Chocs away

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A CHOCOLATE-LOVERS’ paradise has been put up for sale after doctors ordered the French chef behind its success to cut back his massive workload.

Bertrand Espouy, 53, is to retire from running the Plaisir du Chocolat tearoom in the Royal Mile after ten years of working up to 14 hours a day took its toll on his health.

The perfectionist Parisian cook earned an army of fans by building a reputation for the patisserie, which opened three years ago, as an ideal place for chocolate lovers to indulge their passion.

Customers flocked to the shop in even greater numbers after seeing the blockbuster film Chocolat - about a French chocolate shop, which starred Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Dame Judy Dench - two years ago. Mr Espouy, who opened the city’s Auld Alliance bakery, said he had reluctantly decided to step down after doctors warned him about the effects of working 80 to 90 hours a week.

" I will be retiring because I have health problems," he said.

"We have been very busy and it will become even more so when the parliament opens so I hope someone else will carry on.

" Customers who have found out already that we are closing have asked why and offered sympathy."

Mr Espouy opened the Auld Alliance in Thistle Street about ten years ago. He now plans to remain in the Capital and hopes to offer his expertise to the chocolate shop’s new owner as a consultant.

Plaisir du Chocolat’s owner Dr Heather Kiernan decided to put the shop’s lease on the market at offers over 295,000 after hearing Mr Espouy’s retirement plans.

She plans to continue running her second Plaisir du Chocolat venue, a delicatessen further up the High Street.

Dr Kiernan, 49, said: "I have health problems which I have been putting off treating. When Bertrand came to me and said he would have to stop because of health problems as well I made the decision to sell.

"When you have a medical condition, you make it worse by going to work. You have to change your lifestyle.

"It would be counterproductive to sell it on to someone who would change it after it has amassed such a large following, so I will try to wait until I have a buyer who can guarantee it will remain the same."

Stuart Linsley, Edinburgh Restaurateur Association chairman and owner of The Shore in Leith, said: "It would be a real shame if it [Plaisir du Chocolat] was lost as it has become an institution.

"A lot of people love going there to indulge in beautiful cakes and wonderful hot drinks."

He added: "Bertrand used to work for me as a chef about 12 years ago. He would arrive five hours before the restaurant opened to make specialist breads instead of taking up our offer to buy in imported bread.

" He was a perfectionist. I am not surprised to hear anyone in the industry having health problems because people have to do long hours in a restaurant."