16 November 2013

XXX Part II: Chocolate Tour and Grillshack

Although Thursday was my birthday, I spent it mainly at work, so the celebrations continued yesterday instead. We had an 11.45 date with Old Compton Street where a surprise awaited me: a chocolate walking tour around Soho and Mayfair. As a former tourist information centre employee, I've always enjoyed a good walking tour, and one that involves chocolate samples every few minutes is even more appealing. We had a great time, walking between several great chocolatiers, from Paul A. Young to Prestat and Charbonnel & Walker. The former was, I think, my favourite, with so many beautiful and tasty treats on offer.

We also stopped by the food hall of Fortnum & Mason, which had some impressive chocolates; plus, they were getting all Christmassy inside, which was nice. I tried one of the chai-flavoured chocolates, which came shaped like a tiny tea cup. Meanwhile, at Charbonnel & Walker, we tried one of the queen's personal favourites: a rose-flavoured chocolate, which reminded me of Turkish delight.

The walking tour was great fun and very informative, and you also get a 10% discount at most of the chocolatiers along the way, which was dangerous! As Christmas approaches, I've now got a few new gift ideas in my repertoire.

Although I wasn't exactly hungry after the tour, I was craving something savoury and as we were so close, we took the opportunity to visit Grill Shack, which opened on Beak Street a couple of months ago.

The concept is all-day, American-diner-style dining but with quality food and some cool techy features. You can order you food via the Grillshack app, for example, or at one of the touchscreen order-points, as well as at the counter. We'd hoped to use the app — just 'cause it sounded cool — but unfortunately, you can't order the specials that way and as soon as we saw that the special of the day was a cheese burger with a pulled pork topping, how could we not?

We weren't asked how we wanted our burgers cooked, but it didn't matter because it was juicy and perfectly medium rare. There was just enough pulled pork to add interest, but not to the point of being excessive.

We also got some sides: seasoned fries and grilled corn-on-the-cob with chipotle butter and cheese. Everything tasted good, and the service was very efficient. A regular cheese burger is only £5.95 and even our pulled pork burgers were only £7.95, which is pretty reasonable given how good they were.

Overall, then, Grillshack gets a hearty thumbs-up and I'm looking forward to trying some of the other main courses — and some of the puddings, which, after all the chocolate, we really couldn't manage yesterday. In an attempt to walk off some of our lunch, we wandered through Soho to Covent Garden, where we admired the Christmas decorations, especially the snow globe with iconic London buildings made from Lego inside. Very cool.

Update (June 2016): Grillshack is now permanently closed.

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