York, my term-time (and preferred) home, is famous for its history in chocolate. It’s where Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Rowntree have its roots, and where Betty’s Tearooms, the home of glorious afternoon tea, has been handcrafting chocolate for a hundred years. The Pizza Hut on Pavement is actually the place in which Joseph Rowntree Senior took on George Cadbury and Lewis Fry as apprentices, in 1858 (his son, Joseph Rowntree Junior, also went on to achieve renown as a chocolatier.)
With all this chocolate history, it’s a scandal that I haven’t properly indulged in any of the artisan chocolates made across the city. There’s Hotel Chocolat, Chocolate Heaven, Monk Chocolatiers, and York’s Chocolate Story. One step I have taken along this journey, and one box ticked off, is having visited York Cocoa House.
Opened in 2011, York Cocoa House celebrates the indulgence of chocolate in a variety of forms: hot drinks, cakes, biscuits, and even savoury dishes. They sell hot chocolate powders, and a variety of sweets and truffles. Inside there is a chocolate making workshop, a chocolate library, and all their wares presented in a style which recalls and retains its heritage.
My friends and I waited half an hour before we were able to be seated, such is the House’s popularity; but our appetites were kept satiated by complimentary truffles. I sampled one of blue cheese, braving where my friends would not – yet the mellowness of the cheese contrasted rather nicely with the smoothness of the chocolate. Who knew that cheesy chocolate could work?
I decided it would be criminal to not order hot chocolate, although my belly rumbled for something more filling than cake. Respectively, we ordered a salted caramel slice; a chocolate stout cake; a Cocoa House bagel; chocolate tea; caramel hot chocolate; and a standard hot chocolate.
My chicken & pancetta bagel featured a chocolate pesto and chocolate dressing: neither tasted quite as strange as it ought to have done. On the contrast, the chocolate brought out the sweetness in the balsamic dressing, lovely with the roasted veg. Another savoury dish on the menu is a barbecue chicken quesadilla, with a chocolate smoky sauce – something I’m intrigued to try. The hot chocolate was just as I’d hoped it would be; smooth and sweetened to my ideal taste.
My fellow diners kindly let me sample their own orders. The caramel slice was very rich, and my friend admitted to having previously taken one home to nibble at it gradually. The stout cake, similarly, was a great wodge of cake and decadent icing; I’ve never consumed stout, so I didn’t know what to expect; but the alcohol wasn’t overwhelming at all. Finally, the chocolate tea: a perfect compliment to the cake – light and delicately flavoured with cinnamon.
Having eaten enough chocolate to set us up for the rest of the week (or afternoon), we departed, with the intention of returning very soon. If you’re in and about York, and want to get a taste of its chocolate heritage, the Cocoa House is definitely one to visit.