When friends suggested we ate in Hotel Chocolat’s restaurant in London, I must admit to being cynical. Not having a particularly sweet tooth, I didn't know much about the brand, and having once disastrously added chocolate to chilli I wasn’t sure I would like the food.
I looked at the website which is part of the Hotel Chocolat website; so very associated with the brand, and my interest grew. The whole story was intriguing and the food different and exciting (Although a little concerned about the ‘hushed space’ bit with 5 old uni friends meeting!).
Mirroring the spirit of our Saint Lucian sister-restaurant, guests enter a hushed space, with reclaimed wooden furniture, low-wattage ambience and a rustic iron bar, all of which open onto a terrace overlooking one of the capital’s most eclectic marketplaces. On the menu: a unique blend of Anglo-Saint-Lucian cuisine; contemporary dishes influenced by the West Indies and Britain, with roasted cacao beans used as a subtle savoury spice and garnish – just as they had been in the centuries before chocolate was invented – as well as the rich, deep heart of desserts
Mission: To make chocolate exciting again
What we believe in:
Originality; We’re constantly striving to be fresh, creative and innovative, and always one surprising step ahead.
Authenticity; Chocolate starts at the roots of the cacao tree. So we got stuck in.
Ethics; You work too hard for bad chocolate. They work too hard for cheap cocoa. We’ve been raising the bar for cocoa-growing since 2002
With such close association, I was of course interested to see how well the experience reflected my somewhat limited perceptions of the brand so I looked more into Hotel Chocolat.
I hadn’t realised the strong ethical stance they took, nor that they owned a cacao plantation in St Lucia, on which there was a hotel and a restaurant. From a product point of view, the brand stretches well beyond chocolate into alcohol, candles and beauty and they have ‘experience kitchens’ where you learn to transform a cacao bean into your very own chocolate bar.
The location of Borough market seemed right to start with – not in the swanky West End but in a slightly surprising, fun and bustling area. Downstairs was a shop and café all well themed.
We went up some wooden stairs to the restaurant. This had the perfect mix of being a smart restaurant for a special occasion but also slightly quirky, relaxed and rustic. The staff were polite and professional but also very welcoming and friendly
The friend that had booked it is a member of Hotel Chocolat’s VIP club and so qualified for a free cocktail. He didn’t have to ask for it, they knew and brought it straight over to him (with three straws as the females were arguing about who was going to drink it!) – however, I was surprised that it was a standard cocktail and not one of Hotel Chocolat’s drinks.
The menu didn’t disappoint. Though the descriptions were a little pretentious the stories of how the dishes linked back to the cacao growing areas were interesting and felt very brand aligned.
The food was also delicious and beautifully presented, even the wine was branded. My only disappointment was the desserts. There was only one totally chocolate dessert on the menu which I struggled to get through. My friends had sticky toffee pudding (though admittedly with chocolate in!) which was delicious.
My measure of a place is always the toilets and these were perfectly in theme with the rest of the restaurant, not just some afterthought (in fact so well themed with the wooden wall it was hard to find the door!).
I have to confess that I don’t remember a huge amount about the departure apart from, despite the fact we were the last to leave, the staff were smiling and friendly!
I am not sure about ‘making chocolate exciting again’ but I think Rabot 1745 is certainly a great ambassador for chocolate and a superb way of bringing the Hotel Chocolat brand to life. It feels original, authentic and ethical and made me believe that the founders of the business and all that work there today are truly passionate, not just about chocolate but about cacao, the people that work hard to bring it to us and the environment it is grown in.
I will certainly be returning (if they let me!) and will not baulk at the prices of Hotel Chocolat chocolate so much in future