Easter is on its way and Barcelona’s chocolatiers are beginning their annual scramble to make the most lavish, gravity-defying mones (Catalan chocolate Easter figures traditionally bought by godparents for their godchildren). Someone who never disappoints is Oriol Balaguer—although being fearsomely hip, he tends to go for clean sculptural lines rather than Hansel and Gretel houses or giant models of Tweetie Pie.
Balaguer grew up with sugar in his veins, thanks to his father, who was a traditional baker in Calafell, and, after the obligatory stint in the kitchens at Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli, he has gone on to win numerous prizes, even being named the Best Confectioner in Catalunya (2003) and the world (2001). He now has three shops, sorry, boutiques, in Barcelona, Madrid and Tokyo—all miracles of steely modernist minimalism.
Of course, no avant-garde xocolateria in Barcelona is without its boundary-pushing flavours and Balaguer is no exception: expect anything from hot toddy to wasabi, saffron, olive oil, yuzu (an Asian hybrid of sour mandarin and ichang papeda) and crunchy toasted corn hiding inside his signature cocoa-bean-shaped bonbons.
Like high fashion, the chocs, cakes and confectionery are arranged in collections, such as 'Japan', 'Chocotube', planetary globes, 'I Love You' or 'The Chocolate Game' and everything is overhauled twice a year for the new Spring-Summer and Autumn-Winter collections. And just when you think it can’t get any more trendoid, there’s the collection named 'Comme des Garçons meets Oriol Balaguer': inspired by the perfumes cdg 2 and cdg 2 man by Comme des Garçons, Balaguer has created a crunchy chocolate in the shape of the iconic perfume bottles.
Seasonal items include amazing truffled Christmas logs or gourmet tortells for Reis on January 6th and there’s also a new line for diabetics, Bye Bye Sugar, that substitues maltitol for the evil white stuff. One of the star gift boxes is the High Techocolate, a €97 laptop-style silver box containing 36 bonbons in 12 flavours and textures including 'lioxocolates' (tiny chocs with freeze-dried spices and herbs) and an audiovisual documentary charting the history of chocolate, all the way from the discovery of cocoa to modern production techniques. Don’t even start to calculate how many Mars Bars you could buy for that amount of money.
Oriol Balaguer Barcelona, Plaça Sant Gregori Taumaturg 2, tel. 93 201 1846, www.oriolbalaguer.com