Audrey’s Chocolates is a delightful nostalgic sweet shop with an original 1960s interior, tucked up a side street in Hove. It’s one of those unique local gem shops which remains true to its traditional roots, and flourishes despite rising city rents, and its off-the-beaten-track location – you have to make an effort to get here from the centre of Brighton. I visited a while ago on a mission to taste the violet and rose creams I’d heard so much about.
While I was here, I ended up chatting to the current owner, Keeley who told me they supply London food emporium, Fortum and Mason with all their chocolate. Not only this, but that they make all of the chocolates in the floors above the shop! Who knew? Looking at it from the outside, you’d never guess that it’s the setting for Brighton and Hove’s secret chocolate factory. Lucky for me, Keeley surprised me with a private backstage tour – I mean, I would have been happy just being allowed to stand behind the counter!
Side point: This means I wasn’t prepared with my proper camera, so any snaps I took were with my iPhone.
The first is that the shop interior looks pretty much the same as it did when Mr Pain and his wife opened it in 1961 with the oak-panelled walls, rich red carpet, all the chocolates displayed on sheets in original dark-wood glass cabinets. Read more about that here.
I follow Keeley behind the counter into her office, through a door which takes us up a narrow winding richly carpeted staircase and past half-landings stacked with boxes of chocolates…
Until we discover the Audrey’s chocolate wizards hard at work. Each person I see looks meditatively engrossed in their individual chocolate related jobs, like tempering which has something to do with making chocolate look glossy and not flat. Someone else is ‘enrobing’ fondants, which is a fancy and lovely way of talking about covering them in chocolate.
One lady I meet is seriously cracking open easter bunny moulds of various sizes ready for decorating with hand-made bows and flowers.
I watch another person carefully decorating easter eggs with pretty handmade flowers. I can’t really believe my eyes! Most of this bound for Fortnum and Mason in London!
I’m intrigued by these interesting tools on the wall which Keeley tells me are traditional chocolate moulds. They’re made out of alabaster, which are pressed into trays of cornflour and removed leaving an indentation to be filled with fondant cream piped in through a funnel designed by Keeley’s grandfather. Magic!
Right at the end of my tour, I realise I haven’t seen any Fortnum and Mason packaging. I find out that this is because the packing is done in a factory unit, where there are another 16 people! Which makes me wonder if they plan to leave the townhouse. “No,” Keeley quikly reassures me. “This place and its history is so much part of the chocolate making process as the chocolate itself!”
I hope you enjoyed your backstage tour of Audrey’s. Until you visit, fill your boots with their chocolates on their website, here.