Pastry and chocolate have a special affinity in culinary terms. Many of our talented contemporary chocolatiers first learnt how to work with chocolate during their time as patissiers– Damian Allsop, William Curley, Paul Wayne Gregory and Barry Johnson of Rococo to name just a few examples.
With this in mind, it’s good, therefore, to see hotels working with chocolatiers to help create special menus for their afternoon teas, as Grosvernor House have now done with chocolatier Paul A. Young. As visitors to Paul A. Young’s shops will know, treats on offer there include not just his distinctive hand-made truffles, but also baked goods such as his soft, fudgy-textured brownies. From April 14th running through to June 2014, visitors to the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane, London will be able to enjoy a full-blown ‘Paul A Young Chocolate Inspired Afternoon Tea, offering an insight into how Paul uses chocolate in patisserie. A preview event saw the media, including Chocolatier.co.uk, assemble (very willingly indeed) for a sample of what will be on offer in April.
“It’s been very nice working on the menu here,” laughs Paul. “I’ve been eating lots of delicious things and it’s been great working with the Executive Chef here at Grosvenor House.” This is very much “a collaboration”, with Paul keen to make the chocolate element work as an “ addition” to the hotel’s afternoon tea. The ‘chocolate inspired’ afternoon tea menu, therefore, contains chocolate-free elements, from savoury sandwiches to pastries. After all, he points out, “it would be impossible to have chocolate, chocolate, chocolate; you also need some elements to cleanse the palate.”
While the tea retains the classic hotel tea structure and elegant presentation, there are, however, strikingly different elements, to begin with the subtle-flavoured Madagascan cocoa nibs tea. Nestled among the crustless finger sandwiches, with fillings such as smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise and ham, one finds a cucumber and Venezuelan chocolate sandwich, a striking combination which works well, with the juicy cucumber contrasting nicely with the sophisticated, flavourful chocolate. Among the dainty pastries are some distinctly indulgent chocolate creations, such as a Earl Grey Tea Chocolate Tart, topped with a tiny lemon truffle.
Paul’s knowledge of the different chocolates he works with is put to excellent use, as demonstrated by the Orange, English Honey and Geranium Ganache. Here, the natural flavours of the Ecuadorian 85% Pacari Raw chocolate are highlighted by being combined with citrus and fragrant geranium - the result being at once richly textured, yet with a refreshing citrus and floral taste which brings a lightness to the creation. Star of the show, however, was the simple yet inspired combination of warm, crumbly scones, served with clotted cream and Paul’s famous salted caramel. These were so good that murmurs of “I’m going to have to have another one of those” were heard from more than one present. Indeed, so impressed was Lynn Hill of Clandestine Cake Club that she went as far as to declare that “This could replace the traditional cream tea,” – praise indeed. “You have to have both the salted caramel and clotted cream on the scones to get the whole experience,” urged Paul, “lash it on! We’ve eaten lots of these.” Palpably delighted with the good feedback, Paul declares happily “I just want to spread the love of chocolate.” And indeed he is.