The creator of Jeff de Bruges is not actually called Jeff. Shock horror. But as the creator (Philippe Jambon) points out, when your name means ‘ham’ you know you won’t be able to put your own name to it. Quite right too. The name therefore spawned from a weird and wonderful combination of Belgium’s chocolatey heritage and a song by French singer Jacques Brel, and despite the brand’s French origin (that’s the next thing…the creator is not Belgian at all, but French), it has now become one of the greatest global purveyors of fine chocolate that’s also accessible to the average consumer (Godiva’s prices just aren’t going to cut it).
With its biggest competitor on the high street perhaps being Leonidas (another ethnic hybrid, being a Belgian chocolate company founded by a Greek), Jeff de Bruges has a strong presence and provides a number of different products, including not only chocolate, but also ice cream, hot chocolate, chocolate moulds, chocolate spreads, traditional sweets for wedding favours, and other French delicacies, such as marzipan fruits, calissons, and the pâtes de fruits (unsuccessfully translated on the British website as ‘fruits paste’. You therefore couldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to eat them, but I recommend you do. They’re nice, sort of like soft fruit pastilles.).
So what differentiates Jeff de Bruges from their competitors? While pretty much everything that they do is nice, I think it’s the sheer variety at this high street chocolatier that makes it what it is. Leonidas, for instance, also do ice cream, but the focus is very much on high end chocolate ice cream, with not much in the way of branching out into other flavours. That’s also as far as Leonidas strays away from chocolate, whereas as you’ll see from my list in the previous paragraph, Jeff de Bruges goes a lot further, offering regional specialities (the calissons) and stuff for weddings (the wedding favour sweets, or dragées). The ice cream also embraces other flavours beyond chocolate, and with their soft and more traditional ice creams both available, they’re making an art of it too. When tested the other day, it was juuuuuust right: soft, creamy, not too melty, flavours right on the button.
The reasonable prices are also important, but that covers Leonidas as well.
Finally, the Jeff de Bruges image is great: not as opulent as Leonidas, but the blue and brown design is down to earth, as well as being unusual for chocolatiers, and the service in there is always good. Not to mention that branches of Jeff de Bruges are pretty much everywhere. What’s not to like?!