Better than sex.
That’s what I’d heard about Belgium chocolate. I’m no tart, but I was definitely up for a fling. I’d even been saving myself.
On Christmas Day I indulged. Perhaps overindulged is more accurate. I don’t have much self-control (OK, none) so the giant bowl of Roses, Celebrations and other treats had no chance. I spent the afternoon lying on the floor, sipping a glass of water and regretting every bite of chocolaty sweetness. Come Boxing Day, my resolve was firm: No chocolate until Belgium.
Six weeks later, only hours after arriving in Bruges, I was pushing open the door to The Chocolate Line, one of the cities many, many chocolate shops. No one is game to compile a “Top Ten” list of the best chocolate shops in Bruges, but locals, online reviews and guidebooks alike kept sending me here.
I’m not one for fancy chocolates like this. I’ve admired similar stores before, but could never justify spending so much on a single chocolate. My idea of a luxury chocolate is a Ferrero Rocher Raffaello, but I’m just as happy with a Bounty or Cherry Ripe. So this was a new world for me.
Most of the chocolate stores here sell their sweets in boxes. The smallest sample I could get at The Chocolate Line was three chocolates for €3.90. I chose the Escoffier (buttercream, vanilla and hazlenut), Dame Vanielle (milk chocolate and vanilla cream) and asked the girl behind the counter to select her favourite, which turned out to be the Framboise (ganache with pure raspberry juice).
Heaven on my tastebuds
I couldn’t resist a melocake (€1). It was chocolate-covered marshmellow with a sweet biscuity base inside. It was absolutely mouthwatering and definitely my favourite chocolate of my stay. I even went back the next day for another one and even writing about I feel my tastebuds craving the combination again!
At the end of the same square I found Dumon – another guidebook favourite – where I sat in for a hot chocolate. Hot chocolates are one of my favourite things about winter and I love have it all: whipped cream, marshmellows and if I’m lucky, a Flake stuck in the top! Dumon had a different approach. Milk chocolate on a stick that I stuck into steaming milk and swirled around while the chocolate melted. It was delicious, but I was missing marshmellows. On the up-side, my hot chocolate did come with a couple of free chocolates, so can’t complain there. I chose another box of three from Dumon, this time having to choose by size after I selected a geneour-size strawberry creation.
If I’d an endless budget and bigger pants, I could have kept going all day. But some of the shops aren’t as inviting as other. Some are downright tacky – especially in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. Some of the window displays looked like Cupid had thrown up. Many of the shops are simply cashing in on the “Belgium Chocolate” reputation, which I learnt a lot about at The Chocolate Musuem. Note to future Bruges visitors: The museum isn’t that impressive. The most interesting part was a demonstration at the end, which you can get in some stores. There wasn’t enough free chocolate to justify the entry fee.
Despite the array of choice, I was happy with my selections.
My little boxes from Dumon and The Chocolate Line sat in my handbag until the next day, when I enjoyed them on a park bench in the sun and later on a boat ride on the canal.
Did they live up to the hype?
Yes! Oh my golly gosh yes! Nothing topped the melocake, but they were all amazing. I savoured every bite, instead of chowing down like I usually do. But then, at the price, they’d want to be good.
On a walk home I passed Chocolaterie Spegelaere, which sits on the very edge of the Old Town on Ezelstraat. It specialises in chocolates and biscuits. I had a hankering for more chocolate so in I went. Here the prices were better and the chocolate just as good. The goodies were priced per 100g and I ended up with five chocolates for €1.90. Unfortunately I gobbled them before I thought to take a picture. The sweets from The Chocolate Line and Dumon were better, but only just. If I had to buy presents I would have settled for the cheaper, yet still divine, offerings at Chocolaterie Spegelaere.