Bar Chocolat's name caught my eye from across the street, and a warm dose of chocolate sounded like exactly what I needed to warm myself from an afternoon's meander through Bath's Christmas market. So close to closing time, they were only serving things to go. My chocolate shot, rich, dark, thick, underlaid with bitter complexity, warmed my hands as we made our way onward into the evening.
The next day, we stopped by House of Minerva, the city's chocolate store advocated by a feature in Homes and Antiques. The air was redolent with chocolate. Various people sat sipping drinks at small tables, looking out at the buzz of city center streets beyond the windows. Their chocolates are varied, competent, friendly. Flavors are confident and strong; there's no subtlety to them.
As dusk fell on Bristol last weekend, so too did the rain. It drizzled and chilled, and so we took shelter in Bordeaux Quay, an airy café/bar/brasserie/restaurant. The venue is invested in local ingredient sourcing and eco-friendly products. We warmed with coffees and chocolates and exotic infusion blends. Petit fours were rich: the rosemary dark chocolate truffles were flavored with a heavy hand; the fluffy, crisp meringue flecked with finely-chopped pieces of candied ginger were, however, superb.
On the motorway, westbound from London, a roadsign advocated that we "Exit at Junction 11 for The Oracle". Also westbound, I became gradually convinced that the M4 is where Britain stores its traffic cones. It's such a sensible solution: they're not likely to be stolen when everyone's travelling at speed. On the way back, we were promised 50 miles of deer; not one was to be seen.