Step inside 143 Wardour Street in London's Soho district and you're instantly transported back to your childhood.
A large, circular table proudly sits in the centre of the room, laden with a delectable selection of freshly made filled chocolates. Meanwhile, a wall full of chocolate creations frames the back of the store, and tempting indulgent brownies catch your eye near the counter. You really do feel like a kid in a candy store when you visit Paul A. Young.
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I was here to meet with store manager Martin to discuss all things chocolate. We talked about Paul's career, his recipe development process, trends in the chocolate industry, and, of course, his chocolates.
As we did, a steady stream of customers swarmed around that large wooden table. From the office worker looking for their lunchtime chocolate brownie fix, to tourists keen on sampling something unusual, to the gentleman looking for a gift for his partner - this bright purple-clad store felt like a not-so-secret secret.
If you've not visited the store before, make sure you do next time you're in London. It's full of charm and character, and is staffed by people who are very passionate about what they do.
And try as you might to resist, I bet you'll walk away having purchased some of Paul's creations - just like I did.
The table, anchored by a large chocolate sculpture in the centre, contained over a dozen varieties of filled chocolate, with half the selection formed of perennial favourites and the remainder a choice of seasonal options.
I picked out a selection of nine chocolates to take home. The journey was full of peril, from the baking hot London Underground tube lines to the busy concourse at Paddington Station. I packed them as best I could, and hoped for the best.
Filled chocolates are fragile things, but the luxurious packaging helps protect them from bumps and scrapes. A thick board box in cream and purple, complete with purple ribbon, protects all sides.
While the box is recyclable, it's so thick and sturdy you'll want to reuse it instead, perhaps as a jewellery box or to store odds and ends in a drawer. It's far too good to fall into the recycling bin.
I gingerly opened my box to see the fate of my chocolates. A smile beamed across my face as I saw they were pristine and in tact, just as they were when they left the shop. Job well done.
Martin kindly included a menu card, which is incredibly useful. It's easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of the shopping experience and by the time you get home, completely forget what it was that you purchased (I've done this before). When the shop is busy, the staff recommend taking photos of the table as a speedier alternative.
Are you now wondering what I picked up in my box? Sadly, I was a bit too late in the season to pick up the Chip Shop Caramel Salt & Vinegar chocolate or the Goats’ Cheese, Smoked Salt and Honey chocolate, but I still managed to find a few of this year's summer highlights.
Coconut and Tonka Bean Latte
- What's in it? Valrhona 66% Caribbean dark chocolate, coconut purée, ground coffee beans, tonka beans, and desiccated coconut.
- What does it taste like? This is a very rich chocolate with a bitter edge, thanks to the combination of dark chocolate and coffee beans. It compensates with a big helping of creaminess. Hints of toasted coconut as well as vanilla come through towards the end.
English Garden Punch
- What's in it? Guittard 38% Soleil d'Or milk chocolate, Guittard 35% Soie Blanche white chocolate, Champagne, apricot purée, lemon juice, Peach Schnapps, dried lavender flowers, natural essential oils of lavender and lemon.
- What does it taste like? There's no denying this one serves up a fragrant, floral taste, with lavender taking the lead role. Despite the quantity of fruity ingredients and booze in this one, the flavours are carefully choreographed. The result is a light, creamy taste, with a perfectly balanced flavour that doesn't overpower the chocolate.
Peach, Pear and Pink Peppercorn
- What's in it? Guittard 65% Ecuador dark chocolate, Guittard 38% Soleil d'Or milk chocolate, Peach Schnapps, pink peppercorns, and pear purée.
- What does it taste like? The was surprisingly quite subtle, with mild hints of peach and pear. The peach flavour lingers in the aftertaste. I was expecting a powerful hit from the peppercorns but instead this delivered a gentle warmth that complimented the flavours of both the chocolate and the filling.
- What's in it? Guittard 38% Soleil d'Or milk chocolate and champagne.
- What does it taste like? The benefit of producing chocolates with a 7 day shelf life is that Paul and his team can craft a Champagne Truffle made from just two ingredients - chocolate and champagne. No stabilisers, no synthetic flavours, just a pure and simple recipe. Unlike other champagne truffles I've tried that deliver a powerful burning kick to the back of the throat, this one features a gentle warmth that develops long into the aftertaste. You get the creaminess from the milk chocolate and the crispness from the champagne that dance in perfect harmony.
- What's in it? Valrhona 66% Caribbean dark chocolate, Guittard 65% Ecuadorian dark chocolate, Guittard 35% Soie Blanche white chocolate, Guittard 38% Soleil d'Or milk chocolate, guava purée, pineapple purée, mango purée, coconut rum, and Demerara rum.
- What does it taste like? Picture a tropical fruit cocktail in your hand and this tastes just like that. The rum dominates, with notes of coconut and pineapple coming through thereafter. There's a slight sourness to finish up at the end.
Gold Rush - Buttermilk, Sea Salt and Sourdough
- What's in it? Guittard 62% Eureka Works dark chocolate, Guittard 38% Soleil d'Or milk chocolate, buttermilk, sourdough bread, and Cornish sea salt.
- What does it taste like? This award-winning chocolate is designed to look like a nugget of gold. It has a savoury edge to it that plays against the creaminess. There's a gentle saltiness that is only really noticeable towards the end. A crunch of sourdough breadcrumbs in the shell adds texture to an otherwise smooth chocolate.
Caramelised Cheese and Rye Bread
- What's in it? Firetree 72% Solomon Islands dark chocolate, Valrhona 36% caramelised milk chocolate, Guittard 35% Soie Blanche white chocolate, caramelised cheese, buttermilk, Cornish sea salt, and rye bread.
- What does it taste like? I was most apprehensive of this one, but can happily report that I'd liken it to a cheesecake. The creaminess of the cheese comes through beneath the flavour of the chocolate shell, with subtle caramel tones running through it. The rye breadcrumbs in the shell added a dry chewy texture to the overall flavour alongside malty notes.
Sea Salted Caramel
- What's in it? Valrhona 64% Madagascar dark chocolate, Guittard 38% milk chocolate, double cream, butter, and Cornish sea salt.
- What does it taste like? There's a reason this shiny dark dome of chocolate has won awards. Bite into the shell and it releases a gloriously thick, dark, rich caramel. The flavours of the chocolate shout first, before the caramel dives in to steal the show. I'm not normally a fan of salted caramel but I'd devour an entire box of these with ease, especially as the salt is barely detectable. It's used subtlety to enhance the flavour rather than to augment it.
Rosemary, Olive Oil and Gianduja
- What's in it? Guittard 65% Ecuador dark chocolate, Valrhona hazelnut gianduja, olive oil, Cornish sea salt, and essential oil of rosemary.
- What does it taste like? Rosemary comes through at the start of this award winning chocolate. Then, as if by a flick of a switch, a rush of salted hazelnut flavour bursts in. It's absolutely delicious, and the two distinct flavours partner up beautifully.
Sensational Chocolate by Paul A. Young (Hardback, 2016) Recipe Book Brand New
£14.99 + £2.80 postage
Sensational Chocolate: 50 Celebrities Share 60 Recipes by Paul A. Young
£14.63 + £2.99 postage
My favourites in this collection were the Coconut and Tonka Bean Latte, English Garden Punch, and Rosemary, Olive Oil and Gianduja. They are very good examples of what Paul does best - clean flavours expertly paired with a variety of dark, milk, and white chocolates in perfect balance.
Definitely check out the Champagne Truffle and Sea Salted Caramel too. These are time-tested favourites and superbly showcase this philosophy in a bite.
The summer collection is winding down in favour of autumnal flavours so you'll need to be quick if you want to try any of these yourself.
Which flavour excites you the most? Leave a comment below.
Paul A. Young Summer 2019 Collection Review
RRP: £15.50 | Paul A. Young | Shop now
Luxurious packaging, beautiful looking filled chocolates, a diverse selection of ingredients (including some unusual ones), and flavours that are clear and precise. What's not to love?