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The humble cocoa bean has evolved considerably since it's birth as 'cacoa' (which grows wild in Central America). It was first tamed into a thick, bitter drink - meant to aid fatigue, nourish and stimulate. These medicinal and even aphrodisiac qualities enticed everyone from the Aztecs to Columbus and evenutally also found new, solid forms - in pastilles and shiny bars, laced with milk and sugar. Although historically this sweet treat was exclusively for those who could afford such luxuries, nowadays it's safe to say that it's probably everyone's favourite guilty pleasure.
And now we've got an excuse to indulge collectively in one deliciously sinful, chocolate-packed week. National Chocolate week, which promotes independent artisan chocolatiers and chocolate companies that work directly with cocoa farmers to encourage fairer prices for consumers, triumphantly returns for a seventh consecutive year during 10-16 October, with big names and bespoke menus to celebrate this timeless treat.
If you want to hop on the choco-bandwagon, check out these restaurants featuring special chocolate-themed menus:
The Athenaeum: The award-winning afternoon tea at The Athenaeum has introduced a new 'chocolaTEAr' menu in celebration of Chocolate Week. Expect dark or white chocolate scones with clotted cream, mint-chocolate mousse and an indulgent selection of whoopie pies and macaroons. Priced at £28.50 per person or £35, including a chocolate cocktail.
Clos Maggiore: Hailed as one of the capital's most romantic restaurants, it seems fitting that Clos Maggiore has launched a sumptuous chocolate tasting menu, which includes gutsy dishes like roasted venison fillet with chocolate crumble. Priced at £59, or £98 with wine pairings.
The Gallery at the Westbury: This equally elegant and glamorous Mayfair brasserie which serves informal modern European dishes by head chef Brian Fantoni (formerly of Claridge's and The Savoy) has launched a couple special desserts. Try the baked tart with Chuao chocolate - one of the finest and rarest chocolates in northern Venezuela. The restaurant is open all day, every day, from breakfast to dinner.
Grand Imperial: Divine Chocolates has teamed up with glitzy Cantonese restaurant, Grand Imperial to offer an afternoon dim-sim platter (pictured): canton cracker, pumpkin bundle, cashew crescent and a coconut doughnut, all filled with rich Divine chocolate. If you'd rather have a peek at the a la carte, you can also find more chocolate treats in the shape of deep-fried ice cream, a chocolate 'spring roll' topped with strawberry sauce, and tangy pineapples and lychees drizzled in chocolate.
Light Bar & Armoire Rum Bar at St Martin's Lane Hotel: Chocolatier William Curley adds a twist to the classic martini - try his White Chocolate martini, available exclusively at the Light Bar. He also takes up residency in the front room of the theatrical St Martin's Lane hotel with his new pop-up, Chocolate Box, serving a wide assortment of his finest creations: expect his renowned house-blend hot chocolate and a selection of his couture range. There will also be a jam-packed calendar with events hosted by William Curley himself, from perfume and chocolate pairings to chocolate masterclasses. Chocolate Box is open Mon-Sat from 11am, and from midday on Sundays.
The Providores: A meeting of two great minds: godfather of fusion Peter Gordon teams up with one of the UK's top chocolatiers, Paul A Young, to create a six-course chocolate dinner on the 10 & 14 October.
by Ami Kang