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Published: 7 February 2008
Tempting - chocolates are made for Valentine's Day
Tempting - chocolates are made for Valentine's Day
Why Milk Tray has had its day

There’s much more chocolate out there than the box the ‘ladies loved’

THERE was a time when the ladies loved Milk Tray.
But growing soph­istication and changing tastes has dented the reputation of this and other Valentine’s Day fav­ourites.
While the man in black may have melted away other, “classier” alternatives have winged their way on to the shop shelves. Some are produced on site, by artisan chocolate makers, others come from the great European chocolate houses, and, for many of us, they are available only a short walk from our front doors.
Belgian chocs are tops – the makers have modernised production but still maintain traditional standards, exploiting quality, instead of global mass-branding as their marketing tool.
They have stuck with the traditional ingredients, favouring purity and smoothness. Cocoa solids, cocoa butter and milk solids and some sugar, comprise the bulk of the ingredients. Hydrogenated vegetable fat and other non-chocolate ingredients are generally shunned.
Neuhaus, whose headquarters is in Brussels, recently set up shop at unit 37b on the concourse of the newly refurbished St Pancras Station. Founded in 1857, they went on to create, the first hard chocolate covering, enabling fillings of all kinds to be covered in chocolate and paving the way for Milk Tray.
Later they developed the ballotin box, allowing the filled chocolates to be safely layered. For Valentine’s Day they have a selection of heart-shaped boxes and gift hampers ranging in price from £3.50 to £130.
Leonidas is another long-established, quality Belgian chocolate maker. Their confections are available all over London, including Le Chocolatier (78 Highgate Street, N6; Pearle (132 St John’s Wood High Street, NW8) and Greetings (251 Kentish Town Road, NW5).
In common with the other chocolate sellers mentioned here, Leonidas offer a range of dark, milk and white chocolates, with an array of fruit, cream and nut-based fillings.
They produce more than 80 varieties most of which are sold loose or in special boxed assortments.
French-style artisan chocolates, hand finished daily in full view of passers-by, is what makes Chocolat, Chocolat (Brunswick Shopping Centre, WC1) extra special. Robin and Isabelle Chappell abandoned Paris, and, after studying the art, set up as chocolate makers in the revamped Brunswick Centre.
Their specialty is slab chocolate, an alternative to filled sweets. For Valentine’s they have produced a range of boxed pieces comprising dark, white, milk or an assortment of all three chocolates. Prices start at £5 for 150g.
While primarily a pastry maker, Eric Rousseau loves to make chocolate on his premises at Belle Epoch (37 Newington Green N16). Spectacular chocolate sculptures at Easter and Christmas caused a sensation in the locality.
St Valentine’s Day has inspired him again. A giant centrepiece of white chocolate is about to go on display. More down to Earth but still special is his St Val’s day presentation – a special collection of hand-finished, filled chocolates in a heart-shaped box that splits into two hearts when opened.
Handmade in his on-site kitchen, it’s a million miles from a box of Dairy Milk.
It is not only in local boutiques that chocolate is experiencing a renaissance.
Morrisons in Chalk Farm Road, NW1 and also the Nags Head, have a box of hand-finished chocolates from Irish chocolate company, Lilly O’Briens.
With the chocolates, they include a 75cl bottle of Champagne at a special Valentine’s price of £15 for both items.
The chocolates normally retail at £10.99. Champagne for only £4 a bottle – shouldn’t this be on the front page?

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