Is this chocolate cafe the best in Ireland?
The people behind L’Art Du Chocolate, Main Street, Maynooth, Co Kildare want to educate you about good chocolate
L’Art Du Chocolat’s barista draws great flavour from a Colombian bean with strong caramel and nutty tones
L’Art Du Chocolat
Main Street, Maynooth, Co Kildare
Nicolas Bateau and Cyril Borie are from Bayonne, a city in the French Basque Country known as the chocolate capital of France. Their work as a chef and pastry chef brought them to Ireland, and the pair set up L’Art Du Chocolat in 2013, operating out of a windowless basement in the K Club for the first few years. “It was a great way to start,” says Bateau, “but we were really missing some vitamin D. We wanted a workshop that could also be an open door to our customers.” They opened the doors of their chocolate bar on Maynooth’s Main Street in November 2016.
It’s a fine showroom for their cacao creativity. A clear window separates the workshop space from the café so you can watch the chocolatiers work. A skylight directly over the chocolate workshop showers the chocolatiers in vitamin D as they prepare hundreds of chocolate Easter egg shells to be delivered to their wholesale customers at the K Club, the Marker Hotel and the Shelbourne.
Back in the café space, there are display cabinets and shelves for their creations. There are white and yellow chocolates that look like fried eggs, and shards of passionfruit infused dark chocolate. There are cubes of raspberry ganache and a pâtisserie section boasting gloriously symmetrical lemon meringue tarts decorated with an elegant touch of gold leaf.
I’m here for the chocolate so it’s a pleasant surprise to find a short and simple but well executed classic French lunch menu. These favourites, such as French onion soup and ham and cheese croissants, have become unfairly associated with dreadful incarnations at petrol stations and airport cafés around Europe. I had almost forgotten that a ham croissant (€4.50) can actually taste good.
A vegetarian Croque Monsier (€5.50) is a solid twist on a beloved classic, the ham replaced with soft goat cheese and roasted peppers. This sandwich is complete with a touch of Béchamel sauce hidden under a crispy grilled coating of tangy cheese, a detail often sadly overlooked in many a Croque.
A hot chocolate menu features six varieties of frothed and flavoured molten chocolate. A cup of Caramel (€4.50) is sweet but not overly so, seasoned with salted butter to cut through that sugary caramel. A Gianduja Milk Chocolate (€4.50) is made from a chocolate spread infused with hazelnut paste invented in Turin in the 1800s that predates and out-tastes Nutella.
Flavoured drinks can blast the palate with sugary sweetness whereas here balance and subtlety are applied to allow space for the chocolate to shine through. I’m also impressed by the coffee (€3.10 for a cappuccino). It’s made with beans hand-roasted down the road in Celbridge by Alex Thorpe and Luigi Fanzini of Baobab Coffee Roasters. L’Art Du Chocolat’s barista draws great flavour from a Colombian bean with strong caramel and nutty tones, a taste profile very appropriate to a chocolate shop.
At the moment, L’Art Du Chocolat are not a bean-to-bar operation but Borie tells me that they would like to move in that direction in the future. Being bean-to-bar means that you’re essentially in control of the entire process from cacao bean to chocolate product. Instead, Bateau and Borie import the famous French Valrhona chocolate and temper it on-site in Maynooth. Their expertise lies in the tempering and, as their name suggests, chocolate art.
“We really want to help educate people about what good chocolate is,” Bateau tells me. They’ve been hosting chocolate masterclasses to pass on their knowledge to their customers. Their next class is an Easter Special on Thursday April 13th from 7pm to 9pm. For more, see lartdu-chocolat.com.