We have found one of London’s very best hot chocolates. Made from real chocolate instead of cocoa powder, it comes in dark and milk varieties – but it’s the traditional Italian hazelnut flavour we’re smitten with. Thick enough to almost stand a spoon in, it’s rich, creamy and luxuriant with a velvety mouthfeel and tastes like heaven.
Of course, hot chocolate isn’t the only thing we love about SAID, the London outpost of a well-established chocolate shop in Rome. We’re also taken by a strikingly attractive wall, entirely covered with chocolate moulds shaped as stars, shells, rabbits, fish and Easter eggs. They’re made from chromed brass, iron and steel, and date from the 1920s to 1950s.
SAID – the full name SAID dal 1923 Antica Fabbrica del Cioccolato is a bit of a mouthful – is an acronym for Societa Azinoria Industria Dolciumi, the Association of the Confectionery Industry. Unlike its older sibling in Rome, this branch is smaller and has no restaurant attached. The Rome shop is owned by brother Fabrizio and sister Carla of the Demauro family, who founded the original in 1923, and the London one by business partner Andrea Alinovi.
Like the moulds and milk barrels, the floor tiles, the old aluminium equipment at the front on which crockery is stored, the window shutters that double up as shelves, and old-fashioned milk bottles in which many of the chocolates are sold all come from their factory in Rome. There’s a curious-looking machine for making gianduiotti (Piedmontese hazelnut chocolate) by the entrance. The design is Soho-chic, enlivened by splashes of fluttery butterfly colours in which their own-label gran cru chocolate bars are wrapped.
This gran cru, of different provenances, is also available as napoletani cubes (40p each) and, like all the chocolates, is created in their factory in Rome. There’s a large selection of pralines (70p each) flavoured with everything from rosemary to red fruit. Other curiosities include dark chocolate-covered ‘cedar peel’ (£3.50/50g); and cute little spoons, cups, saucers and shot glasses made from chocolate (£1-£1.50 per piece) that’ll bring a smile to your face.
The milk bottles lining the shelves are filled with dark chocolate pearls (£20), coffee-flavoured chocolate beans (£25), chocolate buttons (£28), chocolate dragees (£28) and chocolate powder. Alongside you’ll find delicious hazelnut and dark chocolate spreads in different-sized jars (from £3 for 40g).
These spreads are put to good use in pizza Romana (£1.80): an incredibly moreish slice of slightly savoury, topping-less pizza bread slathered with hazelnut spread. Similarly themed is pane & cioccolato (£4), a plate of bread, chocolate spread and spezzatura (broken-up pieces of almond and hazelnut-studded chocolate) that’s ideal for snacking.
Strawberries are also available for dipping into white, milk and dark chocolate sauces; along with a more conventional offering of freshly baked cakes, biscuits and pastries. Creative Consultant Alessandra Grignaschi says they’ll be introducing cheeses too, to be eaten with chocolate. The young, dynamic staff team is warm, welcoming and on-the-ball.
SAID has a different look and feel to London’s other chocolate shops – not least because the hot chocolate, which can often be disappointing elsewhere, is truly outstanding here.
SAID London, 41 Broadwick Street, W1F 9QL. Tel: 020 7437 1584. Images courtesy of SAID.
See also: chocolate kitchens and chocolate tours
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