Max Brenner Chocolates is "creating a new chocolate culture". It certainly has - Cadbury Dairy Milk just doesn't cut it for me any more. It's got to be 70% cocoa solids or nothing, baby.
Max Brenner Chocolate Bars are located in Oxford St, Paddington as well as, quirkily enough, the Manly ferry terminal. This I only discovered by accident when I took my visiting mother to see The Other Side of Sydney. It was uncomfortably windy and cold and with half an hour to kill before our ferry left we resorted to investigating the sheltered ferry terminal as a last resort for some interesting shops. Our huddled windswept selves browsed amongst the overpriced made-in-china koalas and I avoided looking at the grease-pit chicken kebab onna sticks. But lo and behold this chocolate oasis appeared in my view.
My first experience with Max Brenner was serendipitous as well. I found the Oxford St store, usually jam-packed with young Asian females, stylish shopping ladies and young couples on dates, during a shopping expedition in Sydney. It is a small location and usually has a queue of people waiting for their delicious hot chocolate and other dessert treats on cold days. I was doing my usual Paddington shopping-crawl, it was a hot summer's day and I was feeling a little exhausted from the incessant fashion value analysis. A glass pane and a white plate on an old window-seat table caught my eye. I looked closely and discovered a perfectly formed strawberry, some sort of heart-shaped chocolate and some other kinds of small desserts. The woman partaking of this plate of luxury was eating it with a knife and fork. The ultimate in gastronomic indulgence - dessert eaten with two implements.
I resolved to check out this place. I went into the narrow shop, avoiding the shelves of display chocolates overflowing their tins - ample granules of dark, milk and white beans spread out with so much abandon.
The shop has a front café section and a back retail part. The back has handmade Israeli chocolates for sale in gift boxes as well as all the implements for their signature hot drink - the suckao. My first taste of Max Brenner magic was their dark chocolate espresso frappe. A chilled blend of ice, dark chocolate and espresso. Just the thing to perk one up on a hot summer's day.
At Manly, Max Brenner has obviously anticipated its demand and created ample and roomy seating. My mother and friend ordered a milk chocolate suckao.
The large ovoid vessels contain a metal insert that is heated with a tea light. To commence hot chocolate imbibation one pours milk from the milk jugs into the heated insert then gently spoons in the chocolate granules; you can see these lazily spread out on their little platters. The metal spoon doubles as a straw as the long stem is hollow. So one can spoon in chocolate, sip the velvety smooth drink and eat the melted chocolate, in whatever order one wishes - this is surely the only way to partake of hot chocolate.
I ordered a hazelnut hug mug: hot chocolate prepared for me by the expert chocolatiers and whipped to a light froth. Incorporating air into chocolate beverages enhances the flavour I was told.
We couldn't resist their dessert menu and also ordered a sunken chocolate souffle cake.
For balance we included the strawberry Belgian waffle. We all need some fruit you know.
My mother was so impressed with her chocolate experience that she wanted to take away a memento. We bought her a suckao gift set and a tin of chocolate beans so she could enjoy the experience at home.
I love indulging in my mother (and my father) when I can. They've scrimped and saved all their lives to raise my sister and myself and it's only now, close to their retirement and the kids supporting themselves, that they are allowing themselves to enjoy life's little luxuries.
Later that week whilst checking into their flight home I had a horrible thought: those metal suckao straws were very knitting needle-like; and we all know that those crafty weapons of personal destruction are definitely not allowed on carry-on luggage. There was a mad rush at check-in to remove the straws and quickly insert them into their check-in luggage. Phew.