Museum of the Month is a series where I share my experiences of visiting unique and often strange museums from around the world. My aim is to rebuff the notion that museums are boring. Join me on my quest!
The advisory warning, ‘Death by chocolate’ should be attached to anyone thinking of going to Belgium. For Chocoholics, I’d go as far as saying a complete ban needs to be imposed. I’m serious.
You don’t have to be a chocolate buff to know that Belgium is famous for it. They invented the praline in 1912 and Brussels is said to have more high-end chocolatiers per square mile than any other city in the world.
As a nation we love chocolate. We don’t just eat it, we invent all kinds of ways to incorporate it into our lives. From Spa treatments offering chocolate baths, to body paint used for (now how do I say this without seeming like I know too much?) amorous activities.
Luckily I don’t go ga-ga for chocolate, it’s not my weakness. You see I’m more of a savoury person, give me a main course over dessert any day of the week. However, this doesn’t mean I have immunity to Little Miss Coco when she’s in front of me. On the contrary. She’s quite the temptress and has made a bad woman out of me at times….
On more than one occasion I’ve bought chocolates to give away as presents (usually to those relatives who you only obligatory see at Christmas and don’t know what to give them) but instead of wrapping them up and saving them like any decent human being would be capable of doing, I devour them all in a matter of minutes, only days before Christmas in a shameless display of gluttony.
But truth be told, it’s a win-win situation: I get the chocolate and they always receive better presents the second time around. That’s what guilt does to you.
Despite some low ebbs of self-control in the face of Little Miss Coco, miraculously I managed to visit Brussels without causing a dent in my integrity. I even managed a visit to the Chocolate Museum without taking a bite into some of the faux-chocolate displays.
As I walked into the museum, I paid the entrance fee to two girls who didn’t even bother breaking away from their conversation to serve me. It certainly didn’t have the formality of a usual museum. I had to ask if they had any leaflets in English and the girl nearest to me pointed in front of her to a pile of folded in half A4-sheets of paper that had about as much information on as the writing above the door of the museum. I wanted to learn something, not waste paper.
I also read beforehand that a free sample of warm melted chocolate is given to visitors but that never came my way. I was going to ask but I glanced back at the rude girls and decided not to waste my breath. Hopefully I just visited on an ‘off’ day. I’d like to think I did because there is something potentially charming about this museum but it needs work.
Going around the museum I felt underwhelmed. If my expectations was for Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, the reality was nowhere near in sight.
Some of the displays looked like they hadn’t been changed in decades and some of the chocolate on display had more cracks in it than an over-baked brownie.
However, not all was at a loss. Things were about to pick up. I had saved the best for last: the demonstration.
At the back of the bottom floor of the museum is the kitchen of a chocolatier. This is where the chocolate demonstration takes place. I huddled in with a group of other people and the chocolatier greeted us with a huge smile that immediately washed away any regret I felt about visiting. After showing off his ability to speak in several languages, the group settled on English and French.
He began by showing us a variety of different chocolates and then showed us the process of how he goes about making them using a double-boiler for melting the chocolate, and a variety of plastic moulds. He had oodles of personality, all I needed to see now were a few umpa lumpas marching in carrying baskets of coco dust and my dream would have turned into a reality.
The reincarnation of Willy Wonka I believe
The chocolate maker also revealed the secret of making seashell chocolates and pralines, as well as using leaves to create, you guessed it, leaf-shaped chocolates. The demonstration lasted for about 15-minutes and we were offered chocolates to try throughout.
Although I may have entered the museum somewhat disappointed, I left feeling like the kid who raided the sweetie shop and got away with it.
How to get there: Rue de la Tete d’Or 9-11 (round the corner from Grand Place
Opening times: Tue – Sun 10.00 – 16.30
Entrance fee: 5 Euros