The footpath sign says ‘chocolate kitchen’ causing passers-by to swoon. A couple stops outside the bifold windows. “Isn’t it sweet,” they muse. Soon they’re inside. The lure of Dello Mano – ‘of the hand’ – is irresistible.
Bien and Deborah Peralta have opened their French-chic, old-world café, an offshoot of their luxury Belgian brownie business, a short stroll from James Street. Miss Faux Fur and Mr Calvin Klein sit on Bentwood-style chairs at a pedestal table sipping Di Bella coffee and sharing a brownie – such discipline! Up a few steps is a nook backdropped with book-filled shelves and a lamp emanating a warm, tungsten glow.
The counter is the sweet spot. Florentines under glass domes sit beside chocolate salami, string-tied charcuterie-style, and rolled in dark cocoa. Bien hands out tastings, provoking rapturous oohs and aahs.
The savoury menu is simple; sandwiches ($8.50), quiche ($5), all-day breakfasts of house-made fig and almond muesli ($8.50) and more. But we think of Dello Mano as a dessert café, somewhere for a sweet tête-à-tête. Belgian chocolate brownies ($5.50), arguably the best in Brisbane, are the heart of the fairytale; classic, pistachio and rosewater, coconut and lime, peanut butter, all wrapped in shimmering coloured foil.
French-style crêpes arrive with a jug of Belgian chocolate sauce and quenelles of Chantilly cream ($13.50). The service is friendly but a bit scatty and the Ikea flatware is a cut below the surroundings, but who cares when you’re sipping a signature hot chocolate laced with cinnamon and a world of chocolate surrounds you?
The Peratas’ dedication to their craft ensures a visit to Dello Mano will soothe, satiate and seduce in the sweetest of ways.