When it comes to food and drink, I’m a man of many vices.
One of these is chocolate – a large bar doesn’t last longer than a few minutes in my company. And, I’ve never felt the need to use reseal tab on a big bag of Revels or M&Ms. But then again, who has?
Despite being a self-certified chocoholic, I used to steer clear of hot chocolate in favour of coffee. This changed when we sampled a Chococo hot chocolate, laced with rum, on a ghost tour of Winchester on Halloween.
Since then, I’ve opted for hot chocolate over coffee more often than I used to. However, the quality of what’s available at the chains is mixed to say the least.
Luckily we got to visit Chococo again for a proper hot chocolate on Saturday on an afternoon out in Winchester.
As is usual in the run-up to the festive period, the city was packed with shoppers. It was the first cold day of the winter, so we made a beeline for the shop-cum-cafe to warm up as soon as we jumped off the park and ride bus.
Chococo’s Winchester store is situated at the bottom end of the High Street, not far from the Guildhall and in bowing/curtsying distance of the statue of King Alfred near the Abbey Gardens. The company’s other shop is in Swanage, Dorset.
The front section of Chococos is essentially a choclatier’s selling the company’s large range of chocolates and confectionery. The back part of the store is a small cafe selling a variety of cakes, savoury snacks and drinks, again with a focus on all things chocolate.
One of the staff, noticing that we were one chair short, efficiently found us a spare one before we had time to take our coats off. Slick.
There are several hot chocolates available including a sugar-free 100% cocoa version and a white chocolate one. We played it safe and each opted for the house hot chocolate (£2.75), which uses cocoa beans of Madagascan origin.
There’s no cheating with cocoa powder at Chococo – they melt chocolate into hot milk to make the hot chocs here.
While we waited for our drinks, I had a little browse around the shelves and chillers at the front of the store.
First there are the fresh chocolates, made with Dorset cream, lurking in the cabinets. These include concoctions such as the “Wasabi Wonder” (chocolate with Dorset wasabi and fresh ginger) and the “Totally Twisted Nose” (chocolate flavoured with Winchester Twisted Nose Gin – a gin infused with Hampshire watercress).
Chococo sell these by the box or individually by weight. The fresh chocolates need eating within two weeks.
The shop also sells novelty chocolates, such as ones shaped like little robots and mice, as well as substantial bars and slabs, chocolate-covered treats such as chocolate-covered coffee beans and packs of hot chocolate.
If you’re stuck for stocking fillers and small gifts this Christmas, you’ll find these at Chococo too. For instance, you can build your own hamper. And there are tens of small presents to choose from on the shelves, all delightfully packaged.
There’s even a chocolate salami on offer, packed full of dark chocolate, dried fruit and nuts.
By now I was mentally compiling my chocolate-themed Christmas list for Santa. So I almost forgot about my drink, which had arrived while I was browsing. It came with a free fresh chocolate, which seems to be the policy at Chococo.
There was a fair amount of grated dark chocolate floating on the top. So much so that I was soon wearing a chocolate moustache over my own mo, which I’ve been cultivating for Movember. I gulped it down leaving a few lumps of real chocolate – not the congealed powder that you can at the average coffee chain – at the bottom. A spoon then took care of that.
On the way out, I noted that none of the chocolates at Chococo had resealable tabs. Just as well really.
Info: Chococo Winchester is at 152 High Street, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9AY. You can buy its chocolates via the website. There’s even a chocolate subscription service for die-hard chocoholics.