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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Boon Chocolates, Darlinghurst

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

View Larger Map
Boon on Urbanspoon

Boon Chocolates
251 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9356 8876

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Wednesday 12noon - 8.30pm
Thursday to Saturday 12noon - 10.30pm
Sunday 12noon - 7.00pm

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20 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/19/2009 12:55:00 am


  • At 2/19/2009 1:21 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Wow...they really are the prettiest chocolates I've seen in Sydney...especially the shiny red one!

    That was very generous of them to treat you guys! I was wondering if there are a lot of seats upstairs and whether you can (or should) book?

  • At 2/19/2009 2:37 am, Blogger Jo said…

    my friends and i went past this place after a friend's birthday nearby at the victoria room and we were contemplating for ages whether to go in or not since it looked so expensive. now i really must go thanks to your review!

  • At 2/19/2009 6:34 am, Blogger spicyicecream said…

    keverything looks so perfect, especially those waffles! Can't wait to go and check it out!

  • At 2/19/2009 7:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    They only open at 12pm? What, no breakfast chocolate? :)

  • At 2/19/2009 10:19 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    ooo i love cardamon. Did they have any lavender one as well, they are lovely. I was surprised by the lemongrass one, would'nt it be overpowered by dark choc?

  • At 2/19/2009 10:40 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love the photo of the gloved hand and the chocolates. It looks so forensic. The chocolates look great, the flavours sound so exotic.

  • At 2/19/2009 12:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    OH mannnn XD drooled all over this at Chocolatesuze's site and now drooling over it on yours' XD
    I really like that plate haha and the waffle with the money shot looks absolute bliss mmmm ^^!

  • At 2/20/2009 12:39 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Karen - There aren't many seats upstairss - I'd guess it could seat about 15 at a pinch and four on the little terrace outside. Perhaps give them a ring to check what they recommend. Alex and Fanny are both lovely :)

    Hi Jo - I agree that sometimes boutique chocolate shops can seem a little overwhelming. But the owners are super friendly and in addition to the individual chocolates they have little cellophane bags of chocolates for sale too. The hot chocolate is quite reasonable too given that it comes with a chocolate and mini chocolate mousse!

    Hi Lisa - The waffles were fantastic. I'm usually a sceptic when it comes to waffles but these really won me over.

    Hi Simon - Breakfast is the first meal of the day right? Have a sleep-in. Problem solved!

    Hi Tara - I can't remember a lavendar one but I know that Fanny is always working on new flavours. The lemongrass flavour did carry above the dark chocolate. I'm used to savoury lemongrass with chilli and pork so the tastebuds were a little confused!

    Hi Arwen - Oh I thought the glove was more akin to a jeweller handling precious gems. The chocolates were works of art - you really do appreciate how much work goes into them.

    Hi FFichiban - Suze really worked the camera with the money shot :)

  • At 2/20/2009 4:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Awww I blogged about Boon too. Not to mention how yummy this place is, but I really liked the whole branding!

    I've got to go back for the hot chocolate next time. It looks yummy!

  • At 2/20/2009 7:55 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen, it takes genius and out-of-the-box thinking to come up with ideas like that. Brilliant!

  • At 2/20/2009 5:05 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I'll have a boon chocolate handbag over a designer label one anytime!

  • At 2/21/2009 8:40 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - The Boon logo is exactly the same as its Belgian inspiration, although I'm told it's not really considered an official offshoot or Australian branch. The branding is great though and you really must try their hot chocolates!

    Hi Simon - Do you mean the chocolate handbag? I don't think I could bring myself to eat it!

    Hi Divemummy - Is that a hint? lol

  • At 2/21/2009 10:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Actually I meant about waking up late :)

    If you take enough photos, couldn't you have your handbag and eat it too?

  • At 2/22/2009 10:13 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Simon - lol!

  • At 3/10/2009 12:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love boon! It's a great experience. You have very lovely photos for all the beautiful chocolates and chocolate pouring. It's making me hungry just thinking about it.

  • At 3/11/2009 9:36 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anita - Boon is a wonderful shop. Always great to meet food suppliers who are so committed and emotionally intertwined with their product. Glad you appreciate it too :)

  • At 8/22/2009 1:56 pm, Anonymous Koe said…

    wow!! another cafe to indulge myself in
    i'll definitely try the hot choco , looks soo yummy x)
    for the waffle, do you reckon their waffle more delicious than max b , lindts, or not?
    i want to take a friend to the best waffle in Sydney, he loves waffle :p

  • At 8/24/2009 2:40 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Koe - I think I liked the waffle here best - it was freshly made and a little fluffier on the inside. However perhaps you and your friend should do a waffle tour and make up your own minds :)

  • At 7/13/2011 12:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi, I was looking for a website for the original Boon shop in Hasselt, as i was just there with a friend who lives close by and we went to the Boon cafe and shop. The drinks and chocolates were amazing and i am slowly eating the 18 specialised chocolates i bought there. Lissa

  • At 7/19/2011 11:54 pm, Blogger the teej said…

    Boon was such a disappointment the other night. Chocolates were nice but there was major attitude. And what's up with the 'no photos' rule?


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