Category Archives: Products

Paul A Young Chocolaterie, Wardour Street, Soho

I’m sure this has been said before, but it deserves saying again; Paul A Young is as close as you will ever get to the real life Willy Wonka. His chocolate may not be mixed by waterfall, or crafted by tiny orange forest folk, but there’s definitely a special kind of genius at work.

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I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the greatly anticipated opening of Paul A Young’s flagship store in Soho. With the original store in Islington and the second store in the City, this marks the third and potentially final London store, although undoubtedly it will not be the last store worldwide. Paul is determined to avoid the pitfalls of rapid expansion, where innovation can be washed out to be replaced by a bland, watered down version of the original as everything is spread too thin. Each of the stores produces fresh, hand made chocolates on site, using painstaking traditional techniques and fresh, natural ingredients, and Paul is there to ensure that the very first chocolate produced in Soho uses the exact same techniques and tastes just as spectacular as the very first chocolate to be sold at Camden Passage five years ago.

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Impressively this passion and commitment to craftsmanship extends beyond the products and into the stores themselves. At the new Soho store everything, from the central display table down to the refrigeration units has been reclaimed, recycled, up-cycled, locally sourced or handmade. This includes a wonderfully unique glass chandelier at the centre of the store, and a beautiful reclaimed wooden alter that now serves as the main counter. I can’t think of a better use.

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Downstairs we were given a tour of the fantastic kitchen space the new store provides, which stretches out underneath the shop above as well as the two adjacent stores. Unused when they found it, the basement once housed an old Soho nightclub and given Paul’s description of crumbling arches, nicotine soaked walls and seriously dodgy electrics, it’s a wonder how the team managed, in only six weeks, to transform it into the gleaming white kitchen there now.

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As Paul spoke you could see and hear his excitement at the opportunities this space would provide. In recent years Soho has seen a resurgence as a food hot spot, with top restaurants, cafés, and boutique delicatessens springing up, but this is the first artisan chocolaterie in the area. It is this younger, more adventurous food scene that Paul and his team are hoping to tap into with the new flagship store; putting the huge kitchen space to use on innovation, creating and launching new seasonal product lines with a shorter time span.

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It is this creativity, innovation and fearless use of unusual flavours that really makes Paul A Young chocolates stand out. We were given a chance to try the new summer range, that includes such unexpected flavours as tomato, basil and olive oil, orange and tarragon, St Germain liqueur with elderflower, and wild strawberry, balsamic and black pepper, alongside his known classics like the Marmite truffle. Through some quirk or foolishness on my part I’d previously only tried Paul’s chocolate once at an Easter Egg tasting, where his sea salted caramel egg outstripped everything else we tasted. So when faced with a chance to try the entire current range, well, I went a bit mad. Despite an initial show of reserve I ended up losing all restraint trying one of near to all the chocolates there, that’s somewhere in the region of 20 chocolates or more. That my friends is too much chocolate, and trust me there can be such a thing.

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Amidst my gluttonous binge though, and before the eventual sugar shakes set in, there were several flavours that really shone. From the summer range the sea salted black sesame tahini just worked perfectly, as did the passion fruit curd and coffee, the fruitiness of which was so well balanced I was amazed I’d never seen the two paired before. A returning chocolate but new to me, the goats cheese, rosemary and lemon was divine but my absolute favourite was the Kernel Brewery stout and dark muscovado. Honestly, it may make me a failure as a writer, but words simply could not express how incredible that chocolate was; a deeply contented moan might just about capture it.

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In the hands of any other chocolatier ‘whacky’ flavour combinations like those above might end up tasting gimmicky or odd, but not here. This is the reason Paul is held in such high regard as a craftsman as well as an innovator, for every chocolate I tried the individual flavours were distinct and vibrant, yet married seamlessly, each giving way to another as you ate.

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On top of the single chocolate, the store also produces rotating collections of artisan chocolate bars, flavoured bars, and brownies. We were given a brownie to try at home, all I can say is this is what every brownie wishes it could taste like but never knew how; deep, dark, rich and incredibly squidgy.

www.paulayoung.co.uk

Paul A Young
143 Wardour Street
Soho
London W1F 8WA
+44 (0)20 7437 0011

Opening Times:
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 12pm – 7pm

There’s no online ordering, however if you can’t make it into the store mail order is available the old fashioned way by directly calling the store. This too though does depend on the weather (if it’s too hot the chocolates would melt in the post!)

Thank you to the lovely Kate Johns from Nudge PR and to Paul A Young for inviting me to the opening.

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Kitchen Shortcuts and WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team Challenge One – Pad Thai

I'm a member of the WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team

I am, it must be admitted, a bit of a food snob; I suspect most food bloggers, food geeks, and self proclaimed foodies are. There is nothing wrong with this attitude per se, at it’s most reasonable food snobbery is simply a manifestation of someone caring about their food, what goes into it, who made it, where it came from etc. A mindset that should surely be encouraged if it stops people mindlessly shovelling unknown, tasteless, highly processed, battery farmed, mystery meat meals into their bodies. With diet related illnesses now costing the NHS £13 billion every year we need to start being a little more discerning about the food we eat.

That, I hope you’ll agree, seems fairly reasonable, but there are times when food snobbery can be taken too far. There is a part of my brain that’s extremely reticent to say this but, not all pre-prepared food is bad. I may dream The Good Life middle class dream, of cooking from scratch, everyday, using food I’ve grown or reared myself; but for most people, myself including, that simply isn’t feasible. Batch cooking meals for the freezer, or carefully planning meals around a central base prepared at the weekend can of course help, but sometimes corners still have to be cut. I’m far from the only one who thinks so, in recent years St Delia herself has taught us How to Cheat at Cooking, while Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals and Nigella’s Kitchen both use shortcuts freely to get the meals out fast. Of course all have received some criticism, and not all of the shortcuts they make seem that justified (mince in a can Delia, really?) but they do still have a point.

So on occasion I will use jars of pesto, buy filled pasta and a ready made sauce, or raid the freezer for breaded fish, oven chips and peas. Yet despite all of this I remain wary of endorsing pre-prepared products in this space. It was therefore with some reticence that I accepted an invitation to join WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team. WORLDFOODS produce a range of pan-Asian pastes, sauces and marinades, which they state are “100% Natural, use fresh ingredients, food allergens free, gluten free, trans fat free, no genetically modified ingredients” and all products are suitable for vegetarians, vegans & coeliacs. This is all fantastic and certainly commendable, but it’s still not enough to ease my food snobbery. The real test for me can only come with how these products taste.

So I signed up, and shortly thereafter received a beautiful hamper in the post with a range of different bottles and jars, as well as some other lovely bits and bobs to aid in trying them out. WORLDFOODS have since been setting us challenges on a weekly basis to try out each of the products in turn. So far we’ve been through four challenges; Pad Thai, Ayam Percik, Tom Yum and Nasi Goreng. As ever I’ve been slightly slow at getting them written up but I’m far from the only one lagging behind and this week has subsequently been given as a “catch-up” week. I think the WORLDFOODS team may have realised that asking bloggers to work to a weekly schedule is a little like trying to herd cats.

Anyway, with that not so mini-rant out of the way I’ll post up the results of the first challenge:

WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team Challenge One – Pad Thai

WORLDFOODS Fusion Taste Team Challenge 1 - Pad Thai

This challenge used the WORLDFOODS Thai ‘Pad Thai’ Noodle Sauce. You can read the official challenge recipe here, which used prawns, with a vegetarian alternative suggestion of tofu, and the optional addition of a shredded omelette. Knowing that the boyfriend doesn’t eat prawns (shame – I love prawns) and not sure he’d eat tofu either I opted to use chicken thighs instead which I chopped into bite-sized chunks. Unable to imagine Pad Thai that didn’t feature egg I also added the shredded omelette. Finally, after forgetting to buy bean sprouts, I threw in some sliced red and green pepper to boost the veg content and make it a bit more colourful. As suggested I garnished with (very) roughly chopped roasted peanuts and squeezed over a wedge of lime.

And do you know what, despite my scepticism and the whole rant at the top of this post, this was actually really nice. Having never been to Asia I can’t comment on it’s authenticity, and I’ll admit it wasn’t as nice as the Pad Thai I used to get from the Tampopo noodle bar back in Manchester, but it did make a quick and simple tasty dinner.

I’ll get the other challenges posted up in the next few weeks as I battle through the May back-log, but you can also find more up to date posts from other members of the team on the WORLDFOODS Fusion of Flavours Facebook Page or by following @fusiontasteteam over on Twitter. In the meantime I’ll leave you with this brilliant video on how to make vegan Pad Thai, heavy metal style.



Thank you to WORLDFOODS for sending me a bottle of their sauce to try out for this blog post.