Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Prestat, Palace of Chocolate

Prestat Chocolate are now sponsoring my blog & I will review one of their chocolates each week.
In preparation for this, I went to visit their factory in West London, a vast gothic palace with stained glass windows, once the home of Baron Professor Oskar Gottmeister von Elzenberg, discoverer of Molybdinum.

On arrival, an elegant footman in a dove-grey suit with silver frogging materialised & ushered me through the vast oak doors & up a sweeping staircase to the director Nick Crean's office.
After showing me his expansive collection of leather-bound books on the history of chocolate, we dressed ourselves from head to foot in white and headed to the factory floor through a series of heavy electronic doors.
The smell was glorious.
In a series state-of-the-art kitchens, silent figures went elegantly & efficiently about their business. It was as if we were on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, only more hygienic.

There were machines producing flowing waterfalls of glossy chocolate, coating hazelnuts, walnuts & chunks of ginger. At the far end, a stunning woman with restless breasts rolled out green marzipan to make perfect pear shapes, beyond her, a woman, moving like a panther around another hi-tech machine, was creating peppermint wafers. She looked up and gave us a lazy wink.
Satie's Gymnopeides was playing over an invisible sound sytem.
In the next kitchen, a man who looked exactly like James Dean would have if he'd reached middle age, was dusting chocolate powder onto fudge bricks. He stopped to talk passionately of his life-long mission to master caramel, the trickiest of all chocolate box ingredients.

At the packing section two pairs of identical Cuban twins were making short work of a large order of rose creams. Their hands working in such swift harmony it looked like hand ballet.

I've never seen such good looking staff outside a Hollywood blockbuster.

At every turn, Nick, learned & avuncular, pointed out various award-wining creations: chilli & lim
e chocolates, violet creams, champagne truffles, old fashioned fudge, geranium squares, white chocolate... and at every turn, I ate what he pointed at.
After my twentieth chocolate, I began to feel a little abnormal and while Nick's white coat remained pristine, mine was besmirched with a dense lattice chocolaty smears.
I felt a bit ashamed that my approach was proving to be one of depravity rather than learning - but I was in good company. The Queen, to whom Prestat are official chocolate suppliers, is an ardent fan and in a framed photograph hanging in the marble hallway, she's got a chocolate moustache as big as Sancho Panza's.

I will review the chocolate tomorrow, when my palette is less overwhelmed.