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Bonbon: The Healthiest Choice In Chocolate

Niamh Spence uncovers a healthy haven of chocolate treats in a NQ boutique

Written by . Published on January 15th 2014.

Bonbon: The Healthiest Choice In Chocolate

CHOCOLATE is healthy. No it is, it really is. The proof lurks in the Northern Quarter.

Bonbon holds the secret.

"Everything here is fresh. Fresh ingredients and no preservatives or emulsifiers or E numbers."

This tiny little shop and cafe contains healthy chocolate treats suitable for all manner of diets, including that of vegans.

Hot chocolate and orange; suitable for vegans too...even if I'm not one anymore.Hot chocolate and orange; suitable for vegans too...even if I'm not one anymore.

“I was a vegan for the best part of four years,” explains Sharon Drysdale, the boutique’s friendly manageress. That the sentence is in the past tense makes me feel better about a failed vegan experiment of my own a while ago.

Bonbon In The NqBonbon In The NqDrysdale is one of the highlights of the intimate chocolaterie. A former art and design teacher and now fountain of all chocolate knowledge, she explains, “I’ve always loved chocolate. I’d be selective and find a nice chocolate shop and buy one or two.” 

“This little shop feels like Chocolat, which is my favourite film; I’m definitely living the dream.”

The boutique is tucked away in the city’s Northern Quarter which is, of course, full of achingly cool hipsters, all of which Drysdale seems to know, waving at them and running outside to say hello.

How do you know you're in the NQ? A bearded man of course!How do you know you're in the NQ? A bearded man of course!

The interior is dark, yet warm and inviting. With only four tables it’s snug in the extreme but Drysdale is a welcoming presence and it’s like being sat in her living room rather than a shop. A living room full of every chocolate treat you can imagine. Even odd combinations such as Stilton and caramel chocolates. A chocolate and cheese lover respectively even I struggle with the concept but Sharon assures me it’s popular. So popular that she’s all out when I visit. There are only two pecan salted pralines sitting where the quirky combination should have been. Not to worry, I eat them anyway.

“I had a girl call up in December asking if we had any Stilton chocolate, and I had to think to myself about that one. It’s that sweet and savoury combination which works. Somebody came in and bought a box of them to take to a dinner party at Christmas, she said they were all wary at first but now they’re converted.”

It’s clear Drysdale has been spreading the word far and wide as the next customers in are a couple from Edinburgh. “It’s the best in the country,” explains one woman. “There’s a shop in Edinburgh called Love Crumbs and Bonbon is definitely better.”

Far and wide indeed.

A Chef's Tablet AKA the biggest bar of chocolate I've ever laid my hands onA Chef's Tablet AKA the biggest bar of chocolate I've ever laid my hands on

But back to the matter in hand, which are now cupped round a steaming mug of hot chocolate with orange. All of which is as healthy as chocolate possibly can be. "It's the best that you can get," Drysdale explains. "There's no dairy in it at all. It's just melted down 66% Valrhona chocolate, a little bit of sugar and cocoa and filtered water."

Coconut and lemongrass chocolates; unusual combinations are a speciality in BonbonCoconut and lemongrass chocolates; unusual combinations are a speciality in Bonbon

"Everything here is fresh. Fresh ingredients and no preservatives or emulsifiers or E numbers." So again, whilst chocolate is never going to be a superfood or praised by nutritionists, this is the best way of doing it.

Bonbon is another of Gary McClarnan's ventures, a mere stone's throw away from his NQ success Teacup. So close in fact that if you need the bathroom when you're in Bonbon you'll have to run across the road and nip into Teacup. McClarnan has just recently brought Proper Tea to Manchester's Cathedral and is determined to teach Mancs tea does not need milk and two sugars.

Mast Brothers ChocolateMast Brothers Chocolate"That's a very British thing of adding milk," Drysdale comments. With so many raw chocolate specialities adorning the walls, it's clear our British bad habits are not welcome.

Instead, Bonbon has looked to Brooklyn duo the Mast Brothers to dispel the myth of milk chocolate reigning supreme. These £9 bars might not be cheap but with every detail carefully designed, including their trendy graphic design packaging, they sit proudly on Bonbon's shelves.

"They've made chocolate accessible for men. They're young blokes with beards so it fits right in with the Northern Quarter."

So it's just not us girls who might be after our healthy fix of chocolate either. "We get men and women," Drysdale carefully explains. "And I get to know regulars and their partners, we had lots of couples coming in and picking favourites for presents before Christmas."

So for a boutique that opened originally as a pop-up shop in December 2012, Bonbon has proved it's got staying power. Even if my veganism notions never did.

Find Bonbon at 9 John Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1EQ. 0161 839 4416

Or check out their website: www.bonbonchocolate.co.uk Or their twitter: @BonBon_NQ

Follow Niamh Spence at @missnspence

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

ShybaldbuddhistJanuary 15th 2014.

Looking forward to trying this place out. Walked past a few times and it always looks busy, but then again it looks as if you can only fit about 6 people in at any one time!

AnonymousJanuary 16th 2014.

LOOKS too small and the building is a mess....

1 Response: Reply To This...
crisbyJanuary 31st 2014.

Try going in? It's very cosy.

AnonymousJanuary 16th 2014.

Got some salted caramels, fantastic. Hopefully business will do well and you can move to bigger premises!

crisbyJanuary 31st 2014.

I bought some chocolates just before Xmas and they were fantastic. I suspect bigger premises will beckon soon.

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