Isabelle Alaya and I first met in 2005 at a Seventy Percent chocolate tasting where we had both come to learn about chocolate as we planned our businesses. I never connected the dots between Melange Chocolaterie in Peckham and the lovely French woman who talked of starting her own chocolate company at the chocolate tasting that evening long ago. It wasn’t until she re-introduced herself to me at the Academy of Chocolate conference in 2010 that it clicked.
It was so lovely then to hear she had got her business off the ground, and more wonderful last week to receive her invite for the grand opening of her mini-museum of chocolate in Brixton this Saturday. From now on upstairs will be the café and workshop space for the Brixton branch of her business and downstairs is the exhibit, which will take care of any overflow in busy periods as well.
It’s only a short walk from Brixton tube and overground and she plans to hold monthly events similar to what we experienced on Saturday, with pairings of wines, cheeses or other foods, with her chocolate. The space is available for private functions as well.
Alongside her own flavoured chocolate bars (including lavender & lemon in milk chocolate, dark with bergamot & cinnamon and coconut & vanilla in white chocolate), Isabelle is also selling Duffy’s wonderful chocolate bars and Willie’s Cacao – two fantastic, English bean-to-bar chocolate makers. In the café she will be starting to sell savoury chocolate options. At the launch party were some of the tartines with a variety of cheese and chocolate combinations. I’ve always been a fan of chocolate and cheese together so whatever preconceptions you might have, I urge you to have a try. I really enjoyed the Brie with truffles and the drizzle of bergamot infused dark chocolate.
The exhibit downstairs is only small but it is a fabulous collection of old posters and ad campaigns, chocolate jugs for serving hot chocolate and old chocolate tins and chocolate moulds that were found in an attic in France from the previous tenant of a friend of Isabelle’s sister. What a wonderful coincidence. There are also some chairs and a television to watch a chocolate making video. It’s a great place for a chocolate education or just a cup of wonderful hot chocolate. The Melange hot chocolate can also be enjoyed with water or coconut milk which should be refreshing news for any dairy-avoiders.
Britain has a wonderful history of chocolate, including the invention of the first chocolate bar as we know it today (by Fry’s of Bristol in 1847) and this is a fantastic place to get a little insight into that past, whilst enjoying a chocolate fix as well.