Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Theobroma Cac-OW!

It's such a pity. On paper it looks as though Chiswick's 'chocolate lounge', Theobroma Cacao, should be everything you want and more. It is a dingly-dell of a place with every surface occupied by great abundant bowls of chocolate. There are choc-covered stuffed prunes, chocolate puddings, choc-dipped stem ginger, toasted almond chocolates, champagne and lavender (beautiful pale blue and white). Turn your gaze upwards and there are shoes of chocolate, Easter eggs galore, chocolate lollipops...and so it goes on. The overall effect should be entrancing - and it almost is - except for a few things.

My suspicions always arise when entering a chocolate shop that doesn't smell of chocolate. The majority of standard choc shops smell of sugar; the really good ones engulf you with their great billowing aroma of deep, dark cacao; whilst TC simply smells...tired.

I ventured further to the 'try-me' bowls and all was confirmed when, rather than having flavours flooding my palate as I chomped down on some 70% Venezuelan, there was a lousy, deadening thud-ette of stale chocolate that would only ever have been unremarkable at its best.

That wasn't great but then came our hot chocolates. For £3.80 each these had every opportunity to excel. 'Can we have mochas?' we asked. 'No, we only do coffee flavour' came the curt reply. 'But you offer espresso'. Yes, but we cannot put them together', the response. 'OK, then can we have three hot chocolates and three espressos on the side?'. 'Sure'.


When they eventually arrived we took off the lids, blew and went in for the first sip. All of us burned our mouths and one of us scorched her throat. I approached the counter, nicely like, telling the woman that hot choc shouldn't be served scalding like that and that we were all now donning rasping, burnt tongues.

Nothing. Not an apology or even slight hint of giving a damn. She looked vacant.

It's such a shame. Why do people even bother when all they're prepared to offer is a sad version of something? They've gone to so much trouble to make the place look nice, why not continue through to the quality? But also, why is customer experience so low on the agenda of so many places in this town? It's the easiest thing in the world and makes all the difference in the....universe.


somesaycocoa said...

Oh that is such a pity. The best I've come across so far in Ireland is O'Conaill chocolate cafe in Cork. It is very small but the smell was truly amazing .. and so was the hot chocolate.

BTW I love the blog ... I think I will be staying tuned!

The Ample Cook said...

Just found your blog - I love it, especially your wit. I think I'd read about you a while ago (in OFM?)I'll be tuning in regularly.....

Petra Barran said...

Thanks ladies,

Somesaycocoa - I think I went to that place in Cork. The Irish eat more choc than anyone else in Europe.

Choc on!

Megan Reilly said...

Customer service is king, and I'm sorry to say, an American Starbucks has the customer service that enhances otherwise mediocre products. They even told me the origin of their coffee cups: http://www.chocoffeeaddictsanonymous.com/?p=576. I am looking to visit London soon--might you have a redeeming coffee shop that you would suggest? :)Thanks, Megan

Petra Barran said...

Hi Megan, unfortunately coffee makes me a nervous wreck and properly wild in the aisles so I tend to avoid coffee shops - but there are some good Oz/Kiwi places in Soho that are great. Or, for a real treat, how about visiting the world barista champion (Will) on Whitecross St market??

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about the service, wow it was appalling, However I went in last week and hallelujah!!! They have got rid of all the moody staff and now have a really helpful guy running the store. It is amazing the difference when you are greeted with a smile.
I see your picture showed a half full cup, very biassed I must say! I think the chocolate drinks are what makes this shop so special

Petra Barran said...

Anonymous - Who could this helpful guy be?! Will swing by and check it out next time I'm in the area.

Sam Dayeh said...

Hi Petra, I couldn't work out how to add my name!