Chocolate is described as “food for the gods”, but yet it is a vice us many of us mere mortals simply cannot survive without.
One of life’s earthly pleasures, over its 3000 year history the fruit of the cacao plant has evolved from a ceremonial drink used by Aztec Indians to an ingredient that we use to melt, dribble, dip, coat, and ultimately devour with glee – in everything from triple chocolate brownies and chocolate chip studded cookies, to cosy hot chocolates and cooling ice-creams.
Whether you’re after chocolate to tempt or temper, here are some filthily decadent ways to indulge at the best chocolate experiences in Ireland.
Ever wondered what really goes on behind the doors of a working chocolate factory? Then a visit to the home of one of Ireland’s favourite luxury chocolatiers, Butlers, will satisfy your curiosity, and your chocolate cravings too. Be sure to pick up the Butlers’ The Cocktail Menu before you leave; the collection of 8 different cocktail inspired chocolates including Passion Fruit Margarita and Raspberry Cosmopolitan and Great Taste Award winning chocolates Lemon Drop Martini and Espresso Martini is a chocolate experience in itself. www.butlerschocolates.com/chocolateexperience
How can you make chocolate even more magical? Enter the Valrhona chocolate sphere. Easily the most theatrical use of the dark stuff we have seen at restaurants of late, as your server pours over jug of hot chocolate sauce watch a globe of tempered chocolate implode to reveal an array of treats within. You can experience it at Dublin’s five star Dylan boutique hotel, or at Sika Restaurant, Powerscourt, where inside a hazelnut meringue and milk ice cream await you.
The only place in Dublin to make your own chocolate bar, Coco Bó, on O’ Connell Street, lets the customer indulge customise their own ‘Made by Me’ bars, choosing everything from the type of chocolate, to the fillings which range from fruit and nuts, to marshmallows, popping candy, and even cheerios. Doubling the drool-factor, is the Dublin Cookie Co. Pop Up Shop instore at Coco Bó serving chocolate spiked cookies and milks.
Wexford company Bean and Goose, known for pairing the rich flavours of single origin chocolate with flavours and ingredients that celebrate the Irish seasons, have created chocolate slabs flecked with orange peel, organic cranberries, hazelnuts and spices. Designed for sharing post Christmas dinner, we’re not judging if you squirrel one of these away and savour by the chunk alongside cognac or coffee. A full list of stockists is available on their ste at beanandgoose.ie.
As breathtaking as its location, overlooking the magnificent Skelligs Rocks is what goes on inside the Skelligs’ Chocolate Factory. The only fully ‘open plan’ chocolate production facility anywhere in Ireland, guests can see the range of Skelligs’ chocolate truffles, clusters, drops, bars, brittles, hot chocolates and even shoes chocolates being made, ask questions and, of course, taste the freshly made delights and daily specials; that alone is worth the ten hour round trip from Dublin.
Along with the likes of a Hot Peanut Buttered Rum, Saba’s new Winter Warmers cocktail menu includes a very tropical, and very adult, version of your favourite warming beverage. A delicious combination of Koko Kanu coconut rum, white chocolate, milk and spices, the Coconut Hot Cacao is sure to transport you from chilly Dublin to balmy Bangkok in just a few sips.
Spicy chilli and aromatic cacao have been natural companions ever since the Aztecs first discovered this magical combination. At his Japanese restaurant, Taste at Rustic, Dylan McGrath has looked to the other side of the world for a tingling take on the classic pairing, using Japanese green peppercorns for his Chocolate and Pepper Mousse dessert, served with dark chocolate biscuits and dark cocoa chocolate sauce.
If you have ever dreamt of visiting Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room, with trees made of taffy that grow jelly apples, and bushes that sprout lollipops, then perhaps you should pay a visit to The Chocolate Garden of Ireland, one of the most family friendly chocolate experiences in Ireland. While they don’t churn their chocolate by waterfall, the visitor centre, just outside Tallow, is just as magical. Visitors can buy a golden ticket for a range of hands-on workshops to see exactly how their luxury chocolate collection is made, which won Gold at the Blas na hEireann 2016 awards.
A Cork institution, Ó Conaill Hot Chocolate and Coffee shop on French Church street is a must visit in the southern capital. Experts in making ‘real’ hot chocolate, you can choose from dark, milk or white, or a mixture. Relive the molten magic at home with bags of the chocolate flakes and chocolate spoons for sale in the shop. Haven’t overdosed on chocolate yet? Visit their nearby bakery on Paul Street for a chocolate brownie.
Elsewhere in the Kingdom, not far from Kenmare, at Lorge Chocolatier award winning chef Benoit Lorge hosts range of chocolate courses that let you get hands on dipping, moulding and making. Have the day out of your childhood dreams with your owns kids, or arrange a unique hen party. There are also advanced courses for hardcore chocoholics want to learn the art of chocolate making, or those looking to turn their obsession into a career.
You don’t know hedonism until you know Whitefriar Grill’s Chocolate Fondue, complete with peanut butter fudge, marshmallow, pineapple, and profiteroles for off the scale there’s probably no way to eat this without causing a mess and that’s a big part of the fun. This is ultimate date night sharing dessert, but given the chance of chocolate on your chin perhaps don’t try this on the first date.
This beautiful chocolate boutique on Drury Street is a little piece of Paris in the heart of Dublin city centre. Cocoa Atelier will steal your heart with its elegant chocolate array of handmade Irish chocolates, macaroons, desserts, truffles, and even sauces, spreads and bottled fresh hot chocolate on sale for you to enjoy at home. The cherry on top of the chocolate cake are the chocolate éclairs, made ‘the French way’ with a chocolate crème patissiere filling instead of cream.
Open 13 years, Ireland’s original chocolate workshop is brought to you by chocolate royalty, Natasha Caffrey, granddaughter of the late Thomas Caffrey known as ‘The Irish Willy Wonka’. Caffrey’s Confectionery’s legendary Snowballs, Tea Cakes Macaroon bars, and Big Time bars are all still available at The Chocolate Warehouse shop, but there is a lot more on offer in this world of imagination. Over two hours kids (and big chocolate-loving kids) will learn everything from where chocolate comes from, to how to make their very own chocolates. This multi sensory learning experience will have all your senses tingling, including, most importantly, your taste buds.
Can’t decide between a kebab or a chocolate feast to satiate your hangover cravings? Why not combine the two with a chocolate kebab. This is one of the most creative chocolate experiences in Ireland and the brainchild of husband and wife duo Declan and Christina Woods. At their takeaway cafe Sprinkles in Bray you can try this unique twist on the favourite post-pub treat with shavings of chocolate and fresh cream wrapped up in a sweet pitta bread.
Chocoholics are well served at cult-favourite Morelli’s Ice Cream Parlours, with versions of their famous ice cream like Belgian Chocolate Chip, Naughtytella, and Chocolate Honeycomb. To really hit the sweet spot though try their take on the ultimate American diner dessert classic with Malt Tease, Oreos & Cream, or Forrero sundaes layered to perfection and available at Morelli family stores and official Morelli Ice Cream franchises.
If you think vegan ‘treats’ are only saintly, raw food numbers, Gelato Di Natura and Fabio’s Homemade Italian Ice Cream are here to bust that myth. On O’Connell Street, Gelato Di Natura offer a seriously seductive dark chocolate gelato, made with a rich 70% chocolate and 0% dairy. Looking West, Fabio’s in Sligo make an intriguingly titled ‘Bulls Blood’ ice cream, that is just as dark and dangerous as it sounds. Made with dark chocolate, orange juice and lashings of cayenne pepper, this vegan vice is as fiery as its namesake.
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after completing a law, she went on to do a Masters in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.