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As part of my DIY London chocolate tour, I headed to South Kensington tube station, where just around the corner I found the Jeff de Bruges chocolate shop. Familiar with the name, I had seen branches while on holiday in Strasbourg and Luxembourg, but hadn't tried their products before.
Founded by Philippe Jambon in 1986, Jeff de Bruges now lists United Belgian Chocolate Makers (UBCM) as a dominant stakeholder, although Jambon remains at the helm as President. Incidently, UBCM also has a controlling stake in Belgian brand Neuhaus.
The small chocolate boutique in Kensington, London, stocks a variety of chocolate bars, pralines and truffles, gifts, and ice cream. Attentive staff offer their help in picking out the right gift or chocolate bar to suit your tastes.
I picked up a #12 Dark Chocolate Bar to review, but also purchased a tiny bundle of five carrés to get an idea of what the Frenchman's vision is for the brand.
Designed as a small individual serving, each carré (square) in this bundle was produced using a different type of chocolate.
Each carré has a different recipe, but the ingredients list supplied with this bundle is for the entire collection - including varieties not included in my bundle - so it was impossible to see what was in each recipe individually.
Assorted milk or dark chocolate squares ingredients:
Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, Isigny caramel (sugar, glucose syrup, whole milk powder, Isigny fresh cream, Isigny salted butter, Guerande sea salt, emulsifier (rapeseed lecithins), passion fruit chips (sugar, passion fruit puree, apple, dextrose, pineapple fibres, flavourings, gelling agent: sodium alginate, acidity correctors: citric acid and tripotassium citrate, stabilizer: di-calcium phosphate), candied orange peel (orange peel, sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, acidity corrector: citric acid), emulsifier (soya lecithins), almonds, honey powder (honey, skimmed milk powder), raspberry chips (glucose syrup, raspberries), crushed cocoa beans, lime juice powder (glucose syrup, concentrated lime juice), flavourings. Cocoa solids: 72% minimum in extra bitter dark chocolate, 60% minimum in dark chocolate, 36% minimum in milk chocolate.
On average, the sugar content in each carré stood at 41%.
Noir Équateur 80%
- What is it? An 80% dark chocolate made with Ecuadorean beans.
- How did it taste? This carré exuded a strong smokey, almost meaty, aroma upon opening. There was a slight leatheriness and nuttiness to the fragrance too. The snap on this thin bite was clean and crisp. Slow to melt, the flavours that came out were surprisingly lighter than the initial fragrance. The smokiness creeped through alongside bitter metallic notes. Subtle vegetal notes played in-between the two aspects. The aftertaste consisted mainly of a deep bitterness with a metallic edge.
- Verdict: I like the intensity of the cocoa here but the metallic bitter notes were too much for me to enjoy this bite.
- What is it? Dark chocolate with broken macaroons.
- How did it taste? The initial fragrance from this carré was almost identical to the 80% dark chocolate carré, but milder. Upon tasting, there was an immediate sweetness that flooded in. The smokiness in the cocoa was curbed massively by the sweetness. The crunch and extra sweetness added by the crushed macaroons helped too. The sweet sensation lingered in the aftertaste above the flavour of the cocoa.
- Verdict: Very sweet for a dark chocolate, the macaroons masked the smokey and metallic qualities of the dark chocolate. Perhaps too sweet for some, I liked the balance of smokiness and sweetness and the gentle macaroon crunch with the smooth chocolate.
Noir Citron Vert
- What is it? Dark chocolate with lime.
- How did it taste? This was another carré that broadly followed the same aroma as the 80% dark chocolate. There's a subtle hint of lime in the mix, but I couldn't identify this by smell alone. As it hit my tongue, a tartness was released alongside the smokey notes from the cocoa. Unfortunately, this sour edge had the effect of enhancing the metallic qualities in the cocoa. Right at the end, the lime took full grip and added an intensely sour twist to the taste, which lingered into the aftertaste.
- Verdict: The lime was fairly muted in the beginning but hijacked the flavour with a sour kick towards the end of tasting and into the aftertaste. It was a fun and playful concept, but I think the combination accentuated the metallic notes of the cocoa, which I was not keen on.
- What is it? Milk chocolate with Isigny caramel.
- How did it taste? The initial aromas of caramel, toffee, and butterscotch sat alongside rich, creamy notes. The snap was affected by the fragments of caramel and sugar liberally blended into the mix. Caramel and vanilla dominated the flavour of this very sweet bar although the pieces create an unpleasant gritty texture towards the end. Rich caramel notes lingered in the aftertaste.
- Verdict: Very little of the chocolate shone through here as the caramel dominated the aroma and flavour. The bar was especially sweet, which would perhaps work well paired with a strong, bitter coffee.
Lait Amandes Miel
- What is it? Milk chocolate with almonds and honey.
- How did it taste? A gentle smokiness toyed with equally subtle caramel notes in the initial fragrance. Buttery, honey notes peeked through, but only just. A muddled snap was the result of a generous helping of almonds in the recipe. Sickly honey notes dominated this overly sweet bar, with an almost caramel-like flavour sitting beneath. The almonds did not shine until the very end and that was only to add crunch.
- Verdict: I found this bar too sweet with the honey and sugar in the milk chocolate dominating the flavour profile. There was nothing here to tame or control that sweetness so it ran away with itself.
Assored Carrés Review
RRP: £1.80 | Jeff de Bruges | Shop now
These were samples from the larger carré collection but showcased what to expect from Jeff de Bruges chocolate. Overall, while I liked a couple, some of the flavour profiles weren't to my liking. Noir Macaron and Lait Caramel were my favourites from these five nibbles.
Where to Buy Online
Jeff de Bruges chocolate bars and gifts can be purchased in store at 30 Thurloe Street in Kensington, London. They can also be purchased online.
Have you tried any bars from Jeff de Bruges? Do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments below.