Melburnians love chocolate in all its forms.
We’ve commented on the coffee-mad culture of Wellington, where you can hardly turn around without bumping into a busy café with patrons spilling onto the street. Melbourne offers plenty of coffee places too, from slick chains like Starbucks to quirky independents like the almost unnoticeable hole in the wall 2Pocket Fairtrade on Little Lonsdale.
But chocolate seems to turn locals on here even more. And we don’t mean a store that merely offers bars or small mounds of chocolate formed with exotic flavors and wrapped in impossibly splendid papers (gilt, not guilt). There are many of those, including outlets for the famous Australian brands, like Haigh’s which has been producing goodies for nearly 100 years. Their fanciest store anchors the equally fancy Block Arcade, an elegant roofed arcade with neoclassical design and ornate floral patterns on the floors.
Most chocolate shops here in Melbourne are more like salons, offering the espresso-bar experience for chocolate lovers, with chocolate drinks instead of coffees, along with chocolate bites and desserts.
It seems that every street block, mall and alleyway caters to the town’s chocolate fix, particularly the Royal Arcade, another neoclassical interior with terrazzo floors. There, at the Koko Black salon, you can sip or munch within the shop or in the halls of the arcade among passers-by, as long as the imposing Easter bunnies in their window during March don’t alarm you. The delightfully named Chokolait down a narrow hallway nearby looks more like a sleek coffee shop, and does offer coffees or teas, but aims to seduce you more with its richer offerings.
At Chokolait, for example, cocoa finds its way into everything. You can get a standard like hot chocolate in mind-boggling varieties: Classic Dark, Milk Chocolate, Chilli (really, chilli?), Cinnamon, White, Jaffa, Mocha and Affogato. Too hot for hot chocolate? Try the “almost sinful combination of genuine Belgian chocolate, premium vanilla ice cream, fresh milk and all topped with chocolate drizzle – in Dark or Milk Chocolate, Strawberry, White or Jaffa.” Or the coffee-chocolate blend of an Iced Mocha. Even the Iced Fruit Indulgence, a kind of banana (or strawberry) split with ice cream and milk, gets drizzled with chocolate.
And if you’re longing for a different kind of bar experience at Chokolait, you can try its trans-European Hot Shots, actual shots of Belgian chocolate prepared Italian style (whatever that means) in “either a thick-like honey texture or the classic thick, eat-with-a-spoon texture.” Hmm, hard to choose between the thick-like and the classic thick.
Leave the arcade, and chocolate choices proliferate on the streets: Max Brenner, Laurent Boulangerie Patisserie, The Chocolate Box, Ganache Chocolates (where they try to turn your children into chocoholettes with a Babychino – warm mild, froth and chocolate shavings – and Baby Hot or Baby Iced Chocolate), and Cacao Fine Chocolate shop at the historic GPO building. This last one features not Belgian, not Italian, but French style chocolate.
It’s no surprise that even the coffee shops tap into this choko-lust. The Brunetti caffe-bars offer all the delights you would expect to find in Milan or Rome, including aperitifs, liqueurs and beer. But, while your children are enjoying a free Babychino, they still aim to entice you with their “unique Italian hot chocolate (cioccolato caldo con panna) using a genuine secret family recipe. Once tasted you may never go back to the standard hot chocolate again!”
Not to be outdone by Belgian chocolates or Italian and French style, a Lindt salon appeals with Swiss charms: “Chocolate on tap, delectable delice, decadent cakes, delicate pralines and chocolate creations crafted by our very own Maitre Chocolatier…. your taste buds will thank you!” (We must meet the Maitre Chocolatier sometime; perhaps he or she is dressed up as the famous LIndt Gold Bunny.) Nor is it surprising that, for all the chocolate it sells, Lindt’s Chocolat Cafés can only be found among the chocoholics here in Australia.
And, if all these styles don’t satisfy, you can even go Spanish in our nearby QV Mall, ground floor. Chocolateria San Churro offers chocolate shakes, hot chocolate, Spanish hot chocolate, and other goodies. Its signature dish is “churros con chocolate,” served with a cup of melted couverture chocolate, imported from Spain, and “perfectly washed down with a traditional Spanish hot chocolate”.
According to them couverture chocolate is made from “only 100% REAL cocoa butter” all directly extracted from the cocoa bean. Beware those other shops that offer you “mockolate” with “a greasy, flat, less intense chocolate flavour that is cheap to produce, inferior to the palette, and a complete phony that shouldn’t even assume the ‘chocolate’ title.” I guess we need to be more careful in those Belgian, Italian and Swiss chocolate places.
Yes, shops in Melbourne take their chocolate very, very seriously…and the residents apparently do too.
(Also, for more pictures from Australia, CLICK HERE to view the slideshow at the end of the Australia itinerary page.)