Saturday saw me being invited to review Hotel Chocolat’s restaurant Roast + Conch in Leeds-their second fine dining restaurant in the UK with the first in Borough Market, London and the original created in 2011 in the open air cocoa estate kitchen of their Boucan restaurant in Saint Lucia (can’t think why they didn’t want to send me to the there can you?!!))
The Leeds branch was staggeringly beautiful none the less…who needs Saint Lucia hey…
With Peter, my husband and photographer extraordinaire behind the camera taking shots between courses (well he had to work for his lunch didn’t he)… this might well have been the best date of all time!
Entering through the exquisite side tracking chocolate boutique on the ground floor, the second floor, upstairs houses a sit down restaurant for some serious Anglo-West cocoa fuelled dining.
A destination restaurant, this place is utterly ideal for dates, girly parties and special occasions and what a beauty it is too!
In chic, modern and tranquil surroundings, we chose a welcoming table by the window..
Every dish on the menu features West Indian herbs and roasted cocoa and you’re offered to try the roasted cocoa on arrival (below).
Having produced a documentary on chocolate at uni, I was aware of the history of cocoa and its use in savoury cuisine for thousands of years but I’d never actually sat down and eaten it in dishes at a restaurant until Saturday! And let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed…
First off, the food at Roast + Conch is made from beans roasted and conched by chocolatiers on site, hence their name!
I must also state as the dishes are made with quality, high percentage cocoa too, you never get a sugar rush or crash and feel energised with every bite!…
With sparkling water and a Bloody Mary to kick off proceedings, followed by ‘the kind my mother makes’ style sweet potato and butternut squash amuse-bouches topped with cocoa nibs and chilli oil, we were both excited for what was to come…
Then it was time for some cocoa nib bread and dips with the heavenly chocolate balsamic I fell for: a perfect marriage of flavours made in chocolate heaven-part sweet, part savoury, it literally danced on my tongue, tickling my tastebuds and I simply had to request more, dipping my sweet potato ribbons (cooked in cocoa butter) with my main course later on! DIVINE!
The most moorishly good cocoa balsamic!
Then it was starters or ‘Small Tastes’ as they call them, a Crab and Callaloo Broth for Peter, a delicate, light coconut broth with flaked crab, okra, spinach (callaloo in Saint Lucian) and mild chilli. Delicious!
I opted for the vegetable carpaccio, thinly sliced veggies with balsamic-cocoa dressing, beetroot puree and nibbled cheese bread. Refreshing, tasty, seasonal bites in a tangy sauce with crunchy bread which made for the perfect starter!
My main course was a cocoa-marinated chunky rib eye of beef, a beautiful fillet steak (locally reared and 28 day aged no less) marinated in cocoa nibs and accompanied by sauteed spinach, ground provision gratin and a creamy cocoa nib and rum pepper sauce I loved.
The sweet, crunchy garlic it was garnished with, were caramelised bites of wonderment too!
A dish from their Boucan restaurant in Saint Lucia, it took me to the Caribbean instantly.
What a hunk of steak, huh?!
My pescatarian husband opted for the fish roti, Roast + Conch’s spin on a traditional Saint Lucian staple.
A homemade cocoa nip wrap of fish filled with ground provision vegetables, slowly cooked in curried coconut sauce, cocoa pilau rice, sweet potato ribbons, raita and green leaf salad, it is glorious sunshine on a
…Fear not though, there was still room (only just) for the pièce de résistance of the meal-you guessed it, the desserts! It had to be Chocolate Lava molten cake for me, a chocolate sponge dome served on cacao nib-infused ice cream which happened to be the most splendid chocolate creation I’ve ever eaten. Fact.
And more. You’re welcome…
We also shared (begrudgingly) a Roast + Conch Mousse Cake, made downstairs from single estate cocoa beans, with a hint of coffee, vanilla ice cream and chocolate rice crispies that I could have eaten forever…
We literally (and sadly) had no more room after that cocoa feast of a meal for more but I had to share their Tray of Temptation, where you can choose from 16 creations lovingly made from their chocolatiers.
A stellar chocolate hit to end your magnificent meal on!
…With knowledgeable, friendly service, stunning surroundings and the most sumptuously splendid food, you’ll never quite have an experience like it-unless you head to their flagship restaurant in Saint Lucia of course (hint hint)…