I couldn't imagine going into business with my brother. Or any family member. But brother and sister team Alex and Fanny Chan have done just that, and look sheepishly happy for it.
It's been a series of serendipitous events and deliberate detours that led to the creation of Boon Chocolates, one of the latest handmade chocolate boutiques to open in Sydney. Listening to her heart and making a dramatic change in career path, Fanny commenced training as a pastry chef before switching to the intricate and fragile workmanship of chocolatemaking. Honing her skills in both France and Belgium, the greatest influence on her craft has been her work with Boon Chocolates in Hesselt, Belgium.
"We are like family," Fanny says, with a quiet smile. "They always call me when it's my birthday."
"Two of our chocolates are named after their kids", says Alex.
Alex, a food technologist, is the more outgoing of the two. The middle child in a family of five children (Fanny is the youngest), he's warm and friendly, and keen to show us the range of chocolates on show in the glass cabinets.
Rojo Balsa (red bag) croc print foldover clutch $125
made entirely from chocolate and gold leaf and filled with pralines
I'd seen pictures of the chocolate handbag, but up close and in person, it's a stunning example of engineering and edible art. A Japanese businessmen came in on Valentine's Day and immediately ordered twenty of them, Alex tells us.
Dark chocolate ganache infused with fresh mint leaves
Milk chocolate ganache infused with cardamom and peach
Hazelnut praline, black sesame and rice crispies
Sample chocolate gift boxes
5 pieces $12, 8 pieces $16, 16 pieces $30
Chocolate carry bags
Dark chocolate heart
The chocolate wheel in the production kitchen
Chocolatesuze and I are in heaven. Heading upstairs to the Boon Terrace Lounge--a cosy dim-lit tea room decked out in dark greys, chocolate browns and Florence Broadhurst style wallpaper--we agonise for ten minutes over the menu, then head back downstairs and agonise over which chocolates to sample.
The tables are deliberately small--for sharing and for more romance, says Alex with a wink. In addition to lounge chairs and throw cushions, there's a long bench table and stools that remind me of chess pieces.
Milk hot chocolate $7.50
served with chocolate mousse and a Boon praline
Pictured is the JASMINE - dark chocolate ganache infused with jasmine tea
Our hot chocolates arrive in funky Scandinavian-style mugs with squared off edges on an assymetrical platter. The shiny silver trays immediately prompt me to ask Alex about polishing. "They do take a while to polish," he admits, "just like the perspex counter above the chocolates downstairs. The fingerprint marks are okay but some kids will actually push their tongues against it!"
Dark hot chocolate $7.50
served with chocolate mousse and a Boon praline
Pictured is the SAIGON Milk chocolate ganache infused with fresh lemongrass
My dark hot chocolate is amazingly good. It's not terribly thick or heavy, but there's a strong heartiness of cocoa and real chocolate with a slight bitter aftertaste that's reassuring. It's not too sweet either, a humble but satisfying drink that doesn't leave you feeling ill by the end of it.
The Saigon milk chocolate has quite a strong lemongrass flavour, but I find myself preferring the relative lightness of the Jasmine dark chocolate.
Chocolate teaser plate $7.50
Five of your favourite chocolate pieces chosen by you
(we had one extra)
(Clockwise from top):
ISABELLA – Dark chocolate ganache with Mexican chilli
EL CORAZON – Limited edition Valentines Day heart of white chocolate
filled with rose and champagne
NATALY - Milk chocolate ganache infused with cardamom and peach
KUROBIKO - Hazelnut praline, black sesame and rice crispies
BALSAMICO - Strawberry milk chocolate ganache
accented with balsamic vinegar
PASH! - Passionfruit and caramel praline
Sliced with precision by the accommodating Alex for taste testing
Alex kindly dissects each chocolate so Suze and I can share, and even here, there is much discussion on the best order to eat our chocolates. We start with the El Corazon, a heart shape with painted rose petals. It's an elegant and unusual blend of white chocolate flavoured with rose and champagne.
Nataly seems to alternate between flavours of cardamom and peach, but certainly not the strong Indian flavour I'd been expecting. Balsamico is my favourite, a not-too-sweet chocolate that balances sweetness with intense strawberry. The Kurobiko is like an Asian version of rice crispy chocolate with the smoky nutty addition of black sesame seeds and the smooth sweetness of hazelnut praline.
Pash! is a close second in my favourites. The flavour of passionfruit is amazing. I finish with the Isabella, the tingle of chilli hitting my palate within seconds and lingering for moments afterwards. It's like a party in my mouth, I say to a giggling Suze. Oh, and here comes the conga line! I continue.
Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and almonds $14.50
with vanilla bean ice cream and Boon chocolate sauce
Chocolatesuze demonstrates the chocolate-pouring "money shot"
Waffles are a dessert I usually avoid for fear of encountering a sugar-crusted sickly sweet pre-made and re-toasted disaster. There's no chance of that here, a freshly made waffle that is light and airy with a perfect golden crust. The vanilla bean ice cream is silky smooth and resplendent with real vanilla flavour. The chocolate sauce isn't overly sweet either - we empty the entire jug and polish the lot. Fresh strawberries and flaked almonds offer a counterbalance and textural contrast too.
On the morning after Valentine's Day, Boon had already updated its window display to promote the upcoming Sydney Mardi Gras.
"And soon it will be Easter!" says Fanny, a note of panic in her voice. "I haven't even started my Easter chocolates!"
We dined courtesy of Boon Chocolates, with thanks to Alex and Fanny for their time and hospitality.
Fanny and Alex Chan
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251 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9356 8876
Tuesday to Wednesday 12noon - 8.30pm
Thursday to Saturday 12noon - 10.30pm
Sunday 12noon - 7.00pm
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2/19/2009 12:55:00 a.m.