Celebrating the official launch in the Monmouth Street premises after opening to the public in mid-January, chief executive Angus Thirlwell told BigHospitality the menu was a 'street food' version of the offering at the St Lucia Boucan restaurant on the Hotel Chocolat plantation. However he added that the next stage for the company was to open a more formal restaurant in the UK.
Founded by Thirlwell and fellow entrepeneur Peter Harris, Hotel Chocolat started out as a website and chocolate mail order company before launching retail shops worldwide and, last year, a 14-bed hotel and restaurant on the Rabot cocoa estate in the West Indies.
Tree to bar
Although the launch of a dining café concept marks a new direction for the company in the UK Thirlwell said the ethos of Hotel Chocolat as authentic chocolate makers, with a 140-acre cocoa plantation, was still at the heart of the business.
"What we've actually been able to do is wrap up in a single concept the fact that were a grower, a roaster and a chocolatier and you can actually as a customer come and absorb all that - the aromas, the sights and, obviously the taste of the chocolate," he said.
Thirlwell said Roast + Conch, with the tagline 'from tree to bar', would allow diners to watch beans that were roasted in the building being ground, conched and tempered and taste the differences while seeing the chocolate making process in action.
Profit and roll out
Despite using industry-quality machinery and chocolatiers from the Hotel Chocolat factory in Cambridgeshire, Thirlwell said the café concept was designed to make a profit within a year and could be expanded to other sites.
"It's very much a profitable small business in it's own right. This is not a show kitchen, what we're making is tonnes of fine flavour, single estate chocolate every year here so the output is added value. This is a pilot of the concept and our plan is to continue to evolve as a chocolatier and bring more depth to what we offer," he said.
As well as kitchen theatre, Roast + Conch offers a menu of traditional coffee drinks that can be prepared with cocoa beans instead of coffee beans. With food described as 'cacao cuisine' the menu includes eat-in or takeway options such as duck confit with roasted cocoa nibs or goats cheese with walnuts and dark chocolate as well as desserts and cheese, chocolate and wine pairings.
Hotel Chocolat plans a supper club at the site later in the year but Thirlwell told BigHospitality the lessons learnt from a fine dining restaurant in St Lucia would also be used to develop a UK restaurant next.
"It's under planning at the moment, we've got options on different locations and our stores span Edinburgh down to the Channel Islands so we are very fortunate to have a good fan club and where we launch it really depends on the right site," he said.
Hotel Chocolat is open on Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, London.