Shopping: Watch out, bunnies about

Hop to it and indulge in some extraordinary eggs and chocolate rabbits this Easter. By Dominic Lutyens
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Part of the fun of hunting for hidden Easter eggs is glimpsing their glistening wrapping. Few things are cuter than the soft sheen of foil in sugared-almond shades. Even so, for most of us, huge, in-your- face eggs are far more covetable than teeny, subtle ones. For one thing, it takes more than one sitting (hopefully) to scoff them. And, of course, fans of Liberace-esque baroque can rejoice: the world's enforcers of bland good taste haven't yet tamed the wildest excesses of Easter confectionery - perhaps in deference to Easter's pagan origins. Even the smartest eggs remain, for the most part, as gloriously lurid and elaborate as ever.

The larger milk or plain chocolate eggs at swish Piccadilly shop Prestat would look a mite conspicuous at an Easter-egg hunt. They come wrapped in head-turning lime green or gold foil - very Strictly Ballroom. They are truffle-filled, or crammed with Prestat's Connoisseur chocolates: orange, lemon and coffee creams, pralines, noisettes, caramels and gingers. Its 4lb egg, for example, has a 60 per cent cocoa content and costs pounds 59.95. (According to Chocolate Magazine, good quality milk chocolate contains at least 29 per cent cocoa; plain chocolate 50 per cent. The higher its cocoa content, the less sugar and fat chocolate contains.)

At Fortnum & Mason, the Easter fare is more outlandish still. Extravagantly beribboned, its milk, plain or white chocolate eggs are filled with traditional English chocolates, French bonbons, champagne truffles (all from pounds 16.75), or drinking-chocolate flakes (pounds 16.95).

Flash Harrys may be tempted to shell out instead on Fortnum's cracker of a Presentation Egg, boasting a 28g jar of pasteurised Sevruga caviar (pounds 59.95) or gold-plated cuff-links (pounds 55). Jewellery nestles, too, in Selfridges' unashamedly ritzy, handmade confections (from pounds 8.99). But these pale into insignificance beside the extravagance of Selfridges' handmade, marbled 5kg egg (38 per cent cocoa, pounds 175), packed with fresh cream truffles by James, British specialists in high-quality handmade chocolates.

More affordable, though no less sumptuous, is Thorntons' Floral Egg. Decorated with hand-piped sugar daffodils and narcissi, this zeppelin of an egg rests in a wicker basket (30 per cent cocoa, pounds 50).

Charbonnel et Walker have hatched some similarly flamboyant creations. There's a velvet egg-shaped casket in various sizes, filled with chocolates and truffles, and crowned with silk daffodils. The most luxurious of these, which is 43cm long, is stuffed with a 340g jar of chocolate truffle sauce, a 500g tin of drinking chocolate and boxes of plain chocolates, champagne truffles, cappuccino truffles, nut fondants, bittermints and a bar of fine English chocolate (pounds 156). Charbonnel et Walker also stock a colossal 28lb Victorian-style egg in fine English chocolate (55 per cent cocoa, pounds 450).

The promisingly named London shop, Rococo Chocolates, has a new range called Chocolate Works of Art - handmade dark (70 per cent cocoa), white, and milk (35 per cent cocoa) chocolate eggs filled with truffles and splattered with patterns parodying the styles of famous artists and sculptors (from pounds 4 for a 30g egg). Rococo's wags have created a Jackman Pollox Egg (splish-splashed with Pollock's trademark drips), a Monk Rothkoff Egg (in dark, brooding colours), and Barry O'Flanegan hares run at full stretch across white chocolate egg shells. Its Damon Hearse Mutilated Bunnies (the ultimate sick joke?) are, says owner Chantal Coady, the shop's "casualty", or broken bunnies (pounds 20 each). Then there are its (intact) Tarantino-inspired Reservoir Hares, sporting menacingly opaque shades (pounds 12.50 each).

Also from Rococo - purveyor, too, of eggs for vegetarians, vegans and diabetics - are its Fraudulent Quails' Eggs: praline eggs with speckled sugar shells (pounds 5.50 for 12), and milk chocolate Rare And Not So Rare Birds' Eggs, imitations of, among others, flamingo and grebe eggs (pounds 3.50 for a 250g clutch). If you're searching for even more exotic authenticity, Selfridges is selling real ostrich and emu eggs (pounds 21.50 each).

Chocolate Easter eggs can look naturalistic, though, thanks to that more subtle variety, the real handblown, chocolate-filled egg. You'll find them, crammed with praline and dark chocolate, courtesy of French company Bonnat, at London delicatessen Mortimer & Bennett (pounds 19.95 for six).

Of course, Easter is as much about gorging on darling chocolate bunnies as on eggs. Godiva's Carousel, a charming dark nougatine chocolate mock- up of a Fifties-style children's toy (30 per cent cocoa, pounds 35), features a frieze of prancing praline, milk and dark chocolate bunnykins. Godiva also stocks chocolate Rabbit Lollipops (pounds 1.95 each) and Rabbit Bouchees wearing jaunty sun hats (pounds 4.95 each). Easter's menagerie of chocolate animals knows no limits. Try Selfridges' bizarrely named Canadian Cow (pounds 15.99), or The Chocolate Society's milk chocolate hen (pounds 5.40) and piglets (pounds 4.25 for nine). The Chocolate Society also sells a dark chocolate nest (70 per cent cocoa, pounds 7.50) which cradles foil-wrapped eggs. Then there's this year's prehistoric vogue. Thorntons' children's range includes a Brachiosaurus Egg (a hollow milk and white chocolate egg, pounds 2.99) and Raptor Eggs (99p/50g). The most hulking Dinosaur Egg this year is by Prestat, which trumpets that it is "as large as that laid by the vast dinosaurs which roamed the world 150 million years ago". Unfortunately, this 45cm tall, 15lb monster is a one-off. The good news - for one lucky winner - is that it's up for grabs. (To stand a chance of winning, answer the question "Where is Egg Mountain located?". Post your reply, with your name, address and phone number, to Prestat, 14 Princes Arcade, Piccadilly, London SW1Y 6DS, to arrive by 31 March.) Inaccessible perhaps, but Prestat's Dinosaur Egg provides comforting proof that chocolatiers see Easter as an opportunity to let their sweet-toothed imaginations run wild. Sure as eggs are eggs, this is one tradition that won't die out.

Stockists: Charbonnel et Walker (0171-491 0939); The Chocolate Society (0171-259 9222; 01423 322 230 ); Fortnum & Mason (0845 300 1707 ); Godiva (0171-495 2845); Mortimer & Bennett (0181-995 4145); Prestat (0171-629 4838); Rococo (0171-352 5857); Selfridges (0171-629 1234 ); Thorntons (0800 454 537)

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