“Before I got into the chocolate business, I used to enjoy Ben & Jerry’s and other sweets,” Alison Nelson of Alison Nelson’s Chocolate bar told me last night at the opening of the new Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar at Henri Bendel last night. “Now, my poor daughter opens the refrigerator, and there’s just spinach and vegetables,” she confessed. Perhaps that’s why there are sweets, but also savories, on the menu at the chic, Bendel’s Chocolate Bar dining location. That’s Alison, in the photo to the left.
The opening celebration last night featured a few samples of both sides of the menu. For the adult sweet tooth there were rich, moist, cake-y brownies with a naughty hint of hot spice, and glossy truffles with a variety of fillings in milk and bittersweet chocolate. For the savory set, large, white bowls of mixed, pitted olives, mounds of cheese cubes, and little pickles and cornichons. According to Alison, what makes this Chocolate Bar location a bit different from the others is that they are serving alcoholic beverages at the Bendels location including beer (Brooklyn Beer is one) and wine. A signature, non-alcoholic treat is the iced chocolate, served last night, as least, as single-chug, shots. Rich and creamy, it’s chocolate milk shoppers will crave, after wearing their feet and their credit cards at Bendels. The prices are comparable to other restaurants in the area. The photos I have of the menu are too large for this blog, but here’s a piece:
The yummy restaurant/bar is located on the third floor atrium. It’s a grown-up candy store where you can purchase sophisticated sweets to take home (in elegant, brown and orange packaging), but it’s also a rest-stop for weary shoppers and a restaurant in which to have a simple and social meal in a unique setting. The space is sophisticated, light and airy, but still relatively intimate. A large center serving counter is flanked by mod-looking, ivory leather, banquette seating and tables, which give diners a view of the chocolate-laden counters and shelves. More seating is available outside in the atrium area, allowing shoppers a view of the atrium and a peek at the lingerie department.
Of course, Bendel’s is a fashionable retail establishment, and it is fitting that the wait staff is exclusively attired in chic, cap sleeve mini dresses by one of Bendel’s favorite designers, Stacey Bendet for Alice + Olivia.
If you are not a Bendel’s shopper, you will be tempted by this legendary department store, but the Chocolate Bar will quickly become a place tourists will want to stop to take a little break, and it’s a fun place to treat yourself if you’re in the area. If you’re not, and you’re wondering whether it’s worth the trip to Henri Bendel’s at 712 Fifth Avenue between 55th and 56th Street just for the food, your decision may clear when you learn that The Chocolate Bar has won numerous awards, including:
Winner Shecky’s 2006 New York City Best Chocolate Fix: Chocolate Bar
Winner of 2 Citysearch 2005 Shopping Awards: “Best Gourmet Store” & “Best West Village Shop”
Winner Citysearch Best Hot Chocolate: Chocolate Bar
Winner 2006 Crain’s “40 Under 40”: Alison Nelson, Founder & Owner
Timeout New York 2004 Eat Out Award Winner: “Best Chocolate Store”
Winner 2005 Gourmet News “20 Under 40”: Alison Nelson, Founder & Owner
Winner 2005 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Chocolate Bar: Recipes and Entertaining Ideas For Living The Sweet Life
Winner 2003 New York Daily News Best Holiday Sampler: Chocolate Bar
Finalist: 2003 London Design Awards: Chocolate Bar Packaging
Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar at Bendels is the perfect place to bond with your buddies, and even your kids. Take your best friend for a treat and make a sweet memory!