Le Weekend in Sandwich aka La Baguette :)

Le Weekend is an annual event held in the lovely historic town of Sandwich. usually around about the first weekend in June. It’s quite amazing – the sleepy town of Sandwich wakes up and is full of people. The shops and cafes spill out onto the street, it’s all very continental, especially when the weather is as good as it was on our visit.

The highlight of Le Weekend for me is the French market, which is the real deal, full of French produce sold by French people. I bumped into some Ramsgate friends who were also visiting the Market. They have a house in France and are very familiar with French Markets, they were suitably impressed commenting that it was actually a lot better than many Markets in France. Praise indeed!

I could not resist the wonderful aroma and bought the most succulent and tasty garlic prawns I have ever had from one of the vendors.

The Cafes in town were pretty full, but I managed to get a seat in the wonderful NoName Deli (which is not just there for Le Weekend).  I ordered some of their excellent coffee and a piece of Normandy Tart and did a bit of people watching.

Other activities that occur over Le Weekend include Live Music and a Medieval Fayre.

It was a lovely day out and so nice to hear all the French accents, like being on holiday for the day. I must remember not to miss “Le Weekend” next year, although I do think they have missed a trick not calling the event “La Baguette” 🙂

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B is for Broadstairs

On a stunning sunny Sunday in October we made a beeline for Broadstairs taking in the beautiful beach at Viking Bay, Breakfast at the delightful Belvidere Place Boutique B & B, the highly acclaimed Broadstairs Food Festival and the hidden delights of Bleak House.

I’d like to say we did the picturesque beach walk from Ramsgate to Broadstairs but alas we didn’t allow ourselves enough time. Instead we jumped on the regular Loop bus for the 15 minute journey to Broadstairs.

Belvidere Place

We had pre booked breakfast at Belvidere Place, Jilly Sharpe’s rather special Boutique Bed & Breakfast. It’s a beautiful quirky and artistic place with just the right level of civilized informality.

 

There was no menu, breakfast is based on whatever goodies Jilly can source locally. We were offered the choice of figs or baked apple to start. We opted for the Apple served with yogurt and just enough Muesli. Very healthy and tasty. Next course was bacon, tomatoes and egg served with toast and a delicious stuffed mushroom. Arbroath Kippers were also on offer. After a leisurely morning reading the newspapers, chatting to Jilly, her friendly staff and guests lucky enough to be staying in the much in demand 5 bed-roomed B & B, we headed off to the Broadstairs Food Festival.

Broadstairs Food Festival

The Broadstairs Food Festival is an event that attracts a lot of mainly Kent based suppliers and Restaurants. This year they had 100 plus stalls and 53,000 plus visitors over the course of 3 days. The Kitchen Theatre demonstrations were from several well known local chefs like Matt Sworder from the Corner House in Minster.  Steven Edwards who won Masterchef The Professionals in 2013  also did a session. The Kitchen Theatre presentation highlight I suspect though was from GBBO semi finalist and Broadstairs local Chetna Makan. Her session was interrupted by a surprise visit from the ever so slightly famous Paul Hollywood – check out the fun videos published by the Isle of Thanet Gazette. It’s just like being there 😉

Top Kent Restaurants like Wyatt & Jones and Rocksalt had stalls, as did Quex Barn – the wonderful deli at Quex Park.  There were tastings for Dudda’s Tun our favorite Kent Cider, and East Kent College were showing plans for their 4 star Training Hotel due to open next year.

 

We had hoped to get food from The Ambrette stall but they weren’t there this year. So for a late lunch we had some Pad Thai from an old favorite Siam Kitchen, followed by a dessert of coconut macrons and salted caramel bars from Sylvia and Terry.  We also brought some bread from McCarthys Country Store.

Bleak House

We took refuge from a very busy Broadstairs in Bleak House, which despite its uninviting entrance via the kitchen area is a lovely tranquil spot for drinks or afternoon tea.

You can pre book the formal Afternoon Tea in the Great Expectations Dining Room overlooking the garden and visit Charles Dickens study and the Smuggling Museum.

So after our lovely day out, we are certainly looking forward to next years Food Festival and to having a good few more breakfasts and afternoon teas in lovely Broadstairs.

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The Chocolate Festival – Christmas Treats!

Bah! Humbug! I so nearly didn’t go to the conveniently timed pre christmas Chocolate Festival in London this year… but I am so glad I did. There is such a great selection of stalls and the festival is just full of quality chocolate goods and fun ideas for Christmas presents. I had been gauging how busy it was via my Twitter feed and thought it would be too much of a pain to battle my way through the crowds as this Festival seems to be an example of being spoilt by success. Maybe they will get more space next year based on just how popular an event this has become.  Fortunately I did manage to find a quiet time on the Sunday – I am not saying when exactly as that might spoil it for me next year.

As it was quieter I was able to chat with probably one of the busiest and well known Chocolatiers in the business Paul A Young.  Pauls session in the Chocolate Cookery Theatre was on Saturday so I was very surprised to spot him manning the stand on the Sunday, he was there just prior to making a tour of his London shops – it’s a hard life being a Chocolatier!  We spoke about the success of the festival and he told me that Saturday had been the busiest day that the festival had ever had. One of the reasons I think that this festival works so well is that it provides access to both new innovations and to some of the UKs world class Chocolatiers.  William Curley also had a stand and Duffy’s were there too, however I couldn’t get near their stand as it was busy even during the quiet time!

I tried a few samples as I worked my way around the stalls –  the highlights were Paul Wayne Gregory’s stand where they were pushing his new salted caramel flavour lollipops, a divine idea and Artisain du Chocolat where I tried their honeycomb and gingerbread chocolates, which are a tasty new seasonal addition.

Another stand that caught my eye was the rather glamorous looking Herzog one, showcasing Chocolatier Pâtissier Sven Herzogs wares. I was also rather impressed by the Chocmotif stand. I like the idea of chocolate greetings cards and they have a great selection, just think off all the paper Christmas cards you throw out after Christmas, isn’t eating them a much better idea?

Yes, Christmas is definitely a great time for Chocolate and like the Chocmotif cards, it’s not just for Christmas.

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Broadstairs Food Festival – Going Medieval at the Seaside

After the Real Food Festival in London, we thought it would be interesting to highlight an out of town festival in the seaside resort of Broadstairs.  Broadstairs Food Festival or Food Fayre as it is also known is an annual event and this year had over 100 stalls showcasing Kent produce. I visited on the third day of the Fayre, it was fairly busy when I arrived mid-morning, but by the afternoon it was packed with visitors sampling the free wares.

There was lots of English Wine, Flavoured Cider, Cheese and Chutney on display, along with the obligatory burger stands, which in this instance at least included local butchers selling venison burgers and wild boar and venison sausages.

Kent restaurants like the The Ambrette (Rye and Margate) and The Siam Kitchen (Broadstairs) were also represented and I couldn’t miss O’re the Moon the award winning Kent fudge company’s display of  Scottish Tablet (not sure where that fits in as traditional Kent produce, but as a Scot I am not complaining).

The highlight of the day though had to be the Medieval Cooking demonstration from Mo Joslin of Farmhouse Kitchen. It was entertaining in between the disruptions from the dodgy sound system (the bane of so many outdoor festivals).  I also got a good picture of another typical Food Festival event “The Swarm” (pictured above) homing in on the samples from the Cooking demonstration – a rather tasty pigeon dish. Funny it’s normally the Pigeons that do the swarming,  although in Broadstairs it’s more likely to be Seagulls, which is all part of the British Seaside experience.

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Real Food Festival on the Southbank

I am something of a fan of the Real Food Markets that take place on London’s South Bank every week, but until now had never been to the annual Real Food Festival. The  last food festival I went to was such a disappointment that it put me off the whole food festival concept (Foodies in Battersea Park).  Today was different. Foodies for example cost £15 a ticket and all the Chef Theatre events had to be pre booked.  The Real Food Festival in contrast is free and the Theatre events are on a first come basis. I actually got a front seat in the Theatre, something I have rarely managed to do at other festivals – it’s so nice to get pictures that don’t involve zooming in, not to mention being in a good postion to sample the food post demonstration before the swarm (see picture).

There were plenty of stands lining the river taking over a fair bit of the outdoor space around the Southbank centre. All nicely laid out, so you could actually see what was on offer. Lots of food festival regulars like The Little Round Cake Company and Outsider Tart were there. Cono Sur had free wine tasting, Thunder Vodka were providing samples of their award winning Toffee Vodka, and I was spoilt for choice on the savory front. I eventually decided to try some Takoyaki (Japanese dumplings) – Octopus, spring onion, Japanese red ginger, tempura topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, aonori seaweed and katsuobushi, they were piping hot and very tasty.

The first event in the Chefs Theatre I attended was advertised as Ben Tish from the Salt Yard restaurant but he could not make it, so his Sous Chef was there to fill the breach. The next chef scheduled was Jun Tanaka, but the timings were a bit off, so instead chocolatier Fiona Sciolti stepped in at literally the last minute to plug the gap with amusing stories of her foraging to get the natural ingredients for her rather special chocolates. She came armed with lots of samples, so we had the chance to try her new Sea Buckthorn chocolates. I had been told that Sea Buckthorn was an acquired taste, and boy did I acquire it – the chocolates are great. The filling has a sharp flavour that is reminiscent of passion fruit and it works very well indeed when mixed with white chocolate ganache.  Other chocolates we tried were spiced masala chai, elderberry & sambuca and garden mint thins (a really good palette cleanser). She also mentioned the new range of ice cream her company have launched this year.  Fiona hit a few problems with the sound system during her session so poor Jun Tanaka ended up going low tech with a hand mic, which he quite rightly pointed out was not designed with a chef in mind, but he took it as a challenge and received a round of applause for his one handed egg breaking skills. He demonstrated how to cook a rather appetizing dish of salt crusted beef, served with potatoes where he added “a little butter” much to the audiences amusement – it was the whole 1/2 lb pack. I had to leave just as he was handing over to Cyrus Todiwala of Cafe Spice Namasti. Which was a shame as Mr Todiwala is always entertaining.

So much to my surprise I have found a food festival I actually would recommend.

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Bridges in Ubud

A restaurant recommendation from Bali

Decades ago I visited Ubud in Bali and was captivated by its beauty. My friend Julie made a more recent visit and fell in love with the area and the people, to the extent that she moved there permanently putting down some real roots. Julie is the co-author of A Taste of Bali and if you want to read more about her life in Ubud see Julie in Bali where she covers everything from the perils of house building to earthquakes and the not so gentle pitter-patter of monkeys on the roof.

Ubud has grown and evolved a fair bit since my visit.  One of the changes is a relatively new Restaurant I had heard good things about, so I asked Julie if she knew it.  The restaurant is called Bridges, it opened less than a year ago and was recently voted the number one restaurant in Ubud by Trip Advisor.  It’s a casual fine dining restaurant  with Western and Asian influences, their new menu for example includes Three Spiced Carmelised Duck –  Sliced crispy duck coated in a thin star anise, orange and cinnamon caramel and the Crispy Skinned Pan-fried local Barramundi on a golden caper-dill rosti. Served with sautéed zucchini ribbons and a lime-saffron cream sauce.

A View of Bridges Restaurant, taken from Champuan Bridge

Recently Julie helped organise a literary event there that included a delicious 4 course meal, the highlight of which was a rather lovely dessert of chocolate mousse duo (orange and espresso).

Not sure when I will get the opportunity to visit Ubud again, but when I do I think Bridges will be on my list of local attractions.

 

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Chocolate Unwrapped 2011

Another Year. Another Chocolate Week.

We finished the week with a visit to Chocolate Unwrapped at Vinopolis.  This is its third year and it’s been getting bigger by the year. Vinopolis is an excellent venue for this type of event, nice high ceilings to keep the temperature down and lots of room for growth.


The first person we spotted as we walked in was Paul Wayne Gregory. He was keen to tell us that he now has a boxed selection of his chocolates that is entirely made up of award winners.  We also had some more of Duffys Chocolate (their chocolate was used in both the chocolate dinners I went to during Chocolate Week at The Providores and Almeida).

I tried to find Lauden Chocolates (one of my favorites), but if they were there I missed them. I did spot a tweet from them saying they had such a good day on the Saturday that they had sold out, so perhaps they didn’t managed to restock for the Sunday session.  Matcha Chocolat another favorite from last year was also no where to be seen.   However Chocolate Unwrapped for me is all about discovering something new.  This year my discovery was Pacari Ecuadorian Organic Chocolate bars, specifically the Raw Chocolate with Salt & Nibs (70% Cacao) and Lemongrass (60% Cacao) – this is seriously grown up chocolate.

We had a quick chat with Paul A Young and on the recommendation of a friend I also bought some of his very distinctive Pumpkin flavoured chocolates.

We were brave enough (or was that foolish enough) to  try some chocolate wine too – it was an interesting novelty, but didn’t really work for me.

The event seemed to have more of an International vibe this year, lots of French accents around.  We also visited stands from Hungry, Switzerland and Italy.

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Foodies Festival @ Battersea Park

This years London Foodies Festival was in Battersea Park. We arrived just after 10 am, the tickets and web site (initially) showed that as the event start time.   Our plan had been to get in early before the crowds.  However the festival was not able to start until 11 am due to some sort of mix up with the local council – not a good start.   So we killed some time in the parks cafe (definitely not a foodies destination) and returned to pick up entrance tickets for some of the events in the Chefs Theatre, Food Theatre and Drinks Theatre, only to be advised we could only get tickets for the earlier events and not those later in the day, we had to come back to the Registrations tent nearer the start times to get these tickets  – a totally impractical option. On entering the festival area we passed the Pimms Tent with its cute “Its Pimms O’Clock” picnic blankets laid out on the grass, and found ourselves accepting an invitation to try some of the Coeur de Cognac in the comfort of the Remy Martin Pagodo.

The festival was not especially large, the one at Hampton Court last year felt larger and had seemed more specialist food oriented.   We ended up sampling a couple of rums – a coconut one (Koko Kanu) from Jamaica and a lovely smooth Arehucas Honey Rum from the Canary Islands.  Then after a long chat with Chocolatier Fiona Sciolti who was presenting one of the afternoon sessions we had originally planned to go to, we headed down to the Chefs Theatre for Jun Tanaka’s cookery demonstration.

That went well, with Jun Tanaka producing three dishes in less than 40 minutes. Afterwards we were certainly ready to have something to eat.

The food on offer was not that inviting – except for the rather nice charcuterie plates being served up in the Harvey Nichols Foodmarket Marquee which we spotted after we had eaten (isn’t that always the way!).

We did find some gems though among the exhibitors, like the beautifully presented cake selection from The Little Round Cake Company and the huge selection of speciality breads from McCarthy’s.  The highlight however had to be Mr Ducks Delicacies at the 1Chef4u stand where we sampled some lovely smooth and sumptuous Fois Gras and some delicious Duck Rillette.

The next session we attended in the Food Theatre was totally disorganised with real confusion over who had tickets and who did not, since some were collected on the door and other collected at the tables. So that sort of put us off attending any more events.

Having already been round all the stands once, we decided  to call it a day and returned to the 1Chef4u stand to buy some of the lovely duck delicacies, picked up some bread from McCarthy’s and a chilled bottle of Bochet-Lemoine Champagne and headed home to have our own picnic.

The festival this year I have to say was not a patch on the last Foodies event I attended. Indeed the most enjoyable stands were selling goods that I could just as easily have found at a decent Farmers Market (or in the case of  Mr Ducks Delicacies on line), rather than at a ticketed event.  It’s definitely was not worth the £15 full ticket price or even dare I say the two for one deal. So I am afraid this is one event I probably won’t put on my calendar for next year. Sadly this is not the only food and drinks festival I have been disappointed with over the last year or so, Taste of London, Toast – New Zealand and La Dolce Vita did not hit the mark either.

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Easter Chocolate Festival @ Southbank Centre – Hot Chocolate!

It’s Easter (well almost), so chocolate indulgence is a compulsory activity. Who needs boring shop bought Easter Eggs when you have the Chocolate Festival at the Southbank Centre.

The sun was out in force today but not enough to melt the chocolate fortunately.   As you would expect there was lots of Easter Eggs on display.  I photographed some of the prettiest ones and the largest one too, which apparently gets broken up and recycled after the event! – Chocolate is just so versatile 😉

This festival is growing but it’s not as large or as well attended yet as Chocolate Unwrapped.  The live chocolate themed demonstrations were free today. However they were very busy and it was definitely too hot to sit in a marquee, so I focused on the stalls outside.  Interesting ones included Miki’s a very artistic chocolate company who produce handcrafted Japanese inspired fair-trade organic chocolates. They make a lot of their own moulds, including Kamen (mask) shaped ones (photographed above).  Another stand I was drawn to was the Alice in Wonderland inspired Lucky’s –  I could not resist the Humpty Dumpty eggs, with creamy filing in the shell. I bought a couple of the chestnut puree ones,  hopefully I can keep Humpty safe until Easter.

Artisan du chocolat were there too, they had English Breakfast Eggs on display – white, dark and milk chocolate eggs flavoured with bacon, mushrooms and tomato. I was a bit dubious and would have liked to have tried them, but alas there were no samples. I did however try their fresh Moroccan Mint chocolates instead which were excellent.

Chocolate inspired drinks were also available at Chocy Woccy’s.  Snickers, Mars and Bounty milkshakes and some delicious sounding cocktails too, made with a lovely selection of ingredients, like Chilli, Mint, Vodka, Bailey’s, Rum, Butterscotch, Schnapps, Coffee liquor and Chocolate.

Another interesting find was the Cafe On stall which had a wonderful range of Loretta Liu’s macarons. They really had their act together using a small portable fridge to keep the macarons cool.  So okay, macarons are not chocolate but I was glad they were part of the festival.  I bought a few and will update this post later with my thoughts on them.  Timeout included them in its list of Londons best Macarons and put them in the illustrious company of Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, so I am really looking forward to trying them out.

🙂 HAPPY EASTER from No Expert 🙂

 

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UPDATE : Macaron Tasting – I finished off the Loretta Liu macarons today. They were all light, sweet and chewy. The Mango flavoured one I enjoyed the most. I found the Green Tea one was too strong and the Cointreau Vanilla one too subtle. I had trouble recognising the flavours for the remaining ones.  One of the Pink ones, which I believe was the Lychee Martini, was overly sweet. I guess you find the flavours you like and stick to them. Cafe On certainly have enough flavours to choose from. For my palette based on a selection of 5 macarons, I would give them 6 out 10. I still prefer Ladurée though, but they are double the price.

BB Bakery at County Hall & Real Food Market

BB Bakery

When I go out for a walk I like to have a destination in mind – which I have to admit is usually somewhere that serves coffee and cake. My destination today was the Royal Festival Hall and the Real Food Market. However I got waylaid as I was passing by County Hall. I spotted a sign for BB Bakery. So out of nosiness rather that anything else I peeked inside. The signage had me expecting some kind of Pret a Manager or at best a Le Pain Quotidien or a Patisserie Valerie type venue. BB Bakery does after all share a building with McDonald’s. However I found that it was actually more in keeping with The Marriott Hotel which is also part of the County Hall complex. I was very surprised by its unexpected warmth and elegance, something that chain Patisseries rarely if ever manage to achieve.

 

To the left of the entrance is the counter area surround by tables and shelves of beautifully presented cakes and baked goods or as BB Bakery calls them Viennoiserie. I spent much longer here than I expected too, it was just so peaceful and relaxing sitting in the smart and comfortable seating area, indeed if you can ignore the rather drab walls and ceiling it does rather feel like the lounge of a good hotel. I ordered a slice of lemon and butter cream cake and a coffee from the counter. The waitress delivered it quickly and it was a pleasant change to have my coffee served in a china cup rather than a mug. The portion of cake was large, light and moist with a creamy butter filling and lemon flavouring that was strong and refreshing.

UPDATE: April 2011 – I returned for lunch. My salmon quiche was seriously good, tasty with lots of salmon and a nice balance of tomatoes, peppers and courgettes. I followed this with a small piece of heavenly strawberry roulade this place is definitely my favourite London Patisserie now.

UPDATE: BB Bakery also have a small selection of wines, including a dessert wine – see BB Bakery Wine list.

BB Pasta Bar

UPDATE: April 2013 – BB Bakery is still going strong – so nice to have somewhere central that does a decent cup of coffee. They have also now extended into another room in County Hall, opening the BB Pasta Bar, which like The Bakery is easy to miss – look out for the multi-coloured tables outside. I have not tried it yet, but will do soon. See Menu below, concept involves selecting your own pasta options – pasta, sauce, oil, cheese.

BB Crepe Stand

I have also just discovered that they have a Crepe stand on the terrace outside BB Bakery – Spoilt for choice!

Marks out of 10 for BB Bakery

Food 6.1

Service 6

Ambience 6.4

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The Real Food Market

I then moved on to the Real Food Market, which I am pleased to hear is doing so well that it is going to be a weekly event soon, rather than a monthly one. Alas I was too full from my cake to indulge, but I have to admit the aromas from the various stands were wonderful.

There was a nice mix of ethnic food stalls, including La Fromagerie and a stall selling Ostrich meat, which I might try next time.

UPDATE : June 2011 – The weekly Real Food Market is in full swing now, even on a grey day like today it was busy,  with live music adding to the atmosphere.

UPDATE: December 2013 – La Fromagerie is no longer at this Market, but there are still a couple of cheese stalls, including Borough Cheese who specialise in Comte Cheese.

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The Wine Show and Masterchef Live 2010

Made good use of a friends free ticket to  The Wine Show and Master Chef Live, bumped into several people I knew, which was nice. Surprisingly sociable for such a huge event.

I spent the bulk of my time at The Wine Show, as the Master Chef Live stands on the whole were very busy.

The event was not restricted to  just wine, as delicatessens such as Gastronomic were there, along with  chocolatiers such as Chocolate and Love.  There was also the rather amusing Mad Cow Fudge company, selling fudge “Made by cows from Yorkshire who like their Huddersfield”. Their Christmas Pudding fudge is a real winner.

On the wine front we tried several very good wines.  Wines of Chile for example had successfully matched their wines with some delicious Benares curries.  I also had an interesting chat with Mark Hellyar of Chateau Civrac on popularising wines from the Bordeaux region, and sampled a couple of  their  full bodied wines.  Chateau Civrac supply wines to several restaurants including Benares. I then moved on to the next stand Cantina Cirotto to try their rather lovely Prosecco. We also had a short presentation on what makes a good dessert wine from Tastour and enjoyed a nice glass of German Eiswein.

The highlight however had to be the Coutts Private Cellar, where Tim Atkin gave his presentation and several high end wine merchants provided samples of their wares. My personal favorite was the Cascina Bongiovanni Barola Pernanne 2004 from Colasanti (£71.50 RPR) . The  food plates from British Fine Foods were a perfect accompaniment – I know where I am ordering my Christmas goodies from.

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Chocolate Unwrapped at Vinopolis

It’s a change of venue for the Chocolate Unwrapped show this year.  Last year it was at the Mayfair Hotel, this year it moved to the rather more interesting Vinopolis.  The new venue though did not work as well for the lectures. Paul A Young‘s talks  for example were averaging about 90 attendees instead of the expected 30.  Fortunately he warned us about the over attendance and we got in early enough to get front row seats. His talk was suitably entertaining,  I was especially amused by the story that his mother still buys him Quality Street for Christmas.

The Chocolate Art work was fun, especially the gorilla. Thorntons Eiffel Tower was hideous though.

There were lots of new stands this year.  Matcha Chocolat with their tea and chocolate combinations were especially interesting.  All the chocolates and the brownie we had from Paul A Young were really good, I even found his new Marmite chocolate unoffensive. I loved William Curley’s Cinnamon Milk Chocolate.

There were some novelties too.  Like Chocri, who let you play chocolatier, choosing toppings and having your name on the bar and the Lebanese company Patchi, who seemed to focus on very ornate packaging for special occasions like weddings, baby showers and embassy do’s – kinda OTT Ferrier Roche!.  Thorntons were there too this year, showing yet again just how big a gap there is between the mass market chocolatiers and the artisan chocolatiers.

This event is definately in the diary again for next year.

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