I’ve said it a few times on this blog, I love the Byward market in Ottawa. There is just something fantastic about this area in all seasons, but perhaps mostly now in the fall when it is filled with giant pumpkins, hanging garlic and wooden crates filled with crisp freshly picked apples. (As you can clearly see I’m posting this review a little late). I’m loving the market even more as it is starting to fill up with good hot chocolate options such as Stubbe, Cylie Artisans and even the ever popular Cupcake Lounge.
The newest addition, Cacao70, is a growing franchise from Montreal where it has two very popular locations. On my last trip to Montreal I had it on my list of places to visit and didn’t get to it, so I was pleasantly surprised when I walked through the market one day this summer and saw it just a few days after it had opened. It was summer, and was hot (by Ottawa standards), and the big room was very empty. The waiter ran up to us, introduced us to the place, walked us through the menu, gave us a sample of dark hot chocolate and encouraged us to come back again soon. A few months later we did go back. Things had changed. The place was packed with a line up going out the door. The waiters were so busy we didn’t see them much, at all, which gave us a bit more time to take in the surroundings and thoroughly analyze the hot chocolate offerings. Everyone was eating something with chocolate and the long list of options were a bit overwhelming including but not limited to chocolate pizzas, chocolate waffles and chocolate cheesecake. Several small groups were sharing chocolate fondues with a range of fruits and sweets to dip into them.
Cacao70 has a serious hot chocolate menu. American style, Mexican style, white, milk, dark chocolate, they have a thick Italian drinking chocolate as well as frozen hot chocolates, all for CDN$8.75. They also have a range of single origin hot chocolates for CDN$9.25. I was torn, as I wanted to order Giuseppe Lamma’s Bolognese, a hot chocolate based on a 1660 recipe from the court of the Bentivoglio family in Bologna spiced with cinnamon and orange flavoured chocolate. Instead this time I opted for the Cacao70 Spicy Hot Chocolate, a dark hot chocolate spiced with paprika, curry, cardamom and basque chili pepper. I really enjoyed it. It had a seriously addictive spice kick that lingered at the back of my throat, which was just limit. Anymore kick and I would have had smoke coming out of my ears. The other spices blended together well to balance the drink and make it really interesting. Rich on the other hand had the Classic Spicy, a dark chocolate with cayenne chili and cinnamon and wouldn’t recommend it. You could taste the chocolate and the cayenne but not together. It was as if the cayenne was just sitting at the top of the drink to smack you in the face, making it so spicy it was very difficult to drink.
Although I enjoyed my hot chocolate, I wasn’t such a big fan of the place. The portions were too big. Is there such thing as too much hot chocolate? Well these mugs were pretty big, which in this case I didn’t think was a good thing (it would be great if they had a small and a large option and then changed the prices accordingly). The place and counters were a mess, and it was very crowded (cafeteria style). The staff were either not around or just somewhat helpful. I am curious to go back though to try out some of their other offerings and have the same hot chocolate again. Next time though I think I might take my hot chocolate to go and enjoy it on one of the benches out in front of the market so I can take enjoy the constant buzz of the Byward market.
Verdict: A few hits and a few misses but I liked my hot chocolate. Cacoa70, 51-53 William Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada