As soon as you walk into Kakawa on William Street in Kings Cross, the warm, dry scent of toasting nuts, praline and cocoa hits you. There’s nothing fancy about the shop, which doubles as a chocolate factory – except what’s on the whitewashed shelves. And this is the gear you should be paying attention to. Clear cellophane packets of sugar porn greet you on the left: chunks of sticky, deep-golden honeycomb covered in bittersweet dark chocolate are lined up and ready to be torn open. Giant jars tied with colourful ribbons are filled with flavoured caramels wrapped in brown paper (we’re looking at you apple pie, and don’t think we didn’t see you, vanilla and butter). CD cases house edible chocolate discs. There are even (shock!) plain chocolate bars to be had, though we’re very keen to go back for a bag of choc-covered popcorn. And… is that an ice-cream sandwich in the freezer? Over on the right of the store in a pristine glass display case, loose chocolates like a mouth-puckering yuzu number and a lip-smacking chocolate/peanut butter square, are being bought and eaten faster than the chocolatiers can make them. No surprise to us. We’ve barely left the shop before we’ve torn open our packets.
In their little corner of Bruges in Rozelle, these guys wield some serious skill in the window display department, constructing elaborate sculptures of anything from a woodwork bench complete with chocolate mallets and chocolate wood shavings through to six-foot chocolate Christmas trees. There are little ravioli shapes with sesame praline, or try chocolate cups filled with peach and raspberry cream and capped with white chocolate printed with music notes in honour of Dame Nellie Melba.
The Strand is all abuzz now that this beloved Melbournian chocolaterie has finally opened its doors in Sydney. The elegant Victorian surrounds perfectly complement the Swiss bank vault-themed interior – all white, glass and bronze – and the range of chocolates is extensive. We like the chewy, almost toffee-like dark salted caramel, which is beautifully bitter and not too sweet. The mango and vanilla tastes like it’s been made with actual fresh mango: of the tropics, but not in a sunscreen-tasting, piña colada kind of way. The silky ganache in the chai tea truffle reminds us of pfeffernusse, those little, white-iced gingerbread rounds you see at Christmastime: heady with spice, but cleverly executed so it’s not overpowering. The Easter selection is on point – cute little spotted ‘quail’ eggs in tiny boxes sit amongst dark chocolate Easter bunnies and big, golden eggs that'll appeal to the Wonka lover in all of us.
The Sydney CBD Adora site is less a chocolate shop and more a café with a whole lot of chocolate in it, serving coffee and exquisite-looking pastries to the lawyerly types that inhabit Bligh Street. It’s tucked away in the Wentworth Connection arcade, and when we popped by they were doing a roaring trade in their boxed-up gift packs and cute (if impractical-looking...) chocolate lollipop sticks.
Hit up this tiny jewel box of a chocolate shop and grab yourself a bear. It looks and tastes like a Caramello Koala's more sophisticated (and portlier) older brother: a thick shell of smooth, milk chocolate encases some seriously slow-oozing, dark and just-bitter-enough caramel. Damn good. The bear is just one of a menagerie of animals on offer – an orange nougat-filled chocolate koala is another highlight, and there’s a mango penguin and strawberry echidna, too.
It’s about variety at Haigh’s: between selling their giant golden chocolate Murray cod and their milk-chocolate pandas, the Adelaide import also does a wide range of loose chocolates at affordable prices. There’s even a native Australian flavour collection, including wattle seed toffee crunch and wild lime jelly (a little like eating delicious detergent). But our favourite is a generously minted dark chocolate peppermint cream. It’s just a shame the chocolate itself is slightly waxy. The Haigh’s shops are classically styled to look like Victorian-era sweets shops, and they’re constantly packed. They may not individually wrap your chocolates, but they give pleasant enough service – and free samples. We’ll take two.
Yes, it's a café. But it's also a shop, and we advise making for the retail section of the room. Pistache, wrapped in beautiful olive green and silver paper, is like a slab of milk chocolate capsules, each filled with a full pistachio entombed in almond cream. But the star of the store is down the back: a circular counter where a chef hand makes rustic-looking, nut-filled slabs of chocolate. We go macadamia with the dark stuff.
Need a gluttonous chocolate binge, but can’t face the guilt you might feel after? Then Pana Chocolate is for you. Recently opened in Alexandria, the Melbourne-originated outfit is all about rawness, so nothing here is cooked or messed around with, and there’s no dairy, gluten, cane sugar or other nasties in their sweets. There are healthier versions of those sickly, soft Wagon Wheels you loved as a kid (here they’re known as ‘Vespa Wheels’), as well as ‘cake’ slices and a whole range of cacao-based truffles. We love the pink lemonade ‘white chocolate’ truffles, and we wouldn’t walk past the Pana-Pops, which are sort of like mini-cheesecake filled with Magnums.