Yet again I find myself in the City, the English capital, the metropolis that’s inhabited by more people than the whole of Scotland – London. For all these people – and their different tastes – thousands of cafes and patisseries, chocolatiers and sandwitcheries (I kid you not) have been created; how do I chose the ones to visit in the scarce free time I will be given within the three weeks of my residence here? Not an easy task, I assure you.
I have therefore turned to my dear-old friend: the Internet, for a word of advice. A quick search provided a list of the best cafe’s in London assembled by Time Out, and although it might be considered cheating (especially towards those many other niche venues that will be left unnoticed and unknown to a wider public) I decided to work off the back of it and compare our judgement.
I didn’t start, however, with the boldest and the brashest one on the list; or at least I didn’t think so. I picked the one that seemed the closest to where I was staying, as I felt like walking, especially that it was my first day off and out of the office since my arrival. It was drizzling outside, but I didn’t find that an issue this time, and I ventured out following the GPS map on my phone.
Those who’ve been to or live in London probably realise – better than I did – that the distances on a map look much smaller than in reality. It took me about an hour to get to my chosen spot; and, as expected, I passed a dozen of charming coffee shops along the way. I felt guilty leaving them behind but I bravely carried on to my destination. Finally I found it – a tiny spot in a narrow alleyway.
I entered cautiously, and asked in a frightened voice whether they served coffee, as there was no espresso machine in sight – just chocolate. Lots and lots of it. Hardly any other pastries or cakes, and those only wrapped up as for take-away; there were chocolate bars, chocolate tarts, chocolate truffles but most of all – little chocolate squares in dozens of flavours…
Thankfully, I was reassured that they did serve coffee. I asked for a mocha, but I had to rename it to “coffee with chocolate” to be understood. Then I had to choose which type of chocolate I was after as they had four main types: chili, cinnamon, hazelnut and house blend. I opted for cinnamon, not yet ready for another chili sensation following my visit to Eteaket. The assistant (I don’t think the terms barista or waitress are appropriate) disappeared in another room for a good while; I waited, thinking that I’d love a pastry, but there was none to be seen – and to be frank, a thought of nibbling on chocolate whilst drinking chocolate was not very appealing. But as I waited, the other assistant asked if I had visited before, and upon discovering that I hadn’t, she offered a chocolate square for me to “sample” – banishing the established definition of a sampling size, as I was virtually offered a full-sized chocolate; better still, it was coconut – my favourite! Although that tempted me a bit to try a wider selection, I then remembered I was living on a budget, and should not be spending a fortune on chocolates, over £1 a piece.
I sat by one of the two tables outside to get some privacy (ironically) and was served my coffee in the same instant. It looked nothing spectacular: you’d maybe expect a porcelain teacup of some fantasy latte art on top, but it was a plain-looking cup of chocolate. I took a sip and through the super-thin top layer of foam I got a hint of the spicy flavouring, but then it was gone. It was slightly on the hotter side, but this time that was welcomed in the October chill and it slowed me down before having to make the same long trip back home. It was pleasant and very delicate, I could hardly taste the coffee – or the cinnamon. The sensation when I finished reminded me of The Chocolate Tree when I doubted whether there was any espresso in my mocha but was then hit by a caffeine rush… and again, I can’t explain whether it was the cocoa or the coffee that worked its powers. On the bottom of the cup I spotted a wee chunk of chocolate, which I took for a sign of authenticity, which I never doubted anyway.
William Curley has the appearance a chocolatier should have: mesmerising, luxurious and tempting. It is a heaven for a refined sweet tooth, and they certainly deliver. As for the coffee, it hinted the grandour of their confectionery and was a pleasant concoction that I’d happily try again; but in my books it was missing that something that makes a great mocha stand out from very good ones.
Cinnamon Mocha: £3.00
Verdict justification: The place, although small, is definitely glamorous, and the coffee generally stands up to the image – the right spot for a sweet treat