Review: City Bakery, NYC

Oh SWEET MOTHER. This hot chocolate is heaven on earth. This is what all hot chocolates should aspire to be. I have found my one true love and it comes in a little blue takeaway cup.

My first City Bakery hot chocolate was on an unusually sunny February New York day when we decided to picnic in the park. I’d read about City Bakery so we wandered over to pick up some goodies. Most review sites talk about the homemade giant marshmallow (really cool, but not what hot chocolate is about for me) but not many really discussed the thick, rich, bitter, intense chocolate.

The staff pump the hot chocolate out of big vat – seemingly having to put all their weight on to get it out, it’s so thick. It’s obviously made offsite so I don’t know their hot chocolate secrets but whatever they are doing, they are doing it beautifully.

City Bakery are hot chocolate heroes. They make the hot chocolate I’ve been searching for all my life. If you’re in New York, make sure you go and have a sample. It’ll change your life.

Review: Este, Bristol

Look how PRETTY.

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I got trapped by the rain in Este, on the way home from a walk. It was a delightful place to get trapped, filled with lovely artwork and super cheery staff. We ended up having supremely healthy veggie bowls, filled with delicious green things but of course, I also had to try the hot chocolate.

It came looking like a masterpiece, with a lovely little biscuit and marshmallows on the side. The game was that I whisked the chocolate into the frothy milk and then poured it into the cup.

Sadly, this way of serving hot chocolate never works. The milk needs to be boiling hot to get the chocolate to melt so whenever it’s served like this I end up with a milky, frothy mess with little bits of floating chocolate. The idea and intension of this way of serving hot chocolate is wonderful and fun but it doesn’t produce the best results and I always end up disappointed.

Go for the veggie bowls and churros, maybe skip the hot chocolate and pick one of their many teas instead.

Review: Clinton Street Bakery, New York

Clinton Street Bakery is going to be on my list of brunch recommendations forever. The cheese grits and one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten and the fried green tomatoes are something I’ve always imagined eating.

The hot chocolate came in a bucket of a cup, a least twice the size of the coffee cups. It came with lashings of cream and chocolate sprinkles. It was a bit sugary sweet for me but it did taste of  actual chocolate rather than just milk. Good for those with a sweet tooth but not for those in search of the dark, richness of the ideal hot chocolate…


Review: Magnolia Bakery, New York

Loads of reviews coming up from my recent trip to NYC, with some absolutely winners, but lets start with the bad.

Magnolia Bakery, known for its incredible cupcakes, seemed like a great place to grab a coffee/chocolate on the way to the theatre. It was slightly terrifying inside, with tourists trying to choose the best of the best of the sweet stuff.

I was pretty excited, given the reputation of their cupcakes, but the first sip tasted of disappointment. How on earth did they make it taste that sweet?! It was marshmallows and sprinkles when there were no marshmallows and sprinkles nearby.

Go for the cupcakes, stay away from the hot drinks (my mum dumped her coffee too).

Review: The Watershed, Bristol

The Watershed in Bristol is a brilliant arts centre which specialises in film culture and digital media. Since moving to Bristol we’ve been to the Watershed so many times to catch a film but never made it to the attached cafe before.

I wanted a hot chocolate (when don’t I want a hot chocolate?!) and Bruno wanted to get in from the cold before our film started to we went to check out the cafe. Sadly, the hot chocolate was a super disappointment.

At first I suspected that it was machine-made because of that suspicious layer of milk foam on the top. But no, Bruno assured me it was made by a human who had made the usual error of not adding enough chocolate powder so it was mainly sweet hot milk. The worst. Bruno said I should be so harsh so the cafe is really big and busy but honestly, that’s no excuse for terrible hot chocolate.

From now on I’ll just stick to the Watershed for the movies.

Review: Cafe Nero

I’m not just reviewing plain hot chocolate today. I’m reviewing the Hot Chocolate Milano by Cafe Nero.

This is the high street mother of all sweet and thick hot chocolates. Usually served with lashing of whipped cream (which I generally reject for a purer and less heart-stopping drink) it has approximately 70,000 calories and I’m pretty sure that drinking two in a row would kill you. Or at least give you a sugar induced panic attack.

I was obsessed with the Milano when I was 20. Me and my friends would have a Nero break (FYI, coffee shops were few and far between where I grew up so we didn’t do this when we were 13 like my colleague was telling me that her daughter does) from studying and gossiped over coffees and sweet treats. I was always tempted by the Milano. The lack of sophistication I had at 20 made me think this was the best Italian style hot chocolate in London.

Now I’m old and wiser, I’ve sampled hundreds of hot chocolates and know it’s mostly sugar. But it’s still thick, creamy and decadent and a proper treat blast from the past. If there’s no independent cafes around and you want a chocolate fix, you can do a lot worse than Milano.

Review: Society Cafe, Bath

On Sunday my mum and I finally went to explore Bath. I’ve never been before, which is unbelievable with my love of all things Jane Austen and Georgian. It was COLD. After exploring the amazing Roman Baths (I fully recommend a visit to ‘take the waters’) and a turn around the Christmas market there was only one thing that would do. Hot chocolate.

I was enticed by Society Cafe because they actually had a dedicated Hot Chocolate section on their big board menu. The chocolate is make with Willie’s Cocoa and came in three different types (dark 71%, milk and white). The menu described the process as melting the chocolate with boiling water and then blending with steamed milk. It was a recipe for perfection.

Sadly, the execution was lacking. They had made all the efforts to have a fantastic hot chocolate , everything I normally ask for but it left me wanting. It was very milky so while it had a bitter taste it was washed out. The staff were frazzled when I was in there so maybe they didn’t realise how bland they’d made it but they definitely needed to be more generous with Willie’s Cocoa, otherwise it’s just a bit mug of milk. They’d also topped it off with way to much milk foam – I am not a fan of milk foam. It has no place on a hot chocolate.

It was so disappointing but I think all they need to do is be a wee bit more generous with their chocolate (and less with their milk foam) and they’ve got all the ingredients for the real winner.

Review: Harts Bakery, Bristol

This was an ultimate indulgence breakfast treat after all the trains out of Bristol were cancelled and our Saturday plans were ruined (dramatic much?). We were trying to get out to the Wiltshire countryside to meet my sister and nephews but there was some terrible signal failure, so we headed down below the station arches to Hart’s Bakery to cheer ourselves up with mega cheese toasties and hot chocolate.

I’ve never managed to try one of their cheese toasties before, they’ve always been sold out so even though it was only 10am I grabbed one. It was like heaven (the cheese! the bread!) and the semi-dark and beautifully smooth hot chocolate was the perfect accompaniment.

Hart’s is the kind of bakery/cafe we all dream of owning – perfect break and cakes that scream ‘EAT ME’. Their hot chocolate is make from a paste, to which hot milk is added. I always think this is more successful that powered hot chocolate which is never super smooth and often retains a powdery taste. I also love a place that tastes as much care and effort over it’s hot chocolate as it does over it’s coffee. Brava!

(make sure you grab some sourdough when you’re there…and maybe a peanut butter cookie…)

Review: St George Park Kiosk, Bristol

Oh man, this was a hot chocolate surprise. My mum was staying and she is always desperate for coffee. Within about two minutes of being in the park she’d walked off to the kiosk for a coffee and brought me back a fantastic hot chocolate.

She got chatting to the woman in there and found out that the hot chocolate is made with chocolate buttons, melted into hot water, then finished with boiled milk. The result is absolutely killer. It was a bit sweeter than my usual taste but so thick and delicious that I didn’t mind that much. It is a perfect accompaniment to a walk around the park on a winter day (or when you’ve got to stand in the playground waiting for your nephew to finish playing on the slide). I can’t really describe how wonderfully thick it was so you’re going to have to go and try one yourself. Take your sweet tooth.

Review: The Crafty Fox, Bristol

Tonight was celebration hot chocolate time. I passed my PRINCE2 project management foundation course #bossbitch so treated myself to a tasty drink on the way home. It’s also freeeezing in Bristol at the moment and my hour long walk requires something warm to keep me going.

I popped into The Crafty Fox in the Arcade in the middle of Bristol to get a dark hot chocolate (they also have milk, plain and white but by now, you know dark chocolate is the only way to go…)

Have to be honest, the service wasn’t great – I think the barista was having a terrible day because she was not happy to see me or to make my hot chocolate. But, despite the frosty welcome, the hot chocolate was delicious warming heaven. It was just on the right side of bitter, really sharp and strong. But creamy and thick at the same time. It’s a proper chocolate hit that lasts for hours. This has to be in my top 10 hot chocolates so far. I also LOVED the christmassy cup, it made me feel super seasonal. I’m ready for starting christmas proper tomorrow!

Dark hot chocolate at the Crafty Fox to takeaway was £2.85