Perhaps you’ve been trooping up Beinn Lora, or have just stepped off the Craignure ferry. Maybe you’re like us, sheltering from the howling west coast winter. Or possibly you just love chocolate. Whatever direction you’re coming from, have a wee think about where you’re headed next. Got a half-hour to spare? Let’s take a detour…
Every time we come to Oban, Argyll, we take refuge in this shorefront chocolate shop. I promise, this isn’t only because of the weather: the truth is, Oban Chocolate Company is a total gem. There’s so many great things about this place; it’s not all about the chocolate, one of the best delicacies on the planet (although that certainly helps). It’s the whole atmosphere. If you can manage to walk straight past the displays of curiously-shaped chocolates and sweet specialties, you’ll find a corner café with sofas so comfortable you’ll happily take up residence for a week. There’s a modest selection of books, the low hum of contented chatter and out the window? An unobscured view of Lismore and Mull. Seagulls perch on the railings, watching the regular crossing of the Calmac. The clouds roll overhead.
If the view can’t tempt you, the smell certainly will. Along with the numerous cappuccinos, hot chocolates, freshly made waffles and warm cakes the efficient staff distribute, there’s cocoa brilliance happening right in front of your eyes. Literally. A viewing window reveals the secret life of the chocolatiers: there are mounds of moulds; hand-scrawled lists of sugary designs; a huge chocolate-tiled cake waits to be further embellished. Seeing the connoisseurs at work makes you realise the skill involved in this local — but hugely successful — business.
Opening their first Oban shop in 2003, husband-and-wife team Stewart and Helen relocated to this seafront site in 2007. Since then, they’re received a bunch of accolades — even being named as one of the top ten chocolate shops in Europe. Along with the diverse and different flavours in the chocolate cabinet, the café menu is packed with cocoa-powered choices. There’s the ‘standard’ hot chocolate with cream and mallows, or you can pick from single-origin drinks ranging in cocoa percentage. Everything that can be served in a cup comes with a little chocolate at the side (but you won’t be able to stop ordering more…)
There’s mini taster pots (only 95p, why not?!) taster plates (choose four of your favourite chocs) and an afternoon-tea inspired selection of truffles, chocolate lollipops, choc chips and cocoa slabs. And there’s also a massive selection of homemade cakes, scones, waffles and tray bakes. And when your stomach can take no more, take a wander towards the shelves to find take-away creations like fish-and-chip shaped chocolates, bars with chilli flakes and even ‘haggis eggs‘ (yup, you read that correctly!) Plus there’s also a nice wee selection of gifts; I bought my mum some cocoa butter and honey soap… there’s no such thing as too much chocolate, right?
postscript: wondering why I’ve been away so long? I’m currently up to my eyeballs in university work; final semester really is no fun! Looking forward to making this a more creative space, and getting involved in more online chats with readers & other bloggers nearer the summer 🙂