Deep-fry chocolate goes from chippy to posh nosh

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ITS origins can be traced back to the humble chip shop where deep-fried chocolate bars became a big seller.

But now a more upmarket form of the fat-soaked chocolate delight has been taken to a new culinary level and is gracing the dining rooms of one of the city’s top hotels.

It’s news that doesn’t exactly fit the Scottish Executive’s notion of a health-conscious nation but bosses at the three-star Ramada Jarvis Hotel in Murrayfield have revealed their fried chocolate sandwich has become a hit just weeks after going on the menu. And now they plan to serve it up at a second Capital hotel, the three-star Mount Royal Hotel on Princes Street, from May.

Even though its calorie-laden ingredients are laid bare on the menu, and its frying process explained, customers can’t seem to get enough.

But while hotel chiefs and customers wax lyrical about the recipe, health officials claim such foods mark a serious setback to Scotland’s healthy-living drive.

The fried chocolate dessert - cheekily named "naughty but slice" - is being prepared by chefs at the Edinburgh hotel, part of a chain of 11 across Scotland.

And since it was unveiled, the 4.95 stomach-filler has left fancy desserts such as caramelised apple and citrus sponge pudding in its wake, with sales outstripping all by a staggering 30 per cent. The dessert was created for the hotel chain’s stylish Arts restaurants, where the walls are covered with expensive artworks to give diners an "interesting culinary experience". And hotel chiefs say the decision to sell the new dessert reflects a similar ambition.

Filled with rich chocolate sauce, two white bread slices are dipped in a typical creamy batter before being deep-fried, smothered in sugar and served with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream.

Chefs estimate the dessert has already been served up to more than 8000 diners in the Arts restaurants of several of the chain’s hotels, and predict the sweet’s popularity will only rise.

Ramada’s food and beverage director Debbie Walter said the sweet was introduced at the right time of year to enhance its popularity. She declined to divulge the dessert’s calorific content, but defended the hotel chain’s decision to offer the gut-busting food.

However, experts predicted the dessert will provide a staggering 500 calories per portion - one quarter of a woman’s recommended daily intake of 2000 calories.

Mrs Walter said: "February and March are really good months to launch new puddings as customers across the country look to cheer themselves up through the winter.

"We wanted to introduce something that caught the imagination of our customers and this dessert has certainly done that. Chocolate desserts are always popular so we tinkered with a few recipes until we came up with the deep-fried chocolate sandwich. It’s absolutely delicious but not something people should choose if they’re on a diet. But we give our customers choice and there are fresh products available too.

"I suspect though that if we only sold fresh salads and fruit we wouldn’t have any customers. Surprisingly, the healthiest food, a winter fruits soup, is our worst seller."

Health experts have expressed grave concern about the highly popular chocolate pudding.

Dr Sandra Drummond, course leader in nutrition at Queen Margaret University College, said eating fat-laden foods can lead to a variety of health problems, and added: "There is far too much fat in the Scottish diet and something like this would certainly not help the drive to reduce the fat content of what we eat.

"It’s no great secret that a fat-laden diet leads to obesity, diabetes and heart disease so healthy options must be made available. As a nutritionist, I can say that this dessert would never be my dessert of choice."

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman echoed Dr Drummond’s sentiments.

She said: "The Executive is driving forward combined action on diet and physical activity as recommended by the World Health Organisation.

"The healthy living initiative aims to bring about cultural change to improve Scotland’s health.

"We stress the importance of having a balanced diet and highlight that eating foods high in sugar and fat on a regular basis are a very bad idea indeed."

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