City wanderings - and a pilgrimage to some of the best eating and drinking spots in Brussels. Or maybe not eating or drinking - ah, oh well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pierre Marcolini

Entering this temperature-controlled mausoleum of chocolate you could be pushing open the heavy doors of a Louis Vuitton flagship store, to be met by staff in their livery and a feature chandelier.  It is intimidating.  Well, it would be if it weren't so full of people like you and me, shuffling around in trains, no poodles or fur coats in sight; everyone is just trying to keep out of each other's way.

Imagine, if you will, a shop that is trying to conserve a certain hauteur, an image of its own exclusivity.  Delvaux-designed presentation boxes, chocolates and desserts arranged behind glass like jewels, assistants in white gloves fingering delicate creations, but tourists steaming up the glass and irritating girls with their cameras keep ruining it for them.  Sigh.  But the staff cope with all this admirably well.  The tills keep ringing, and there are larger, cheaper selections upstairs too.  My guess is they could teach Louis Vuitton a thing or two.

So imagine my amusement when a power cut sends staff scuttling around, and customers are suddenly deliberating shades of dark chocolate - in the dark.  After a brief interlude a switch is tripped and the lights and chiller cabinets are working again.  But the spell of perfection has been broken.  The staff re-arrange their customary smiles (it's too busy to do otherwise): it's OK, the chocolates only lost their lifeline of cool air for a few minutes, all will be well.  But then, it happens again!  The humming stops and anxiety once again plays across faces.

I've just visited around five chocolate shops in one day (for research purposes), and as all this is going on I remember the advised temperature range for storing chocolates - between 15 and 18 degrees - so says the brochure for Mary Chocolatier.  Now this is a really unhelpful temperature range, I think: too cool for room temperature and too warm for a fridge....

In truth it's too crowded here to really feel comfortable, whatever the temperature.  I want to ask more about Pierre and his chocolates, but I'm put off by the card thrust into my hand: I don't want to call someone in VIP relations.....  All I'd get is some pre-packaged saccharine tale, and it won't be the man himself!  I'm beginning to feel that Pierre is just too swish to be my preferred chocolatier...

Upstairs there is plenty of choice - from the 54 EUR mummified truffle teddy bears grinning inanely (I wouldn't like to be shut in here with them at night!) to sleek black selection boxes (around 25 EUR), marzipan fruits, and 7 EUR tablets for those who can't decide what to buy.  A discovery or voyage (découverte or voyage) box would seem a very good place to start.

I say it is hard to find presentation as good as this.  And the chocolates are delicate and refined and delicious.  They taste expensive and they are!  You should definitely stop by, but don't end your chocolate explorations here.  There are plenty more chocolatey offerings to sample once you leave this rather chilly mausoleum behind.  And only you can decide who is worthy of your crown of Best Chocolatier in Brussels!

You can also watch this space to find out mine.

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