Choco Luv: When Choco Luv first opened in somewhat unappealing environs I thought the shakes fine, but I was fairly dismissive of the location. However, the product's popularity triumphed and enabled a posh re-incarnation in Colombo 7.
Young mother Ishfa Nawaal converted what was formerly an exclusive clothes boutique into chocoland. My tongue is still tingling from those terrific cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg truffles of Galadari's Chef Nimal when I am confronted with a real cinnamon plant burgeoning outside Choco Luv's gardened entrance. The owners quip, "Cinnamon Gardens has no cinnamon," so it was only logical to spice up the neighbourhood. To my left, a cocoa plant blossoms. "In two years you can have chocolate under a chocolate tree!" I am told.
Next I am led through an autographed tunnel. I learn, "The first autograph was of Yoshitha, the President's son," (who inaugurated the venue) "and ever since every Tom, Dick and Harry has left his mark." I don't spot "Tom," "Dick" or "Harry" but do extricate a couple of eminent names enmeshed amidst the hundred-million signatures.
Inside, relics of the fashion boutique impart a Milanese air to the chocolate lounge. What is called the "family" room, ironically, has a Parisian boudoiresque feel with its ornate mirrors and chandeliers.
The chocolate boutique stocks the pricier variety of supermarket chocolate like Ferrero Rocher, Hersheys, Kinder and such like, much to the delight of many and the derision of a chocolate connoisseur.
A TV in the principal lounge runs a documentary to educate Colombo about the origins of chocolate. But I feel Colombo is more avid to learn what's on the menu. Well, you have milk-less milk shakes. Instead, three globes of ice cream in a shake as rich as a sheikh. Far too rich for poor me. But the staff obligingly waters down their concept to my taste. Try walnut made with walnut brownies that actually contain walnuts. There is also almond and dark Ferrero shakes. The new Nutella, strawberry and grape shake is a sugar gush for those who like it. I recommend coffee shake with pure grounded coffee beans. I'm still shaking from the coffee rush.
CL will soon have their charming garden dispensing ice creams studded with varietal chocolate and chocolate-flavoured sheeshas. In the meantime, they have partnered Delicious that provides fast food. Wasnie, owner of Delicious, isn't quite a lady, as are our other epicurean entrepreneurs, but he has been a DJ, Dialog representative and journalist. How did he then land in this culinary soup? He wearied of journalism- as anyone sensible should.
The fast food has an unmistakable Dubai-stall flavour. Not quite my preference. But Colombo seems to be glutting on the celebrated cheese and fries dish that has already appeared on menus of neighbouring competitors. But unlike them, Choco Luv is open until midnight. Beware, after a couple of those fat shakes and the fries, you will turn into a pumpkin by midnight.
Nimnaz Ansar(773592789): A young lady who works in software but whose confection hobby has turned profitable. Her desserts are prettily packaged and make for attractive gifts. But keep them for yourself if you like signature speciality lava cake with a profoundly thick molten centre that opens at the touch of a spoon into a chocolate mud bath. It is slightly sweet but wonderfully textured.
Everyone makes brownies. What's new? Nimnaz's brownies she asserts are distinctive in their richness, hints of vanilla, coffee, a slim, lubricating chocolate glaze and generosity of luxury cashew. An almond option is also available. She further entices that her brownie has no sugar apart from the chocolate's. Oh, I'm enticed. But I am more intrigued still by her three-tiered chocolate "shortcake" comprising a cheesecake base, middled in caramel and laden with chunky chocolate. But this isn't a "shortcake" by any definition. Nimnaz confidently establishes, "I like bringing my unique twist to things." You can't call a spoon a fork and insist it is your unique vision. But Nimnaz pulls it off admirably. Indeed, her chocolate muffins even metamorphose into desserts with a whip of cream. Here is one girl with imagination. As she seeks to expand her portfolio I should certainly look out for Nimnaz's naughty numbers.
Nusrath Nazeer (0773442384): An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But it was at a doctor's that Nusrath learned to make chocolate. No, the doctor hadn't taken to dishing out recipes, but Nusrath met an English chocolatier who instructed her. As wedding cake becomes pricier, cupcakes, and now chocolate, have becomes pervasive alternatives.
Nusrath recently created castle-shaped chocolates for a wedding on a "Fairytale" theme. For baby showers she makes chocolate moulded into rattles, prams and any mould your fancy takes. She also has chocolate shells and ganache of marzipan, nougat, strawberry, coffee. They have an intensity of sugar beyond my endurance and shapes differ but flavours are indiscriminate. Notwithstanding, Nusrath will please less prissy palates. I'd rather her rich cake. It is nicely textured, not overdone with pumpkin preserve and much lovelier than its more talked-of rivals around town.