I am not a really big chocolate eater and will go through phases when I want lots of chocolate, and some times when I just don't fancy it at all. I like my chocolate very simple - and so I am happy with a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk! However, ever since I was bought a 'tiddly pot' (a small pot of little chocolates) from Hotel Chocolat from a friend, I fell in love with Hotel Chocolat! In my opinion everything from Hotel Chocolat is very expensive. A small box of four chocolates costs £5. I do like the chocolate from here but I would never pay that much for myself! They do lots of different kinds of chocolates including the basics milk, white and dark. I prefer plain milk or white chocolate and so this is what I like the most from Hotel Chocolat too. I find the boxes containing several different kinds of luxury chocolates too rich for me. The list of the different kinds of chocolates they sell is far too long to mention here and so if you visit the website, you will see the wide range they offer. I love the Hotel Chocolat website because there isn't a store in my nearest town centre. The ones nearest to me are in the MetroCentre and Newcastle, both of which I don't go to very often. I only ever shop online though when there is a sale on, which is generally just after Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter and halloween, when they need to get rid of their left over themed chocolates. They always reduce the prices to 50% off and then after some time, even further to 70% off. I have been to the stores when sales have been on in the past and unless you go at the start of the sales, there are only a few things left, and these usually aren't the best out of what they originally had on offer at the start of the sales. However, if you shop online I have always found that they still have a big selection of different chocolates to choose from in the sale, even if you go on when the sale has been running for a few weeks. At the moment the Hotel Chocolat website are offering up to 70% off their Christmas themed chocolates, which has just increased from 50% off. I have just placed an order buying £15 worth of chocolate which would have originally cost £40. The last time I placed an order online with them was after Easter last year and although I was told the items could take 7 days to arrive as I had selected standard delivery, it in fact only took 3. All of the chocolate eggs I had bought did not get smashed during delivery either, which I did think might happen. The only downside to ordering from online is their delivery costs. Standard delivery costs £4.95, and the other faster delivery options costing even more. I do think this is a lot and makes your bargain sale shopping expensive, meaning it would be better to just go to a Hotel Chocolat store. However, I have been lucky enough to get a free delivery code from somewhere every time I have ordered from their website. I do think that Hotel Chocolat offer free delivery promotions a lot, you just have to look for the codes. I am not sure what the online customer service is like as I have never had to use it. You can also sign up to receive emails from Hotel Chocolat which notify you of special offers, but sometimes just email you pictures of tasty looking chocolate! I am glad I signed up to the emails as I wouldn't have known about their Christmas chocolates being reduced even further if I hadn't.
I always purchase chocolates from Hotel Chocolat at Christmas, Birthdays, Easter etc and up until now I've been very happy with their product. Just recently for Easter we ordered their dipping selection. This is a selection of marshmallows, dried fruits and biscuits etc. that you dip into a choice of 3 chocolate pots. You heat them in the microwave for 30 seconds and the solid chocolate goes all gooey and melting. This was fine but as you dipped the bits of fruit etc into the chocolate you also got a little surprise of bits of plastic from the actual pots themselves. Not very pleasant. Hotel Chocolat has excellent chocolate and I would recommend them apart from the dipping selection.
The news item on the radio said that women who eat chocolate enjoy a more fulfilling sexual life and are more eager and ready for sex than their non-chocolate-eating sisters! So when the colour brochure arrived, tantalisingly slipped in-between the pages of my Sunday newspaper, I decided it was worth a second look. The 'Hotel Chocolat' Christmas Catalogue 2004 offering chocolates for you or someone else with free delivery anywhere in the UK certainly caught my attention. By the time I'd reached page nine of these thirty three pages with beautiful photographs offering all manner of feasts of chocolate I was enthralled by the selections being offered. I was smitten. Hotel Chocolat is 100% British owned and has been run by the original founders, Angus Thirwell and Peter Harris, for the last ten years. They have impressively made over three million successful chocolate deliveries during that time and I could sense there was one more order about to be completed. Although the brochure emphasised the Christmas Season there are plenty of delicious classic chocolates for the connoisseur - to be ordered, delivered and eaten for no reason at all. However - I had Christmas in mind so focussed on the seasonal specialities. Before I went any further I was interested in the ethical approach of Hotel Chocolat so visited their excellent website and was pleased to read that they are helping to rejuvenate old cocoa tree plantations in Ghana thus boosting farmers' incomes. They are improving the educational resources of the village schools and partnering health insurance schemes. They also declare they use nothing nasty in their chocolate like hydrogenated vegetable fats, using only fresh and wholesome ingredients. This was good enough for me and although I had the brochure I was more interested in navigating the online Hotel Chocolat and buying online. There were twenty six Christmas Specials listed on the drop-down products menu on the Hotel Chocolat homepage. The items were temptingly illustrated and the contents well described. Even down to telling the buyer if the contents were suitable for vegetarians, vegans or were gluten free. There are in total forty six chocolate products suitable for vegetarians, a few less for vegans and just one gluten free assortment of truffles. I ordered the huge cracker for the Boxing Day table. The cracker is really handsome and impressive in matt silver and white with ribbons to tug the cracker open- and inside are a variety of forty individually wrapped chocolates and a menu identifying those with or without alcohol and vegetarian suitability. There are twelve festive hats and don't forget the mottoes and jokes will you? I ordered the European style Christmas Stollen cake as an alternative to traditional Christmas cake. This has marzipan baked in the centre and we are a family of marzipan lovers. Then the irresistible fifteen inch long Grande Chocolate Log - melt in the mouth and rich in cocoa butter and studded with pistachios and hazelnuts; definitely one to slice and share together with friends and family along with coffee and cognac. Other Christmas selections offered a nine inch high milk chocolate and shapely Elke known as Santa's helper especially for the blokes; Marron glaces; Turkish Delight; Christmas chocolate hampers; Chocolate liqueurs; the Twelve days of Chocolate and traditional boxes of chocolate and much more. Then the Slabs caught my eye. They weigh half a kilo and form into thick slabs of molten chocolate. There was a selection of six varieties of these sinfully wicked slabs so I ordered the Swiss Milk and Hazelnuts and the Coffee Fusion. There is Ebony and Orange; Dark and Almonds; Milk and White Fusion and Milk and Dark Fusion with Cocoa Nibs. Ordering five items for the same address gave a £5.00 discount - and do remember dear readers, that this is free delivery. Varying discounts applied to two, three and four items with a 5% discount for six items of chocolate. If you really want next day delivery then expect to pay £3.50 but I still think that free delivery within three working days is a superb offer. When my order arrived there was an offer of 10% off everything if ordered online so that in itself saves the delivery charges. Registration was simple as was the ordering. All items were offered with a gift card if required and once my order was complete the order number was sitting in my Outlook Express in-box enabling me to track my goods online from the Hotel Chocolate website. Later, on the same day of ordering a further email arrived from Hotel Chocolat telling me my order was processed and on its delivery-way with Parcel Force. A further tracking number allowed me to follow the delivery process until it arrived on my doorstep. Again - excellently packaged in sexy black and silver with dinky gift cards and securely parcelled with all items as described both in the brochure and on the website as well as being delivered within the promised three working days. The Hot Chocolat website offers you the choices of shopping by Product- such as Chocograms, Gourmet, Chocolate Enrobed Fruit and Nuts; Occasion- including New Baby or even more seductive- by Self Indulgence; Person -such and Man, Woman, Office or Young Person. Hotel Chocolat is a very comprehensively designed and user friendly website offering the shopper an extremely wide range of superb chocolate goodies with very comprehensive navigation- you can't get lost. If I were to have a wish list for presents I wish somebody would send me a pack of 600g Classic Real Chocolate flakes made from 70% dark chocolate that melts luxuriously into hot milk for the best chocolate drink ever. Along with a selection of plain, cinnamon or Mocha chocolate flakes I would like a pack of twelve chocolate dippers. Praline or Deeply Dark chocolate balls on a sort of skewer that you dip into the hot chocolate drink and then suck the melting chocolate from the stick. How decadently divine does that sound to you all? For real dedicated chocolate lovers Hotel Chocolat run a Chocolate Tasting Club. The introductory offer is £9.95 and membership will give the chocolate taster access to regularly taste and comment on new top-notch chocolates exclusive to Hotel Chocolate. The introductory offer is a wonderful box of chocolates plus three servings of real drinking chocolate and lots of information about- guess what? Chocolate! This isn't offered as a gift because the aim is to get the buyer hooked - and it is a good hook! But what does the chocolate taste like? Well, I'm not supposed to know really because this whole order was for purely Christmas delicacies and gifts for others but - I had to do it! I needed to know how good the chocolate was to eat so I included in my order a Slab just for myself; a Slab of Ebony and Orange. It was huge but the chocolate is superb and I am now a dedicated Hotel Chocolate aficionado. I haven't mentioned the price yet have I? It is expensive. Paying more money for something top of the range for a special occasion is worth it though. 600g of easy melt chocolate flakes costs £12.96 and twelve chocolate dippers are £12.95. A one foot high cuddly Labrador with four chocolate bones is £25.95 - I know - but it is a novelty gift. Mulled wine dipped apples coated in hazelnuts and chocolate is £17.97. The thick chocolate slabs cost £14.95 each. The ultimate Christmas Hamper including champagne, chocolates, truffles and Turkish-Delight is £129.95 -Phew! If I were you I'd get on to the website and take up the invitation to the Chocolate Tasting Club and get that box of chocolates for £9.95 including free P & P. It's the lowest priced chocolate selection they do! In case you are tempted by my review the last ordering date for the free UK delivery is at 3.00pm on the 20th December. They say chocolate is better than sex - but now they say eating chocolate makes you feel sexier. My imagination is running away with me at the question-does half a kilo of real chocolate make a woman feel sexier than one cube of dairy milk?