Like so many chefs and producers before him, chocolatier Stuart Strutt-Shotton of Canberra's Enigma Fine Chocolates has done the weekend market circuit: early mornings, chatting with customers, and peddling his chocolates), made from his home kitchen. It was during these humble beginnings that he built a loyal, local following to his brand of unique handtempered treats.
Now, Enigma has a shiny new home on Braddon's main drag. The atelier-like showroom is decorated with a mural of cacao trees and beans, and a wide window allows customers to spy on Strutt-Shotton's chocolates-in-the-making at the back of the store
But aside from the handsome retail location, he says not much has changed. "I still see a lot of regular customers, and I'm still the one who produces everything onsite," he says. "But now I'm not contending for space on the kitchen counter while making the kids' lunchboxes."
Customers flock to Enigma for Strutt-Shotton's imaginative chocolates – and for a chocolate shop that opened four weeks before Easter, they're flocking hard. Some come for the chocolate blocks (or tablets) of fine European couverture speckled with salted pretzel milk, say, or a gently spiced number with ginger and fennel. Others come for the soft-centred banoffee truffles, with banana caramel and sweet biscuit crumb on the inside and white-chocolate ganache on the outside.
It's Easter, so the Enigma egg is in high demand. Standing 13 centimetres tall, the chocolate shells are coated with rainbow freckles, hazelnut nougatine or salted-butter caramel chips. "From tempering, moulding, joining and coating the eggs, it takes me about three hours to produce a round of 20 eggs," says Strutt-Shotton. "And we still box and wrap them by hand, too."
He counts local customers, as well as local institutions, among his fans, with the National Gallery of Australia recently commissioning a line of chocolates that evoke its most (in)famous painting, Blue Poles by Jackson Pollock. "I line up milk or dark chocolate bars, and literally splatter them in cocoa butters, dyed to be the same colours as the painting," says Strutt-Shotton. It's a labour-intensive process, with the blue poles then hand-painted onto each chocolate bar. "Pollock has done it once in his life and I've done it about 100 times," he says.
Enigma Fine Chocolates, Ori Building, 65/30 Lonsdale Street, Braddon, ACT, 0432 264 772, enigmafinechocolates.com.au