We all know and love the South Bank – an amazing central location with quirky buildings hosting an eclectic mix of entertainments and food gets even the most reserved eater excited. I’m ashamed to admit that as I go about my fast-paced city commuting, probably nudging tourists out of my way and with a look of thunder on my face, I am always caught off guard when I am suddenly reminded of the lively and welcoming atmosphere that awaits me when I wander around the area. Simple pleasures like listening to the free lunch-time concerts in Royal Festival Hall, gazing for hours at the National Theatre’s art exhibitions or simply just walking along the embankment offer a rare treat.
So I can report with the utmost childish glee that it is indeed that time of the year again when not only are Christmas decorations up and glistening but the annual Chocolate Festival is back. Yeah baby! For this weekend only, returning for its ninth gastronomic celebration, cocoa is the talk of the town. With so many treats on offer, from how to make the perfect Christmas gift, workshops, tutorials, chocolate tastings and even finding out how to use cocoa butter in beauty products, it’s definitely worth a visit.
A particular highlight will no doubt be the Valrhona Chocolate Afternoon Tea (TIP: pop over the lovely folk at the Valrhona stall for a taste of the new ‘Blond’ chocolate ‘Dulcey’) and the Master Chocolatiers session with a host of experts: Paul A. Young, Paul Wayne Gregory, Damian Allsop, Barry Johnson and Chantal Coady. A plethora of sweet treats are in store from well-known brands such as Chocolate & Love, Hotel Chocolat, Demarquette and Rococo and offering a new platform to uncover some exciting up and comers to the chocolate world too.
I go every year and am never disappointed with the passion, expertise and imagination of flavour concoctions on show. For a chocaholic such as myself, this is the crack of the chocolate world. This is the date underlined in the sugar diary.
Something else worth a mention is The Real Food Market which will be held on the South Bank every weekend from Friday to Sunday, starting next weekend and running until Sunday 23 December. Stalls will line the popular Southbank Square, just behind the Royal Festival Hall and offer great quality, sustainably and ethically produced food.
Head down there to stock up on seasonal gifts for foodie friends and of course pick up some brownie points for shopping locally and helping to highlight the great artisan producers who are helping London’s food scene soar. You can even pre-order your turkey for the big day, or if you’re really behind, pick up a tree to help get you into the festive mood.
The Chocolate Festival
Southbank Centre Square
Friday 7-Sunday 9 December only. Free admission.