Bar Chocolat, Bristol
There’s something about the winter months, particularly the Christmas holidays, that makes hot chocolate an absolute necessity. Don’t get me wrong, I love hot chocolate all year round, but I have to admit I did avoid it this summer after I worked up quite a sweat the previous summer simply carrying my hot chocolate the short distance from Cafe Nero to my desk in the cupboard cum sauna, officially known as ‘the intern room’, which was just around the corner. I then had to remove as much clothing as possible (or socially allowable) just to be able to drink it. So sitting in the window of Bar Chocolat with my best friend today, watching people clad in thick winter coats and colourful scarves braving the frosted streets of Clifton was a far more relaxing and enjoyable experience.
Bar Chocolat is one of my favourite places in Bristol. It is situated in the beautiful Clifton Village, which is full of quirky, independent (and some rather quite expensive) boutiques, all of which are within walking distance of Park Street and the city centre if you’re up for a serious spot of shopping. Whilst on the other side you have a beautiful park to explore, which leads to the Clifton Observatory and Camera Obscura or the Suspension Bridge depending on which path you take, but both offer exquisite views over Clifton Gorge.
However, the main reason I have fallen head over heels for this gorgeous little family-run cafe is that it does the best hot chocolate in the world. This may be a bold claim to make, especially as I haven’t actually tried every hot chocolate in the world, but I can’t actually comprehend a hot chocolate better than this! Their Ultimate hot chocolate is made by melting high-quality Belgian chocolate with milk and it is literally like spooning thick, rich, melted chocolate into your mouth, made even more pleasurable by the sweetness of the fresh, light-as-air whipped cream and mini melted marshmallows that accompany each and every mouthful. This drink is literally heaven in a mug and it will probably take you a few visits before you can finish the whole thing (the perfect excuse to return)! When I asked for a glass of water with my order the waitress joked that I was ‘clearly an expert’ as this hot chocolate is more of a deliciously filling chocolate meal than a drink, but it is oh so satisfying!
Anyone who has spoken to me for more than 10 minutes is probably well acquainted with the fact that I absolutely adore rabbits (and has probably endured me showing them lots of photos of my pet bunnies, and me with my pet bunnies, and one of me being bitten because one of them really doesn’t enjoy the fact that I pick him up just to take photos with him)! I have grown up with pet house rabbits pretty much all my life and whenever I see anything bunny-related I get really excited! Today was no exception. Before you get to the counter to order your delicious hot chocolate you WILL stop at the chocolate counter, there’s no question about it. You’re drawn to it’s beautiful chocolatey glow like shepherds to the star of Bethlehem (had to get a Christmas-themed simile in there somewhere)! Their unique range of truffles and couverture chocolate, which their website describes as “a very high quality chocolate that contains extra cocoa butter(32-39%). The higher percentage of cocoa butter, combined with proper tempering, gives the chocolate more sheen, firmer “snap” when broken, and a creamy mellow flavour”, are all hand-made by their resident chocolatier, and I can confirm that they are completely and utterly delicious and exactly as described. If you have eyes bigger than your belly (like me) and the Ultimate hot chocolate is not enough chocolate for one day, thus leading to your decision to buy a chocolate or two to accompany your beverage, I would recommend eating the chocolate first to truly appreciate the velvety, smooth flavour and to build up your excitement for the liquid chocolate finale!
I am also a complete sucker for glitter. And cake. Put the two together and I can NOT walk away from it. So this little beauty was also delivered (very efficiently might I add) to my table: the brandy sponge.
This festive little sponge cake was an absolute delight. After my over-dose of chocolate, in solid and liquid form, I have to say I was quite relieved that I hadn’t opted for one of their chocolate options when it came to the cake! Its firm, light-flavoured sponge was the perfect accompaniment to such a rich and indulgent afternoon treat, and its beautifully flavoured brandy icing did all the talking for it. This really was the icing on the cake (pun totally intended) to end the festive season and all its wonderful, warm flavours. I’m already looking forward to my visit next Christmas when maybe I’ll take them up on their suggestion of creating your own hot chocolate using their varied selection of flavoured syrups, orange oil or malt extract!