There’s no shortage of tasty food and drink events in October, but arguably the most popular of them all is Chocolate Week. It kicks off this week (12-18 October), culminating in a buzzy Chocolate Show at the weekend (16-18 October) that’s not to be missed.
The highly anticipated annual Week was founded in 2004 by chocolate enthusiast Kate Johns, who says, “I set it up to promote fine quality chocolate and an appreciation of higher quality ingredients, fairly traded cocoa and the fantastic chocolatiers we have in this country. Chocolate Week has grown hugely since then, with hundreds of events around the country.”
Throughout the week dozens of hotels, bars and restaurants will host talks, tastings and demonstrations, serve choc-centric cocktails and dinners, and launch exclusive new chocolates. Here are some of this year’s highlights:
- Rococo is running many special events, including chocolate bar making workshops and tastings in which chocolates will be paired with beer, rum or even meat.
- Harvey Nichols, the InterContinental Park Lane, the Royal Park Hotel and Lancaster London are serving chocolate afternoon tea. Expect such curiosities as chocolate, gorgonzola and rocket sandwiches, chocolate chip, marshmallow and buttermilk scones and chocolate and black olive tart.
- The swish Quaglino’s and Almeida will serve multi-course chocolate menus. These include such mouth-watering creations as venison, hazelnut and cacao crumble, and foie gras with cocoa nibs and cherries.
- Masterchef finalist Tony Rodd is cooking a three-course Divine chocolate dinner at the Guildford Arms in Greenwich. On the menu are pork tenderloin rolled in cocoa, and chocolate cups filled with chocolate mousse.
- Divine has also collaborated with Fair (the world’s first Fairtrade spirits brand) to create a chocolate rum cocktail, available in several bars around London including Hush and Skylon.
- Godiva is hosting its annual Godiva Chocolate Challenge finals — a competition to find the UK’s best chocolate dessert — on 13 October.
- Chocolate brand Madécasse and the Tap East brewery have joined forces to launch a chocolate beer. They’ll run a mini ‘choco beer fest’ at Westfield Stratford City on 15 October.
The undisputed highlight of the week, however, is the Chocolate Show at the Olympia. It’s overseen by Sylvie Douce and François Jeantet of the famous Salon Du Chocolat, a company that organises hugely successful chocolate events all over the world. It’s a fragrant, noisy and colourful extravaganza of hands-on activities and Christmas shopping opportunities, with over 80 exhibitors ranging from little-known artisan companies to famous international brands.
This year there’ll be chef demonstrations from Willie Harcourt-Cooze, Edd Kimber, Chris and Jeff Galvin, Will Torrent, Vanessa Kimbell and many more; lots of informative talks, including a very special one from a cacao farmer, and masterclasses such as a Hans Sloane drinking chocolate tutorial.
Valrhona chocolates and Belle Epoque patisserie are hosting a dessert bar; and the York Cocoa House will show you how to temper chocolate, make chocolate puddings and roll your own truffles. Meanwhile a ‘bean to bar’ factory will turn out fresh chocolates by Paul Wayne-Gregory throughout the show. Be prepared to tempt your tastebuds with chocolate beetroot cake, homemade Oreos and even ‘beans on toast ganache’.
Additionally, the winners of the International Chocolate Awards are announced on 17 October; and many exciting new chocolates will launch, including Barú’s chocolate-coated marshmallow ‘clouds’ and a buffalo milk ‘bean to bar’ from Damson.
New brands like Schmitten are also launching in the UK for the first time. Further choccy delights include a tasting room, a pop-up restaurant and a separate children’s area hosted by the musical Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
The tradition of eye-popping chocolate art will continue — this year with chocolate sculptures inspired by London — plus there’ll be a Great British Spiced Chocolate Challenge, that encourages chocolatiers to to create spiced chocolates.
The absolute highlight — the one thing that gets everyone talking each year — is the Chocolate Fashion Show featuring incredible chocolate fashions. This year it starts at 5pm each day, and includes a dress made from the Fat Duck’s head pastry chef. Get there early to bag a seat at the front and beat the massive crowds.
The Chocolate Week website lists a selection of London events. Chocolate Show is at the National Hall, Olympia. Tickets: adults £15 at the door/ £12.50 advance; children 4-12 years £10 at the door; £8 advance.