Every hour on the hour, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we will all be guzzling gourmet chocolates at the Chic Choc Festival, willing pawns in a shameless PR exercise that wants you and your credit cards in the shops and restaurants of St Christopher's Place. St Christopher's Place doesn't even sell chocolates, but its canny press agent knows full well that people will cross the West End on platform heels for a free truffle. Ideally, the greedy little shoppers will kill time between freebies, leaving chocolate fingerprints all over the Moschinos in the boutiques. The PR, shamefacedly conscious that size 8 fashion has little to do with 80% cocoa solids, assures us that 'fashion retailers will lend support with other promotions' - which can only mean brown clothes.
The average Londoner eats 20lb of chocolate a year. If, after gorging on free samples, you still feel you are falling behind, there may yet be time to grab a cab to a serious chocolate shop and buy a pound of your favourite centres. If you happen to be the Queen Mother, the first stop will be Charbonnel et Walker, for a hundredweight of rose and violet creams - doubtless chosen because they don't show when she dribbles violet fondant down her front. These peculiar chocolates are made from flower essences so strong that they've been using the same demijohn of attar of roses since 1952. Other fans have included Noel Coward, John Gielgud and Tom Cruise. Paul Newman prefers Rococco in Kings Road.
Notice how all the famous customers seem to be men. Women have a far more complicated relationship with chocolate. At 143 calories an ounce it has never been an entirely straightforward pleasure, but this petty little guilt is nothing to the waves of self-loathing you could generate if you gave one thought to the women who pick the actual beans. Enter Green and Black's chocolate bars, just the thing for the socially conscientious Londoner: organically grown cocoa picked by people who are paid properly - an enterprise that gives 'full of goodness' a new meaning. It doesn't taste bad either.
Green and Black is sold in supermarkets, but will be available for tasting at the Chic Choc Festival alongside the less aware but even more delicious stuff hand made by Belgians (the ones who aren't knitting lace, presumably). Chocolate maker Gerard Ronay, something callling itself The Chocolate Society, Chantal Coady of Rococo, Claire Clark from Cordon Bleu and Melanie de Blank demonstrate chocolate cookery from 1-6pm. The Chocolate Society has a mission to explain. A mission to explain that the stuff you normally eat is garbage: 'The Society's first priority is to draw attention to the difference between the complex delicacy that great cooks and gourmets recognise as chocolate and the low-grade confection which the British consume by the ton every week'. Mike Blackburn, a spokesman for the low-grade confection known as Yorkie, was slightly taken aback when confronted with this damning criticism. 'We're talking about taste preferences here' he said, showing an immediate grasp of the facts: 'British confectionery keeps everyone in the country happy.' The chocolate festival may teach them how to be happier still.
The Chic Choc Festival runs from 19-21 May in St Christopher's Place, W1 with chocolate cookery demonstrations every hour from 1.00pm-6pm. Taste and buy chocolates from Gerard Ronay, Rococo, Sandrine, Godiva, The Chocolate Society and Green and Black.
Bendicks 7 Aldwych, WC2 (071-836 1846) Mon-Fri 9.30am-7.00pm, Sat 11.00am-7pm. 46 Curzon St, W1 (071-629 4389) Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.00pm. Closed Sats. 20 Royal Exchange, EC3 (071-283 5843) Mon-Fri 9.30-5pm. Closed Sats. From pounds 8.49 lb.
Charbonnel et Walker 28 Old Bond St, W1 071 491 0939. Mon-Fri 9.00am-5.30pm (Thurs till 6.00pm), Sats 9.30-4pm. Mail order. From pounds 16.50 per lb.
Godiva 150-152 Fenchurch St, EC3 (071-623 2287) Mon-Fri 9.00am-5.30pm. 247 Regent St, W1 (071-495 2845). Mon-Sat 9.30am-6.00pm (Thurs till 7.00pm). Also in Harrods and Selfridges. From pounds 15 per lb.
Holdsworth Chocolates in Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, SW1 (071-235 5000). Mon-Fri 10.00am-8.00pm; Sats 10.00am-6.00pm. From pounds 12.60 per lb.
Leonidas 110 Fleet St, EC4 (071-353 3590) Mon-Fri 8.30-6.00pm. 132 St Johns Wood High St, NW8 (071-722 1191) Mon-Sat 9.00am-6.00pm. Unit 9, Trocadero, Coventry St, W1 (071-287 0859) Mon-Sat 9.00am-6.00pm. Also at Harrods. A snip at pounds 6.80 per lb.
Panache 35 Knightsbridge, SW1 (071-235 8819). Mon-Sat 10.00am-7.00pm. From pounds 12 per lb.
Rococo 321 Kings Rd, SW3 (071-352 5857). Mon-Sat 10.00am-6.30pm. From pounds 10.80 per lb.
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