Belgium: The world capital of chocolate

The Belgians have a pretty insatiable appetite for chocolate, consuming nearly nine kilograms each of the cocoa-based confection annually. It’s one of Belgium’s most famous exports, but there’s plenty left at home to tempt both residents and travellers. Visit any part of the country and you’re sure to be enticed by a truffle or two.

Decadent destination
A leisurely stroll past the country’s famous chocolate shops is fun in itself – artful window displays stacking nuggets in all shapes and colours are a familiar sight on many high streets. There are some 500 chocolatiers in Brussels alone but perhaps the most important of all is Neuhaus in the grand Galer-ies Royales Saint-Hubert arcade. It’s here that, 100 years ago, Jean Neuhaus changed the way the world enjoyed chocolate with his exquisite creation – praline. Suddenly bite-sized chocolates filled with soft and delicious centres of nuts, cream, liqueur and fruit became a fashionable delicacy.

A taste for perfection
While in Brussels, it’s also worth visiting Pierre Marcolini’s stylish shop on Rue Des Minimes 1, a suit-able showcase for his concept of ‘haute couture for chocolate’. Marcolini’s creations are delectable, particularly his liqueur chocolates filled with rare single malt whisky or fine rum. The chocolate in his innovative Pastel collection is a real hit in the summer. Flavours are light and citrus-based, infused with lime, passion fruit, mango and yuzu, a Japanese fruit. Jean Galler is another popular, if more tra-ditional, chocolatier. His Rue au Beurre store is home to more than 20 different chocolate flavours as well as truffles, ice creams and spreads.

Beyond Brussels
Exceptional chocolate is not confined to the capital. If you’re in Bruges, hunt for the Chocolate Line, run by the ‘shock-o-latier’ Dominique Persoone, who specialises in adventurous combinations that include sake and black olive, and tomato and basil. In Ghent, visit Nicolas Vanaise’s Yuzu, a boutique that sells beautifully crafted chocolates, influenced by delicate Zen styles and flavours. But, even if you don’t get any further than Maasmechelen Village, you’re never far from quality chocolate in Bel-gium – infamous chocolatier Neuhaus has a chocolate boutique here too.