Thursday, 25 August 2011

Paul A Young - chocolate nirvana in Soho

Paul A Young

Passing through Soho a couple of weeks ago I was stopped in my tracks.  There on the corner of Wardour and Broadwick Street was a window display you just don't expect in this uninhibited part of London.   Words like 'beautiful' and 'sophisticated' wouldn't normally enter my head here.  Paul A Young (a chocolatier I know refers to him as PAY, so, for ease, I will too), chocolatier and patissier has brought more than a touch of class to Soho  

Just looking in the window is a treat but stepping inside is like stepping inside a cocoa bean.  All is dark wood and polished glass.  The chocolates are simply, but effectively, displayed on dishes in the middle of the shop rather than behind a counter, and very handsome they look.  But it's the production and development kitchen in the basement, which turns this shop into a chocolate lover's olfactory heaven.  Some concoctions are surprising, like Marmite Truffle or Port and Stilton but there's often an established association behind the thinking.  One of the latest flavours is a domed 'Bakewell Pudding, based on the famous Derbyshire dessert.  I'm not generally a fan of fruit chocolate - too many memories of being left the 'strawberry cream' in the Christmas chocolate box perhaps.  In this case an enrobed creamy ganache and sharp raspberry puree crowned with a marzipan cream and toasted almonds was fabulous.  On the other hand I adore sea-salted caramel, and PAY's 64% Madagascan version is wonderfully silky with just the right hint of burnt sugar.  A truffle flavoured with Kernel Brewery stout and muscovado sugar works brilliantly too.  Only a classic truffle failed to impress, being surprisingly liquid and lacking in flavour.  A Classic Fudge Brownie (an actual brownie this time) was the best I've ever tasted and I'm straining at the leash to get my hands on another. 

There's a large range of in-house chocolate bars, from a 40% Milk to a 100% Dark, as well as flavoured bars such as 70% Dark with Lavender and 72% Venezuelan Dark with Green Peppercorns.  Drinking chocolates and pavés can also be bought.  PAY also keeps the Lincolnshire-based brand Duffy single origin chocolate bars.  This artisan bean to bar producer sources cocoa beans from around the world, carrying out each process in-house to produce small batches.  PAY also sells bars from Mast Brothers, a Brooklyn, New York outfit who are producing real chocolate in the USA (I'm sorry, but I have to say it's been a long time coming).  They are producing their chocolate without additives and, seemingly, as artisan as it could possibly be.  Their philosophy and practices puts me in mind of the natural wine movement which is burgeoning in Europe.  Take a look at their website and love those beards!  Both of these bars I've yet to try so whilst I applaud their values, I can't give an opinion yet. 

These are high-end chocolates with a matching price tag.  In-house 50g Artisan Bars are mostly priced around £3.85, individual chocolates are £2.00 a piece, but less if you buy a box.  There are three kinds of brownie at £3.75 to £4.50, and they are perfect for sharing between two.  At this price and for this quality they are not chocolates to gobble but to savour individually.  Mostly made using Valrhona couvertures, they are clean tasting, mostly beautifully balanced and undeniably interesting, and I'd certainly go out of my way to get them.  Soho just got classy.

Paul A Young
143 Wardour Street
London W1F 8WA
Tel:  +44 (0)20 7437 0011
Mon-Fri 10.00-8pm
Sat Noon-7pm 
(Shops also in N1and EC3)