The first stop for many visitors to Edinburgh is a Scotch whisky tasting, the better to immerse oneself in the Scottish spirit. But for a wee dram of something equally warming, stroll down to PLAISIR DU CHOCOLAT, about a 15-minute walk from Edinburgh Castle. The opulent Art Nouveau café at 251 Canongate offers up chocolate as it was meant to be: rich, flavorful and complex. Founder and master chocolatier Bertrand Espouy treats chocolate as sommeliers would wine, with an emphasis on origin, terroir and manufacture. The café window features a mouthwatering display of exquisite house-made pastries and cakes, and inside, diners choose from a menu of hot chocolate drinks categorized by country of origin and percentage of cocoa.
The classic Chocolat Chaud has 53% cocoa content (milky, sweet and reminiscent of childhood), and the decadent Chocolate Expresso is made with cream instead of hot milk it's so thick it could be mistaken for custard. Frenchman Espouy takes his patrons on a tour of cocoa-producing countries: the Caribbean Santo Domingo, made with 70% cocoa, is spicy and bold, while the bittersweet African Tanzania is reminiscent of a complex cognac. The adventurous will want to try the Infinite Extravagance, made to the ancient Inca recipe, with 100% cocoa liquor and hot milk infused with chilies. For the indecisive, there is a tasting option with a demitasse of each of the above.
Still missing that Scotch? The café offers pairings of local whiskies with specially selected chocolate truffles. Now that's getting into the Scottish spirit. www.plaisirduchocolat.com