A little bit like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, I expected the Smooth Festival of Chocolate to be what dreams are made of. Chocolate fountains, wonderous statues made of glossy chocolate coaxed into impossible shapes, decadent ganache, chocolate squares and little truffle balls, spiced hot chocolate that simply oozes richness and an older man (that my brain has conveniently changed to a young, handsome South American - you can do that in dreams, right?) expertly tempering luscious chocolate.
A little bit of rustic dčcor.
This is sadly not what Sydney’s Smooth Festival of Chocolate looks like. At first I struggled to see a stall that had anything to do with chocolate. It takes me ten minutes of wandering through stalls selling falafels, Spanish tapas, Greek food, a Bao tent, Yalla Yalla and some other things, before I finally, FINALLY, find a Choc Wrap truck.
The festival covers the harbour side promenade on the left of Circular Quay, stretching from George Street to Campbell’s Cove and is an annual weekend long event.
The event is divided into precincts - the highlights of the First Fleet Park are Zumbo’s triple tent and the giant plastic ice-cream cone photo booth that matched it, as well as a scroll maker with decadent looking scrolls.
While trying to find the Chocolatier's Quarter a.k.a the promise land of artisan chocolate I pass a pop-up cider bar and the Lindt Lounge, but the chocolatier's quarters - which are meant to be in the Overseas Passenger Terminal - still elude me.
Dean Gibson and his showpiece "Pumpkin Head scarecrow". Above is his second showpiece, a chocolate raven.
As the festival is so spread out locating everything is an arduous task. Back at the chocolate wrap truck I'm disappointed by the lack of chocolate at what is meant to be a chocolate festival.
On a whim I join a nearby line. Sure enough, a few minutes later, after eating my free Lindt chocolate, I enter a room that seems finally to be all about chocolate!
Working through the medium of Lindt wrappers. So artistic!
The room is decorated with crates, hessian sacks and the occasional jar filled with confectionery. The centre of the room is dominated by stalls, most of which give away free samples, with products priced as you’d expect – expensive – and each with its unique brand.
Around the outside are small exhibitions – one man assembles an impressive Halloween themed chocolate sculpture, while a creative artist makes a picture out of Lindt chocolate wrappers.
Absolutely beautiful cakes by Baked by Joanne.
From left: Jeff de Bruges, opening soon in Bondi Junction; chocolate made to match with wine; passionfruit and blackberry rocky road and other tasty treats by Cacaoette.
From left: My dream pantry by Sweetness the patisserie; treats by Choco Samta; and delicious flavoured chocolate bits.
This precinct is the centre-piece of the festival and for me, made it all worth it. Sample as much as you can and have fun doing it. It is the highlight of the festival, and while not quite as amazing as Wonka's movie set factory (you can't lick the walls here) it’s still pretty good.
The Campbell's Cove side, not to be ignored, with chocolate covered fruit and cooking demonstrations, among other things.
There is more to be seen on the Campbell’s Cove side and down Mill Lane. Campbell’s Cove has a pop-up kitchen that holds cooking demonstrations by well-known chefs as well as stalls that sell chocolate covered fruits.
You need a few hours to fully appreciate the Smooth Festival of Chocolate, and predictably, there are huge lines everywhere and it’s not cheap. The free samples, beautiful displays and chocolate artistry on show make it worth it though - just remember your walking shoes!
Where: The Rocks, Sydney CBD
When: Saturday 10th September to Sunday 11th October 2016
Good for kids: Yes
Take away: Yes