Review: Cocoa Kitchen, Pop-up Tapas Event, September 14th

White choc pesto

Welcome to the age of pop-ups and what a fun age it is. No longer tied to locations, rents, fixed times and dates, anyone with an idea for an event and a good amount of enthusiasm can start entertaining. This means themed events, ranging from Jamaican supper clubs to breakfasts on rooftops. Yet we are also in an age of experimentation, pushing the boundaries of what could be considered food, of what flavours go together. Out of this innovative gastronomic climate, Cocoa Kitchen was born – a pop-up that focuses on using chocolate in all dishes, both savoury and sweet.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, founders Annette Boraks and Jeremy Wickremer met through their shared passion for food. In the winter of 2010, Jeremy was organising a food festival and advertised on Gumtree for event organisers. “I responded on the spot,” explains Annette, “as it was the ideal combination: events, something I am experienced in and enjoy, and food – my true passion!  We met and became friends on the spot.”

This led to a friendship firmly founded in food, but it wasn’t until early 2013 that they decided to organise pop-ups themselves. Their inspiration stemmed from an event on how to organise pop-up restaurants where four entrepreneurs from the dining industry shared their experiences.

“I remember my favourite speaker was Ceviche’s owner, Martin Morales, a Peruvian who came to London and put almost everything he had at stake to open his first restaurant, “ Annette recounts. “His funny and touching life story was what made me believe that anyone can do it. You just need to do it! After the event, Jeremy and I were exploding with excitement and energy. We didn’t even have to say it – it was already obvious we had to do something with that energy.”

Jeremy had already founded Ubuntu Chocolate, and given the general absence of any savoury chocolate dishes, the duo quickly spied a niche. They then invited Rado Andrian to join the team, bringing wine and cocktail expertise to the project. Just four months later, in July 2013, Cocoa Kitchen launched their first event, a three-course dinner. This included Michel Bras’ dark chocolate and blue cheese aperitif and the tantalisingly intriguing combination of white chocolate mashed potato with dark chocolate and sesame tiger prawns.

The chocolate tapas dining event, however, was a more casual affair to match the style of dining. We went along to Kingly Court, Soho, to find an open kitchen with stalls scattered around worktop tables.  Several appetising plates were crammed next to bottles of various beverages and glasses. It was clear that this evening was not purely about the food: it would be an opportunity to talk with other foodies and acknowledge that you were all eyeing up the large saucepan of chocolate melting on the stove.

Temptation

After some drinks, chit-chat and a lot of self-restraint, we were presented with a bowl of different types of chocolate and Jeremy talked us through the tasting. Needless to say this just whetted our appetites, and we soon were diving into the other tapas dishes.

Some of our favourites included:

White choc pesto

Cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with white chocolate pesto
The pesto was simply stunning. The chocolate not only sweetened the flavour but added a smoothness that meant it could have been eaten by the spoonful without anything else.

Tapas

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Butternut squash, red onion and feta, drizzled with chocolate
Butternut squash and feta is simply one of the best flavour combinations that exists – sweetness and tanginess rolled into one, but the chocolate brought these flavours out even more clearly on the tongue.

Roasted peppers

Roasted peppers stuffed with ricotta, white chocolate, garlic and other secret ingredients
This could never fail as who could resist garlicky, cheesiness with a mild sweetness inside perfectly cooked peppers?

Dates with goats cheese and choc

Perhaps not surprisingly given that their event was attended by some serious chocolate lovers, but the star of the evening was the sweetest: dates stuffed with goats’ cheese, drizzled in chocolate. There is no way that words can do justice to the flavour experience but they almost dispelled the warm, sociable atmosphere as we snatched them off the plates in a desperate frenzy.

The chocolate raspberry and chocolate orange cocktails were equally praiseworthy. They provided the most intense chocolate flavour of the evening – warm, rich and too thick to gulp quickly, tempting though that was. We mingled whilst sipping these, and happily chatted among the embarrassingly numerous piles of discarded cocktail sticks, a testament to just how much everyone enjoyed the food.

People stayed late and the question on their lips on leaving was what would be coming up next. Fortunately, there will be no-one suffering from chocolate withdrawal symptoms: Cocoa Kitchen have big ambitions for the future. As Annette explains, “We would like to regularly host events that gather inspiring and wonderful people, to create a cocoa community, where we share experiences and cool stuff. Practically speaking, we would like to challenge the limited the cooking presents us with, explore new ways of cooking, new ways of using chocolate in our everyday lives.

And who wouldn’t raise a chocolate cocktail to that?

For more information and for future events, head to:

http://www.cocoakitchen.com/

Mushrooms stuffed with parmesan, cocoa powder, rosemary, breadcrumbs

Mushrooms stuffed with parmesan, cocoa powder, rosemary, breadcrumbs

Avocado, chocolate and agave syrup

Avocado, chocolate and agave syrup

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