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Andrew Liddle
Guest Writer
1:01 AM 13th April 2024
arts

Scarborough Calling: Part Two

Chocolate Heaven At The Confiserie Arosa
Anytime in the last hundred years or so the person walking up Ramshill, on the Filey Road, is likely to have experienced a heady endorphin rush. They call it the ‘chocolate sensation’, when the senses are joyously flooded by the merest waft of the cocoa bean.

I got it on a warm day when the doors of the Confiserie Arosa were open - and the waft immediately floated me back to the careless rapture of childhood - at a time that Halifax boasted the Riley’s toffee factory. Always when the redolence drifts by I get the warm feeling of well being.

This shop, which has long been famous in Scarborough, has been in the Dixon family since 1977. That’s when Ken and Gwen took over the existing chocolate shop which first started just after the First World War.

Simon Dixon
Simon Dixon
They still occasionally help out although the shop is now run by their son, Simon, the master chocolatier, who began his unofficial apprenticeship at the age of 10. “I used to help out and watch my Dad at work,” he says brightly, “and that’s when I got a taste for it!”

He’s one of those fortunate individuals who loves his job and is able to enjoy the fruits of his own labour. “I do really like top quality chocolate and savour some every day.”The grin tells me a joke is on the way. “Somebody has got to be the taste tester!”

It’s no wonder he approves, not just because it is his own work, but because it’s made with only the best ingredients, the highest quality Belgian chocolate, supplied by Callebaut, an iconic firm founded in 1911 by Octaaf Callebaut.

“Callebaut is the best available to import, simply the best in taste and quality,” he says. “They are the largest independent retailer and the brand of choice for master chefs around the world. You can’t do better than that.”

Three or four times a year, half a ton of milk, white and dark arrives to be stored securely at room temperature, ready to be melted, blended and crafted into captivating chocolates with fondant centres.

In recent years much has appeared in the press and on social media about some well-known brands of chocolate not tasting the same, the accusation being levelled that big firms are now using cheaper ingredients and quicker processes. “That’s certainly acted to our advantage,” he nods, “and we refuse to compromise on quality, which is our selling point.”

“The chocolate has to appeal at the first bite, create a snap when melting in your mouth, and leave a lovely aftertaste when swallowed.” He’s putting on headgear, coat and gloves and I’m doing the same. “The chocolatier’s art is in the blending,” he adds, as he directs me to the ‘starch room’ for a demonstration.

Simon Dixon
Simon Dixon
It is here that the melted fondant is dropped through a funnel into the moulds pressed out of cornflower starch. Everything is done by hand. There are many delicious flavours and as many heady scents of oils of peppermint and rose, the zest of orange, honey, coffee and butter filling the room. The centres are then dipped, using a fork, in melted chocolate - and when set the starch is brushed off.

This is only one of Simon’s many operations, which include making chocolate drops, a very popular range of fudges and seasonal varieties like Easter eggs, Christmas and Summer truffles, flavoured with Bailey’s, marzipans, pralines, nougat, caramels and a nut selection.

“The Easter eggs are the most labour intensive,” he says, “because I have to apply three separate coatings to the mould to get the right thickness and strength, before the hand brushing and decoration.”

Simon Dixon
Simon Dixon
In all he and his staff produce more 30 than deliciously different varieties . Regular customers come from all over Scarborough and beyond, lured by the aroma and flavour nuances, no doubt. “Of course, we get the tourists. Many have been coming for years. Some say they were here as kids and want to taste chocolate as they remember it and as it used to be.”

“You could say I was born into the world of chocolate and know how lucky I am to be able to go to work and taste and smell chocolate every day,” he says. “Although I’m passionate about the products we create, I do enjoy my life outside of my job.”

He’s never bored. How could he be when he’s always got a blend of the finest Belgian chocolate to give him a lift. It’s very easy to conclude that the chocolate at Confiserie Arosa is one of the great tastes of Scarborough.


Scarborough Calling: Part Three: A PROPER PUB IN THE OLD TOWN, will be published on 20th April.