Lily O’Brien’s Brings European Chocolate to Bryant Park

By Stephanie Lam
Stephanie Lam
Stephanie Lam
December 29, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015
This Lily O'Brien's chocolate is made by enclosing a bite sized strawberry meringue with chocolate.  (Stephanie Lam/The Epoch Times)
This Lily O'Brien's chocolate is made by enclosing a bite sized strawberry meringue with chocolate. (Stephanie Lam/The Epoch Times)

Four customers were enjoying coffee, tea, and chocolates, and listening to soft music in Lily O’Brien’s Irish Chocolate Café when I walked in at 9:45 a.m. The staff welcomed me with a warm drink, and the café’s owner, Cathal Queally, came out a minute later, handing me a piece of their individually packaged shortcake chocolate.

He told me our interview would have to be short, as he had to catch a flight to Ireland later in the day to supervise the loading of Valentine’s Day and Easter chocolates for the café.

All chocolates sold at the café are handmade in the company’s factory in Ireland. The ingredients, milk and dark chocolate in liquid form (100 percent natural and free from artificial coloring or flavoring, as Queally emphasized), are imported from Belguim.

“The cocoa beans are from a fair trade store,” he said, “the fair trade issue is very important to the business.”

Lily O’Brien’s was inspired by the founder Mary Ann O’Brien’s vacation in South Africa 18 years ago. The owner of the hotel she stayed at made chocolates to welcome visitors, and they became good friends.

After getting guidance from the hotel owner, O’Brien started making chocolates in her own kitchen in the Irish countryside, and two years later she started selling her chocolates in supermarkets in Ireland and the U.K. Now her chocolates are famous throughout Europe, Australia, and Japan, and are the choice chocolates for hotels and over 22 airlines.

Lily O’Brien’s Irish Chocolate Café opened next to Bryant Park on 40th Street in March, and has already won the Irish Enterprise of the Year Award in New York and the Business and Finance U.S. 2009 “International Enterprise of the Year” award.

The café offers 16 kinds of chocolates, grouped into five collections. The most exquisite is perhaps the Desserts Collection, which include miniature desserts coated in chocolate. Among the collection, the chocolate-coated crème brulee is very popular, said Queally.

If you would like a box of chocolates that the café doesn’t offer, you can ask for hand assortments, which staff of the café can make especially to fit your taste.

Another signature of the café is its hot chocolate, made from melting 100 percent Belgian chocolate at 120 degrees Fahrenheit in special melting kettles. If you are making it at home, Queally suggests adding ten ounces of hot milk or heavy cream, steamed in an espresso maker for every two ounces of chocolate. As you can imagine, its very rich.