Angus Thirlwell prepares for bar-to-bar combat.
Here’s some advice: if you ever plan to launch your chocolate company in Hong Kong, be prepared to do a lot of cooking. I thought my days of whipping up Chilli Drinking Chocolate on a hob in my hotel bedroom were over until I found myself in Asia’s financial capital recently, making a whopping three litres of it first thing in the morning.
Meanwhile, my colleague Roger Williams, the head of Hotel Chocolat’s international development, was busy next door, delicately assembling the best-looking smoked salmon and white chocolate canapés he could muster.
Our plan: To introduce Hong Kong’s key retail landlords to some of our favourite delights, in what is the very first step in Hotel Chocolat’s expansion into Asia.
In the realm of chocolate, Hong Kong is one of the world’s most intensive and competitive markets in the world; it’s also a showcase for the entire region. When we arrive, we’ll be up against a whole host of other players both big and small.
Godiva is well entrenched, representing the big and blowsy Belgian school of chocolate with a traditional ‘bows & ballotins’ look – and frighteningly expensive compared to European prices.
The Parisians have made a move too, with Pierre Hermé, Agnès B and Jean-Paul Hévin showcasing the classic small, intense ganaches and macaroons of the French school.
The Japanese are represented by Royce, offering a creamy milk chocolate with lots of individual wrappings going on. Then there’s Yoku Moku on the biscuit front, and Awfully Chocolate from Singapore are doing a nice line in uncompromisingly simple chocolate cakes and truffles.
There’s even See’s Candies from the American mid-West – an unlikely spotting, with homespun, old-school chocolates.
Hotel Chocolat will enter the fray with our contemporary British style later in 2014. Watch this space!