate novice. Expressing my preference for white chocolate, (yes, I am that person!) I was offered a rich variety of nuts and invited to sample them along with an assortment of pieces of chocolate, with each combination producing taste sensations unlike anything I’d had before.
Real chocolate aficionados know that pure chocolate has serious health benefits, and Venchi’s take this premise further by only using high quality ingredients, abstaining from chemical flavourings, colourings and hydrogenated fats. As GB said: “We don’t use palm oil, rather we combine the olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, in line with our Italian ethos, and dried fruits and hazelnuts.”
New lines to the range, include Tiramisu which is made up of “decadent praline and layers of coffee and creamy mascarpone, topped with Venezuelan cocoa. Another new addition is the Suprema, which comes in loose chocolate form as well as one of their bestselling chocolate spreads.
With more than 350 chocolate products and 90 flavours of gelato and seasonal sorbets, a visit to any one of the three Venchi stores in London, will be a welcome treat.