A new opening has gotten the sweet-toothed residents of Vietnam’s cosmopolitan capital salivating. Among the grand foreign missions and variegated gold government buildings of Hoan Kiem District is Maison Marou, a café, patisserie and chocolate factory all rolled into one.
The brainchild of award-winning gourmet chocolatier Marou, the elegant space offers a retreat from the frenetic narrow lanes of the nearby Old Quarter. It’s set in a 100-year-old villa that’s outfitted with sleek armchairs and covered in red and turquoise tiles. There’s a coffee bar that serves rich mochas blended with beans from the Central Highlands, and display cases loaded with bonbons infused with pho-spice ganache and pomelo jam. Tourists can buy souvenirs in the form of chocolate bars flavoured with candied bird’s eye chillies and coconut milk from the Mekong Delta.
Most visitors head to the rear amphitheatre built in an enclosed courtyard; here, they can watch the team of chefs and technicians temper, bake and mould the country’s best cacao beans into some of the most sought-after chocolate in the world.
Marou’s origins trace back to 2011, when Samuel Maruta and Vincent Morou decided to develop a line of single-origin chocolates using cacao grown by small-lot farmers in six Vietnamese provinces. Since then, the brand has amassed a global audience, with The New York Times dubbing the bright, hand-wrapped bars “the best you’ve never tasted”.
Last year, the company got Michelin-pedigree French pastry chef Stéphanie Aubriot to design a menu for the first Maison Marou in Saigon. Marou hopes that the second café in Hanoi will help fund the expansion of their export factory in Ho Chi Minh City; meanwhile, it continues to champion the finest local ingredients to produce top-notch chocolate bars for palates all around the globe.
More speciality chocolatiers
Krakakoa, Indonesia – This chocolatier works with hundreds of cacao farmers across Sumatra to help them secure organic certification and create a sustainable bean-to-bar supply chain.
Fossa, Singapore – Founder Jay Chua admits to disliking chocolate until he sampled a bar spun out of Madagascan beans. Today, his line incorporates distinctly Singaporean flavours like salted egg.
Theo & Philo, The Philippines – After living overseas, Philo Chua returned to the Philippines determined to craft local chocolate. Today, his creations – made from Davao cacao – features flavours like coffee and calamansi.
This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine.