Have a break - in a chocolate boutique hotel

PR Chocolate Boutique Hotel entrance

Gerry Wilton is a man with a passion for chocolate. Proprietor of Bournemouth's Chocolate Boutique Hotel and all-round chocolate-preneur Gerry lives and breathes cacao - a fact that was very much in evidence as I stepped into the Grade II listed stucco-fronted hotel, just five minutes from Bournemouth's centre.

At reception I was greeted by a giant glass filled with chocolate buttons and an invitation to help myself. My twin room was decorated in cosy, chocolatey hues, with a dish of handmade truffles on the dressing table, a slab of milk and dark on the bedside cabinets, and a sachet of chocolate face mask in the bathroom. Willy Wonka would have felt right at home.

Gerry caters for everyone from the chocolate addict (although he will only accept the term 'addiction' if it is for good quality, high cocoa content 'proper' chocolate - Dairy Milk devotees need not apply) to those simply interested in the culinary side of our favourite confection. Which begs the question, what is our obsession with chocolate anyway - why do we love it so much?

"It releases endorphins that make us relaxed and gives us a feelgood factor," Gerry tells me over a Chocky Wocky Minty cocktail in the bar. Well the cocktail certainly lifted my spirits and was the perfect introduction to my weekend of  indulgence, which included chocolate pancakes for breakfast the next morning, followed by a riotous session of truffle making.

Along with a gaggle of high-spirited girls on a hen party, I listened as Gerry took command of the kitchen, his style being part Gordon Ramsay, part cheesy nightclub MC. He whipped through the fundamentals of truffle making, and to choruses of "Yes Chef!" we scuttled back to our workstations to get making.

Gerry's knowledge of chocolate, from facts and figures on the world's chocolate-producing countries, to the intricacies of the cacao pod, were delivered in a fun fashion throughout, and although his medical knowledge probably shouldn't be taken as gospel - as much as I would like to believe his assertion that the health benefits for women from eating chocolate and drinking red wine every day are immeasurable - his delivery and patter made the workshop work

At the end of the session, each participant had produced around 40 professional-looking truffles, coated in nuts, cocoa powder, icing sugar or coconut, and wrapped in cellophane, topped with ribbons.

"It's all about having fun, relaxing, and indulging a bit," Gerry tells me as I prepared to leave, clutching two bags of chocolate and a recipe sheet to recreate it all at home. And that's exactly how my weekend had been - relaxed and indulgent. And as I stuffed my face with truffles on my homeward journey, the feeling continued...

Want to taste for yourself?

The Chocolate Boutique Hotel's Chocolate Weekends cost from £259 per person based on two people sharing a room. Chocolate Boutique Hotel, 5 Durley Road, Bournemouth, BH2 5JQ, www.thechocolateboutiquehotel.co.uk ; tel: 01202 556857. 

See page 2 to try the hotel's chocolate truffle recipe...

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