We started with Melting Perfection on Featherston Street. Merrin suggested getting one piece we knew that we would like, and one 'experimental' piece. I love dark chocolate, so I bought their "Dark Mendiant", which is a thin piece of 70% dark chocolate with assorted nuts and fruits layered on top. I also bought the limited edition "Santa's Secret Trifle" (in dark - 53%), which included a hazelnut mixture and a liquidy fruit filling surrounded by the dark chocolate.
Darren experimented with the "Chili Ganache" and "Santa's Addiction" (in milk chocolate).
Overall, I was quite impressed with this shop. They had a huge selection of chocolates, and the chocolatier was very knowledgeable about all of them. She didn't hesitate for a second when I asked the percentage of cocoa used in their dark chocolate offerings. The prices were a little higher than the other stores, but the pieces were larger too. I liked the Dark Mendiant the best of the two pieces I purchased, but mainly because I'm not a fan of liquidy anything in my chocolate.
As for Darren, he reports that the Chili Ganache was quite good, but very spicy. He enjoyed the special edition Santa's Addiction much more. He describes it as "a caramel covered soft brownie wrapped in a chocolate egg". Yum! I'll have to go back for the dark (53%) version...
We headed down the street to De Spa in the Old Bank building. This shop is quite tiny, and has an equally small selection. The shop girl had no idea about the percentage of cocoa in the dark chocolate offerings, but did answer quite a few questions about the chocolate selections.
I bought the "Hazelnut Devil", Darren tried the "Strawberry Creme" and we both tasted the "Brazilian Nougart" and "Cinnamon Biscuit (cookie)" in dark chocolate. The prices weren't too bad - the pieces averaged about $1 - but the chocolates were a bit smaller than Melting Perfection's. As for taste, all of the selections (except the cookie) were incredibly sugary. Not impressed at all! The cookie was very yummy though, and in addition to the cinnamon, there were hints of ginger spice.
We continued on our way down Willis street to Butler's Chocolate Cafe. Butler's is probably best known in Wellington for their hot chocolate drinks (get a free piece of chocolate with each one!). They do have some tasty-looking chocolate cakes and other assorted baked items on the counter, as well as a small collection of assorted chocolates. Once again, the counter person knew exactly the percentage of cocoa in the dark chocolate (bonus), and I immediately purchased a piece of "Double Chocolate".
The price was similar to the other stores, and while not nearly as sugary as the chocolate from De Spa, not nearly as tasty as the chocolate from Melting Perfection. But perhaps I was distracted from the taste because I had to watch myself eat the chocolate from three different viewpoints - the walls in the cafe are lined with mirrors! I understand this is supposed to make the place feel larger, but no one wants to see his/her reflection when indulging in chocolate.
The last stop in our tour was Shoc Chocolates on Tory. Aptly named, I think, for the prices. Their chocolates are very pretty and colourful and are a great alternative to the average box of chocolates gift. There wasn't a huge selection, but enough to make us feel we had enough to choose from.
I tried the "Apple and Cinnamon" chocolate. Very tiny, but well decorated and tasted just like the description. Darren tried the "Peanut Butter" chocolate which he described as 'meh'.
Shoc also has a large selection of chocolate 'tablets', but we were too full of sugar at that point to try them. Looking at the website, I may have to drop by one day and taste a couple of the bittersweet offerings.
I've heard good things about the attached cafe that serves hot chocolate and other chocolate drinks. Perhaps the next tour will be a cafe tour?
In the end, the first shop (Melting Perfection) wins the prize for the best chocolate in terms of value and taste. Good thing, too, as it's just a couple blocks from my office!
UPDATE: I dropped by Shoc today and tried a couple of the 'tablets'. I absolutely adore the Sea Salt/70% dark chocolate tablet! Pricey, but totally worth it!