London's best chocolate shops
The definitive salted caramel truffle, the ultimate recherché artisan bar, and the most modish chocolate fillings: the discerning chocolate lover's guide.
London's most sophisticated chocolate shop opened recently in Coal Drops Yard at King's Cross.
Alain Ducasse, the chef-restaurateur with the most Michelin stars in the world, has always been passionate about chocolate and this is the ultra-chic realisation of his dream.
All chocolates are bean to bar and handmade in the Paris Atelier, and many come from sources to which Ducasse has exclusive access.
The shop has the refinement of an ultra-fashionable Parisian jeweller's atelier, with exquisite glass vitrines copied from the vintage originals in the Paris Le Chocolat. They display an alluring range of special chocolates – including an intense and aromatic lime – made only using the best of natural ingredients.
Be sure to try the Mexican Criolo Caramelo for a complex, single origin revelation. Superlative too are the praline noisette bars and the candied grapefruit dipped in chocolate.
Whilst you're there, pop next door to the brand new single origin specialist coffee shop to try their memorably rich and complex hot chocolate.
Multi-award winning chocolatier Paul A Young has created shops that are so gorgeous, we'd happily move in.
Our favourite is the Soho branch, which sports vintage Cole & Son cacao bean wallpaper. Here you can delight in a choice of clever and hyper-seasonal chocolates or some really wacky options: the Marmite bar has to be tried.
Besides all his own truffles, bars and outrageously rich brownies, Paul stocks the bars of his friend Duffy and of Land, created by a former trainee chocolatier who now has his own chocolatier atelier in Hackney.
Often seen on TV demonstrating his chocolate finesse, Paul and his team also run courses at all levels, including a masterclass in salted caramels.
It's the jewel colour packaged bars that most tempting at Melt. The diverse, indulgent range include wild bars, pistachio blonde and gianduja (hazelnut praline). They also do a very grown-up, luxe crunchie bar and alphabet bars that make thoughtful inexpensive presents.
At their Holland Park store several of the chocolate bars are inspired by the famed hair colourist Trish whose salon is down the road. The shop is fitted out with a huge French country antique marble-topped counter and the chocolatiers are visible working away and offering advice on flavour combinations. Among their filled chocolates pistachio marzipan is a favourite and there's a sublime vegan range too.
Hands-on workshops run regularly, from children's lollipop courses and classes for teenagers to salted caramel and bonbon classes and blind tastings. Melt make gorgeous bespoke twosome chocolate boxes for Christenings, weddings and more.
Rococo founder Chantal Coady has an OBE for services to chocolate – really! Having worked at Harrod's chocolate department as an art student, she discovered her passion and founded Rococo on King's Road straight out of college, designing everything herself.
Today, Chantal still draws all the exquisite and colourful packaging herself and designs the beautiful, French accented stores. The Knightsbridge Motcomb Street store has an especially delightful chocolate kitchen for initiating chocolate lovers in the secrets of tasting and making. Joanna Harris, author of Chocolat has been a customer from the start, and is said to have taken some of her inspiration from both the Rococo shop and Chantal herself.
Chocolates for breakfast? Why not. Rococo sell a porridge and raspberry jam truffle! For Valentine's Day their Venus Nipples make a suggestive choice.
Chantal has long been an admirer of Roald Dahl and has recently designed a whole range of chocolates in honour of his books. Delightful and delicious for kids of all ages.
Salted caramel truffles were first invented by L'Artisan du Chocolat, who created the delicious flavour explosions for Gordon Ramsay restaurants and continue to supply the famously exacting chef with all his filled chocolates.
Whilst their first shop in Lower Sloane Street has a beautiful rainforest backdrop and chic fittings, newer stores in Westbourne Park and West Hampstead offer chocolate tutorials and tastings too. Try their Chapel Down English sparkling wine truffles and their stunning pearls range.
Couture chocolatier William Curley, four times winner of the ultimate Academy of Chocolate chocolatier of the year, is opening a new boutique in Soho imminently.
Curley became the youngest chef patissier ever at The Savoy after working for the culinary giants Marco Pierre White, Pierre Koffmann and Raymond Blanc. Then he discovered chocolate and today, especially among the chocolate cognoscenti, he is regarded as the benchmark.
Besides his signature truffles (the best champagne truffle and posh hazelnut rocher) Curley is especially known for his hot chocolate (try the gianduja) and his nostalgia range. There's a divine jaffa cake bar, millionairre's shortbread, coconut bar and peanut nougatine.
William Curley has a chocolate boutique within Harrod's food halls as well.
Most renowned for his peerless macarons, Pierre Herme also takes his chocolate incredibly seriously. He sources beans from all over the world and makes very chic (and sometimes pricey) chocolates, tablets and bonbons.
The interior of his Covent Garden store is an elegant kaleidoscope of colour; even the packaging and bags are incredibly covetable.
Fortnum & Mason's chocolate hall is considered one of the best in the world. For their own range, created by their longstanding in-house chocolatiers, their newest packaging is gorgeous and whimsical. Their classic rose and violet creams, however, remain unchanged and incredibly popular.
Fortnum's Ruby Chocolate is the biggest innovation in the chocolate industry for 80 years. It is naturally pink with intense an fruity flavour and sour notes. It took, apparently, 13 years to develop by Valrhona chocolate.
What's more, Fortnum's have long been known for championing a discerning pick of small, artisan bean-to-bar makers from around the world. These include conservation-led, ultra-sustainable Original Beans, whose chocolate is used by many of London's top chefs and restaurants including The Ivy group and Peter Gordon. Original Beans' mantra is one bar, one tree. Their chocolate is sourced from sustainable rainforests around the world, most notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Winner of Young British Foodie award for best dessert chef two years ago, Terri Mercieca is a superbly creative chocolatier as well as being a reputed ice-creamer maker – her delectable ice-cream sandwiches are sold in Panzer's Deli, Ben's Canteen, Honest Burger, Market Hall and many other on trend establishments.
Pictured is her chocolate bourbon, malted milk parfait, salted chocolate crumb ice-cream sandwich that she created for Honest Burger.
From her Bow HQ she currently makes chocolates for many top chefs and runs workshops on how to make chocolate truffles.
Her next, on 16th February, will show how to temper chocolate, how to understand chocolate colours and how to make raspberry and champagne truffles as well as dulce de leche truffles. You will craft a divine box of chocolates to take home plus there will be lots of refreshments throughout.
The home of London's best selection of single origin hot chocolate and a much loved chocolate cafe, Jaz & Jul's Chocolate House now also sells a curated range of the UK's best and quirkiest chocolate bars.
Their bottomless two hour Sunday brunch includes both a savoury and sweet dish plus Bloody Marys made with cocao nib infused vodka, as well as other chocolate infused cocktails, Prosecco and hot chocolate. Pick from savoury dishes such as irresistible cornbread waffles topped with Mexican-style black bean chilli in mole sauce, with roast tomatoes and avocado; and indulgent sweet dishes such as orange-zest Jaffa pancakes drizzled with marmalade-maple syrup and free-flowing chocolate sauce.
Rabot Estate is Hotel Chocolat's bespoke line, where the chocolate comes from owner Angus' own Rabot Estate in St Lucia. Their innovation is impressive and their quality is impeccable, plus prices are less eye-watering than many other top chocolatiers.
Best of all is the Rabot Estate cafe/restaurant serving chocolate inspired dishes. Breakfast includes such delights as smashed avocado with cocoa nibs, a Full English with cacao infused sausages, pancakes with chocolate sauce, and even a chocolate soft whip.
There's a cocktail and snacks list too, including sourdough and cacao dips.
Presently, there is also a three course menu available at £24.95 for lunch/supper.
The chocolate shop within Liberty (access from Carnaby Street) offers a delicious selection, with Liberty's own beautifully designed chocolates made by the best British artisan makers plus a curated collection of the UK's most interesting artisanal producers. These include Suffolk's Pump Street Bakery, whose chocolates with sourdough or rye crumbs (Pump Street are also a multi-award winning bakery) are incredibly clever and moreish.
Liberty also stock a discerning selection of artisan bean-to-bar chocolate bars including Akkesson, Chocolate Society and Original Beans.
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