Notes on chocolate: Oxford’s local heroes

In town for a wedding and a little the worse for wear, Annalisa Barbieri looks for something sweet and soothing

Oxford. I am here for a wedding and, hungover and sleep-deprived, I head off into its streets of butterscotch buildings and cobbles, merciful to have shed my spindly heels from the night before. I am in search of chocolate, hopeful of finding something wonderful and local.

Oxford’s covered market is housed in an 18th-century building, its stalls largely are independent traders. Fuelled by coffee and refined carbs in a cinnamon bun, I discover Wicked. Here - joy - is chocolate, apparently Oxford’s ‘only gourmet chocolate counter’. Feeling delicate makes me regress to childhood comforts and wary of anything adventurous, so I pick up bars saying familiar things: milk, nuts, vanilla.

I choose three bars, one by Dolfin, exquisitely, if excessively packaged in a foldover loose-tobacco-style wallet. The orange wrapper of the Nougat et Miel appeals and it is good - but the bits in it aren’t bold enough and the overall experience too sweet (38% cocoa, but still with sugar in protagonist role).

The real surprise and delight is discovering Oxford-based Linden Chocolate Lab, run by a couple who are PhD students. My husband coerces me into trying the Pink Pepper 80% (£5.75/85g), and it’s delicate and delicious. But the Super Silky Milk is where things start happening. The kick of the masterly 67% cocoa reveals itself slowly and gently, like sitting next to an initially unassuming person at a dinner party who, in time, you realise has it all going on. And you end the evening transfixed and more than a little in love.

lindenchocolatelab.com

Contributor

Annalisa Barbieri

The GuardianTramp

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