Somehow I managed to live in Islington for several months before I realized that hidden away just off of busy, somewhat chain-fied Upper Street is Camden Passage, a series of pretty, pedestrianized walkways lined with small (read: non-chain), charming shops.
Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates is one of these shops.
London being a great world city, there’s no shortage of high-end, artisanal chocolateries in town. There’s L’Artisan du Chocolat, purveyors of chocolates to restos as revered as the Fat Duck and located just east of uber-posh Sloane Square. (Though it feels disloyal to my ‘hood to say so, the jasmine tea chocolates and the chocolate-covered almonds at L’Artisan are pretty damn delish).
But in the end, there’s no place like [the] home [neighborhood], and I like that when I walk into Paul Young, the service is friendly, casual, but knowledgeable. Paul Young himself (he of the flaming red hair) is often working in the shop, and the chocolate flavors offered, just like good restaurant menus, always change. Admittedly, some of the flavors, like marmite-and-Ingredient du Jour, are so “creative” as to not appeal to me and my relatively boring chocolate tastes.
Last weekend, I brought our visiting-from-NY-and-DC friends, Laura and Julie, to Paul Young, and while Laura picked out two boxes of chocolates (they’re so fresh and delicate that the shop insists you eat them within five days of purchase – a challenge we can all rise to, no?), Jon and I pigged out on free samples of brownies so rich that you begin to think you’d gladly pay the £2.75 for one, except then you consider the size of those things and you wonder how one person could possibly finish something that dense and intense?
So we kept things “light” and opted instead for the ice cream covered in hot chocolate. One scoop of chocolate brownie-and-pecan ice cream, and another of rose petal-masala ice cream. Both flavors tasty on their own, but even more fun when the molten chocolate poured on top immediately turned into a rich, bittersweet shell as it hit the ice cream. Like a high-end Magic Shell.
Definitely make Paul Young a destination if you even sort of like chocolate. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, then read the New York Times article about it.