Mary Belgian Chocolate

Nearly half the chocolate consumed in the world is savored in Europe, and Belgium — with per-capita consumption of 14.99 pounds a year — certainly devours its fair share. While Brussels, the country’s capital, is home to hundreds of chocolatiers, what makes a visit imperative, at least from a chocophile’s perspective, is the rich heritage of artisanal chocolate-makers.

Brussels, home to hundreds of chocolatiers

Displays at Mary chocolate shop

For the Travel section’s Oct. 19 of the New York Times’ issue on Europe, writers and editors selected special items to profile from a dozen cities. Below, explore everything from chocolate in Brussels to silk in Florence to design in Copenhagen.

And none epitomizes the nation’s devotion to craft and quality more than Mary. Mary Delluc established her business in 1919 on the Rue Royale, the route the king took to the Royal Palace each day. In 1942 she achieved her goal of becoming the chocolate purveyor to the royal family, an honor that was bestowed on the brand three more times, most recently in 2013. While Mary has retained a presence on Rue Royale for 95 years, it has changed address three times, the most recent (Rue Royale 73) undergoing an overhaul in 2010.

“We went back to the roots of Mary,” the managing director, Olivier Borgerhoff, said, noting the return to the original white-and-gold color scheme and prominence of the oblong logo. As for the chocolate, it might as well be the 20th century. “We don’t change the types of chocolates often,” Mr. Borgerhoff said. “We try to improve the choices we have.” That means sourcing top-quality ingredients and eschewing preservatives and unnatural additives of the dozens of caramel, marzipan, mousse, ganache and cream-filled bonbons that are stacked in neat rows down a long central counter, along with glass bowls of hand-rolled truffles, flaked with almonds and dusted in powdered sugar. A 250-gram box is 17 euros ($21). 

Another chocolatier, Debailleul, is decidedly more whimsical. The small chain, established in 1983 by Marc Debailleul, produces bonbons and ballotins, or boxes, that are so refined and beautiful, it’s almost — almost — a shame to indulge. The options are limited: traditional pralines and creamy ganaches, many hand-painted with cupids, the letter “D” or other flourishes, and vanilla, coffee and caramel-flavored truffles. Visit the factory store (Rue de Ganshoren 27-39). It will be as if you’ve discovered secret treasures of the chocolate capital. 

AMY M. THOMAS
Back to top