The Oriental Shop

And it’s not another bric-a-brac outlet!

It has been said (by some spoil-sport) that there’s more to life than chocolate, but Fabrice Leblus, the executive pastry chef at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Resort might not agree. Fabrice is a third generation pastry chef from Belgium, whose life has been so covered in chocolate that he was even born in his parents chocolate shop!

Fabrice’s love of chocolates has taken him to some “interesting” places, including such unlikely patisseries as Kuwait and Lebanon, neither thought of as the chocolate capitals of the world. However, he is now here and running the little Oriental Shop in the Kad Dhara shopping village next to the resort. He was our host for a most interesting dining out dalliance.

When you come in through the main portal of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Resort, the Kad Dhara area is to the right of the supervised car park. The Kad Dhara (up)market has some very exclusive boutiques and you will find the Oriental Shop in the far right of the compound. The market itself has been set up with narrow walkways between the wooden shop-houses, as such areas would have been a hundred years or so ago.

The Oriental Shop itself has been built to look like a Victorian tea house, all resplendent with gleaming white paint and cane chairs and a couple of tables inside, along with four refrigerated cabinets just packed full of chocolates (about B. 27 each) and many different cakes, with the small individual ones around B. 89. There are also many bakery items with breads and pastries, French baguettes, muffins, Danish pastries, Bavarian rye bread, Brioche and Focaccia breads and even whole wheat toast.

We sat outside at one of the tables in the courtyard, under the large canvas umbrellas, sipped coffee (supplied with hot milk, naturally), chatted with Fabrice and positively pigged ourselves on some of the cakes and chocolates. Fabrice explained that when he puts a tartlet or other item together he tries to blend the contrasts of bitter and sweet and soft and crispness together. When you find the ‘Le Saint Williams’ has (and I quote) Crispy Hazelnut Dacquoise biscuit, Pear jelly, Caramel Cinnamon Ganache and 66 percent chocolate mousse, you can just imagine the taste already (can’t you)! By the way, a ‘Ganache’ is a mixture of chocolate and cream!

We tried several and every one seemed just that little better than the one before, and they were all sensational. Imagine a bitter chocolate mousse with raspberry and pistachio, or how about the Alliance Exotique featuring a pistachio and chocolate sponge, pistachio and almond nougatine, creamy passion-fruit and mango cream! I want another one - now!

Not only did we devour the cakes, but Fabrice brought out some of his individual chocolates, dark, white or milk, they were all so wonderful I had to be physically restrained. While the indulgence continued, Blake, the young man from Ireland, kept the coffees coming. It was the closest to heaven that I have ever come.

I should have asked our Agony Aunt Miss Hillary to come with me on this dining out experience. The self-confessed queen of Belgian chocolates and champagne would have gone crazy at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi Resort’s Kad Dhara shopping village (now there’s a mouthful, even without dark chocolates and raspberries) in their Oriental Shop. Exquisite chocolates and cakes that show there’s more to being a pastry chef than rolling up sponges and covering them with chocolate topping. Sensational, scrumptious, delicious, breathtaking, incredible, delectable, luscious and even probably licentious!

For some mouth-watering treats to revitalise your sense of being sinfully self-indulgent, you owe it to yourself to visit the Oriental Shop. I have not tasted better. Go once and you will make it a weekly habit. Highest recommendation possible. (Sorry if it’s been a bit of a rave this week, but after you’ve been there, you will understand why!)

The Oriental Shop, Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi Resort’s Kad Dhara shopping village, 51/4 Chiang Mai - Sankampaeng Road, telephone 053 888 888, fax 053 888 999, website www. ma darinoriental.com. Secure parking in the Kad Dhara car park. Open 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. seven days.