As a dentist-in-training by day and a food-blogger by night, I constantly find myself warning patients about the evils of sugar, whilst engorging on every cake, ice cream and maple-syrup-soaked brunch that London has to offer. Needless to say, it’s something of a paradoxical, almost-hypocritical double-life – like being both Superman and Lex Luthor at the same time. The trouble with this is two-fold. The most obvious issue is that if my patients found out about my sugary escapades, they’d probably choke me to death with the floss that I recommended they use. The other, is that being a dental student can inject a certain amount of hubris into one’s own “dental-attitude”. “I know the science. I know how to brush. I am practically IMMUNE to tooth-decay”. Or am I?
When, shortly after returning from Asia, I began experiencing a mild discomfort upon eating sweet foods, (a telltale sign of tooth decay), I knew that I was about to receive a slap in the teeth for my arrogance. Luckily for me however, a round of x-rays revealed that I had nothing more than a couple of “early lesions”, and after a firm scolding from my tutor, I set about trying to reverse the damage – by visiting the SAID chocolate shop in Soho. (Woops). Founded in 1923, SAID is one of Rome’s oldest chocolatiers, and their rustic London cafe serves as both an embassy for their fine Italian chocolate, and a guilt-laden utopia for London’s chocolate-enthusiasts. What better place then, for a dental student with a (slightly damaged) sweet tooth to visit?
Note: We were assured that no alcohol or lard is used in any of SAID’s chocolates or desserts, but please double-check before purchasing individual items.
SAID’s inventory encompasses almost every application of chocolate imaginable – from truffles and cakes to cookies and chocolate tea, as well as an array of savoury snacks and sandwiches. Such is the magnitude of chocolate sin, that even taking a glance through the menu invokes an overwhelming sense of guilt – as though you need to pop into the bathroom and rinse your eyes out with Listerine.
Once you accept that you are bound for dental-hell however, placing an order becomes that much easier, and Chaiwala and I placed the most profane order of them all: a chocolate cup, filled with liquid chocolate, placed upon a chocolate saucer, and served with a chocolate spoon. As Chaiwala and I respectively sipped upon our cups of milk and white chocolate, our tongues were soothed by a smooth and rich sweetness, whilst our minds were struck by flashbacks of every instance we had advised a patient to “avoid putting sugar in their tea”. The utensils soon began melting (presumably in protest of our hypocrisy), and so we scoffed them up without further ado, thereby discovering the high quality of the soft and crumbly chocolate of which they were composed. It was certainly a moment of indulgence, but one that was far too rich for my liking.
Fishwonger meanwhile, had decided to stick to her daily diet of chicken, bread, and chocolate cake, and ordered SAID’s signature flourless cake with a scoop of hazelnut and chocolate ice cream. The cake itself was smooth and almost-creamy in texture, and delivered a remarkably rich sweetness that even the most staunchest chocolate-lover would be taken aback by. Luckily, the thick and creamy ice cream provided some much needed balance, with a nutty sweetness and a very subtle salty touch that contrasted well with the cake. Even then however, it was a little too much for Fishwonger to handle, and as we were (in her own words), “too selfish” to help her finish it, it became the first chocolate cake in history to defeat her.
Veering towards the “lighter option”, Grumpy Dwarf ordered a small hot chocolate. As boring as it may sound, let me assure you that SAID does not serve the watered-down, powder-based dribble that Britain has come to refer to as “hot chocolate”. Rather, SAID stays true to its Italian roots, and serves authentic Italian hot chocolate that is almost identical to the liquid chocolate that Chaiwala and I used to lay ruin to our abs. Rich and voluptuous, this thick pool of hot chocolate was a cup of pure luxury, and our only complaint was that a “small” cup was far too small. (Sounds ridiculous, I know).
Value For Money: 3.5/5
The chocolate-filled cups, (complete with saucer and spoon), cost £4.50 each, whilst the chocolate cake and small hot chocolate cost £4.50 and £2.50 respectively. Generally, chocolates range from £1.20 per piece to a hefty £6 per piece, cakes cost around £4.50, and hot drinks range between £2-£6. Sandwiches and lunch items meanwhile, cost between £4.50 and £12. This can make a visit to SAID a rather expensive affair, but given the location and the premium nature of the business, these prices are more or less in line with expectations.
Service / Speed: 3/5
The small size and frantic nature of the cafe can result in a level of service that is less than ideal. Firstly, you can expect to be waiting for around half an hour for a seat – which in itself is not a bad thing, as you can leave your name, walk around Soho and return. However, the overall atmosphere is one of “herded cattle”, and whilst some staff members are certainly patient and friendly, our presence didn’t feel particularly cared for.
Whilst many dessert fads come and go, chocolate remains timeless, and SAID’s London cafe is just a small part of Europe’s undying love for cocoa. Whilst the cramped venue and rushed service detracts from the experience, the array of chocolate-based treats is extensive enough to compensate for it. For the die-hard chocolate enthusiast, SAID is one destination to put on the map. If you’re lucky enough, you may even find a group of dentists inside who can mend* the resulting damage.
SAID dal 1923
Address: 41 Broadwick Street, London W1F 9QL
Telephone: 0207 437 1584