London's best hot chocolates
Forget mulled wine or spiced cider, the perfect – and wonderfully indulgent – drink for winter is a steaming mug of hot chocolate
Dark, creamy, topped with marshmallows; whatever your preference, we've tasted our way around the capital’s finest chocolatiers.
Just like Gerard Coleman’s chocolates, this store-cum-café is all wit and elegance. Tabletops are moulded like a 70 per cent bar, stools like cylindrical marshmallows. At just £3, the sip-in option is outstanding value, comprising a large designer mug of hot chocolate plus two pretty chocolates from the stellar range. Artisan du Chocolat’s haute cuisine vibe is aided and abetted by a refreshing sorbet of cocoa pulp juice (with notes of lychee and apple) and choc-themed cocktails.
- 81 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UL
There’s little that isn’t gilt, gothic, covered in beads, fringing, flower-shaped or painted red in this exuberant cake shop and café. Expect to queue up the stairs, especially on weekends. Drink-in hot chocolate (£3.50) comes with whipped cream, large pink marshmallows (all the better for squidginess), a dusting of cocoa and a magic wand of curled chocolate. It may look frou-frou but the drink underneath is deeply serious, and there’s plenty of it. Choose from 70 per cent dark, 38 per cent milk, or white chocolate containing 29 per cent cocoa butter.
- 30-32 Fouberts Place, W1F 7PS, 020 7734 9713.
A neat new chocolatier and café set in residential Southfields (South Africans’ home from home), this friendly spot with smart furniture and decked terrace is a magnet for mums and bubs after their daily stroll in Wimbledon Park. There’s a choice of easy-drinking hot chocolate beverages (£2.75) – made with real pieces of single-origin chocolate scooped straight from the tub and steamed with plenty of milk. The selection of cakes and sandwiches is limited, but the packaged chocolate bars and other sweet treats are highly covetable.
- 81 Revelstoke Rd, SW18 5NL
Don’t be fooled by the plastic milk bottles used to store Konditor & Cook’s drinking chocolate – it’s made fresh on site every day to a recipe that would make the sugar plum fairy swoon. Complex in flavour, not too thick yet discernibly luxurious, the concoction contains double cream, full-fat milk, vanilla pods and two types of Callebaut chocolate – 70 per cent and 53 per cent. A £2.60 price tag seals the deal; the City bonus includes airy Gherkin architecture and K&C’s fabulous range of cakes to accompany.
- The Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8BF, 020 7633 3333.
On Peckham’s most gentrified shopping street, this homey chocolatier with a few foraged café tables specialises in fun flavours. We love the sound of whisking emanating from the kitchen, and the shop cat. The menu is brief but diverse: the thick dark hot chocolate (large £3) can be made with coconut or soya milk instead of dairy, if preferred; cardamom and nutmeg, or matcha green tea, add zing to mugs of white chocolate.
- 184 Bellenden Rd, SE15 4BW, 07722 650711.
A bubbling pot of purple-brown liquid hums in the window of this esteemed chocolate boutique. Expert staff explain fully: the Aztec-style drink is made without milk using the same mixture of Valrhona 100 per cent cocoa powder, 70 per cent chocolate and light muscovado sugar that is contained in the take-home bags. The absence of dairy lets you mainline on the deep, characterful, floral flavour. Alternatively, add a spice or two from the selection provided – sumac, maybe, or black cardamom. Takeaway cups are £3.95.
- 143 Wardour Street, W1F 8WA, 020 7437 0011.
International chain Hotel Chocolat makes a play for street cred at this faux tropical shack by Borough Market, but fair dos: the hot chocolate is both good and good value. £2.75 gets you a paper cup of well-balanced, savoury-edged elixir that on an icy morning could persuade anyone of its health benefits. The selection of intriguing wraps (Perroche goat’s cheese with dark chocolate, walnuts and cherries; ham and cheddar with crème fraîche and chocolate glaze) seems a better choice than the limited cakes and pastries.
- 2 Stoney St, SE1 9AA
Sea salt is the cool choice in hot chocolate at Rococo’s Belgravia branch. The base is the same 75 per cent drinking chocolate blend you can buy to take home (and which contains Rococo’s own organic Grenada chocolate), but staff will happily add a wafer of their famous flavoured artisan bars for an extra taste dimension. Mugs of milky choco-lattes are £3.50, while the espresso-style shots are £2.80. Both come with a complimentary truffle.
- 5 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8JU, 020 7245 0993
At this charming parlour with a slim communal table, hot drinks are taken as seriously as the superb ices. Thick, intense shots of delectable hot chocolate (£2.50) are made from catering favourite Callebaut (the menu outlines its ethical trade credentials) and served on dinky vintage trays. The longer version (£3), made with the addition of hot foamy organic milk, still has plenty of oomph. Both are excellent excuses to order something without chocolate from the ice-cream cabinet.
- 118 Fortess Road, NW5 2HL
This new branch of a long-established Rome chocolate shop is now open on Broadwick Street in the heart of Soho. Rather than packaging its wares in the clinical boxing you find in some upmarket chocolate shops, Said displays its chocs in opulent heaps, in jars or – in the case of the hot chocolate – bubbling from little cauldrons behind the glass counter. Customers are welcome to sit in with a cup of hot choc – high quality, thick, and rich on cocoa solids – and admire the interior, which has an entire wall decorated with shiny metal chocolate moulds. A lovely place to take a breather from the Christmas shopping.
- 41 Broadwick St, W1F 9QL
Order hot chocolate at this bijou deli and the first thing you’ll get is a Q&A session. ‘Do you know about our hot chocolate?’ was delivered with a degree of resignation. It seems staff are well used to the £5.50 price tag raising hackles, even in this slick corner of the City. A generous quantity of single-estate chocolate from prestigious Belgian chocolatier Pierre Marcolini is steamed directly with the milk and served in capacious cups, with extra hot milk on the side for anyone who finds the experience too dark.
- 40 Brushfield St, E1 6AG