An afternoon of chocolate in an old European-style salon in the heart of New York.
Nestled away from the artery of Broadway that runs through Soho – New York’s downtown shopping district – is a tiny chocolate sanctuary in the style of an Old European salon de thé. The last time that these Dessert Correspondents encountered such a sumptuously-decorated afternoon tea venue was Mamor in Melbourne. Stepping into MarieBelle is akin to not only stepping into a place so seemingly far removed from New York and its street cacophony of car honks and emergency sirens blaring every few minutes, but also stepping into a bygone era – one of glistening chandeliers, walls panelled, painted and papered, vases festooned with cheeky feather sprays and sparkling ornaments, and shimmering mirrored glass shelves of chocolate. And gosh, sniff that chocolate fragrance! There are chocolate bars, chocolate truffles, confectionery rocks and even a chocolate ganache cake encased in a book-shaped gift box. And not just any chocolate – MarieBelle is one of the rare, and very few, bean-to-bar manufacturers in New York, with its chocolate made from “single origin Cacao Trinitario” bean grown on Honduran plantations.
Afternoon tea at MarieBelle takes place at the back of the chocolate store, in a small area of closely-spaced, tiny marble-topped tables, dark bamboo-cane chairs and old gilt mirrors. On our visit, high tea was presented in the traditional three-tier format, with gold-rimmed plates, proper silver teapots, and delicate transfer-painted floral porcelain tea-cups and tea-plates. There were eight varieties of tea from which to choose, and of which we selected the English Breakfast and the Lychee Black Tea. Afternoon tea at MarieBelle also came with a choice of hot (or iced chocolate), which was the highlight of the afternoon, in fact. We highly recommend the “Milk Chocolate,” spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. It was a deliciously creamy, ambrosial concoction — exactly how a hot chocolate should be. Come here for your hot chocolate fix, rather than the more “famous” City Bakery.
Turning to the high tea itself, the bottom tier featured a platter of toasted sandwiches — of ham and cheese (akin to a mini croque-monsieur), pesto and tomato, chicken and avocado — all impaled with a skewer of olive beads. It was a most welcome change from the limp, white bread sandwiches encountered at other high tea venues in New York.
Sweet irresistibles comprised the two upper tiers of the high tea at MarieBelle. First, an assortment of a chocolate macaron, signature white chocolate truffle rolled and dusted in matcha powder, shell-shaped macaroon flecked with roasted coconut, and a classic madeleine cake infused with green tea. This was followed by a chocolate fondue into which we dipped banana slices, strawberry nibbles and blueberries frosted with icing sugar. Again, the chocolate was a highlight – a ramekin of simply luscious molten dark chocolate.
These Dessert Correspondents, we love New York. The thrilling, never-stopping energy of it all. But sometimes, you just need to get away. The sitting area at MarieBelle can become a little claustrophobic, the service is a little flustered, the food offering is of universal appeal rather than distinctively creative, but truly, you come here for the chocolate. Whether it be a steamy mug of hot chocolate (or an iced one for those steamy summer days), chocolate fondue or the full chocolate afternoon tea, MarieBelle is a treasure box of a chocolate hideaway.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: MarieBelle, 484 Broome Street, Soho, Manhattan, New York.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ (USD $65 for two, plus tax/service. Look out for discount vouchers).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Afternoon Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: The hot chocolate.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: An afternoon of chocolate in an old European-style salon in the heart of New York.