I can't believe I've never reviewed anything from Gareth James Chocolatier before, not only is he a Newcastle chocolatier but his shop, located in Tynemouth Front Street, is literally a stones throw away from my old 6th form. I remember the day the shop opened and with them just celebrating their 1 year anniversary I thought it was about time I got my act together and saw what they were all about!
The owner, Gareth Mellor, is only 20, but has created a gorgeous looking shop filled with a selection of bars, brownies and chocolates galore, made fresh in the kitchen space directly above the shop floor, having worked and trained under Paul A Young for 10 months and with many a pastry chef job under his belt I was really expecting good things from his chocolates.
I picked up one of his Caramel & Banana chocolate bars at the Chocolate EAT Festival in Newcastle , but I really had to review his selection of truffles and ganaches that I received as a gift, all hand selected from Gareth's shop, first.
Firstly I have to say, visually, they look lovely, wrapped in a sellophane bag with a printed ribbon, the chocolates inside looked simple yet sophisticated, either plain, wrapped in foil, or splashed with colour. The selection I had in my bag were : Vanilla, Sea Salted Caramel, Strawberry, Lemon, Classic Milk & Raspberry.
Vanilla - 9.1/10
There is nothing more I enjoy than a good fresh vanilla chocolate and this delivered superbly. It was like Hotel Chocolat's Vanilla Mousse au Chocolat, but far more elegant and sumptuous. The texture inside was heaven, a very smooth like ganache substance that literally melted away on the tongue, with real flecks of vanilla, that despite being coated in white chocolate wasn't too sweet whatsoever but more of a creamy dreamy wonderland! I certainly would come back for another one of these.
Sea Salted Caramel - 8.6/10
This chocolate consisted of a very liquid caramel centre coated in deep dark chocolate with a slight hint of salt. The texture again I have to say was amazing, I maybe would have liked the caramel to be slightly thicker, but it was no where near runny enough that it could pose a problem eating it. The salt was present but not intrudingly so, just offering a nice background to the sweet caramel filling that contrasted perfectly with the dark chocolate exterior.
The best lemon chocolate I have ever tasted. Honestly, it really was. Whenever I try lemon chocolates I always find that they seem to taste of bleach, not that I have ever tasted bleach, but they just give off an awful vibe of cleaning products! This chocolate however was far from it, splashed with yellow flecks and with a smooth almost lemon curd like filling it was delicious. The lemon flavour has to be the freshest lemon flavour I have ever had and was like eating a lemon meringue pie in a chocolate, with the slight citrus tartness it offered complementing the sweeter vanilla white chocolate.
Strawberry - 7/10
The Strawberry was probably the least of my favourite chocolates in the bunch, by no means was it bad, it just wasn't amazing. The strawberry flavour was present as a light fruity note but was mainly over powered by the deep rich truffle and the dark exterior, providing just a slight lingering flavour, for me I would have just liked a little bit more strawberry. However the texture, again, was divine, the stuff of heaven, literally just melting on the tongue.
Raspberry - 8.2/10
The Raspberry Truffle nevertheless did please my taste buds! It literally felt like you were biting into a fresh raspberry that had been coated in the most luxurious dark chocolate. The smooth thick truffle filling was deep and flavourful yet still allowed the full tang of the fruity raspberry to come through, this chocolate was fresh and zingy yet dark and sumptuous all at once. Definately one to try!
Classic Milk Truffle - 8/10
This was probably the simplest of Gareth's chocolates, just a milk chocolate truffle coated in creamy milk chocolate. This is where you can normally tell whether a chocolatier can excel, when there are no frills attached, just a simple milk chocolate truffle, and oh how it was good. The truffle centre melted away in the mouth provided a creamy milky completely moreish chocolate experience!
After trying Gareth's chocolates I can't believe I haven't tried any of his stuff earlier. The textures, were one of the best I have ever had, with the filling and exterior being in perfect proportion. Yet despite the textures being superb he still followed up with excellent flavours. All chocolates taste so fresh and you can really tell there is no hidden nasties in there, that these are fresh, good, pure quality chocolates. I would recommend anyone who is in the Newcastle area to pop down to his shop, as I hear its not only his chocolates that are good but also his brownies..yes I tried a bit at the Chocolate Festival..wow is all I can say, so get yourselves down there!
Taste - 8.6/10 - An absolutely gorgeous selection of chocolates.
Texture - 9.6/10 - Couldn't fault the textures at all, they were superb.
Appearance - 8.3/10 - Simple yet sophisticated and wrapped in a lovely bag, they look a really nice treat.
Price - NA/10 - I'm not sure what these are priced at as I was bought them for a gift, but to be honest I would be willing to pay more than the going rate for these, they were that good.
Overall - 8.8/10 - Anyone who hasn't tried some of these is definately missing out, certainly an excellent up and coming chocolatier making the North East proud!
You can find more information about Gareth James' chocolates on his facebook page linked here.