Chocolate makes the world go round; without it, the world would be a very sad place. Good quality chocolate is even more essential, particularly here in Hong Kong, where, aside from a couple of reputable brands, it isn’t easy to find chocolate of a high standard.
French chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin is one such brand. Upon receiving an invitation to try the afternoon tea at the newly renovated Jean-Paul Hévin flagship store on Lyndhurst Terrace, I simply couldn’t resist, regardless of the fact I had a big dinner waiting for me at home.
Hévin has been creating chocolate in France for 25 years, but only really became famous when he launched his first shop in Japan ten years ago. The Japanese have always been concerned about having high-quality goods and brands; so for the Japanese to have given Jean-Paul Hévin’s chocolate their seal of approval (he was in fact named the number one chocolatier in Japan in 2004) meant it was indeed an excellent product and helped to make it famous the world over.
The flagship store is designed to reflect Hévin’s concept of his bar à chocolat and cave à chocolat, where customers can either buy their chocolates to go or sit down and enjoy a chocolate treat upstairs. The upstairs area is relaxed yet elegant, with a Japanese hanging garden to reflect Hévin’s love for Japan, where he once worked as a pastry chef.
The tea set ($198), which is actually available at any time during the day, comes in three varieties. Ours contained two cakes, two macarons, two chocolates and four chocolate covered almonds.
You may have heard me grumble about chocolate orange before, as it is one of my least favourite things; so the description of ‘Safi’ as a chocolate mousse cake with orange didn’t particularly excite me. Nevertheless, there was only a mere hint of orange liqueur that wasn’t too offensive. The ‘Guayaquil’ cake was incredible: rich without being overpowering and layered with different textures of smooth mousse, crunchy biscuit and almonds, needless to say this cake won an award in Japan.
The cherry and pistachio macaron is a Christmas special, due to its red and green colours. Rather than being stuck together with sickly sweet jam, Hévin uses a creamy chocolate ganache. My favourite, and clearly also Paris’ favourite as it was voted best macaron in Paris, was the chocolate one. Where some macarons are barely infused with whatever flavour they are attempting to be, this one was so flavoursome that I actually described it as a brownie in macaron form. This was the one thing on the plate that I could not resist polishing off entirely despite the large dinner that awaited me.
Moving on to the chocolates, the fig and yuzu one is also a Christmas special, available from 15th December. Although it had an interesting sweet yet sharp twist, my favourite was the more traditional ‘Caraibe’, consisting of pure, delicious chocolate goodness, encased in a crisp dark chocolate shell. Jean-Paul himself must have good taste, as apparently this is also his favourite!
The chocolate covered almonds again came in two varieties: earl grey and dark chocolate, where again, the traditional dark chocolate stood out for me. Although the chocolate-dusted chocolate might be too rich for some, the flavour of the roasted almond shone through, creating a sweet, crunchy contrast.
Finally, although the set is usually served with tea, we tried one of Hévin’s signature monthly hot chocolates. Aside from the traditional hot chocolate, Hévin likes to experiment and put together combinations you would never before have thought would work, such as tomato and basil, caviar, or oysters. So impressive is his collection that he even put together a hot chocolate cookbook (currently this is only available in French but will be sold in English soon).
November’s hot chocolate, and therefore the one we tasted, was fig and chestnut. Luxuriously rich and creamy, Jean-Paul Hévin’s hot chocolate is the stuff dreams are made of, with an added sweetness and gritty crunch from the figs, and an almost Christmassy-like essence from the roasted chestnuts. I’m very curious to find out how December’s caviar hot chocolate fares…
The best thing about Jean-Paul Hévin’s chocolate is that it is good for you. Seriously. Apparently his cocoa beans contain carotene, vitamins, potassium, iron, tannins….the list goes on. With all these nutrients, plus the fact that his chocolates mostly contain no added sugar and no butter, as Jean-Paul Hévin insists on using only cocoa butter for all his chocolates, it would definitely be rude and foolishly unhealthy not to head on up to Lyndhurst Terrace to indulge in some delicious (and nutritious) chocolat.
13 Lyndhurst Terrace
Tel: +852 2851 0633
(other smaller locations in IFC and Harbour City)