My Max Brenner’s days are over since I left my NYC apartment in comfy Union Square. In place, I got Hong Kong with all its western dessert-phobic, savoury-loving locals. I traded my chocolate and dairy-heavy diet for Chinese desserts such as mango pomelo and walnut soup. And when I bake, the first thing people say when they taste my cakes is, “Good, it’s not sweet.” But isn’t the point of desserts is to be sweeter than the preceding course?

While I never thought I’d find a replacement for my closest friends in the city nor the Italian thick hot chocolate at Max Brenner’s, about a year ago prior to finding a job here, my cousin introduced me to this dessert place at the Ferry Building called Vero:

This is my favourite Vero drink

Vero is a gem hidden in the Ferry building at Fenwick Pier. It’s rather hard to find if you haven’t been there before and even harder for someone to accidentally ‘discover’ this place without having known about it before due to its rather unusual location. The Ferry building itself is rather removed from the hubbub of the city whilst riding between the boundary line of both Admiralty and Wan Chai. If it’s your first time there, cab it by saying ‘Fenwick Ma Tau’ (canto) and they’ll drop you off ’round the corner at The Quarterdeck. Just backtrack and you’ll find yourself at a dingy lobby with an old elevator. If you feel uncertain and wondering how chocolate, reclamation and ships can co-exist, you’re going the right way. Make your way to the second floor and trust me, if your senses weren’t tickled by your first impression of the building, they definitely will be stimulated when you open the door to see this:

The space is rather long and narrow with windows wrapping around the periphery to give you a gorgeous view of IFC and Kowloon. Yes it does overlook the construction site but it doesn’t really bother me because you can see far and wide.  The interior is rather polished in a raw sense: smooth and cool concrete floors contrast the warmth of the woven chairs and slatted wooden tables. Vibrant lemon yellow chocolate cards punctuate each table to add some colour. Behind the seating area is an art gallery like display; a portfolio of work that Vero has done in collaboration with corporate companies such as The Marco Polo Club (featured photo: I like the map of chocolates. Talk about branding- international flavors for the jet set) and The Mandarin Oriental. I spoke briefly to the manager (this tells you how often I visit or his good memory) the other day who told me that they make all their chocolate in-house in order to control the ingredients in their products. They pride themselves on the purity of their chocolate from the cacao pod and the intensity of a chocolate taste over sweetness. Customers can view the kitchen behind the displays to see how they manufacture, produce and create their own chocolate products. It makes me homesick for New York because it reminds me of Jacques Torres and my undying love for their champagne truffles. Did I mention I’m a sucker for immaculate minimalist packaging?

One of the unique elements about Vero is their ‘chocolate room’ which is kept at 16 degrees celcius to protect their wares that are meant to be enjoyed with the five sense as represented by the boxes of chocolate below:

Yes that’s a life-size chocolate statue and a completely edible flower arrangement, pot included.

Now on to the premium cakes:

Chuao, Venezuela 70%
Dark 70% ganache, flourless biscuit

Taro Earl Grey
Earl grey milk chocolate mousse, taro jelly, gluten free biscuit

Rosemary Cheesecake
Cheesecake, chocolate sparks, rosemary chocolate ganache

White Passion
White chocolate cream, vanilla sponge, homemade passion fruit jam

Orange Crisp
Orange milk chocolate, with a chocolate crisp layer

$30 HKD/piece (around $4 USD)

I’ve visited Vero… four times with various friends and family and I’ve narrowed down my order to:

Rosemary Cheesecake and 70% iced chocolate.
While Vero is known for their rich,thick hot chocolate (a thin disk of chocolate is placed right over the top so it melts slowly into the cup-pure visual poetry), I prefer their iced one due to the many textural layers. The bottom of the flute is filled with a chocolate sauce that hardens into a paste once the iced liquid goes in- you have to scrape it out with a long parfait spoon. A dollop of whipped cream topped with pop rocks gives this drink a finishing touch. What I like about it is a sense of play- pop rocks hints of childhood nostalgia on a rather sophisticated beverage.  They have several varieties for the hot/iced chocolate as well including mint and raspberry. I’ve tried the white chocolate yogurt iced chocolate but it pales in comparison with their classic (pun not intended). As for the cake, the rosemary cheesecake isn’t sweet at all (the one with the leaf in img below)- you taste the bitterness of the chocolate mixed in with the warm saltiness of the rosemary. I highly recommend this one- it’s what inspired my previous semi-fail birthday cake to Agnes. My friends who I went with a week ago preferred the Orange Crisp which resembles more of an ice cream cake.

As you can see these photos have been taken with several lenses including my wide angle Sigma and prime lens over the course of three visits. The Vero lounge also includes a variety of wine and chocolate pairings (unfortunately as classy as that sounds, I dislike the taste of alcohol save when it’s used to enhance a dessert). It’s the perfect place to get away from the standard ‘cha chan teng’ (HK cafes) where the middle aged waiters constantly ask you to get the bill so they can claim a fresh roster of customers. I enjoy the jazz/lounge music they play while cloud gazing as I slip into a chocolate coma. Recommended for book lovers to find a solitary place to read, female friends to catch up over tea and for guys who want to impress and woe their dates. 😉

I’m going again this weekend to take my aunt there. They gave me a ‘buy one get one free’ hot chocolate.. except I it want iced in this hot Hong Kong weather! However I think I will get the affogato the next time… it looked really good in that martini glass when the waitress passed us by…