I recently got to thinking about soft drinks after trying a mixed berry smoothie at Fuel in Withington. What follows are some musings about some outstanding offerings available in Manchester to students, teetotallers, alcopop bingers, and champagne connoisseurs alike—you see soft drinks are for everyone…
As I watched the waitress glide across the floor, a great vessel nestled in her hands, I was beguiled, literally, by the fruits of her labour. At my table arrived a whole pint and fruit pulp so thick that a spoon was intermittently employed, the rich texture and the tiny crunch of strawberry seeds confirmed by initial feelings: this is one of the finest tasting beverages I have had sourced in Manchester, and since it is cheaper than some beers on sale, and indeed wholly flavoursome, I stuck to slurping the mixed berry smoothies that evening, and what a revelation it was.
This led to some thoughts about the purpose of drinking smoothies—I think our view of the smoothie is somewhat skewed. A government study tells us that apparently you can only get two of your five daily fruit and vegetable portions from smoothies, regardless of how much you drink. Well, this begs an interesting question, so what?
If you buy smoothie for the health benefits I imagine you also enjoy dunking and dipping raw carrot and celery batons into Taramasalata, so I have full confidence that the 5 a day is made up elsewhere. You see, the health conscious amongst us don’t simply rely on Innocent Drinks to get all those delicious vitamins, right? We drink them because they taste so divine, simply sumptuous.
So, with soft drinks of the elite kind on my mind, I figured that the counterbalance to the cool, plummy sensations of the Fuel smoothie was hot chocolate. Too often just the third option in the Alan Gilbert, after coffee and tea, heartlessly assembled with some powder creating a chalky, watery, potentially heart-breaking experience—I’ll never forget the day I spent the best part of a fiver on the Café Nero Milano hot chocolate, and though it was served in a fancy glass, the drink was almost as sorry as I was for purchasing it.
So, hoping to avoid more disappointment that would have surely just sent me right back into the arms of the Fuel smoothie, I focused the mind, and indeed epiphany struck. Chocolate Boutique by Paul A Young in the Northern Quarter is an outpost of the famous London chocolatier, and his little store, across the road from Teapot, I have heard, sold hot chocolate.
Like any good pilgrim I kept faith and upon completion of my journey I was rewarded with a spiritual experience indeed. Salted caramel hot chocolate, ladled from a cauldron, where a lady stands and stirs with devotion, love, and due care and attention. A wooden plate, a ceramic bowl, and the most indulgent hot drink I may have ever have sipped resulted in me buying a second—an orange chocolate one! Even including the solid form of chocolate, this was the best cocoa experience I’ve ever had.
Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate heaven