Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Chocolate covered table: a visit to Sue Lewis

Autumn. A morning walk across the park. Glorious sunshine. Ice-blue skies. Ducks quacking contentedly on the calm waters of the lake. Me, slipping on a patch of Moreton Bay figs, and falling on my arse in public.

My 11 year old is concerned. “Are you okay?” he asks, “Will you still be able to walk to the chocolate shop?”

The kid has his priorities straight, I’ll give him that.

We are on Excelsior Street which is possibly one of the most characterful streets in Perth, given its row of huge Moreton Bay fig trees. Their roots turn up the cement of the path, their thick branches and leaves create an amazing avenue all along the roadside, and their fruit, when it drops and turns to mush, is, quite literally, a pain in the arse when it makes you fall hard on the pavement.

I am, however, physically fine (though my dignity has been a little ruffled) and we continue in our pursuit of chocolate.

Sue Lewis Chocolatier has set up her premises on Derby Road in Shenton Park. It’s a hobbit hole of a shop – all it needs is a circular door – a small terrace out the front leads through the door to the display area and immediately behind that is the kitchen.

Sue is there, smiley and welcoming, as she works on salted caramel Easter eggs. Her marble table is covered in good things – bowls of melted chocolate, chocolate shells ready to be filled, chocolate-covered spoons and spatulas.

“Do you mind if I take some pictures for my blog?” She is fine with that, although she suggests that I might not want to take any shots of the ‘messy parts’. To me though, it’s all beautiful – from the glass stands of handcrafted chocolates through to the chocolate-drizzled work-station. She allows me to come through and watch her work as she mixes salted-caramel.

11 year old points out the platter of brownies on one counter and the chocolate frogs by the cash register. He’s like a kid in a candy store. He is a kid in a candy store. We have a mini tasting session – we try the salted caramel chocolate which has a superb salt-to-sweetness balance within the silky texture of the caramel. We try the honey & thyme chocolate too, sharing half a bite each. It’s also good, very good, aromatic and earthy, but we can understand why Sue is known best for her salted-caramel creations.

While 11 year old decides which flavours of chocolates we are going to take home with us, Sue tells me that she deliberately chose the Derby Road premises because she wanted to have a shop that allowed her to make the chocolates on site. It certainly adds to the flavour of the place to be able to see Sue at work while we are there. There’s nothing quite like an artisan producing the products that they love with passion. There's nothing quite like the smell of warm chocolate permeating the whole room.

There are chocolate-making classes for the public. After a civilised glass of sparkling wine, visitors and their friends can learn to temper chocolate on the table, learn the art of home-tempering as well as moulding chocolate (the choc frogs are the work of Sue’s students) and making ganache. I take a card and store up the information for a few interested friends. I know that I want to go to a class as soon as I can find the time.

We leave with a ribbon-tied box in which we have:

4 salted-caramel chocolates

2 honey & thyme chocolates

2 stout chocolates

2 ginger & black cardamom chocolates

2 raspberry chocolates

I let 11 year old hold the box on the way home and we tread carefully around the Moreton Bay figs lest we take a tumble and squash our precious cargo. It’s been a lovely morning. We’ve had a walk, we’ve had some quality time together, we’ve tasted some delicious confectionery, but most importantly, as 11 year old said “I feel like we made a friend.”

I think visiting Sue in her chocolate shop might become a regular excursion for us. We’ll definitely head back to visit our ‘friend’ before Easter. I have salted caramel eggs to buy.

Plus a chocolate class to organise.

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