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Everybody needs a vice. Some light up a cigarette. Others turn to the bottle, or gorge on a greasy treat. But for many of us, the choice is simple. Chocolate.
Melburnians are increasingly seeking out boutique chocolatiers to get their fix. Like many of the citys favourite eateries, some of the best are hidden from the street. Chokolait is one such space; tucked in at the end of the Hub Arcade, off Little Collins Street.
A new offering at the independent shop has especially set chocoholics tongues wagging.
Welcome inside our chocolate box, says Harvey, before enthusiastically setting off on a tour of the shop. Everything on our menu is familiar and simple, and everything connects to chocolate.
Chocolate is a universal product there are very few who do not love it.
Soon, he looks at his watch, apologising. His signature dish is resting in the oven, and it must be taken out to cool. Theres an enormous amount of time invested in this dessert, says Harvey, peering into the oven.
Harvey retrieves a glossy, airy, chocolate pavlova. Heaven.
Chokolaits pavlova looks deceptively simple: four layers of meringue, and three of Belgian chocolate. We dont want you to think too much, we just want you to enjoy, he says.
Oh, how looks can be deceiving.
There are no secrets to our recipes, Harvey says, Just our techniques.
Harvey says the testing period for what has become his signature sweet lasted well over a month: For weeks we filled our bin liners with failed pavlova experiments. Then, for several more weeks, we had a team of very well-fed staff.
Establishing how to integrate chocolate into a pavlova in a way that created interest, texture and flavour was no easy feat.
We had to make it less sweet, says Harvey, Otherwise, a large slice of our customer base many of whom are Asian would have been put off immediately.
Chokolaits oldest customer, 94-year-old Olive, has visited the shop almost every Thursday since it opened in 2007. Despite the weather or the financial climate, people still crave small indulgences. By mid-morning most days, seats are at a premium, with many diners devouring that distinctive pav.
Appearing in the restaurant is Marcel Wiemer. The chef recently joined Chokolaits team, and he and Harvey have been hard at work. Wiemer has been tinkering with the pairs next creation; his eyes suggest he has just made a breakthrough. The two exchange an intuitive look, and Harvey excuses himself before he and Wiemer return to the kitchen.
Forget the smokes, sambuca and battered savs. Just fetch another slice of chocolate pav.