MID winter in the southern hemisphere and I’m in search of something seriously sensual. Something to keep me warm on a brisk Brissie night. I’m on the hunt for the city’s sweetest, thickest and most authentic Italian…hot chocolate. A man wouldn’t go astray either.
One of the nicest things about globe trotting is increasingly you can find a little taste of your travels closer to home. I mean, it’s hardly 1970s country Queensland anymore, where mum would interpret spaghetti bolognaise as a plate of unseasoned mince and a bottle of tomato sauce on the table. I have been fortunate to have travelled to Italy a few times since the 70s to discover mum was a bit of a creative cook.
It’s funny what you remember about a trip, for me, it’s not the big things like the Colosseum, or the gondolas of Venice. It’s the people. One of my most memorable travelling moments was on a local bus in Rome, where I was sight-seeing with my boyfriend at the time. A young girl, who would have been all of age 5, looked at him, then looked at me, and asked: “Is he your lover?” It was at that moment I realised all Italians were born romantics.
It’s a saucy Saturday when I go in search of Brisbane’s best hot chocolate, Italiano style. Working on the theory when in Rome, do as the Romans do, I decide to combine my hunt for a man, with a dating rating for each establishment.
Here’s my top three picks:
Bean on Dean, Toowong: This relatively new addition to Brisbane’s café scene is perched unassumingly along Dean Street, Toowong, where I have it on good advice there’s also a massage parlour which specialises in “happy endings”. But it’s a sugar rush I’m seeking this morning, and it comes in the form of hot chocolate. This cuppa is thick like mud and is surprisingly slightly bitter, which might appeal to those who think traditional hot chocs are too sweet. In fact, it’s so thick, you eat this beverage more than drink it, which turns out be a somewhat erotic experience. I’m completely absorbed licking the spoon seductively when I catch the eye of an eight year old boy who is staring at me and frowning. Which pretty much sums up the talent here. Mums, kids and gorgeous gay couples. The hot chocolate, served only on Saturdays, costs $4 for a cup and $2 for a shot.
Hot choc rating: 3/5
Dating Rating: 1/5
Bean on Dean, 45 Dean Street, Toowong (no website)
Schonell Pizza Café, St Lucia: Don’t let the laid-back student atmosphere, the takeaway cups or the plastic chairs here fool you. This hot chocolate is worth the trip across the river. Even the resident flock of Ibis seem to enjoy it. Amid the aroma of this establishment’s noteworthy pizzas, take the time to enjoy their version of this muddy Italian drink which is frothy like molten lava and has the consistency of custard. As so often happens in my wanderings, I catch the eye of a handsome man. Two minutes later, his wife and child sit down next to him. If you like your men with money, on this particular day millionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer is sitting at the next table. There’s also plenty of handsome, though slightly youngish, foreign students. A small hot chocolate costs $4.10 and a medium $4.60.
Hot choc rating: 4/5
Dating Rating: 3/5
Gusto Da Gianni, Portside: The menu describes their version as thick, Italian style chocolate made with full cream milk and decadent Italian chocolate. And this drink doesn’t disappoint. Brisbane’s beautiful flock here and the vibe in this restaurant is gusto in both name and nature. The Italian waiters are fabulously flirtatious and the crowd is a mixture of couples, families and private function goers, where if you wait long enough, you’re bound to grab the attention of amorous party animal. The cuppa itself is sensationally sweet, and comes with a frothy white head. You could be forgiven for thinking you are in Naples, such is the atmosphere here, and let’s not forget the cool Italian Vespa parked out the front. For some home-grown talent, Brissie band member Jim Mathers from Lime Street and his gorgeous wife Pauline (we love Pauline) enter the restaurant on their way out to the theatre. The hot chocolate comes in only one size and costs $5.50
Hot choc rating: 5/5
Dating Rating: 4/5