OK, so maybe eating chocolate is not strictly cultural, but on the first day of the summer holidays what could be nicer than spending an hour learning how to make and package your very own chocolate bar? Hotel Chocolat, the upmarket chocolate people, has recently set up a chocolate school in the vaults of their Monmouth Street shop. In the evenings, grown-ups get sticky but during the day it’s the children’s turn.
We were greeted by Aaron who showed the children to a table laden with stuff to decorate chocolate bars later and then ensured that their Mother had a glass of Prosecco (a necessity to ensure the mulled wine and mojito sample chocolates could be washed down). Then down to the important business of how to make chocolate. Start with a cocoa pod, open it reveal the beans. At every stage we got to taste, I can report that a cocoa bean tastes pleasantly chocolaty in a woody sort of way. Next the beans are crushed and put into a Conch that heats, crushes and stirs for 45 hours (not that we watched it for that long) until a glossy molten mass emerges. Then it is tempered which looks like an endless waterfall worthy of Willie Wonka and finally poured out into slabs.
Having seen all these processes the children are then let loose to adorn their own bars. Dried strawberries, marshmallows and melted chocolate all these and more were piled on in a vaguely artful manner. Silence fell and concentration was total, although I did see a fair amount of decorations disappearing into mouths. Once no more can be fitted on the children design packaging to take their creations home in.
This is one Cultural experience that doesn’t need to be accompanied by a trip to a café! If you feel the need for extra substance very fine iced chocolatey drinks can be acquired at the café upstairs.
Below Hotel Chocolat at 4 Monmouth Street, London WC2H 9HB
Children’s Chocolate Workshop £20 per child for one hour session.