Even in a city as renowned for its chocolate as Brussels, Laurent Gerbaud Chocolatier stands out for its originality. I still remember the epiphany I experienced when I first tasted Gerbaud’s cumin-laced chocolate. Cumin is a spice with a robust musky scent and savoury flavour; the idea of blending it into chocolate seemed mad to me, and yet the pairing turned out to be ingenious. The contrast between the voluptuous warmth of Moroccan cumin and the creamy sweetness of the milk chocolate Gerbaud uses to craft his trademark tablettes de chocolat (from €6.95) made for an addictive confection.
Ever since, I’ve returned often to Gerbaud’s boutique on Rue Ravenstein, located close to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. The space includes a tea room, and wine is also available, but it’s always the chocolate display that draws my attention, with its shiny jewel-like ganaches topped with green pistachios, red cranberries or golden slices of candied pear. I usually start my tasting by asking the staff to surprise me. At the core of the seasonal collection is Gerbaud’s house blend, combining several types of cacao beans to achieve a complex bouquet that needs minimal amounts of sugar. Added to this are bright flavours such as bergamot or apricot in summer, and kumquat or speculoos (spiced gingerbread) in winter. I wait impatiently for autumn to feast on the glazed Izmir figs and the yuzu-perfumed dark-chocolate bars.
I often end up lingering over a plate of ganaches and a glass of sweet white wine (Monbazillac, €7), and leave with at least a couple of chocolate bars – and sometimes a Mondrian set (€1 a piece, in tasting boxes of 15, 35 or 65), divided into squares and rectangles reminiscent of the Dutch painter’s compositions. The flavours range from delicate to intense, but all are delicious.