San Churro was a monk in Spain who changed the bitter chocolate drink of the Aztecs into the sweet delicacy we enjoy today. So legend has it. And it was Cortes who brought the cacao bean to Europe from the New World.
It’s funny, but I still find it hard to celebrate anything those Spanish conquistadors did, considering their brutality and decimation of the Aztecs, Incas, and the Mayans. Though they had their own brutal practices, sacrifice being just one. ‘nuff said.
Food and its history is amazing, isn’t it? It’s so hard to track down the genesis of so many of the dishes we enjoy today. And there is a path that leads from Northern China, and a fried pastry dish called You Tiao that may have been appropriated by Portugese sailors. Who knows?
All of this is leading to a new franchise in Salamanca called San Churro, a chocolateria that originated in Perth, so I’m told. It’s spread, and has even made it across the Bass Strait. How successfully, is moot. We visited not long after opening, and the experience was mixed, to say the least.
Positive? The fit out – expensive, with big Mexican-style artwork on the walls, a chocolate filled case more like a jewel cabinet, and even ceiling décor which breaks up the space, and merchandise – everywhere. The staff? In chocolate coloured uniforms, of course, though not as tidy as one would expect in a franchise.
And there’s the rub. I’m not a big fan of franchises. I find it so often happens that inexperienced people who have money to spend and fancy going into food, think that buying into a franchise buys them protection and safety. Which, in the best of all possible worlds it would.
But do we live in the best of all possible worlds? Hell no! And what we saw that day was a little chaotic. The guys running the churro machine seemed behind the eight-ball, the queue was long and reasonably slow, and the waiters? Not highly trained, that was obvious.
We ordered the churros for two with extras, which should have been served with a chocolate and a caramel sauce and strawberries. We got the chocolate sauce, which was too thick, and had to ask again for the berries, which came, but at $14.95? The churros themselves were too thin.
Without that little soft pillow inside, of dough, to contrast with the crust, it’s just a deep fried pretzel, really. And the chocolate sauce needs to be a little runny to coat the churro and slide down the waiting throat. Mine at least. The berry and pomegranate smoothie at $7.95 was delicious, and paired well with the sweet, but the star? Not really. Just a glimmer in the heavens.
The worst thing was, all the staff appeared stressed. And considering the amount of lead time they had before opening, I find that astonishing. Would I go back? Yep, I’d give them another try, and hope they pull their act together, focus on staff training, delivering a better, premium product, and speed up the service.
The thought of how much it’s cost the owners to get those doors open, and the business running, makes my blood run cold. But bells and whistles will get you only so far, and the competition is tough. And getting tougher every month, here in Hobart. Honey Badger is next door.
But I’d like to see them prosper. If we can’t have Max Brenner’s (see my earlier review of the big Max in Brisbane), then San Churro will have to do. But get it right, guys. Fix the nozzles, the staff, and you could have something really good. I hope so. Because I love chocolate. And Churros.