Hot Chocolate at Brunetti, Melbourne, Australia

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Entering Brunetti is like entering a coffee shop in Rome…just 100 times larger. This isn’t the small café that the locals come to get a good coffee and pastry. This is the very large café that counts all Melbourians as locals and all seemed to be here today enjoying coffees, pastries and food.

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There is a fantastic buzz here. In fact my review of Brunetti’s should almost be written in song form, like a musical. Despite having dozens and dozens of tables, they were all full. Everytime groups sitting at a table even hinted at being done and ready to leave, there were 5 people there, hovering around ready to grab it. Just as the table next to us received two freshly made pizzas, I could hear silverware falling off another table, the espresso machine turning on and off, and the waiters shouting at each other in Italian. The noise seemed to build up and then quiet down, just to build up again.

The area is divided into several parts. At the front there is a large area full of desserts, mostly Italian but some borrowed from other countries as well, all looking delicious. The center area is where all the coffee machines are and a steady stream of people were waiting along the counter for their espressos and flat white’s. Then there is an area with paninis and sandwhiches followed by the pizza oven and pasta station. Along the whole space are seating areas and at the very back is a proper sit down restaurant.

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We ordered two very large plates of pasta brought to our table by Giani, a very friendly Italian man with perfect white teeth. He dropped off our plates then returned 2 seconds later with freshly grated parmesan cheese and then left again, returning a third time with bread and cutlery, all executed like a little dance.

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The buzz is invigorating and relaxing, despite being loud at times. The ‘cioccolata calda piccolo (small hot chocolate) unfortunately was neither invigorating or relaxing. It was made using a very sweet chocolate syrup. I was hoping for a beautiful think Italian drinking chocolate, and am still surprised that Brunetti doesn’t have this option. The Italians make such beautiful hot chocolates. Perhaps they had one but just didn’t tell me about it …..

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Verdict: Everything else at Brunetti’s is just like I remember it in Italy… except for the hot chocolate. Peccato. Brunetti, 380 Lygon street, Melbourne, Australia

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Hot Chocolate at Café Vue Heidi, Melbourne, Australia

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A few weeks ago we combined all sorts of anniversaries, birthdays and other reasons to celebrate into one, and decided to celebrate them all at one time at Vue de Monde, arguably the best restaurant in Melbourne, maybe even Australia. The food and experience were exceptional and we enjoyed every single minute of it, the stunning views of Melbourne from the top of the Rialto tower, our view of the chefs busy preparing our meals in the open kitchen, the tea sommelier who prepared a selection of teas for me to drink that paired perfectly with some of the 10 different courses we had for dinner. The food had all of these fascinating nods to things Australian, from wallaby and kangaroo, to eucalyptus sorbet. As we were the last to finish our meal that evening, we even got a tour of the kitchens where they use over 50 innovative cooking techniques , and use homegrown and small-farm organic produce wherever possible. The whole evening was made even better when we were given a little bag full of goodies to have for breakfast the next morning including muesli, tea, honey and some hot cross buns.

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First opened when was he only 24 years old, chef Shannon Bennett’s Vue de Monde restaurant has now expanded to include a couple of other side concepts, including a handful of cafes. So after a fantastic night at Vue de Monde we thought we would follow up with a hot chocolate at Café Vue at Heidi. Heidi is a Museum of Modern Art and is spread over 15 acres of land covered in beautiful towering gumtrees. The core of the collection in the main building was assembled over five decades by the Museum’s founders, John and Sunday Reed and has since expanded through many individual gifts and donations. My favorite part of the Museum though is the outside gallery, a large park attached to the museum with a range of beautiful sculptures and art work as well as a garden where the café grows a lot of the herbs and vegetables that they serve. At the moment the garden had lavender, oregano, mint and thyme.

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We chose to go just around Easter, on a beautiful sunny Melbourne day. A giant Easter bunny was walking around the grounds of the Heidi accompanied by a blond haired girl in a long blue dress who looked like Alice in Wonderland. The two of them were giving out chocolate Easter eggs in exchange for smiles. We sat outside on the terrace next to the rotisserie oven that was filled with juicy chickens roasting. There is also an inside area which looks a bit more classy. On weekends they have a Dessert Buffet from 2.30pm to 4pm which was already set up and torturing visitors. The Buffet itself also looked like it fit into my imagined Alice in Wonderful theme.

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I would have been really surprised if Café Vue didn’t have a good hot chocolate. Considering how much I loved my experience at the restaurant I’m not sure I would have been able to handle that. Luckily, and not surprisingly, the hot chocolate was beautiful. It came in a ceramic mug covered in reflective silver (another nod to Alice?) The talented team behind the counter, mostly French speaking, created an incredible design with chocolate on the top in the shape of an Easter bunny, of course. It was creamy and light, decadent while still being wonderfully light and airy.

After having the hot chocolate we ended up returning three mornings in a row to have them again, and enjoy a walk around the garden. Each time it was equally delicious.

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Verdict: Loved it…everything about it. Café Vue Heidi, 7 Templestowe Road, Buleen, Melbourne, Australia

Hot Chocolate at San Churros, Melbourne, Australia

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In 1500, Hernan Cortes, a great Spanish explorer driven by a pioneering penchant and a lust for wealth and power, arrived in Mexico. There he was mistaken by the local inhabitants to be the descendant of the Quetzalcoatle, the patron god of cocoa crops. To honour the deity, the Aztec Emperor offered the weary Cortes a golden goblet of xocolatl – a bitter, thick drink made from ground cocoa beans and infused with spices and chili. Cortes returned to Spain and took with him a ship full of cocoa beans and the secret receipt for preparing this cocoa drink of the Azetecs. The Spanish court fell so in love with the drink (not surprisingly) that the King decreed it be only for the enjoyment of the nobility. Spanish monks were entrusted with the secret and sweetened the recipe to better suit the Spanish tastes.  100 years later the Queen of Spain fell ill  and everyone thought she was about to die. One of the monks caring for her brought her a drink of hot chocolate and mysteriously she was reinvigorated and brought back to life. The monk declared chocolate to be a gift from God. The monk’s name was San Churro.

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Owners Kelly and Giro got the idea of Chocolateria San Churro while sitting eating churros and sipping hot chocolate in Madrid. When they returned home to Melbourne they opened the first Chocolateria San Churro on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy in March 2006 where I have been many times. There are now over 38 stores across Australia, and today we tested out out their location in the CBD right next to the State Library.

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The table where we sat had the quote “Forget love I’d rather fall in chocolate” painted along the top. Ah, to fall in hot chocolate (not too hot though). Sounds like a beautiful spa experience. But today I was more in the mood to drink  one, if only I could make my choice. Chocolateria San Churro is really all about hot chocolate and there are dozens of them to choose from. I had a thick, unsweetened Spanish hot chocolate, but could have chosen a Mexican Azteca hot chocolate flavored with chili and cinnamon, a dark coverture hot chocolate, a dulce de leche hot chocolate, maybe even accompanied by a plate of freshly made churros. I enjoyed my hot chocolate. It wasn’t as thick as the original Spanish hot chocolate that I imagine the owners had first tasted in Spain, but it was easy to drink while still being decadent. Good way to get some energy to spend the day walking around the beautiful Melbourne CBD.

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Verdict: Every hot chocolate you can imagine for any mood you might be in and locations across Oz for all those lucky Australians. hmmm San Churros, Melbourne, Australia

Hot Chocolate at Degraves Espresso, Melbourne, Australia

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Last week I found a little brochure in a drawer at my in-law’s house in Melbourne, that I’d left behind after our last visit. It was produced by the City of Melbourne and was a 1.5 hour, 2.5 kilometer self guided tour of the laneways and arcades of the central business district (CBD) of Melbourne. Melbourne’s little laneways began life in the 1800’s as rear access to properties facing big streets, but many were later roofed as ‘arcades’ to provide refuge from the weather and crowds. Today many have been reborn and lined with interesting shops and cafes.

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We hopped on the train to the city from Clifton Hill, and started our little tour at Federation Square. First up we passed the stunning Flinders Street Station, and headed across the street to our first laneway, Degraves Street where William Degraves’ steam flourmill used to pump away in 1850. This was as far as we got before our first hot chocolate stop of the day at Degraves Espresso.

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The laneways are famous for having some of the best espressos you can find almost anywhere, and this is considered one of the must tries. Rich would agree wholeheartedly. He sipped his espresso with eyes closed and a smile on his face. We sat outside under a row of dark umbrellas at a series of old metal tables, apparently recycled cinema seats and benches from a former magistrates court. There was a constant buzz of people talking around us, the place was busy, but you could still hear a street musician somewhere close by playing the guitar.

Of course, I had no interest in espresso at all, so ordered a hot chocolate.  It came in a glass on top of a bright, aqua blue saucer, was smooth, chocolately and very easy to drink.  Given my low expectations of hot chocolates from Rich’s favourite espresso bars, it was a surprisingly perfect beginning to a great little discovery walk around the laneways of the CBD.

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Verdict: The hot chocolate was surprisingly nice and the service was incredibly quick too! Degraves Espresso, Degraves Street, Melbourne, Australia.

 

 
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Hot Chocolate at Sonido, Melbourne, Australia

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There was a steady stream of people coming through this tiny little restaurant on trendy Gertrude Street in Fitzroy. I’m guessing all of them were there for good arepas and good coffee. We were there for good arepas and a promise of excellent hot chocolate.

Arepas are a traditional dish of Columbia and Venezuela. The base is a corn arepa, sort of like a thick pancake, and covered with all sorts of toppings. We had one with chorizo which was beautiful, Rich had the arepa with black pudding (‘bloody delicious’). All this washed down with fresh Guava juice, one of their many juice options.

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Sonido, as you may guess from its name (it means sound in Spanish), is also all about music. Despite its small size they still managed to set aside a corner for a record player and a large selection of old Columbian records which are played throughout the day, and especially at night. In between cooking Arepas and making coffee, the owners Santiago and Carolina take turns changing the records when they finish playing. The décor is colourful and vibrant and everyone and everything just seems happier in here. Understandably, how could you not be happy here, especially when you can follow up all those delicious arepas with a traditional Columbian hot chocolate corona.photo 2-3  Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 10.44.24 PM

The hot chocolate is served in a traditional olleta (jug) and molinillo (stirring stick) and you have the choice of an olletica (small jug for one) for $4.50, or an olletota (big jug for two) for $8.50. We got the Olletota of course which had a good four cups worth of hot chocolate in it and I had mine con queso (with cheese), like the Columbians do. The cheese was placed in the base of the mug and the hot chocolate poured over it. After a few minutes the cheese soaked up some of the rich chocolate taste and became gooey and stringy. I had never really thought of pairing hot chocolate with cheese but really it makes a lot of sense. I love cheese, I love hot chocolate. Cheese with hot chocolate? Delicious.

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Verdict: Sonido is so much fun. If it is this much fun at lunch, I can’t imagine how much fun it is at night when the music is turned up. They have an excellent hot chocolate. Sonido, 69 Gertrude Street, Fitroy, Melbourne, Australia

Hot Chocolate at Koko Black (again), Melbourne, Australia

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Every time I arrive in Melbourne, the first thing I do (before going to visit the Kangaroos at Westerfolds Park) is visit Koko Black at Doncaster Shopping Town. When I finally did review Koko Black’s hot chocolate last year after having been every year since it opened in 2003 (read review here) I was upset. They had discontinued my favourite flavor and just like that the balance of the universe (or at the very least my trip to Melbourne) was disturbed. But luckily, one year later, Koko Black is back to being right up there on the top of my list.

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This is because they brought back my cinnamon hot chocolate, which is hands down the best cinnamon hot chocolate anywhere. Thank you so much. I hope it is back for good. I’m guessing I have founder Shane Hills to thank. Even though the world is dotted with little chocolate shops, Koko Black just does it a little better. They use chocolate from Europe including French Valrhona, Belgian Callebaut and Swiss Felchlin. Their chocolates and menu change every season so the run-up to Easter means that Easter eggs of all sizes fill the store. The décor is as rich as the chocolate (especially their dark chocolate truffles which are beautiful). Their hot chocolate is creamy and decadent while still be light and airy and very easy to drink. It is a classic.

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I sometimes wish that Koko Black would go global with their hot chocolates but it just wouldn’t be the same. Koko Black and Melbourne go together. I wouldn’t want to separate them.

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Verdict: Koko Black is one of my favourite hot chocolates (the cinnamon one). You will be happy with this one regardless of your hot chocolate preferences. Enjoy! Koko Black, several locations around Melbourne.

Hot Chocolate at Chokolait, Melbourne, Australia

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I love Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District). Every year I always make sure we have at least one day to just walk around and take it all in. You have Federation Square with its modern art buildings and galleries. The impressive Flinders Street train station is across the street. The streets are lined with interesting scultupres and statues and colourful graffiti covers some of the walls of the side streets. There are dozens of arcades that connect the different streets in the CBD, some lined with restaurants and cafes, others with stores. My favourite arcade is probably most people’s favourite arcade here, the one and only Royal Arcade.

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The Royal Arcade was built in 1869 and is simply stunning. My favourite feature has to be the two giant statues at the end of the arcade of Gog and Magog. Since the very first day the place opened the two statues have struck chimes at every hour. Tucked just next to these two mythical giants is Chokolait.

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I have probably already said it and I will say it again, Melbourne seems to be the hot chocolate capital of the world. Fine, France and Belgium have really good hot chocolates and very few bad ones, but the ones here are extremely innovative and more often than not, very very good. Many are unique, including Chokolait.

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Chokolait is all about chocolate. They have a range of chocolate products including a wide range of hot chocolates. You can have white, Belgium, milk or dark. You can add to that chili, hazelnut, cinnamon. But that isn’t why we came here. We came here because this is the first place I have been to that has single origin hot chocolates. Yes, just like the coffee drinkers out there who get to choose the country of origin of their coffee beans, Chokolait lets you do that same with your hot chocolate. Today the choices are 38% Costa Rica Milk, 43% Venezuela Milk if you want something a bit lighter. Over on the dark side, you have Peru Dark at 64%, Papua New Guinea Dark and Costa Rica Dark all at 64%. If you are feeling really adventurous you can try the 71% from Ecuador or the ultimate, the 80% from Uguanda. According to the woman at the counter all have their own unique flavour, some are a little fruity, some nuttier, like a good wine really.

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Feeling adventurous, we went dark today. I had a 71% from Ecuador and Rich the 80% from Uguanda. They came to us in tall clear glasses with handles. I loved the first few sips of my 71% hot chocolate. It was chocolatey, just the perfect amount of sweetness and it even had almost a spicy note to it but that didn’t linger too long. Rich’s on the other hand was very bitter (surprise surprise) with no sweetness at all and he ended up sipping mine quite a bit. I loved this hot chocolate but only the first half. Perhaps because it was in a clear glass it cooled down very quickly and once it cooled down it was very thick and puddinglike. The subtle spiciness went and it just wasn’t as enjoyable to drink. But I absolutely loved the first half and could come back again to try the other options and compare.

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Verdict: I’d love to see Chokolait put in place a tasting platter where they have the different chocolates served to you in little tea cups or shot glasses so you can taste and compare all the different single origins. Maybe next time? Chokolait, Shopt 8 Hub Arcade, 318 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia

Chokolait on Urbanspoon

Hot Chocolate at Hardware Society, Melbourne, Australia

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When we planned to go to the city today, I went onto the internet and searched for the best lunch spot in Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District) to see what would come up. There are just so many options in the centre of Melbourne, good options, that it is really difficult to chose. When the first handful of results all said the same thing – go to Hardware Society on Hardware Street – it seems our decision had been made.

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We were seated by a very friendly waitress with a yellow and grey apron at a communal table that we shared with a series of other small groups that came and went during the hour or two we were sitting there. We started with lunch which was simply fantastic. I had pork belly with grilled peaches, smashed potatoes and a beautiful salad with beetroot. Rich had the salmon in a lemony broth. The whole spot had such a great vibe to it, between the bright colour scheme, the buzz coming from the surrounding tables to the interesting decorative elements throughout the space. I loved it and, as an excuse to stay longer and because our meal had been so good, we even indulged in dessert (a very large piece of raspberry pistachio cake with marinated cherries on the side, really delicious.)

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We had such a great meal that we thought they must have a good hot chocolate.  Sure enough there was one on the menu so I ordered it. Not surprisingly, it was as intriguing  and interesting as everything else here had been so far. It came in a large mismatched colored mug. The mug itself was empty except for a dollop of chocolate fudge mousse and a spoonful of crème. Accompanying that was a small white ceramic pot filled with hot chocolate. As I poured the hot chocolate over the mousse and crème it all melted together wonderfully to create a light, chocolately and perfectly delicious little treat. I can’t compare this to any other hot chocolate because it tasted so different and was so unique. It was sweet and rich yet had all these layers to it. Plus it was very interactive and fun which is something that I love.

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Verdict: Highly recommended, I’m guessing anything you have here will be delicious. Our meals and drinks certainly were. Hardware Society, 118 Hardware Street, Melbourne, Australia

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