Entering MarieBelle is like entering a decadent and over the top aristocratic French wonderland. And things get richer and more decadent the further you walk into the store. First you pass the ice-cream selection, perfect for today’s hot weather. Then you enter the heart of the store, a large room with towering ceilings painted blue with gold details everywhere, where there are beautifully decorated chocolates in every flavor combination imaginable sitting in elaborate display cases.
But the soul of the space is further back, in a room perfectly named the Cocoa Bar. Here the atmosphere changes. The walls are dark chocolate brown and mostly covered with large gold framed mirrors giving the feeling of being in a room in the Palace of Versailles. A large crystal chandelier hangs right in the middle of the room filled with gold chairs and marble table tops. I felt like I’d stepped back in time, perhaps that I’d been invited by Marie Antoinette for a decadent treat, and that I should have been wearing something much more extravagant that jeans and ponytail. Classical music is playing from a stereo behind me but I imagine for a moment that it is instead a real grand piano, playing for us all, as we drink our hot chocolates.
The menu has a whole page of hot chocolates to choose from. They have a selection of dark chocolates, between 65 and 75% cocoa liquor, some sweetened, some not at all, some with chilies or coffee added. If you are more of a milk chocolate type of person there are a range of options here with nutmeg, cinnamon, freshly ground hazelnuts and even natural banana pulp added. A final section features white hot chocolates with Tahitian vanilla and other natural flavors added. I choose the one they are most famous for, their Astec 65% made in the European style with water (although you can also get it made with milk, I strongly recommend the version made with water). I ordered a small which came in an espresso cup covered in delicate gold details. The cup was presented on a small gold platter accompanied by another larger cup filled with a dollop of freshly whipped cream which was lightly dusted with cocoa powder (an extra 45 cents but totally worth it). The hot chocolate was divine. It had a smooth and rich consistency and a beautifully rich dark chocolate taste. It was the perfect blend of sweetness, bitterness and was a consistency that was rich while still being very easy to sip. And I enjoyed every last drop of my small cup, anything more would have been too much of a good thing and anything less would have been a pity.
On the wall as I left I noticed a large poster with a quote from the Marquise de Sevingny, “If you are not feeling well, if you have not slept. Chocolate will revive you. But you have no chocolate. I think of that again and again. My dear how will you ever manage?” How I will manage without MarieBelle’s hot chocolate….I am not sure.
Verdict: A real decadent and extravagant treat, and at 5$ for a small hot chocolate and incredibly friendly staff I will be most definitely spoiling myself again as soon as I get back to NYC. MarieBelle, 484 Broome Street, New York, USA (and a second store in Kyoto).