Calling all Cardiff residents - the cosy Hotel Chocolat branch on The Hayes is closing.
But before you retreat into a darkened corner to sob, you can rejoice as a bigger and shinier brand-new store is opening up in St David’s Dewi Sant Shopping Centre! Best of all, it will have a Hotel Chocolat Café! That's right, the Welsh capital is getting a brand new Hotel Chocolat shop with its own café!
I remember Hotel Chocolat opening its doors to Cardiff several years ago. Based on the fringe of The Hayes, it's a stone's throw from House of Fraser which occupies the large building formerly home to Howells department store.
I have always griped about its location though. When St David’s Dewi Sant Shopping Centre extended in 2009, it had the effect of pulling businesses in from the surrounding streets. I think there's a noticeable difference to how - and specifically where - we now shop in Cardiff.
The Hotel Chocolat branch in Cardiff sits almost apologetically away from the main thoroughfare of foot traffic, which nowadays runs through the heart of St David’s Dewi Sant Shopping Centre.
That's now set to change, with the store moving inside the St David's Centre, en-route from brands like H&M and John Lewis to stores including Debenhams, M&S, and Primark. No longer will you need to traipse out of the Centre (often in the pouring rain) to get your chocolate fix.
The 1,874 square foot store will take up residency at 30 St Davids Way, next to Tiger and directly opposite Boots. It also places the new store just around the corner from Thorntons which at 21 Town Wall South.
Just like Thorntons, the new shop will sell ice cream but its trump card is that it will also boast a 20-seat café. No more will us avid Welsh Hotel Chocolat Café fans have to make a pilgrimage to Birmingham, Shrewsbury, or London for our hot chocolate fixes, as the capital is finally getting the Hotel Chocolat Café it deserves.
The footprint of the new store will be bigger, meaning it can offer a larger range, and it will also boast Wales' first Hotel Chocolat café. The 20-seat café will sit to one side of the unit, while the retail space will sit on the other. According to St David’s Dewi Sant Shopping Centre, the store has two storeys although I believe the second level will be used as a stock room to begin with.
When is it changing?
The existing store will close on Wednesday 31st July 2019.
The opening date for the new store is provisionally penned for Friday 2nd August 2019 - just in time to dish up plenty of chocolate milkshakes and ice creams dripping in chocolate sauce during the summer. This date may change depending on how the store transformation work progresses.
I make no promises that the typical Welsh weather will stay away during the school summer holidays, but I expect the café to be very busy throughout August and beyond.
What's so good about a Hotel Chocolat chocolate café?
If you even have to ask, then you've clearly not seen photos of their mugs of hot chocolate, laden with lashings of cream, drizzled with sauce, and with chocolate treats atop.
The café menu comprises of snacks, drinks, and ice cream. You can find the menu here°.
Chocolate brownies head-up the line-up of food options at Hotel Chocolat. There's also chocolate and shortbread on the menu. Don't miss the 10-second dunking biscuit either, which reportedly can withstand 10 seconds immersed in a hot drink without disintegrating. Prices vary between £1 and £2.50.
Make no mistake, you'll come here for either a hot chocolate or a chocolate milkshake. And rightly so.
Their hot chocolate is the inspiration behind the Velvetiser hot chocolate maker. Choose from plain or flavoured hot chocolates, or do as I intend to do, and work systematically through the entire menu. The regular hot chocolate is £3.50 but I'd go large for an extra 45p.
You could, if you're feeling particularly boring, stick with regular coffee, but try a Coffee Chocolat Latte that fuses coffee beans with chocolate and skimmed milk. Coffee in true Hotel Chocolat fashion. Coffee prices range between £1.95 and £4.25.
Similarly, plain teas are available but I'd trade those in for 'Teaolat', cocoa shell infusions made with a blend of herbs, spices and cacao shells. Prices range from £2.20 to £2.50.
Cold drinks on the menu include water and Teaolat infusions, but make a beeline for the chilled coffee or chilled chocolate drinks. Take a hot coffee or chocolate drink above and have it blended with ice cream for the ultimate cold treat. Prices start from £1 and peak at £3.95.
Branded 'ice cream of the gods', Hotel Chocolat's ice cream puts others to shame. It's made using milk and cream from Jersey cows which is then infused with pure roasted cocoa. In keeping with their 'more cocoa less sugar' philosophy, the sugar content of Hotel Chocolat's ice cream is just 12%. Prices start from £3.25.
I tasted a sample at my last Chocolate Lock-In in Bridgend and was surprised by both the lack of sweetness and the taste. It has a delicate cocoa nib flavour and a rich creaminess to it. Personally, I think it benefits from a drizzle of sweet sauce, and a shard of chocolate completes it.
I'm not so sure you can tell, but I'm really excited about this new addition to the St David's Centre line-up. Its location mid-way on the popular thoroughfare between Queen Street and John Lewis, making this the ideal pit-stop for chocoholics.
My only reservation at this stage is that I expect the small 20-seat café to be jam-packed from morning to night. That's not necessarily a bad thing as they'll offer compostable cups° for takeaway orders. But if you're a fan of lounging in comfy chairs lazily sipping on a hot chocolate, you might struggle to find an available seat in store.
VIP.ME members get a free Selector when you spend £30+. Sign up for free. No code necessary. Shop at Hotel Chocolat°
Ends on Sunday 17th December 2023. Terms and exclusions may apply. See website for details.
Long term, a busy and thriving café can only be a good thing as it'll prove to Hotel Chocolat bosses that we need an even bigger store in the capital. Who knows, maybe the next step is introducing a Rabot 1745 restaurant° to the capital too... I dare to dream big!
Back to the here and now, I can't wait for my new local chocolate shop and café to open. I think it's a well-deserved next step for the Cardiff branch, and I wish Annie, Pete, and the whole Cardiff team every success with this. I look forward to visiting the new shop and working my way through the entire chocolate café menu in due course.
Have you visited a Hotel Chocolat café? What would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below.