William Curley

10 Mar

Sometime last year Mark and I had a tea tasting menu at Teasmith in Spitalfields. Each course of tea was served up with a bit of cake or chocolate from William Curley, repeat winner of Best British Chocolatier. It was an original take on an afternoon tea, more like a wine and cheese tasting in essence with each beverage and edible treat to complement each other rather than the usual pot of earl grey to wash down a scone. We even got given some tea leaves to take home with us!

Although I loved all of the different teas I drank that day (I really love tea), my favourite part of tasting was eating a William Curley posh Jaffa Cake. Being partial to your usual bog-standard Jaffa this was an amplified pleasure experience. To start with the sponge was soft and light and thick. The orange jelly tasted real, sharp and sweet. The dark chocolate it was coated in was beautifully bitter cutting through the sweetness and giving the whole thing a sophistication McVities can only dream of.

Luckily for me, Mark had noticed how happy the Jaffa made me feel so he gave me a William Curley voucher for Christmas. It was specifically for two people to enjoy the Dessert Bar menu and a bit extra for a pot of tea. A month later we found ourselves perched on a couple stools at the end of the bar which was a great spot for a bit of people watching. There are tables to sit at in the shop if you are just popping in for a coffee and (heavenly) cake, but to eat at the bar you partake in a four course set menu of desserts, all to be created in front of you by your personal chef.

We both ordered hazelnut hot chocolates which were surprisingly light and easy to drink alongside our desserts. This was probably because the very nice lady who made our hot chocolates accidentally used skimmed milk rather than full fat. She informed us of this half way through and kindly offered to make us another one, but we declined. I think despite as sumptuous as it would be a full fat one is probably a stand alone feature, not a thirst quencher. The flavour was definitely still present, not too sweet and a subtle nuttiness.

Our first course was more of a palette cleanser – poached mango and passionfruit, ginger and lemongrass syrup with orange and yoghurt ice cream, topped with a sesame tuile. (As promised in my first blog, a grainy photo from my blackberry)

It was just as it should be, cool and refreshing. The ice cream was subtle in flavour, the yoghurt balancing out the strength of the orange. Nothing was too sweet, something I cannot stand in a dessert, the bitterness from the sesame seeds running through the sweetness of the tuile and the fresh pieces of fruit in the coulis gave it a zingy tartness. In fact, anything I have tried from William Curley has had the balance of sweetness to perfection for me. My taste buds didn’t detect any lemongrass or ginger, but this was no loss in the end.

Next up was a deconstructed rhubarb crumble. Mark’s passion for rhubarb (which is in equal measure to my passion for a soufflé) meant that we had high expectations for this one.

Our personal chef dropped in the crumble bits to the bottom of a cup which were more like cast off biscuit pieces (you can see a bit resting aesthetically on the top). This provided a satisfying crunch with each bite. Next up was a layer of cold vanilla custard and on top of that some wonderfully pink poached rhubarb. I wasn’t so keen on the idea of this pudding being cold, but once I began eating it, it all made sense. The coldness meant that the rhubarb still had a good texture and was fresh tasting, and the biscuity crumble wasn’t made soggy.

Course three was slices of plum poached with star anise, crème fraîche and a chocolate granita.

This was SO GOOD. WORDS CAN BARELY DESCRIBE. Soft plums with a slight aniseedy tang, sourness from the crème fraîche and a simultaneously sweet and bitter mouth explosion from the chocolate granita. I really wasn’t that fussed when I saw this on the menu, but man was it amazing. Every component fit in with each other like a jigsaw. A tasting menu is always that extra brilliant when something catches you by surprise, as this would never be something I would order if I had a choice. When our friendly personal chef asked if we had a favourite, I think she was rather taken aback by my enthusiasm for the dish, or maybe just taken aback at the force of which I displayed my enthusiasm.

Our last course was pain perdu with apple and rum soaked raisins cooked in a cinnamon caramel and a scoop of Madagascan vanilla ice cream.

The bread was soaked through with the rich and fruity caramel so that it was almost gooey. The raisins were delightfully boozy and the apples still had a bit of bite and sharpness. The ice cream was smooth, a simple delight. Each mouthful was punctuated with phrases of inarticulate appreciation – “mmm”, “oh yeah”, “yum”, “nice yum” etc…

I was happy to find myself pleasantly full, but there was just enough room in my stomach for the petit fours to finish everything off. Please let me introduce chocolate dipped orange peel, sesame seed chocolate, a salted caramel and a cassis truffle!

Errr, well, I may have been a bit quick to try my petit fours before I took a photo… I don’t like salted caramel but I still ate it because I don’t like to turn down food. According to Mark it was very tasty. The sesame chocolate was divine. Unusual but worked just right, nothing jarring in the flavours at all. The cassis truffle was fruity and very sharp which made it very easy to eat. I had a pot of jasmine pearl tea (from Teasmith) to wash it all down with.

Before we left we made sure to take away some treats with us. One posh Jaffa and a blackcurrant teacake. There was a little plate of chocolate testers by the till and I shamefully took about 6 different chocolates. Each time I made sure no one was looking I would pop another in my mouth. I still feel bad about it, however, I am extremely tempted to buy a three-month membership to the Curley Chocolate Club for £65, which I am sure would more than make up for the pillaging of the tester tray.

I left feeling as happy as only eating four desserts in a row can make you feel. Mark and I walked to the car discussing people we knew who would appreciate it – our conclusion: EVERYONE. William Curley is a shop full of taste sensations and I urge all of you out there to give it a try. I know any time I am near by I will be sure to pop in and buy a Jaffa.

William Curley
198 Ebury Street, London, SW1W 8UN
6 Lamb Street, London, E1 6EA

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