I’M lying on a big banana leaf as a smiling therapist slathers my body with chocolate.
This is Hotel Chocolat, the posh choc chain’s boutique hotel in St Lucia.
The idea for the company to launch its Rabot Hotel began the same way many brilliant plans might do — over a few glasses of rum.
Basking in the Caribbean sun on the firm’s 140-acre cocoa plantation, boss Angus Thirlwell is said to have thought: “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could come here?”
So Hotel Chocolat built an actual Hotel Chocolat — and thank goodness it did.
The 14 hilltop lodges are set in tropical jungle with views over the majestic Piton Mountains and are a chocolate lover’s paradise. Fresh off our eight-and-a-half-hour direct British Airways flight from the UK, the first thing on our list is to tuck into the “cocoa cuisine”.
Let’s face it, we’re here to eat. Every single dish in the hotel’s open-air Rabot Restaurant is infused with an element of chocolate, even the savoury meals.
Guests can indulge in scallops marinated in cacao, followed by pulled pork coated in cacao nib and breadcrumbs, before tackling the mouthwatering desserts.
You will need at least a few days just to work your way through the menu.
There is even white chocolate mash — and as development chef David Demaison says on the menu: “It shouldn’t work, but it does.”
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As cocktail fans, we excitedly dive into the alcoholic offerings and are not disappointed. Many of them, including our soon-to-be favourite chocolate daiquiris and cacao bellinis, are decadent enough to have counted as desserts, if we were watching our waistlines.
Thankfully, we all know that calories don’t count on holiday, so we did not hesitate before ordering the mouth-watering Rabot Chocolate Lava sponge afterwards.
Food aside, the restaurant is an experience in itself, overlooking the hotel’s 50ft infinity pool with volcanic views and a jungle soundtrack provided by birds.
The inside-outside feel continues as we arrive in our eco-lodge, which comes with netting around the four-poster bed to keep out any pesky bugs.
The rooms are not air- conditioned due to their semi-open design, but the pay-off is drifting off to sleep with the sounds of the jungle and cool ocean breeze at night.
Earplugs are provided for those wishing to shut out the constant hum of tree frogs.
The adults-only hotel has six cheaper rooms, the Lodges. But for those who can stretch to one of the eight Luxe Lodges, you also get a private terrace with knockout views of Petit Piton.
Hot sticky mess
However, any room that comes with a Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser and complimentary homemade cookies is a winner in my eyes.
To continue our quest for more chocolate, we try the hotel’s unique Tree-to-Bar Experience.
This involves making our very own choc bars from beans grown on the plantation. Hotel Chocolat is the only company to manufacture cocoa on St Lucia, after buying and restoring the 250-year-old Rabot Estate in 2006.
The brand claims the island’s fertile volcanic soil, high altitude and rainforest water are the ideal cocktail of conditions for cocoa production.
We see this first hand as our friendly guide Monique shows us how the team collect the pods, ferment and dry the beans on site and then send them 4,000 miles to the UK to be made into Hotel Chocolat products.
Five million chocolates are made each week in its Cambridgeshire headquarters, and ours would definitely not have passed their quality control.
Instead of the pristinely packaged bars you see in UK stores, mine is a hot and sticky mess, but is still greedily gobbled up.
Slightly more pleasing to the eye is the cooler box of Cocoa Beer we are handed for the evening as we sail off to watch the sunset on a boat trip.
Not satisfied with eating and drinking chocolate, I book into the Cocoa Spa to be covered in the tasty treat from head to toe with the £95 cacao detox body wrap treatment.
Before I know it, I am lying on that giant banana leaf, my modesty protected by a towel, while being exfoliated with a Rabot Estate-grown cacao scrub.
This makes way for a paste made with clay, fresh banana and cacao that is applied to my body in a thick coating.
“You can taste it if you wish,” says the beauty therapist as I gaze curiously at the mixture.
Unsurprisingly, it is just as delicious as the restaurant sauces. To lock in the nutrient-rich mask, I am wrapped in softened, freshly picked banana leaves, and then told to lie there just like a freshly prepared snack.
Twenty sticky yet blissful minutes later — and after a rather thorough shower — the final stage of the process is the Rabot beauty cacao and shea body lotion.
I can’t help but think if Willy Wonka had opened a spa it would almost certainly have offered this package.
Thirlwell says that he launched Hotel Chocolat in 2004 with a £10,000 loan and a simple dream of “injecting some fun” into the chocolate industry.
After I dined, drank and literally bathed in the stuff during my stay, I can safely say that he has achieved that in abundance at Rabot Hotel.
GO: ST LUCIA
COVID: All passengers must present proof of a negative PCR test taken five days or less before travel. Fully vaccinated travellers are not required to quarantine. Current rules require pre-departure test before returning to the UK and a PCR test on or before day two.
GETTING THERE: Virgin Atlantic resumes direct flights from Gatwick on December 18. From £459pp in Economy Light. See virginatlantic.com or call 0344 8747 747.
STAYING THERE: Lodges at the Rabot Hotel are from £211pppn. See hotelchocolat.com/uk/rabothotel.
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