Chocolatier Van Hoorebeke is a real family business in Ghent (Belgium) with two locations. Luc Van Hoorebeke started his shop on the Sint-Baafsplein in 1982. His devoted wife Christine runs the store. In 2008, son Cedric and his wife opened a second location less than 500 yards from the original store. I have yet to visit Cedric's business, but as it stands, Luc Van Hoorebeke's shop is my favorite chocolatier in Ghent.
With its historic city center, Ghent is one of Belgium's top tourist destinations. Walk into one of many chocolate stores just two blocks down from Luc Van Hoorebeke, and you're likely to enter a tourist trap. That's not the case here. There are no big signs with special deals or advertisements trying to lure you in on display. Still, it's hard to pass Luc Van Hoorebeke's shop without noticing all the chocolate goodness inside. Two big windows do a great job at drawing your attention. Those windows make up the entire facade and reveal pretty much everything Van Hoorebeke has to offer. It's small but bright and it feels inviting.
As you enter the store, you are greeted by a glass counter that is filled with a vast range of Belgian chocolates. A display of tastefully done gift sets flanks the counter on the left. Each gift set contains a selection of the chocolates available in the main counter. You will also find a range of chocolate bars, chocolate milk mixes, and some other chocolate-related items, such as honey-chocolate spread. We picked up some gift sets containing six chocolates and then focused our attention on the main counter. The result of which are visible in the picture. For the most part anyways, because opening the box without taking out some chocolates to taste requires some serious willpower.
The Belgian chocolates are the main draw of Van Hoorebeke's shop. You can choose from about 20 varieties filled with chocolate mouse, marzipan, liquor, fruit, fresh cream, ganache, and nut fillings. Luc Van Hoorebeke manages to strike a nice balance in flavor with all of them. None of the fillings are overpowering (something that is often the case with liquor fillings). The fruit-filled chocolates actually taste like the fruit you expect, not some artificial imitation. The lime and mango fillings are delicious. The cream-filled chocolates are light and delicate and my personal favorites. The butterscotch filling is the richest, yet we could happily eat a box of just these. Regardless of your preference, we recommend getting a selection of all chocolates. It's hard to go wrong with any of them.
The six-chocolate gift sets are 7 euro each. The small box we bought holds about 30 chocolates and costs around 26 euro. This will give you at least one of each variety plus a few extras. The chocolates keep for up to 30 days unrefrigerated, including the ones with fresh cream. This should give you plenty of time to indulge, even if you go for the largest box. If you are visiting Ghent, this place is a must-visit for chocolate lovers and a great place to pick up a gift to bring home.
What's your experience with Chocolatier Van Hoorebeke?