For us, stepping into the basement kitchen at Paul A Young’s boutique near the Angel is a ridiculous treat, a fantasy half hour, a morning suspended by pure chocophile delight. For the redoubtable Paul and his head chocolatier, Nick, it’s work. Satisfying, repetitive, careful work. Paul is capping off the sea salted caramels, giving them thin, shiny, correctly tempered shells, while Nick gives his all to a batch of Smouldering Embers, made with black tobacco, chilli, cardamom and sandalwood.
Paul’s background as head pastry chef for Marco Pierre White at Quo Vadis and the Criterion seems of a piece with his uncompromising approach to his work – it takes steely discipline, as well as skill and creativity, to paint thousands of truffles with pigmented cocoa butter. And his regard for his clientele is as unimpeachable as his products. ‘Without people, we’re nothing,’ he says. ‘Some regulars become friends over time – customers who’ve been coming in every Saturday for five and a half years.’
This is his first shop, which has been here in Camden Passage since 2006; the flagship store opened in Soho last year. Among the chocolates that catch our eye are the sea-salted caramel filled chocolate eggs, banoffee pie truffles – our favourites, and marmite truffle. Very much seasonal and all made fresh daily, in the style of a pâtisserie, it’s a wonderful reminder of the magic that hard work can create.