Hotel Chocolat as a high-end retailer; to me, it has always felt like the Laithwaites of chocolate - a mass-market chain with a painted-on image whose products are oversold and rather ordinary.
However, I was prepared to be convinced otherwise when they sent me a Christmas box of chocolates to review; 180gms of chocolates costing £25 - that's over £100 per kilo, so surely they should be quite impressive, no ?
They come as a box of 19 dark chocolates, all but one with fillings.
Armed with a sharp knife, I cut the chocolates up and started sampling.
Sadly, the fillings are, in the main, disappointingly sugary; the chocolate shells, although dark, are also necessarily quite sweet, too. The chocolate itself is very smooth and buttery, but otherwise unexciting with limited aromatics.
Salted Soft Caramel the saltiness contrasts nicely with the intense sugariness of the caramel; some bitter aromatics linger on the finish of the chocolate.
Rum Truffle the filling is sugary and alcoholic. Nothing much else really going on,
Christmas Mess the filling is again sugary, but with pleasant strawberry flavours. The dried strawberry pieces on top are a clever touch and work really well - the meringue pieces are more anonymous.
Christmas Cake the chocolate casing is extremely thin; the filling has a pleasant combination of Christmas fruit and spices with walnuts, raisins, cranberries, cinnamon, orange and nutmeg. Not too sugary, greater complexity and well balanced - the most interesting chocolate here.
Whiskey Toddy the chocolate layer is thicker; the filling is harshly alcoholic and unbalanced.
Clementine Truffle almost no perceptible orange flavour in this; rather, there is plenty of rich, toasty nut praline which is quite nice.
Vanilla Dream the chocolate layer is thick and infused with a simple sweet vanilla aroma. The filling is intensely rich and creamy, it needs something to cut through the heaviness.
Dark Chocolate Tree with 70% dark chocolate, there is still quite a bit of sugariness to this. Again, very smooth texture, but lacks aromas.
Rum and Raisin the sweet raisin fruit and alcohol from the rum feel quite balanced here.
Snowball very sugary, a bit creamy and alcoholic, with a touch of bitterness from the chocolate on the finish. Inoffensive and unmemorable.
The Christmas Box costs £25; provided for review.
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