Last week the first Godiva cafe in Europe “officially” opened in Harrods. It’s been operating since the end of last year, but I guess this was the first date that the Belgian ambassador, the CEO of Godiva and the Managing Director of Harrods could coordinate their diaries to put on a proper celebration.
This is the 4th Godiva cafe in the world and, according to the Godiva representative, the best. It is actually quite gorgeous inside. Expensive materials that are high quality rather than flashy; comfortable suede-cushioned benches, dark wood panelling, flowers in vases, plus a funky neon silhouette of a lady on a horse against a chocolate brown-painted brick wall, as you enter. It would be easy to sit here for hours. Apparently people do. I have been warned the queue from late afternoon is long and it stays full until closing.
Last December they poached the talented and ever-smiling Raquel Lowery (pictured above, of the amazing Melt Chocolates mud pie) to head up the kitchen. All of the pastries are made downstairs in the kitchens shared with other Harrods restaurants. The pastries are most definitely unique to Godiva. I had a long chat with “Global Chef Chocolatier”, David Funaro, who has been with Godiva for five years, creating the range of pastries and travelling the world ensuring all the cafés open well. Before Godiva he served his time with one of the best US chocolatiers and a great US bakery too. He also had his own business for a time, too. When I asked him about the Godiva range and he told me how, for him, the perfect pastry is a marriage of smooth, crunchy, soft and chewy, as well as a perfect balance of contrasting flavours, I almost started to swoon. That is exactly what a good pastry is to me, too.
The cafe was full of “it” people and I wasn’t in uber-keen to hang around, conscious that’d come far on a train, from work in the heat and my hair really needed washing. Greed overcame pride and I decided to linger long enough to taste the bite size morsels of two of the desserts that I could see being prepared behind the counter. It was worth it. The Hazelnut Delice is, truly, delice. The marriage of flavours and textures just as David described: smooth milk chocolate ganache, crunchy, whole caramelised hazelnuts and a thin, chewy sponge base, topped with a thin square of crisp dark chocolate. It was like a dessert version of a Ferrero Rocher, only delicious and not greasy. I did wonder if it was an intentional nod to the presence of the ambassador. I may have eaten four (they were small!) before deciding I would leave Mischa Barton and co. to the cafe and come back another day to see Raquel again and check out whether any of the other pastries also lived up to David’s promise (or maybe just get the Delice again…).
You can also buy the full range of Godiva truffles in the cafe and there are vats of hot chocolate in milk, dark and white, plus taps of running chocolate (how do I get one of these in my flat?). I do quite enjoy their frozen Chocolixir drink but I would definitely make the dessert my priority if you make it there. If you do, let me know what you think!