Easter, or ‘The Christmas of Chocolate’, is not the best holiday in the calendar year (obviously that is Christmas, hence ‘The Christmas of Chocolate’ bit), but more of a cult classic, like Hallowe'en, or any given Bank Holiday. You still get to celebrate – which, in British terms, means ‘drink and eat yourself into a muffin-topped coma.' But instead of turkey and fruit cake (Christmas), a pumpkin-shaped tub full of sugary candy (Hallowe'en) or 'loads and loads of pints' (every Bank Holiday), at Easter you get to enjoy an entire egg-shaped chocolate shell, two full-sized chocolate bars or snacks, and then a lamb roast and big sugary cup of tea out of a box-fresh Creme Egg mug.
So it's a Top Five public holiday, for sure, though not the Main One. This gives us a crevice for me to wiggle my bald head of ideas into: see, just as Christmas is laced on tradition, so Easter is slightly looser with the rules. Easter is the more casual roast-focussed Sunday-vibe family holiday: it's always on a different day of the year, for a start, and it's only really ever truly exciting for children, and the tradition of Mini Eggs and Creme Eggs and hot-crossed buns is there, sure, but nobody is ever going to die over it. Your nan's not going to storm out of the kitchen because you bought the wrong type of Lindt bunny, is she? But she nearly had a heart attack and died that year you bought orange instead of mint Matchmakers for Christmas. What I'm saying is: Easter has space to be modernised. The traditions can be bent and cracked and made anew.
And so the question is: what can I, and the proud takeaways of London, crowbar Easter chocolate into in pursuit of a new tradition? Could you put an entire battered Easter egg in a fish and chip shop fryer, for instance? Could one sprinkle chocolate curls over a delicious Mexican taco? How about pizza? There has to be something with pizza, hasn't there? What if I put chocolate in a curry? All good questions. All questions I intend to find the answers out to. And so:
CHOCOLATE PIZZA – PUREZZA, CAMDEN
Pizza is probably the world’s universal comfort food, because it mixes those two most comforting foodstuffs – bread and cheese – and lubes them up real smooth and nice with a lovely bit of inoffensive tomato. But what if that lube was actually white chocolate sauce and Nutella? And what if that ‘cheese’ was Oreos? And what if that bread... well, that was still bread, to be fair.
Anyway, you know when you first get into Nutella – like maybe when you first tried it when you were a kid, and your mind was fucking blown by such a great-tasting sauce? A bit like how you imagine heroin is, but instead you're eight years old and covertly spreading Nutella on a digestive biscuit? – and then you get too carried away, 'overdosing' so to speak, absolutely saturating a single slice of toast with the stuff until it's wet and sags in the middle like a hammock, and when you eat it it's not exactly an unpleasant experience but it's not actively pleasant, either, you're just sort of trudging through the Nutella–toast you've made because you don't want to embarrass yourself and admit in front of your mum that you overdid it on the Nutella? Whole thing actively puts you off Nutella for a good two, three years before you delve back in with a single mouthful of it taken off a teaspoon? Yeah. That’s what this pizza is like. But in a good way, almost.
Chocolate Deep Inside Feeling: Two chocolate bars out of five – it's very 'complicated murder where the victim was found face down with their lungs full of liquid chocolate.'
CHOCOLATE CURRY – INDIAN GREEDY COW, BETHNAL GREEN
Traditional takeaway curry has for years been influenced by sweet flavours – ground almonds, coconut milk, raisins, dates – but has anyone ever melted an entire fucking bar of Dairy Milk into a korma before? They have not, no, until Indian Greedy Cow in Bethnal Green came along and did it. The unassuming Hackney Road eatery – I say 'eatery', I mean 'tiny kitchen with a small foyer space for Deliveroo drivers to wait in' – offers the Chocolate Special with your choice of chicken, fish, prawn or vegetable, and describes it on the menu as being "cooked in chocolate sauce using dairy milk chocolate & rich creamy masala spices". It sounds like something strongmen eat to cram extra calories into their large swollen bodies, or something that weird lumpy kid on the school bus makes in the microwave when you ill-advisedly go to his house to play. But I'm an open-minded guy. I'll eat the fucker.
Well guess what: it banged, but was only very subtly on a chocolate wave. I mean it was basically a slightly richer, sweeter and more dense chicken tikka masala, if I’m brutally honest. After eating the bits of chicken I just felt like I was eating 'rich curry' rather than 'chocolate sauce with chicken in it', so downed the rest of the gravy in one go and sort of got a hit of chocolate and milk. Like... it was nice. I'm sorry to announce the chocolate curry was nice.
Chocolate Deep Inside Feeling: Three and a half chocolate bars out of five – I kind of prepared myself for the actual sauce just to be chocolate fountain chocolate, and even though my body and tastebuds were glad it wasn’t, my chocolate deep inside feeling was sad. Still nice though.
CHOCOLATE ENCHILADAS AND SOME CHOCOLATE CHICKEN WITH RICE – MESTIZO, WARREN ST
Mestizo, next to Warren Street station, is a slightly more upmarket Mexican restaurant. I was made very aware of this because the first thing the manager said to me was, “Oh, it’s you. We’ve been having a big debate on the work WhatsApp as to whether we should let you do this. It’s still ongoing, so if you’d like to take a seat at the bar I’ll let you know how it goes”, which – in my opinion – is absolutely fair, because what restaurant would really want some guy gurning his way through the food you’ve lovingly prepared, only for him to write about the whole experience later for content? My diet is now so publicly distressing that restaurants consider turning me away.
In the end they let me stay and eat their Mole Poblano (thank you!) and their Enchiladas De Mole (thank you kind sirs!), and I'm very glad they did because both of them absolutely slapped. Mole, which is the main chocolatey aspect of these two dishes, is a traditional sauce used in Mexican cooking, traditionally made by grinding dried fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spice, chilli into a paste, then the chocolate element is usually added in at the end of a lengthy cooking process to soften the blow of the chilli and spices. It's sort of like taking 'put a square of dark chocolate in your chilli' to the absolute conclusion, but it completely and utterly works and made me sweat (good way!) a lot.
And look, let me make this absolutely clear to you: this shit is fucking incredible. Maybe it’s the warm, gentle heat of the chilli; maybe it's complicated richness comes from to having so many ingredients cooked over such a long time; maybe I just love both chocolate and Mexican food equally with all my heart; but these two dishes were the nicest things I’ve had in a while – like, not even chocolate-wise, just in real life.
Chocolate Deep Inside Feeling: Five chocolate bars out of five – this is a Mole sauce stan account now.
DEEP FRIED CHOCOLATE EASTER EGGS, WHICH, ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY AREN'T SAVOURY, WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT THEY ARE COOKED IN A SAVOURY WAY AND SHAPED LIKE A SAVOURY DISH, SO STILL COUNT – SUTTON & SONS, STOKE NEWINGTON
As regular readers of my hard-hitting journalism will know, I love deep-fried things. Maybe it’s because I was weaned on fish and chips (Scottish mum) or maybe it’s because deep frying things is humanity’s last attempt at modern day alchemy, turning – as alchemy does – any base food into a noble one. To that end, the Stoke Newington branch of Sutton & Sons, who are one of the most consistently great fish & chip shops in London, agreed to let me deep fry an Easter egg, because really that is the logical conclusion this article has been rushing towards. The theory was simple: dip an Easter egg in batter; throw in the fire; consume hot egg in one foul sitting. Unfortunately, due to science, the egg almost entirely imploded as soon as it hit the oil, leaving little wispy clouds of chocolate dazzling away in the vat of sparkling fat for someone else to clean up later. A disaster, yes, but, like Jesus, one I intended to bounce back from.
Bravely I pressed on, wilfully ignoring the oozy omens of impending doom now chilling out in the bubbling goodness, and asking the Sutton lads if they had any other chocolate things I could deep fry. Luckily, they batter Mars Bars, Snickers, and pretty much any kind of chocolate bar you want if you ask nice enough, so I thought about it for exactly one second and decided on three battered Creme Eggs.
I… don’t like Creme Eggs, if I'm honest. The ratio is way off. A tiny sliver of chocolate covering a giant reservoir of eye wateringly sugary goo? No thank you. Does deep frying them improve that ratio at all? Reader, no. And so by the second bite of the first egg I was Having A Bad Time, and the deep fried element didn’t really help, and if anything it only made it worse because it made the sugary goo warm, and really pumped into my head that this is probably what eating a heart attack feels like, and by the third I was feeling a little bit like... you know when you have a hangover shit so calamitous you think you're going to die on the toilet? That feeling, but without the shit. Just sitting in a chip shop, feeling the approach of the abyss.
Chocolate Deep Inside Feeling: Two chocolate bars out of five – despite being the only actual chocolate bar on the list, having three creme grenades lobbed into my stomach acid totally fucked me over for a day.
Actually maybe Jesus had it right with the 'lamb roast, unbattered Easter Egg, whole thing of Mini Eggs eaten out of a tube' Easter tradition, and messing with the classics was a bad idea. I will never have the temerity to go up against the old gods again.