Belgium is to chocolate what Italy is to fashion. And those in Mumbai no longer have to wait for friends and cousins to bring treats from stores in Brussels or Antwerp because Leonidas, one of Belgium’s most popular chocolate brands, opened a store in Mumbai this month. A fresh batch of chocolates is imported from Belgium every week to this little outlet at Kemps Corner. At least a 100 varieties of chocolate—liquor chocolates, nut chocolates, nougat, truffle, praline, white chocolate and even marzipan and fruit pastes (similar to jujubes, but made from real fruit in shapes of plum, pineapple, peach, apple, pear, strawberry, lemon and orange)—are available at the store through the year. For Diwali, they have a new range of leaf-shaped chocolates encrusted with almonds and pistachio.
The good stuff
The liquor chocolates (with rum, whisky and vodka centres) and pralines are among the best—and expensive. Everything at the store is priced at a flat rate of Rs450 for 100g. As de rigueur with most mithai and chocolate stores, here too the diet conscious and diabetics have an option of sugar-free chocolates (they don’t contain artificial sweeteners either). Packaging gets due attention: The photo frame package, which comes with 10 pieces of chocolate, makes for a personalized gift idea at Rs1,450. A good option is the Temptation Box (Rs1,450) that opens into 14 small, colourful boxes, each containing an individual piece.
Raise the bar: The Leonidas store has at least 100 types of chocolates. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
The prices—at Rs350 for a box with just four pieces of chocolate, going up to Rs2,500 for 25 pieces, and a higher range going up to Rs8,500—are too steep for purchases in bulk.
Celebrations Fine Confectionery, Mumbai
“There are so many people making chocolate now, but most are not passionate about it,” says Mehrnosh Khajotia, who started Celebrations about 10 years ago. The man lives and breathes chocolates, so much so that his cabin at his “chocolate factory” in Lower Parel has a sofa-cum-bed and a shower cubicle so he can sleep over whenever required. “I taste everything before I sell it to my customers,” he says. The Celebrations range is retailed from Kemps Corner. He claims that his company uses ingredients imported from around the world—cocoa from Belgium and Switzerland, cherries from Italy, etc—to make the final product.
The good stuff
Made in Mumbai and sold at the store here or delivered at your residence, the chocolates are super fresh. The variety is large enough to match different tastes but small enough to keep you from getting confused. Few chocolatiers in India make liquor-centre chocolates and the ones here are sinful (Rs850-3,500). But the best picks are the rich Roasted Almond Chocolate Fudge (Rs950 per kg) and the Chocolate Coffee Fudge (Rs950 per kg).
The chocolates are handmade, so the finished product is low on aesthetic value. Even the basic packaging could be more attractive. In our box of assorted chocolates, the milk chocolates, such as the Orange Milk Chocolate (Rs850 per kg), were the least impressive.
Chocolate Junction, Bangalore
It’s a cosy little store, with just enough space for you to stand and pick from trays of chocolates displayed at the counter. Owner M. L. Amarnath swore by the home-made chocolates filled with nuts that used to sell in the Nilgiris store on Brigade Road in Bangalore. When they stopped selling them nine years ago, Amarnath egged his wife Anupama on to make chocolates at home. What started as an experiment (after a chocolate-making course) ended with this store near Ulsoor Lake. All the recipes are Anupama’s own and the chocolate is made in her factory at home.
The good stuff
The Luxury range is experimental, and the best choices in this category are the processed fruit chocolates that come in flavours such as kiwi, mango and orange. They have liquid centres, and just as you bite into the outer covering of chocolate, the fruit centres burst in your mouth (Rs17-35 per piece). Another must-try is the Irish cream-centred chocolate. There is a variety of coffee-flavoured chocolates, and for fans of bitter chocolate, there’s Nesca—a coffee-flavoured chocolate with a coffee bean placed on top. Tea lovers, don’t despair— the Hazelnut Tea is tea-flavoured chocolate with a hazelnut topping. They allow you to add personal touches to gifts by printing photographs on the chocolates. There is also a range of bags and boxes to choose from (a wooden box or glass bowl costs an additional Rs500).
Chocolate Junction is not for the last-minute shopper. If you are looking at large orders for gifts, place your order a month in advance.
Brunette–The Luxury Chocolate, Bangalore
Priyanka Singhania’s Brunette–The Luxury Chocolate isn’t a store. After a short course in chocolate-making two years ago, Singhania started taking orders on the phone and inviting customers to her home to taste chocolates and to select and design the packaging of their choice. She caters mostly to companies.
The good stuff
Brunette has many packaging options—from simple cardboard boxes, boxes made of board and even luxury packaging in teak boxes. You can design your own box with Singhania’s help too. If ordered well in advance, the packaging can be personalized with names, or the company logo embossed on brass strips. Brunette also gives you the choice of ordering just boxes, so if you require stylish boxes formithais or brownies, you can get them custom-made here.
The variety is limited. You can pick up basic pieces of milk, dark or white chocolate with nuts, rice flakes, mint, orange, strawberry and coffee (in the range of Rs100 to Rs2,500). Brunette does offer to make liquor chocolates and truffles but these have to be ordered in advance.
Sofia Raj Royale Chocolatier, New Delhi
“My forte is the bar,” says Sofia Raj. “You can have it in any flavour, look or feel.” The bars come in dark, milk and white varieties, and the chocolate base she uses is Belgian. Besides bars, of course, are the regular moulded assortments—chocolates with a variety of fillings such as orange, mango or hazel, honey and caramel. “The berry fillings—blueberry, cranberry and strawberry—are quite popular,” she says. Raj also does what she calls strawberry chocolate, which she is careful to point out is not the same as strawberry-flavoured chocolate. For Diwali there is the fruit and nut special on offer—almond, raisins, cashews, pistachios and other nuts topped up on a bar or filled inside one, depending on how you want it. The other novel offering is a whole fresh fruit, say an apple, wrapped and coated with nuts or chocolate flakes.
The good stuff
We ordered an assortment of moulded chocolates, and everything we sampled came up tops. The milk chocolate with orange filling, the white with blueberry and the dark with coffee—the taste and consistency were right and the combinations worked. Raj makes it a point to use food grade packaging which, she says, is essential to maintain the flavour and taste of her products.
A flat price of Rs1,800 per kg, which goes up to Rs6,000 per kg for organic, vegan, diabetic and carob (a chocolate substitute), would ensure that this treat remains an occasional indulgence in most cases.
Choko La, New Delhi
The two Choko La cafés in Delhi, at Basant Lok and Khan Market, have carved a niche among chocolate lovers for their great chocolate drinks, desserts, and confectionary. For Diwali, they have introduced two new offerings, hand-painted cocoa pods (Rs65) in dark, milk and white chocolate in lemon, mocha and plain flavours. Also available are a line of tea-infused chocolates which come in a personalized wooden box (Rs1,500) with pullout drawers.
The good stuff
We sampled dark and milk chocolate bonbons (Rs35 per piece) with soft cores and the ones flavoured with vanilla and cardamom struck us as fresh and novel. Others with crunchy nuts, rum and raisin, hazelnut and coffee were also good.
A couple of pieces had an aftertaste that reminded you of the plastic casing they came in. That’s a big no-no, but mercifully the rest had no such “added” flavour.
The next stop
More chocolate shopping in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi
The city’s chocolate lovers have Meher Pinto on their speed dial. All varieties are made from dark chocolates; Cherry Brandy, Apricot Brandy and Rum flavoured chocolates in coffee and mint top the list of favourites.
Price: Rs700 onwards
Kainaz Messman’s reasonably-priced, delicious desserts come to mind whether it’s Diwali or Christmas. Her chocolate offering is equally tempting and has new additions this Diwali— chocolate-coated toffee, and nut chocolates.
Price: Starts at Rs900 per kg.
Sleight of Hand
Aadore Sayani’s brownies are to die for, but her chocolates are no less irresistible. They come in all sorts of innovative varieties, like their best-seller Mr Bean, which are chocolate-coated coffee beans. Try the orange rind covered in dark chocolate or lemon rind in white chocolate; otherwise, the ‘anjeer’ chocolate is a must-try.
Price: All chocolates are priced at Rs200 for 100g
Bombay Baking Company, JW Marriott
The city’s favourite five-star bakery has a gourmet range of chocolates. The liquid centres with Black Dog and Tia Maria are a rare treat. Try the truffle and praline range with Champagne, Cointreau, espresso, nuts.
Price: Rs35 per piece
They have the whole range—hard and soft centre with nuts, fruit flavours, liqueur and coffee. Chocolates are packaged in boxes of different sizes that hold 6-24 pieces. They don’t have a retail outlet.
Price: Rs250 (box of six pieces)
The products are divided into Luxury, Liqueur, Premuim, Sugar free, Signature and assorted. The luxury line includes truffles and Marzipan based chocolates while premium chocolates include chocolate-coated biscuits and lollipops.
Price: An assortment ranges between Rs360 and Rs445 for 250g packs
The Chocolate Box
The Chocolate Box at the Radisson MBD Noida has a live counter, so everything they stock is made right there for all to see. Their Diwali offerings include a three-tier wooden box with assorted chocolates and cookies and a leather hamper that includes Swiss chocolate; apricot, coconut and fig loaf and a bottle of wine.
Price: Wooden box, Rs3,000; and leather hamper, Rs1,500; taxes extra
Chocolics aims to provide great chocolate that doesn’t cost a bomb and offer a wide variety of bonbons, truffles, flavoured and plain chocolates. In addition to Belgian chocolate, it now also uses Swiss chocolate to prepare its offerings. Customized packages are available.
Price: Starts at Rs350 for 250g
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