The art of choco­late - and more be­sides

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS -

L’Art Du Cho­co­lat Main Street, Maynooth, Co Kil­dare, 01-6291491 lartdu-cho­co­ Ni­co­las Bateau and Cyril Borie are from Bay­onne, a city in French Basque coun­try known as the choco­late cap­i­tal of France. Their work as a chef and pastry chef brought them to Ire­land, and the pair set up L’Art Du Cho­co­lat in 2013, op­er­at­ing out of a win­dow­less base­ment in the K Club for the first few years.

“It was a great way to start,” says Bateau, “but we were re­ally miss­ing some vi­ta­min D. We wanted a work­shop that could also be an open door to our cus­tomers.” They opened the doors of their choco­late bar on Maynooth’s Main Street in Novem­ber 2016.

It’s a fine show­room for their ca­cao creativ­ity. A clear win­dow sep­a­rates the work­shop space from the café so you can watch the choco­latiers work. A sky­light di­rectly over the work­shop show­ers the choco­latiers in vi­ta­min D as they pre­pare hun­dreds of choco­late Easter egg shells to be de­liv­ered to their whole­sale cus­tomers at the K Club, the Marker Ho­tel and the Shel­bourne.

Back in the café space, there are dis­play cab­i­nets and shelves for their cre­ations. There are white and yel­low choco­lates that look like fried eggs, and shards of pas­sion­fruit in­fused dark choco­late. There are cubes of rasp­berry ganache and a pâtis­serie sec­tion boast­ing glo­ri­ously sym­met­ri­cal lemon meringue tarts dec­o­rated with an el­e­gant touch of gold leaf.

I’m here for the choco­late so it’s a pleas­ant sur­prise to find a short and sim­ple but wellex­e­cuted clas­sic French lunch menu. These favourites, such as French onion soup and ham and cheese crois­sants, have be­come un­fairly as­so­ci­ated with dread­ful in­car­na­tions at petrol sta­tions and air­port cafés around Europe. I had al­most for­got­ten that a ham crois­sant (¤4.50) can ac­tu­ally taste good.

A veg­e­tar­ian Croque Monsieur (¤5.50) is a solid twist on a beloved clas­sic, the ham re­placed with soft goat cheese and roasted pep­pers. This sand­wich is com­plete with a touch of Béchamel sauce hid­den un­der a crispy grilled coat­ing of tangy cheese.

A hot-choco­late menu fea­tures six va­ri­eties. A cup of Caramel (¤4.50) is sweet but not overly so, sea­soned with salted but­ter to cut through that sugary caramel. A Gian­duja Milk Choco­late (¤4.50) is made from a choco­late spread in­fused with hazel­nut paste in­vented in Turin in the 1800s that pre­dates and out-tastes Nutella.

Flavoured drinks can blast the palate with sugary sweet­ness, but here bal­ance and sub­tlety are ap­plied to al­low space for the choco­late to shine through. I’m also im­pressed by the cof­fee (¤3.10 for a cap­puc­cino). It’s made with beans hand-roasted down the road in Cel­bridge by Alex Thorpe and Luigi Fanzini of Baobab Cof­fee Roast­ers.

At the mo­ment, L’Art Du Cho­co­lat are not a bean-to-bar op­er­a­tion but Borie says that they would like to move in that di­rec­tion in the fu­ture. Be­ing bean-to-bar means that you’re in con­trol of the en­tire process from ca­cao bean to prod­uct. In­stead, Bateau and Borie im­port the fa­mous French Val­rhona choco­late and tem­per it on­site in Maynooth. Their ex­per­tise lies in the tem­per­ing and, as their name sug­gests, choco­late art.

“We re­ally want to help ed­u­cate peo­ple about what good choco­late is,” says Bateau tells me. They’ve been host­ing choco­late mas­ter­classes to pass on their knowl­edge to their cus­tomers. Their next class is an Easter Spe­cial on Thurs­day April 13th. For more, see lartdu-cho­co­

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