Reviewed by Sian Manning
I was very excited to get picked for this review, I love baking and making things in the kitchen and chocolate is something I haven’t really worked with so I was very much looking forward to the workshop. The ticket is for two so I took my Dad.
The voucher arrived with a courier, it came in an unassuming brown envelope, perfect if you are buying a gift for someone who also lives in your house and you don’t want them getting to the post before you. Once you open the brown envelope there is a small thank you for your purchase letter with a discount for your next Buyagift purchase and also a card for money off wine.
There is then a separate envelope that has the gift pack inside, this envelope is much more inviting, grey with the Buyagift logo and shooting stars on it. The gift pack has three page fold out card that has a slot for the paperwork and also a slot for the voucher card. This has an image on the front that shows what some of the experiences you can purchase might be, on the back is written “the gift experts” and inside is the contact information and that there are over 5000 gift ideas online.
There are then three pieces of paper in the gift pack, one has details of the experience that has been booked, so in our case the chocolate delight workshop, it tells you how to book and has a brief description of what to expect. Page two is important information about how long the voucher is valid and when it can be booked and the last piece of paper is a fold out of the terms and conditions for Buyagift.
You then get your voucher for your gift experience, this has written on the reverse your voucher reference, pin number, a barcode, the date that it expires and how to activate the voucher.
You are directed to the website to activate the voucher, this is quite straightforward, you enter the information from your voucher in the relevant boxes and it brings up the experience that you have. It then gives you the booking details, so for us it gave a list of locations that we could use it at and also what days. It gave a phone number that I needed to call to book, this was a local rate number, I called at 5:23pm and was pleasantly surprised that someone was there to answer my call. She asked for the details on my voucher and when and where I wanted to attend and then told me what was available.
Unfortunately for the dates I could attend there was only one workshop available and this was a taster session so 1.5 hours instead of the 2.5 that is advertised online. This was booked and I was told I would get a confirmation email.
The following day I received a phone call from the booking team just confirming that I was happy to do the taster session and informing me of the main differences between the two. The major ones being that you do not learn as much about chocolate and you do not take as many chocolates home with you. She gave me the option to change date if this was not something I was happy with.
It is worth noting though that she did say on a normal workshop day you would take home 30 chocolates and on a taster day you would get 20, both of these numbers differ to the 40-50 estimate on the website.
I agreed that everything was acceptable and started dreaming of chocolate…
The chocolate workshop is based in the Chocolate Boutique hotel on Durley Road, Bournemouth, very close to the centre of Bournemouth. There is a car park at the hotel, it is quite small however, there is also some on the road parking and a very short walk away is a large car park with very reasonable parking charges.
The hotel itself is the perfect location for a chocolate workshop, a whole hotel dedicated to the delectable brown (or white stuff) it is small hotel but very well laid out and decorated.
We arrived about 10 minutes early for our class and were directed to wait in the bar area by the lady at the reception desk. The bar is on the cosy side, very well decorated and looks lovely for an evening drink!
Gerry came up and we were directed downstairs into the room where the magic happens. The tables were all laid out ready, tablecloths, aprons, bowls, piping bags, spatulas and paper. Like clues laid out ready for us to see what was to come. We were all there in pairs, each pair opposite each other over the table. 20 people in total. We were close to each other but had enough room to be able to work as we needed to.
We put our aprons on and went and stood around Gerry ready to begin. He immediately put everyone at ease, it was easy to see how passionate Gerry is about chocolate, his job and making the experience the best it can be for everyone involved. The main table is in a bay window which we all stood around to hear Gerry and watch the demonstrations.
The first thing we did was to learn a little about chocolate, obviously having a compulsory taste (jokes, laughs and audience participation was fantastic!), the difference between milk, white and dark chocolate and a bit about the plants and beans themselves. It was really interesting and everyone enjoyed taking part.
Next up was a quick demonstration on what we were going to be doing first, mixing the chocolate and the cream to make the ganache (harder than it sounds literally), and piping it ready for the next step. Off we went to try it for ourselves, not quite as easy as it looks!
Back to the table for demo number 2, shaping the truffles. I learnt here that I either have very small hands and therefore make small truffles or I am as stingy as my Mum with pudding portion control.
Demo number 3, we learnt here about tempering chocolate ready to coat the truffles and then how to use the chocolate and other ingredients to make them look pretty. Back to our tables to put it into practise, with a pair of rubber gloves for each pair (cue giggling and further joking). After this we had a small pile of astonishingly delicious looking truffles. Some with cocoa powder dusting, some with icing sugar dusting and some with a dark chocolate shell and white chocolate drizzle.
Back for demo number 4 bagging the truffles and a quick chat about chocolate pricing based on what we had learnt at the beginning. We also watched how Gerry made a mint chocolate crisp, so much easier than I would ever have thought. So we bagged our little bits of heaven and made them look even prettier before finishing off with going over to see Gerry again and trying some of the mint crisp that he had made. The most delicious and surprisingly easy thing that I have to try at home very very soon!
I will be practising and honing my skills at home, there was chocolate that we could buy at the end of the workshop so I will continue to make these little gems as soon as our stash runs out.
Gerry was a fantastic teacher, he made it all fun, easy and showed it is something that everyone can do with the right equipment and good quality chocolate. He involved everyone, broke the ice and is an incredibly energetic, witty, passionate and knowledgeable teacher. He definitely made it an experience instead of just a lesson.
The whole morning from start to finish was fantastic, something that I will definitely be recommending. It is a must for any chocolate lover.
Available to buy from Buyagift here.