Koko Black, Claremont - media preview event
I was recently invited to a special media event to preview the new Koko Black salon in Claremont Quarter. I got to meet some of the team, took part in a chocolate tasting of the exclusive Claremont salon range and indulged in the Queen of Hearts high tea.
When Jac and I were in Canberra last year, we dropped by the Koko Black salon in Civic. Unfortunately, we'd just eaten a big dinner at Kingsley's Steak and Crabhouse next door and although the chocolate looked and smelled intensely beautiful, we really couldn't fit it in. So I was looking forward to this, my second chance to try Koko Black.
It was the day before the salon was due to open and tradesmen were busily working getting it all finished. A table was set up outside for us.
We started by tasting two different single origin chocolates - the bittersweet Dominican Republic 64% dark chocolate and the sweeter, creamier Venezuela 38% milk chocolate.
We met Kim Linssen, the head chocolatier. She told us a bit about herself, how she began her career as a pastry chef and six years ago applied for a chocolatier job at Koko Black's flagship Royal Arcade salon in Melbourne. She's looking now forward to a new adventure, living and working in Perth.
Operations Manager Grant told us more about the Claremont Salon.
It will be one of the biggest Koko Black salons, with a relaxed, yet elegant atmosphere, with seating inside the salon (including couches) as well as outside. I am looking forward to returning to see this for myself as it was difficult to imagine how it would all look while the tradesmen were still working and without all the furnishings in place.
Customers will be able to make up their own chocolate gift boxes, selecting individual handmade chocolates and truffles out of the extensive range showcased in the display counter.
A unique feature of the Claremont salon will be the Ice Creamery, which will feature up to eight ice creams and sorbets, each served with a handmade chocolate garnish. Grant told us about two autumn menu flavours I'd love to try: pear sorbet with caramelised walnuts, and hazelnut praline with bresillienne hazelnuts. I think the ice creamery will be a great feature and especially welcome after the record-breaking scorcher of a summer we've had (has anyone told mother nature it's meant to be autumn now?).
For coffee and tea drinkers, Koko Black serves St Ali coffee and Chamellia organic teas.
Passers-by will be able to look through a window into the chocolatier's kitchen and watch Kim and her team creating the handcrafted chocolates.
Koko Black founder Shane Hills talked about his vision for the company, his desire to create a world-class chocolate experience and his team's excitement about the opening of their first salon in Western Australia. The Claremont salon will be the ninth Koko Black.
For all the people who complain that Perth misses out on everything - this time, we haven't! There are Koko Black stores in Melbourne, Canberra and now Perth - for once, we've got something Sydney doesn't! :P
Shane also told us that the company is a family-owned, Melbourne-based business, not a franchise.
Koko Black chocolate is made using fresh, all-natural ingredients supplied locally wherever possible. Keeping with this philosophy, the Claremont salon will feature two new cocoa butter caramel chocolates exclusive to Perth, each of which features a key Western Australian ingredient.
First, we tried the Stout Caramel, made with Little Creatures Single Batch Oatmeal Stout. The malty caramel was delicious, with an ever so slight hint of bitterness. These chocolates are garnished with a dusting of lightly crushed wattle seeds.
The second butter caramel is Truffle Caramel, made with Wine & Truffle Co Manjimup truffles. These chocolates are garnished with blackened truffle salt. As a big fan of sweet and salty combos, I was delighted by the salt and caramel. Both caramels were lusciously smooth, thick and gorgeously teeth-sticking. Don't try to talk once you start chewing on one of these!
Next, we were served the Belgian hot chocolate, made to a traditional Belgian recipe that blends full cream milk, cream and 54% dark chocolate. It had a lusciously creamy foamy top and a decadently rich flavour. Normally AU$5.95, it's also available in chilli, mocha, cinnamon and hazelnut varieties. A light hot chocolate (made to a lighter recipe) and soy hot chocolate are also available. Before you lift the cup to your lips or touch a spoon to the foamy top, take a moment to lean in close and enjoy its wonderful chocolatey smell.
I've talked before about my tastes changing as I get older. I'm still a savoury tooth but my sweet tooth is definitely growing. I've never thought of myself as a chocoholic and still wouldn't describe myself as such, but I am enjoying chocolate more and more.
The highlight of the session was the Queen of Hearts high tea, served on a lovely two-tiered platter. I was pleased to see that there were savoury items as well as sweet, and the savoury items were served hot.
There were two kinds of hot mini toasted sandwiches: roasted zucchini, capsicum, bocconcini and pesto; and pastrami, gruyere and seeded mustard. The savoury tarts were leek and ricotta, and pancetta and cherry tomato.
The top tier featured the sweet items, including the layered chocolate opera cake, mini vanilla creme brulee, lemon tart, mini chocolate cake, chocolate tart and the Alice lamington, featuring cream and sour cherry jam sandwiched between dark chocolate and coconut covered sponge. The lemon tart was gorgeously gooey, but the lamington and creme brulee were my favourites. It was deceptively filling. I didn't try everything as I was starting to feel pretty stuffed - my fellow previewers felt the same!
At Koko Black, high tea is not just for the weekend! The Queen of Hearts high tea (AU$18.50 per person) is served daily and includes tea, coffee, hot or iced chocolate (iced chocolate $1 extra). Some of the items featured on the Queen of Hearts high tea, including the Alice lamington, sandwiches and savoury tarts, are also available separately as part of the Patisserie menu.
On display was Koko Black's Easter range for this year, which includes limited edition hand-painted chocolate Easter bunnies, each with its own individually numbered sticker. There are also illustrated pencil boxes, each containing solid milk chocolate eggs, white chocolate bunnies and cocoa butter caramel chews. Koko Black has very generously sent me a bunny and pencil case, which I am saving to enjoy and share during the upcoming Easter holidays.
The collector boxes feature the a lovely drawing by last year's winner of Koko Black's Easter Creative Drawing Prize. Koko Black has held this drawing competition every Easter since 2008. The winning artists across three categories receive prizes that include money towards studies in art, an exhibition or art supplies; a 12-month membership to a gallery of their choice; and a year's supply of Koko Black chocolate. Drawings by the winning artists have been featured on various Koko Black products.
Regular readers will know I am mildly lactose intolerant and have written before about the "glugginess" I get after eating dairy products. I save my dairy consumption for things that I know will be worth the after-effects - I waddled to the train station nursing a chocolate coma, but it was totally worth it. And I have no doubt I will do it again. I plan to return soon and see the salon it all its glory, now that it's fully operational, and I can't wait to taste the pear sorbet.
I know two little girls named Ruby and Zoe who would love a babycino teddy bear (AU$2.50) - warm frothy milk with chocolate on top, served with a milk chocolate teddy bear pop. Even I like the sound of that!
The Claremont salon opened the day after this event and I know some of you have already been there. What did you think, and (more importantly) what did you eat/drink? If you haven't been to Koko Black before, do you think you'll be tempted to head over to Claremont? :)
Koko Black Claremont Salon
The Lane, Claremont Quarter
23 St Quentin Avenue (corner of St Quentin Ave and Bayview Terrace)
Telephone: (08) 9284 2049
Current Koko Black Perth menu (PDF 84KB)
Monday to Thursday 9.00am – 10.00pm
Friday 9.00am – 11.00pm
Saturday 9.00am – 11.00pm
Sunday 10.30am – 10.00pm
There are 7 Koko Black salons in Victoria and one in Canberra. See details at www.kokoblack.com Koko Black chocolates and gift vouchers can be ordered online too.
The Food Pornographer attended this event as a guest of Koko Black.