Arriving on Phillip island, heading up the main roaF, you will find a large sign and building stating "Panny's Amazing Chocolate Factory", truth be know, it may have been the "free samples" sign that really pulled us in.
As we entered, the signs lured us with decadent promises and whilst the cafe, shop and entrance are all free to visit, there is a charge to enter the factory. It was well worth the entry fee of $12 adults, $8 children, $36 family.
Our visit began with a lunch at the cafe, where we were surprised to discovered that the factory has a strong Indian influence (one that we wouldn't usually link with fine chocolates), yet they did everything very well.
We shared a loved Indian banquet plate for $12, followed by scones with jam and cream at just $3 serve and then washed down with hot chocolate made with melted chocolate. Families around us enjoyed melted chocolate pots with dipping strawberries and marshmallows and chocolate banana splits, just to name a few.
The usual snacks, including chips and wedges, were also available and sandwiches reasonably priced at $4.50.
The wall of chocolate complete with 'no licking' signs.
From the moment we entered the factory, we were educated into the processing and growing methods of the cacao bean through to the chocolate we love.
There were fun games to test of chocolate knowledge, including some humorous twists on questions, including "where is the best chocolate made?" (pssst- the correct answer (at least here) is Phillip Island).
A great wall mosaic of Dame Edna, only when you get up close can you see all the individual truffles.
The children loved trying their hands at the carnival games to see if they could get the chocolate balls to roll down the correct chutes and into their eagerly awaiting hands.
We were amazed by the chocolate mosaic of Dame Edna and the huge statue of David. In the education room, we had fun seeing if we could match the smells to their sources and then creating our own chocolate combination to enter into the monthly draw of choices. I'll let you know if mine makes it to Panny's shop.
The brain teasers were fun to think laterally and see if we could solve the puzzles, then lift the silver lids to see if we were correct.
In true Willy Wonka fashion, every 3 minutes the chocolate waterfall showers down 400kgs of chocolate. As the cascade began, I couldn't help reminisce about an episode of the Vicar of Dibley, where the vicar was presented with a chocolate fountain and in a moment of passion loudly announced with a twinkle in her eye "Stand back, I'm going in", plunging her entire head and shoulders into the fountain, chocolate cascading down completely enveloping her. In true comedic style, she was then embarrassingly introduced to the archbishop (head of the church faction) who entered directly after her plunge.
Nonetheless, standing in front of the fountain, I couldn't help entertaining the thought that I may actually do the same if the (no doubt toughened) glass wall was not in existence at Panny's. Alas, although probably for the best - it is, and I must contend myself with just watching the huge waterfall of chocolate cascade down. Feeling just a little let down, without even the hint of a taste, imagine my joy to enter the next room and discover I am not only allowed to play with the chocolate machine, I can make my own artistic creation and then eat it as it pops out the other end of the conveyor.
Everyone can be an artist with the chocolate making machine, complete with funky sounds.
Move aside children, it's my turn! With a flourish to be proud of, I manoeuvre the machine with the skill of, well, probably the skill of a very amateur chocolate maker, but in my mind I am Picasso - creating an edible work of art. I embellish a shape reminiscent of a butterfly for those that have exceptional imagination and it slowly edges its way along the cooling belt and into my awaiting hands.
Children waiting with baited breath for 'their' chocolate art to come out.
As it begins it's journey back to its creator (that's me), we are able to watch the chocolatiers in the glassed rooms, hand pouring chocolates and making their creations for sale in the shop.
You can have your photo taken amidst the huge blocks of chocolate and emailed to you for free or for a small fee, you can buy a glossy print or even have your photo turned into a chocolate wrapper and handed to you enrobing your personalised block of chocolate.
Just as well they aren't really real, just think of the mess!
Just to top off the visit, you are able to make your own unique chocolate bar, choosing the type of chocolate (white,dark, milk) and the flavours, strawberry, cola, wasabi or Vegemite for the adventurous. It is then transferred through a machine Willy Wonka would be proud of and wrapped in its unique wrapper, then dropped down the chute to your awaiting hands.
Children are fascinated as the fun machines make their own creations.
We also, have been here and just loved it. All the things made of chocolate were amazing and the kids loved being able to make their own too! Well worth the trip! The food in the cafe was great and yes, we couldn't help ourselves, we had to make purchases in their shop as well! Thanks for reminding me of this little treasure!