Love chocolate so much that just eating it isn't enough? Then book a room at the Chocolate Boutique Hotel in Bournemouth for a tasteful weekend away, says web editor Debra Waters.
Think of Bournemouth, a rich coastal town on England’s south coast, and a very British sort of seaside glamour springs to mind. But this university town and haven for the retired is also home to the only chocolate-themed hotel in the world.
After a five (should have been two) hour drive from London, we were definitely in need of therapy, but it’s chocolate that’s offered as a remedy at this unique establishment. It’s certainly welcoming; the large, Grade II-listed Victorian villa is painted in calming cream and chestnut tones, while inside is decorated in warm browns and lighter shades of oatmeal and café au lait.
The hospitable owners, Gerry and Roo, are as warm and cheering as a Mocha Grande on a chilly day. As well as running the hotel and workshops, they're the proud owners of an enormous chocolate fountain on display in reception, which has been used at a Harry Potter film premiere and Jordan's wedding.
Each room name is chocolate-related: Cortes… Aztec... Montezuma… We were in Maya, a bright, airy room with a large corner bay and a modern, compact bathroom. The room was comfortable and cosy and, crucially for lodgings that offer cooking courses, spotlessly clean and tidy. The jar of chocolates and hotel-shaped slab were a deliciously edible touch.
The Maya Room
After dinner at a local, family-run Italian recommended by Gerry, we sampled cocktails at the hotel bar (yes, it's also possible to get tipsy on chocolate) and had a restful night. The following morning we found that the sunny dining room carries on the tradition – not only are the walls adorned with chocolate paintings, the menu offers chocolate brioches and pancakes as well as an excellent cooked breakfast if you’re longing for savoury amidst a sea of sweet treats.
Kerry explains the tempering process
A saunter along the beautiful sandy beach in West Cliff burned off a few calories, then we got down to work at the masterclass where teacher Kerry imparted such facts as dark chocolate stimulates the brain for up to three hours and most cocoa beans are grown in Africa. After showing us the tempering process – the method of heating and cooling chocolate quickly, which alters the molecular structure to give chocolate its sheen and snap – we were taught to create truffles from home-made ganache using chocolate and Elmlea cream so it lasts longer. Top tips: chocolate absorbs flavour so don't keep it near your onions; keep your hands cold to mould as chocolate melts at room temperature; don't like cream? Use tea, soya milk, you name it...
It’s surprising that the chocolate hotel theme hasn’t been tried already, given the number of chocoholics in this world, though it would be a hard one to sell in hotter climes, and while the idea is gimmicky it’s not tacky. The hotel attracts an eclectic mix of guests – mothers and daughters, families, couples – and the boutique element will appeal to a younger audience. Staying there, thanks to the decor, ambience and hosts, is a bit like the experience of eating chocolate – comforting, relaxing and pleasurable.
B&B starts from £90 per night for a double. A Chocolate Weekend offers guests two nights in the hotel plus breakfast, lunch, chocolate and wine matching and specialist chocolate workshops. Extras include the chance to have your own personal chocolate fountain in your hotel room. From £259 per person.
Chocolate Delight workshops run at seven locations around the country. Students can try out many different chocolate and innovative chocolate tasks including chocolate portrait painting, as well as more traditional chocolate workshops. See the website for dates, prices and details.