Heavenly Hot Chocolate
Let me say one thing straight off: I don’t pretend to be a connoisseur of chocolates. I don’t know a “single estate” from a “grand cru” (yes, yes, that’s how they talk about chocolates these days). The only gourmet chocolates I know about, and invariably gravitate towards at airport duty free counters, are Godiva and Valrhona. Or maybe, the odd Sprüngli.
Yet I shall take my courage in both hands and declare that most Indian chocolatiers don’t get the stuff right. They. Just. Don’t. But you know what’s truly astounding? Most Indian joints don’t even get a cup of hot chocolate right!
Now hot chocolate is a fairly simple concoction. It’s a mix of chocolate, hot milk and cream. It has one simple requirement — that the chocolate hit be strong enough for a mood-lifting and heartwarming experience. It can be a heavenly drink, especially on a winter day.
Being fond of the brew, I have tried it in many places. The big bucks coffee shops, the not so big bucks coffee shops, the ones that serve them with churros, and so on and so forth. But I invariably find the hot chocolate they make thin, milky and insipid. It reminds me of the Bournvita-and-milk from my school days. And believe me, that memory neither lifts my mood, nor warms my heart.
So you can imagine my delight when I made a serendipitous discovery of the real thing recently. It was at a newly-opened cafe called Cravity in Delhi’s Hauz Khas area. The person I was meeting recommended the hot chocolate. So I went ahead and ordered it, totally prepared to be disappointed once again.
But one sip and I knew I had struck gold. Or rather, real hot chocolate. It was rich, smooth, velvety, and thick with the taste of chocolate, as opposed to cocoa powder, which seems to be the preferred ingredient for hot chocolate at even high-end cafes in India. The chocolate kick was just right -- not too sweet, but not bitter, with a hint of cinnamon giving it a mildly spicy flavour. It was totally decadent, totally to die for.
Cravity is a small place — about 20 covers — and they've got a good mix of sandwiches, pizzas and small eats on their menu. But their USP is clearly their tempting range of desserts. There are pastries like the Tarte Au Citron, or Buerre Salé Au Chocolat and many others that I plan to go back and try. I did try the Almond Croissant and it was quite perfect — soft and fluffy, encrusted with a goodish layer of lightly toasted almond shavings, and the centre moist and sweet.
They serve macarons as well. The Laphroaig Macaron sounded irresistible and I was drawn to it like a moth to a star. Sadly, it was disappointing. The taste of alcohol did shine through, but it could be any old plonk — the flavour wasn’t anything like the smoky, peaty single malt. Besides, the macaron wasn’t as airy as it should be. There was a heaviness and stickiness to it that sunk the delicacy.
But I digress. The main event of my Cravity experience was the HOT CHOCOLATE. And it was so superb, so satisfying, and so made up for the countless revolting cups of hot chocolate I had had elsewhere that I was overjoyed. I buttonholed Chef Devinder who was lurking in the background and asked him what had gone into it. He said it was just chocolate stirred into hot milk and cream, and as I had suspected, a soupçon of cinnamon to go with it. No sugar had been added.
I came out of Cravity with a grin on my face, looking, I suspect, a bit like a cat which had swallowed the cream (along with some molten chocolate). Many years ago I had the most divine, the most soul-stirring hot chocolate at a cafe in Vienna. Cafe Central, it was called — a big, vaulted place with oodles of history. It was my first brush with this drink of the gods as it should be drunk.
Thank you, Cravity, for bringing that taste back to me.