This year I could return to London for a longer period, first time since I left at the end of 2011. It’s been over ten years! I visited fairly often in the following years, at least once a year pre-pandemic, but this year was the first time when I could stay for a couple of months and my stay wasn’t about chasing work, my focus was not on financial survival, like during the four years when I lived in the UK. And how different it felt this time! Within certain limits I was free to enjoy everything the city offers and that’s a lot. Coming from such a homogeneous society as Hungarian is, London is mindblowing. You have to approach it consciously, otherwise a breakdown or burn-out is guaranteed. It’s hectic, noisy, posh, fast-pacing and all-consuming. At the same time, it’s colourful, rich, diverse, inclusive and exciting. And you can experience all this within a single day.
The last day of a holiday-like trip may feel a bit nostalgic or melancholic, especially if you are attached to a place with a thousand strings, but this time it happened differently. I decided to make the most of it and took the day off. Around midday I found myself at Coal Drops Yard, a public space that forms part of the King’s Cross Central development scheme, opened in October 2018. Even the weather was kind enough and let me wander around aimlessly. It is a shopping complex next to Regent’s Canal, with designer boutiques, restaurants and open air events at your disposal.
I spotted an Alain Ducasse chocolate shop and entered it without knowing what awaits. Alain Ducasse is considered to be one of the world’s best chefs and he created his own chocolate range too, produced in France. Understandably, it falls within the luxury category. They are present in France, the UK and Japan. I am not drawn to luxury in general and not because I cannot afford those products. Well, maybe it is partly because I cannot afford those products, it has never been otherwise so probably I would buy them if I could. In any case, entering the shop I got a taste of luxury and I did like it. The place is designed to seduce your senses but I love chocolate so I didn’t need much convincing anyway.
The manager was the real gem of the shop though. We had a chat about chocolate and I didn’t hide my commitment to it. I am not talking about the chocolate-like bars you can find in any supermarket but those that actually contain cocoa beans and come from sustainable sources. I have tasted really good-quality products but an Alain Ducasse chocolate was an entirely new dimension to me. I was offered a piece to taste their vegan bar and it was heavenly. When I mentioned that I am enjoying my last day in London, the lovely Frenchman disappeared for a minute and returned with a box of pralinés then handed it over to me as a farewell-gift. I was speechless. Just think into what’s happened there. I walked into a shop of a luxury brand, clearly without the buying power, and not only because I was about to leave the city. Likely, the manager sensed that I genuinely appreciated their products and he might have even enjoyed our short conversation. Instead of focusing on their revenues and the next potential costumer, he chose to be kind and make my day. How precious is that! And doing so, involuntarily, he made me their future loyal customer.
I have mentioned sustainabilty for a reason. It’s important to me and the lack of it is one of the reasons I avoid certain brands. After calming down and before tasting the pralinés, I did check the credentials of Alain Ducasse. You don’t find much information rearding their ethos on their website, but doing a bit of research I was overjoyed to find that sustainability is as important for them as it is for me. It is the driving force of the whole A.D. Empire. They are an advocate of transparency, local sourcing, and when it comes to coffee and chocolate, ethical and sustainable sourcing is a must. They have also introduced a zero-waste policy, which, according to my knowledge, is extremely rare in this price-range, and likely elsewhere too.
It is probably needless to mention that the pralinés I received are exceptional, without using any nasty ingredients and high-sugar contect, that are so typical of commercial chocolates.
I highly recommend tasting their products, at least once, the smaller bars are more affordable than the big box I was gifted, and it is totally worth it. You will be in for a real treat and a moment of genuine luxury.
💓 A final love-note to the Alain Ducasse Empire: please shout about your vision of a sustainable world on your chocolatey website too. I did the research because I was interested but others may not take the time to read through interviews and dig the net for relevant information. It’s important to your costumers and your competitors alike to see that you are different. The latter may even follow suit and goodness how much we need that!
To the lovely gentleman in their London shop: Thank you!