Bonbon Chocolate Workshop

12 Feb

You can’t have failed to notice the chocolate glut shoring up every high street counter of late. The behemoths that be Cadbury, Mars and Nestle are all assaulting our senses in the hope of winning the seasonal battle for the hearts and hips of us sunshine-smacking consumers. Row upon row of cutesy animal shaped, goo-filled chocolate creations, but rather than seeing me safely through the winter months as per, this year quite frankly has me feeling hollow as an Easter egg.

Our great British isle has a great chocolate heritage, and despite increasing food snobbery around the use of vegetable fats and our national crack-like addiction to milk chocolate, we still kick the arse out of the latest American influx of sweet treats. In their hey day, classics like Bournville and Fry’s were part of the national fabric, and Roald Dahl’s lingering descriptions of Cadbury samples in Boy seem like tales of yesteryear; it seems not so long ago, sweet shops were still revered, magical places that held excitement whatever your age.*

Nowadays, by the time spring has shown his happy face, our willingness to comply with increasingly early corporate crack at Valentine’s Day / Mother’s Day / Easter just seems greedy, and where chocolate once provided a momentary and affordable morsel of luxury, it generally has become nothing more than a commodity to shove in our mouths at the end of the day. In amongst the crammed, multi-coloured shelves of confectionary, that sense of theatre and the pure joy that enjoying chocolate brought has been lost.

I haven’t been hit by that childhood sense of wonder for years, despite the best efforts of the innovative yet ridiculously slick Hotel Chocolat and the fine, fine work of the cocoa bean buyers over at Green & Blacks. Sigh. Then suddenly, Bonbon Chocolate Workshop miraculously appeared, popping up unexpectedly in Manchester’s Northern Quarter as an early Christmas gift, and no doubt thanks to the terrible weather and need for a little new year cheer, has thankfully hung around.

A sweet little hidey-hole of  chocolate wonder

A sweet little hidey-hole of chocolate wonder

Initially tempted in by the promise of hot chocolate one snowy Sunday in January, and having heard the masterminds behind the much lauded (but sadly never visited) Troffel were supplying the goods, I was keen to indulge. Sat on the slightly uninspiring John Street, expectations were tempered, but seconds within walking in, I knew I’d found it – the grown up, miniature version of my very own Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (I wish). I could barely contain my mirth.

Raspberry Beer Truffles - down in one!

Raspberry Beer Truffles – down in one!

Flourless Chocolate Cake - on the hit list.

Flourless Chocolate Cake – on the hit list.

Slates of dusted, coated and colour-flecked truffles, fudgy brownies and a earthen pot of steaming hot chocolate, this small, intimate shop’s muted, charcoal tones and earthy paper packaging lets the chocolate do the selling, as well it should, given Valrhona chocolate is used in everything they create. Rich without being sickly – leaving that tell-tale, lip-smacking couverture coating on your teeth – it speaks volumes of quality, and leaves you in no doubt that you’re experiencing something truly special.

Hot Chocolate - Just chocolate, spring water, a little sugar and cocoa powder.

Hot Chocolate – Just chocolate, spring water, a little sugar and cocoa powder.

Salted Caramel Truffles - buttery gooey goodness with a slight salty tang.

Salted Caramel Truffles – buttery gooey goodness with a slight salty tang.

Made purely with chocolate, spring water, a little sugar and cocoa powder to help thicken the liquid, the melted hot chocolate is something else. Less fatty on account of the lack of dairy, and flavoured with the truffle varieties available in the shop that day, my bowl of liquid cocoa reawakened the love lost after years of overly sweetened, heavy set chocolate bars and the powdered, frothy hot chocolate we’re all too used to expecting. Even the drudgery of the overlooked NCP car park couldn’t spoil the appeal.

With room for 6-7 people max, getting into Bonbon is a challenge, but one well worth waiting out for. The knowledge on offer from the friendly staff encouraged me to take home several truffles to try; a sweet and tangy raspberry beer finished with a bitter beer hit and sea salted caramel, buttery in flavour with that mild salt sting cutting through. I’ve since been back for the brownies – gooey in the extreme and a perfect indulgence for the Sunday night treat tradition held by me and my flatmate Aoife – all in all, divine.

At just £3.50 for a truly delicious cup of hot chocolate, it puts Starbucks to shame, and with the best quality truffles costing no more than £1.50 plus plenty of innovative flavours to try, (the lemon curd and goats cheese in particular require another trip), why not give this little independent pop up a try? Inexpensive, decadent and truly exciting, Bon Bon is serving up chocolate exactly as it should be.

* Ruined by smug, know-it-all grown ups with big marketing budgets and no sense of fun, no doubt. Very Dahl-esque, don’t you think!

Bonbon Chocolate Workshop, 9 John Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1EQ


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