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.


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.


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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:

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

Taste of Christmas 2012

Christmas cupcakes

Taste of Christmas Review
Friday, December 7th 2012

What should Christmas taste like? Mulled wine and cinnamon? Turkey and cranberry? Or how about celebrity chef demonstrations, free tastings and over 200 fine food and boutique stalls?

Fortunately, these choices aren’t mutually exclusive. Mulled wine and turkey could be found, along with overwhelming food diversity, at Taste of Christmas 2012, a giant, three-day food festival, which also runs Taste of London in the summer.

Opening early on the Friday, the queues moved swiftly as eager foodies poured into the Excel exhibition space, decked out with Christmas trees, sparkles and a band stand, complete with live acts that progressed through a Christmassy repertoire all day long.

Yet whilst organisers understood the need to brighten the room with festive cheer, they did not anticipate the demand to see Jamie Oliver take to the stage, resulting in a confused crowd crushed around seats that were crammed with ‘VIP ticket’ guests.

Jamie 2

Any discomfort, however, was soon forgotten as Jamie bounded onto the stage and launched into a live cooking demonstration. With his down-to-earth attitude, it’s easy to see why he is so popular. Only Jamie can make a dish as fancy as beef carpaccio seem accessible, declaring his love for “rustic” restaurants as “it feels more like home”. His dedication to good food is also extremely admirable. He invited his first boss, Gennaro, an Italian chef and pasta expert, to make pasta live on stage, and, of course, they both made it look effortlessly simple.

Jamie 4 Jamie 3

For Taste visitors keen to get stuck into actual tasting, there were regular, and free, cheese and wine-tasting sessions, and cookery classes with prominent chefs. However, a visit to Taste is mostly – and unavoidably – spent perusing the overwhelming amount of produce, and guilt-free tasting in the name of Christmas shopping. This necessarily involves a systematic sampling of the cheese producers’ goods. Special mention goes to Snowdonia Cheese Company’s extremely garlicky and herby Green Thunder, which is perfect for avoiding kissing relatives at Christmas, and to Khayri Olives’ feta cheese (which I bought at the BBC Good Food Show).  Coated in parsley, it’s not too tangy, not too bland, and not too crumbly – it is actually heaven.

Apple crisps, apple juice and chocolate-covered apple segments
Apple crisps, apple juice and chocolate-covered apple segments

Best snack award has to be given to Perry Court Farm’s freeze-dried apple crisps. With the selling points of one of your five a day, under 70 calories and fat-free, it’s hard to refuse. Personally, I think the main selling point is the ease of eating a bag of these compared to a real apple: it avoids the problem of sticky hands from juice.

Mr. Todiwala's Minted Mango & Ginger Relish

One of the most prominent foodstuffs of the show was chutneys. These ranged from Indian favourites to British classic; mango chutneys were found alongside piccalilli and red onion chutneys. Mr. Todiwala’s Minted Mango and Ginger Relish and Beetroot Chutney were notably good, but for those looking for something even more unusual, they even sell meat pickles, including prawn pickle and wild boar vindaloo pickle.

Vivek Singh

In line with this, Indian food is definitely in vogue. As well as chutneys and a range of curry sauces available from stalls, Vivek Singh, founder of renowned Indian restaurants The Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen, was presenting on stage. He deftly demonstrated his take on a Christmas dinner – a turkey dressed in a first marinade of ginger-garlic pasts and chilli powder, then coated in a second marinade of yoghurt, chilli, fenugreek, garam masala, fried onions and cashew nut paste. His new book, ‘Cinnamon Kitchen’ delves bravely into fusion cooking, with recipes for Rogan Josh Shepherd’s Pie and Keralan Seafood Pie.


For the sweet-toothed among us, there were plenty of cupcake stalls, with dazzling designs that looked too good to be eaten. Also popular was the chocolate section, featuring all kinds of near-unaffordable but seriously tempting confectionary. A Niche by Aneesh have concocted a dangerously good cardamom chocolate-coated coffee bean, sadly way beyond my means as a student. Fortunately, for visitors on a budget, Ferrero Rocher were showering passer-bys with freebies, including their new coconut and almond, and dark chocolate and almond flavours.


Visitors, who weren’t too stuffed from sampling or were without a dining ticket, could choose to lunch on street food or more upscale dishes from quality restaurants, although the dining setting for both was very much the same – benches and tables scattered around the hall.

The Bowler

Street food options included stews from Jamie’s Fabulous Feasts and tasty meatballs from The Bowler (sampled previously at the BBC Good Food Show). The restaurants section featured Indian cuisine from Cinnamon Kitchen and highly popular duck burgers from Comptoir Gascon. Salt Yard served up a Pedro Ximinez and Raisin Affogato – ice-cream embedded with Pedro Ximinez-soaked raisins, doused with a shot of espresso. It was wonderfully bitter and sweet.

Ice-cream embedded with Pedro Ximinez-soaked raisins, doused in a shot of espresso.
Ice-cream embedded with Pedro Ximinez-soaked raisins, doused with a shot of espresso.

Taste of Christmas is definitely a decadent and indulgent day out. But with entertaining demonstrations, fantastic quality produce, and great offers and Christmas gift sets, it’s impossible to feel too guilty if you occasionally treat yourselves as well as buying for others.

Check out the photos:


Pretty lights

Pure crunchy nut butter

Skull booze

Chocolate socks


Chocolate salami



Pretty pasta
Pretty pasta
Who doesn't want to eat a cupcake out of a robot's head?
Who doesn’t want to eat a cupcake out of a robot’s head?

More and more cheese

Fruit infusions

This made me laugh a ridiculous amount
This made me laugh a ridiculous amount

Cupcake towers

Fancy knife holders

More cheese