Owned (but not too obviously) by the Hotel Chocolat people, a really welcoming Borough Market bar/bistro where everything comes with cocoa, not that you’d really know; we thought this one of the nicest all-rounders we’ve been to for some time.
Don’t we all love a ‘backstory’? And the story behind this particular story – or rather restaurant – is more interesting than most. Highlights: it’s owned by the Hotel Chocolat people, named after their Caribbean cocoa estate, and notionally entirely themed around that estate and its product.
If you just stumbled into the place, though, perhaps on a weekend trip to Borough Market, you wouldn’t know anything about the backstory, and might just feel that you’d happened upon a rather more-atmospheric-than-usual industrial-chic bistro, with charming service’ and rather good food too. Yes, you can buy some Hotel Chocolat-branded goodies on the way out, and, yes, you do get roast-on-the-premises cocoa beans (peel before eating) instead of preprandial nuts, but otherwise theming is mercifully absent. Or perhaps it was just too subtle for us to notice.
But – ooh! ah! – don’t they put cocoa in everything? Well, so they say. If that’s what they say, we’re sure that’s what they do – but if no one bothered to point it out, we’d guess you wouldn’t actually notice. We just had a notably relaxed and pleasant bistro lunch from a short menu on which pretty much everything shouted ‘eat me’!
Doing such justice as we could to this command, we sampled two of the three starters and of the main courses, and one of the puddings. Everything was really good, simple and direct. ‘Faites simple’, as someone once said, and the chef here seems to have been listening. Our guest’s beautiful and generous chunk of fish, for example, glistened as if in a TV advertisement, and he duly noted that the degree of precision in its cooking was of a level rarely found.
Service was charming too, and ‘engaged’ in a way that makes this feel like an ambitious small-scale venture rather than any sort of marketing gimmick for a chain with some six dozen shops around the UK.
At the end, though, they do give you some delicious small pastilles of Rabot 1745 chocolate – a bit of cocoa placement that really is worth waiting for.