The East India Company melts my heart like a bar of brilliantly-tempered chocolate. A mere moment from the chaotic clamour that is Regent Street, the beautiful boutique soothes the most frayed tempers. And, of course, there’s the fact it offers tasters a-plenty.
Of course, the most alluring edibles involve chocolate. As spice is a key part of the historic trading company’s trade, you’d anticipate it will be involved somehow. You’d be right – especially in the instance of the classy chocolate bars sitting pretty in their brown cardboard sleeves.
Unusually, the bars are only marked into sections horizontally, necessitating that you snap off a sinfully large piece. How handy. Dark chocolate bars with either red peppercorns or the Indian mouthfreshening mixture ‘mukhwas’ are both bejewelled by their inclusions, whilst the milk bars are dark horses; their plain Jane appearance giving away nothing of the cinnamon leaf or nutmeg within.
Whether showy or subtle, all this spice is very, very nice. The red peppercorns release a burst of fruity heat reminiscent of juniper when bitten, providing a refreshing rush that’s followed by the chocolate’s richness. The mukhwas bar removes the need to choose between post-prandial paan or chocolate; the bar delivering the dual pleasures in a single serving.
The pairings of nutmeg and cinnamon leaf with milk chocolate are clever choices, the bitter undertones of the ‘garam’ (strong and heating) spices mellowed by the sweetness of the chocolate and vice versa. Cinnamon’s leaf is less sickly than its bark, and biting into this sophisticated treat banishes all associations with cheap baked goods with which the spice has become so synonymous.
The nutmeg bar, meanwhile, is every inch like tucking into a very fine custard tart – simply delicious, and simply impossible to describe. Just try it. Try, too, anything the East India Co. enrobes – especially the milk-chocolate coated, cocoa-dusted mega macadamias, caramelised pecans and salted almonds. Dark-chocolate-dipped lemon peel and candied ginger are equally excellent.
And then – and then! – there’s the truffle counter. There’s always something special. The current fruit collection incorporates incredible aromatics including Japanese yuzu and Indian Alphonso mango, the flavours of the runny caramel centres of the crisp chocolate shells so true you’d swear you were eating the real things. But obviously better, because these involve chocolate.
Forgive me for my verbosity, but these cocoa curiosities are worthy of lengthy praise. From the spice selection, Poppy & Almond is my pick – the seeds providing a nicely munchy crunch and an intriguing flavour. Savour, too, the weird-and-wonderful Thai Green Curry truffle and the lingering, haunting loveliness of the Rose & Cardamom chocolate.
After all that, you’re bound to need something more substantial. Of course, the East India Company has something in its elegant trunks to feed that need, too. Time to try the ‘triple C’ – cherry, chocolate chip and chilli – biscuits. A great British biscuit is a thing of beauty, and these fruity little numbers are certainly contenders for any cookie crown.
A visit to the East India Company emporium is something to savour as slowly as the last square of a chocolate you can’t resist but can’t bear to finish. My personal recommendation would be that you have the pleasure in person. Failing that, log on and dig in. Don’t do it until payday; and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- For more information on chocolate products at the East India Company and to view the full range, visit eicfinefoods.com