“Meet me at 18:46:32″
I made it to Willesden Green station with seconds to spare. Despite his rather specific instructions, my friend (emphasis on the word friend please)Martin was not there. I imagined I could just walk to his instead. That, or he’d forgotten – he had text me rather late the previous evening. “Where are you?” I typed into my phone.
Uncharacteristically quickly I received a reply. He was round the corner.
In the space of 24 hours Martin’s car had breathed its last, yet had miraculously come back to life at the hands of a mechanic in time to come and pick me up. Handy that.
Later that night, despite having never ‘done dinner’ before, we ended up in the Little Bay in Kilburn, a place with unique ostentatious decor that has more restaurants in London and Belgrade (!?). Aside from having unusual ingredients such as pig cheeks on the menu, everything was really reasonably priced – and very, very tasty.
When we emerged from the restaurant, we remembered that we were opposite a rather magnificent looking chocolatier. Miraculously it was still open.
“We should go in… we should definitely go in.” I said, rather enthusiastically. “It’s like, totally Mother’s Day on Sunday.”
Bingo. (Martin loves his mum.)
And that’s how we ended up in The Cocoa Exchange, a Belgian chocolate emporium, full of the most decadent treats one usually only ever dreams of. Co-owned by Brendan and his wife, the shop offers tasting sessions and personalised boxes of luxury chocolates. We were asked what we’d eaten for dinner (sea bass and dijon mustard mash for me, lamb goulash for Martin) and the flavours we usually favour.
As Martin got to work picking out chocolates for his (lucky) mum, Brendan presented me with a serious of jars filled with different natural flavourings, asking me to smell each one and rate them from 1-10. Most of them rated rather high on my delectable scale, but the roses and cherries captured my senses somewhat, as did a surprisingly sweet pink peppercorn blend.
Brendan decided that my palate would be most suited to white and milk chocolate, and gifted me with a white chocolate square. One bite revealed a layer of milk chocolate ganache and a whole hazelnut hidden within, with tiny pieces of rice crisps to add texture. Needless to say it was scrummy.
When Martin finished selecting his truffles, I was given an extra treat as we left – a white chocolate drop. When I bit into it, it released an amazing cherry liquor (nothing sharp or cheap tasting – I’m not usually a chocolate/alcohol girl). Like I said, Martin’s mum is a lucky lady!
After cocktails at the Windmill in Cricklewood we decided to call it a night, albeit a brilliant one. And one of the nicest surprises was that when I got home, Martin had hidden a special box of chocolates in my bag – sneakily chosen while I had my nose deep in a jar of spices!
The Cocoa Exchange can be found on Belsize Road, Kilburn. For more information call 0207 372 5552.