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Bluewater’s Cocoba chocolate cafe review ahead of Valentine's Day


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You can keep your red wine, spicy chillies and slippery oysters. Chocolate is the only aphrodisiac I’m getting on board with this Valentine’s Day.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to visit Cocoba. The premium chocolate brand opened their flagship shop-come-cafe in Bluewater, in Greenhithe in 2013 and its alluring chocolate aroma was been tempting in shoppers ever since.

Cocoba, the chocolate cafe in Bluewater
Cocoba, the chocolate cafe in Bluewater

Think LUSH, but instead of sneeze-inducing chemicals, you’ll detect a delightful scent of cocoa beans as you approach.

Stepping into the cafe, that mouth-watering chocolate smell is almost overpowering. Not for insatiable chocoholics like myself, perhaps, but if you’re not a lover of the sweet things in life then it might be a little much. I, however, find it heavenly.

It’s a busy Saturday in Bluewater and not the biggest cafe in the world. This, of course, means servers looking exasperated as small children weave in and out of the queue, which is lined with row upon row of chocolatey treats.

Bags, bars and boxes of different flavoured truffles temptingly decorate the front half of the store.

Chocolate bags can be bought from Cocoba in Bluewater
Chocolate bags can be bought from Cocoba in Bluewater

Cocoba is the perfect place to go if you’ve forgotten to buy a gift this Valentine’s Day.

Simply sneak in a gift-wrapped bar or half-price pack of truffles while you’re waiting in line to order; your other half will probably be so enamoured with the smell of chocolate that they won’t even notice.

You won’t find any granola bars or dried fruit offered as a last-minute snack at the tills in here. It’s chocolate or nothing.

But this isn’t just chocolate in the cafe. The boards above the counter rattle off a ream of unusual drinks to choose from, from the quirky to the truly decadent. Standing there, looking up at all the endless options, I feel like a kid in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a craving for banoffee hot chocolate, mint iced chocolate or white chocolate mocha before, but at this moment I wanted to try them all.

Some of the items available to order at Cocoba
Some of the items available to order at Cocoba

I order at the till and pay in cash which, since Covid-19, always makes me feel like a leper as I sheepishly hand over money rather than tapping my card from a reasonable distance. But still, they take my money, hand us a number and we find our way to a nearby table.

We find ourselves sitting next to an elderly couple both engrossed in their phones, just like us.

It looks as though technology has finally started to ruin the mealtimes of pensioners as well as the rest of us, sadly. But it’s cosy, comfy (apart from the slightly hard chairs; why anyone would opt for solid metal as their choice of furniture to sit on I’ll never know) and feels relatively authentic for an otherwise soulless shopping centre.

Cocoba's toasted marshmallow hot chocolate and free truffles
Cocoba's toasted marshmallow hot chocolate and free truffles

We start off with a round of drinks, which comes complete with a free sample of chocolate caramel truffles. A ploy to encourage us to buy their products, no doubt, but I’ll happily take them off their hands.

I’ve gone for a toasted marshmallow hot chocolate, which has all the flavour of sitting around the campfire but without the bugs, cold weather or lack of toilets - dreamy. My partner sips a signature mocha, which was definitely more chocolate than coffee (the correct ratio, in my opinion).

Our junior taster slurps on a milkshake and gives the glowing review of “good” when asked how it is, which, as anyone with teenagers will know, is about as in-depth as it gets.

Chocolate heaven
Chocolate heaven

It seems like it’s taking an age for our food - a fairly simple selection of toasted paninis - to arrive. We get excited when we spot a plate with what looks like our order making its way towards our table - until, that is, one of the paninis slides off the plate and onto the floor. We are left crushed - just like the panini.

This, however, leads to one of the most pleasant interactions I’ve ever had at a restaurant. A woman from behind the till - I’m assuming a manager, but can’t be sure (if not, she definitely should be) - rushes over, apologising for the wait and explaining what happened, not realising we’d seen the panini debacle unfold with our own eyes.

She then insists that we have a free drink each, and delivers our discount Diet Cokes along with a free loyalty card for next time. She also apologises profusely, yet again. I swear I haven’t told them I’m a journalist.

When we finally get round to eating our fresh sandwiches - a mozzarella and pesto panini, brie and onion chutney panini, and bacon roll - we are pleasantly surprised. I can’t say that my panini was the most mind-blowing thing I’ve ever eaten, but it did the trick and we’re all pretty stuffed by the time we finish.

Mozzarella and red pesto panini alongside the toasted marshmallow hot chocolate
Mozzarella and red pesto panini alongside the toasted marshmallow hot chocolate

When it comes to savoury food, Cocoba probably isn’t going to give you the most elevated, artisan sandwich. However, there are some good options, including a few different choices for vegetarians and vegans and, most importantly after a budget-busting January, it was affordable (especially with the freebies thrown in!).

But the sweet stuff is what it’s really all about. Cocoba offers a delectable, delicious range of rich, moreish goodies that feel far too luxurious for the reasonable price.

I’ve gone to Belgium on the hunt for exquisite chocolate before and I have to be honest, I’m thrilled to discover I can drive 20 minutes up the road and pay a few quid for a very similar result.

It’s hard to say whether the food, drink or ambiance really did set a romantic tone for us in the end, but trying to elbow your way through busy Bluewater with a sulky 15-year-old in tow does tend to dampen the mood.

I might not have ended up back in the honeymoon phase in time for Valentine’s Day but, thanks to Cocoba, my love affair with chocolate is stronger than ever.

The inside of Cocoba at Bluewater
The inside of Cocoba at Bluewater

COCOBA, THE ROSE GALLERY, BLUEWATER

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Out of five

Food: Paninis aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but for a tasty lunch they absolutely do the job ***

Drink: Essentially a menu of liquid chocolate, which is ideal for a sweet tooth like me *****

Decor: Attempting to be a boho Parisian cafe, but doesn’t quite shake off that shopping centre vibe ***

Staff: I won’t hold it against the server who dropped our sandwich on the floor, mainly because the staff went above and beyond to make up for it *****

Price: It’s no cut-price meal deal, but three hot sandwiches and three speciality drinks for £22 isn’t bad ***

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