It was my husband's birthday last week, so as a surprise (and knowing what a sweet tooth he has), I arranged to take him along to a dessert tasting evening with friends. Organised by We Love Desserts, and held at The Beehive in Cheltenham, the proceeds from the evening were split between Sue Ryder and The Eve Appeal, so we could all feel virtuous while completely wrecking our diets...
We were welcomed with a complimentary glass of wine, and a little strawberry chocolate cup served with fresh strawberries (above), to nibble on while everyone arrived and took their places.
As most of the desserts are usually prepared with gelatine, I had to put in a special request in advance to make sure there was a vegetarian option available. I did wonder whether this would mean my experience was completely different to that of my friends, as my desserts were being developed especially for me, but as it happens each course was faithfully converted to veggie form. In fact, the only difference I spotted on the first plate of puds was that the colours on mine were more vibrant (click to enlarge images).
Each of the six bite-size portions had its own distinctive flavour, and there was a nice balance of textures: the taller towers were thick and creamy, the smaller ones more like a soft jelly, and of course the chunks of fresh fruit added another dimension.
After that brief interlude, it was back to hard-core dessert eating, in the form of the chocolate course. Again, the vegetarian version matched up well against the original. A rich chocolate mousse, topped with a dark chocolate glaze and a mini eclair, was served with fresh raspberries, a tiny Kilner jar of cream, and yet more chocolate drizzled over the top. Absolutely indulgent.
Next up we had chocolate cocktails. I'm not sure if these were actually alcoholic, they didn't really taste as if they were, but perhaps by that stage I'd had too much wine to judge. But they certainly were very moreish, and the tangy fruit puree helped to balance out the sweeter chocolate layer.
The final course of the evening was a white chocolate mouse with black cherry filling, served with fresh fruit and - in a fun twist - a dish which gushed dry ice when a little warm water was squirted through a gap in the plate. By this stage, if I'm honest, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the richness of it all. Fortunately Andy didn't have the same problem, so I ended up giving him about a third of my mousse to finish off. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, but you can have too much of a good thing, when the good thing is made of pure sugar.
As you can probably tell, we had a fantastic time sampling all these various treats. And then we were each given a "party bag" with another, boxed dessert to take home. There was a little mix-up at this stage, because the veggie and non-veggie puds look so similar that the bags got confused - but Andy was happy to eat two helpings of strawberry mallow, and I've been promised a veggie replacement at a future date - which is just fine by me as I won't need any more sugar for a while!
While they're obviously aiming at different markets, the closest competition in the Cotswolds is probably the longer-established-and-more-famous Pudding Club. The Pudding Club focuses on traditional, custard-laden British dishes - a very different feel to these chilled, more sophisticated desserts - but I'd also say that the quality here was much higher. The balance of flavours and textures had clearly been thought out carefully, with a lot of attention to detail in the presentation and serving.
Tickets for future events (currently planned for Cheltenham and Manchester) are available via the We Love Desserts website. I'll certainly consider going again in future, especially if the menu changes with the seasons.