Thursday, November 25, 2010

She Chocolat Chocolate Tour, Governors Bay, Christchurch

She Chocolat have been around for a few years - they often pop up at markets and special events with their amazing hot chocolate and decadent treats, and I have tried their chocolate on a couple of occasions, but had never been to their base in Governors Bay, just over the hill from Christchurch (it's about a 30 minute drive from the central city).

When I got an email from my Mum on my birthday saying my present was a tour at She, I was pretty excited. Half a day of chocolate - how could that not be fabulous? Her birthday is about a month after mine and a couple of weeks later when I was racking my brains for something she might like I realised that actually she'd be pretty keen to come along, being every bit as much the chocoholic as I am (it had to come from somewhere!), and these things are more fun when you're with someone, right? So guess what I gave her...

The tours are weekdays only, and they'll pick you up from and drop you back to Cathedral Square. As my parents live close to the other side of the hill we chose to drive, which also had the bonus of stress-free parking - no traffic jams in Governors Bay!

The cafe/restaurant is quite large, and despite it being a Monday quite a few groups were there for lunch, so it's obviously a popular spot.

We were greeted warmly by the lovely Arjuna and seated at a very comfortable sort of lounge area, which was set up with an array of gorgeous chocolates and chocolate-related paraphernalia.

Very soon after we were seated we were served decadent hot chocolates, which were rich, velvety and had the tiniest hint of chilli. I love the triangular mugs! Did you know that saucers were invented for hot chocolate, as it was so valuable no-one wanted to risk losing even a drop of it? 

I don't want to spoil all the secrets so won't tell you everything I learnt, but I did learn a lot - about the history and uses of chocolate, the composition of what we eat now and how that particular incarnation came about, and about the growth and process surrounding the beans. And it was all very conversational and interactive, which made it even more interesting - I really felt it was tailored to us. 

Morning tea was a chocolate fondue - we were advised to each take a little pot of chocolate, and try the various items dipped in it. Strawberries (always a winner), melon, kiwifruit, as well as avocado, salted crackers, and gouda cheese! Sounds weird, I know - I baulked a little at the idea of chocolate and cheese - but it was okay. Probably not good enough to put cheese out next time I have a chocolate fondue, but I can see how the flavour combo could work in other instances. I did quite like the avocado - and I'm a long-time fan of salt with my chocolate (will it gross you all out if I tell you that hot, fresh, salty fries dipped in a McDonald's sundae (chocolate or caramel) is a taste sensation?) so the crackers were a good match.

Next on the agenda was a tasting - we had five samples, and Arjuna taught us how to experience the chocolate, to smell, feel and really taste it. We wrote notes on smell, taste, texture etc. on a tasting sheet, and had to try to identify the cheapest and most expensive. They were all dark chocolate, and I easily picked the Cadbury and Whittakers ones - the sugary smell gave them away. The others were harder to pick - and in fact were brands I didn't know - and I preferred the Michel Cluizel one, but my least favourite ended up being the most expensive of the bunch - I think it was just too dark for my tastes!

We were then shown into the kitchen, and supplied with stunning little paper hats so we could watch the chocolatier at work. It's a bit of a chocoholic wonderland - and we were offered little tasters here and there, so our tastebuds wouldn't miss out on the fun. ;-) The chocolatier spoke about all the varieties they make, and how they specially design flavours for weddings, to represent the bride, the groom, and the union. How fantastic would that be, to have your own personalised chocolate flavour?

While we were gazing about in wonderment Arjuna queued up a video of Oonagh, the master chocolatier, exploring the cacao farm in Fiji where they source whole beans for their chocolate coated cacao beans and cacao nibs. Currently they can't source their chocolate from Fiji, as the equipment required to process the beans into chocolate are costly, and lack of stability has made large capital investment unviable, but it looks as though this may be a possibility in the future, so they have been working closely with the farmer and Fijian officials towards this.

It was fascinating to see something which really only appears to us in a very processed state growing - it is nice to understand where your food comes from and chocolate is one of those things we're so far removed from it can be easier just to accept it as we see it.

After our viewing we were shown to a table upstairs - did I mention the restaurant has spectacular views? It's always nice to have something nice to gaze upon as you eat your delicious lunch. Speaking of which...

... Our lunch was a glorious tasting platter, with many components and - of course - lots of chocolate. This changes depending on the day and the chef's whim, but among other things we had lamb with a boysenberry and rhubarb compote, chicken mole, seafood salad with a chocolate balsamic reduction, and a gorgeous fig and chocolate relish served on a roast vege salad. Everything was delicious, but that relish was incredible - and I'm told that the chef is planning to bottle and sell it, so I'll be first in line for that!

As if we needed more chocolate (who am I kidding, I always need more chocolate!) our dessert was a large "decadent moment" truffle each. Mum also had a coffee, which came with a very generous sprinking of chocolate and some chocolate-coated coffee beans. We both scoffed down our chocolates and Arjuna came over and asked if we'd tried each others' one. Oops - didn't even think of that, we were just so focussed on the delicious treat on our own plate. Mine was called 'Bula' - for the Fijian cacao farm - and had a smooth milk chocolate ganache and pieces of cacao bean to lend it some texture. It was very, very good. If I remember correctly Mum's had a cardamom filling, but due to my haste to gobble mine down I can't tell you what it tasted like! Perhaps she'll oblige in the comments.

At the end of our gluttony (almost) we were each presented with a certificate of chocolate appreciation. Well, I have appreciated chocolate for pretty much my entire life - but I learnt heaps from this day and definitely gained a finer appreciation for it. She Chocolat also have a Chocolate School, which sounds fantastic - you learn the hands-on stuff - and of course if you're just wanting the food component the restaurant is open to the public. And, trust me, the tour makes a truly great birthday present!

She Chocolat is located at 79 Main Road, Governors Bay, Lyttelton, Christchurch, ph 03 329 9222,


  1. ooh that lunch platter looks delish! What a cool experience :)

  2. I have never heard of them! Might have to check them out when I'm in Christchurch if I have time. Actually if you have any other Christchurch foodie recommendations please let me know - would love to do something for my blog while I'm there.

  3. Jacksta, it was great! If you're ever in Christchurch I highly recommend it. :-)

    Sarah, they haven't been around all that long so perhaps that's why - I think you'd love it though, and it is a spectacular location. We did really love Cook'n with Gas when we went there in April - pretty honest food, great flavours, and the veggie option Hamish had was very yummy which is a good sign. Will you visit your friend Bernard while you're there? ;-)

  4. ooooh yay another Canterbury blogger!! Hi!

    I adore this cafe. I have only visited once, by chance, and had one of their AMAZING hot chocolates and keep nagging my husband to take me back there again. One day!!
    your birthday treat looks absolutely amazing.

  5. Hi Widge! Mmm, She's hot chocolate is good!

    I'm actually living in Wellington now - moved from Christchurch about a year ago - but am in good old Chch pretty often as both mine and Mr Cake's family are there. :-)

  6. Hello again! Oh your blog doesn't seem to email replies, that's a shame. Yes I will visit Bernard for sure! Last visit I only went once, I am really hoping to go more than that this time. There just isn't a vegetarian Chinese place as good as that here. Hundreds of veg restaurants in London but I still miss the Welcome.

    I forgot what I was going to say last time I commented - you should be able to get the Lindt sea salt chocolate in NZ. It's very very nice. I know I've tried other salty chocolates lately, can't think what they are, but the Lindt is the one you're most likely to get hold of and it's good. My huge weakness at the moment is salted caramel....

  7. When logged in I get a 'subscribe by email' link just under the comment box on the right - does that not show up for you? Please let me know if not as I will try to figure out how to make that work.

    Yes, the Lindt sea salt has just started appearing here - I have tried it once and love it but have been trying to avoid buying chocolate. Might have to drop some hints for Christmas, though. ;-)

  8. Last time I was in Christchurch I stopped by this place for a quick chocolate fix - but you seem to have had the full experience! Maybe I should take my Grandma on a tour next time I'm down there.

    Have you had their Decadent Dates? They sell them at Commonsense up here. And they're out of this world.

  9. I haven't tried the decadent dates, though I understand that's what started it all. Good to know they're available here - or is it? ;-)


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