Pretence and pretension in Hotel Chocolat

Tara Cummings 22 November 2013

I was immediately soothed. Fifty shades of cocoa beckoned to me from behind excessive packaging as I gazed, awe-struck, at a perfectly formed mountain of Christmas goodie-bags. I felt like I’d stumbled upon a mature version of a childhood dream. Wonka’s Chocolate Factory through the lens of arbitrary sophistication or as if Harry Potter’s Honeydukes insisted schoolchildren show some decorum…As a true grown-up, why would you ever pick Everlasting Gum and Chocolate Frogs over a slab of Nut Mania or Mississippi Mud Pie?!

I set about selecting the different items for my near-ish and dear-ish. A bar of chocolate says ‘I don’t know you very well, I assume you like chocolate because everyone likes combinations of sugar and fat’.

However, a posh bar of chocolate says ‘I can pretend to know your tastes sufficiently to choose an odd flavour combination for you, I trust that you have a penchant for average luxuries and are willing to play along in this rigmarole of air kisses.’

The staff were more than willing to aid me in my decisions, demonstrating genuine hospitality as they plied me with innovative bite-sized concoctions and invited me to tour the gifts section.

It took all of five minutes to become enough of a connoisseur to recognise that Tawny Port Truffles tasted of alcohol and chocolate while milk-chocolate oysters tasted like chocolate, but not oysters. It was the land of ‘but we said we weren’t doing presents’ nervousness in slick cardboard.