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Hot chocolates with marshmallows on top
Photograph: Time Out / Shutterstock

London’s best hot chocolates

Get a rich, delicious cocoa fix with these luscious hot drinks

Written by
Time Out London Food & Drink
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Long before humans were eating chocolate, they were drinking it: the ancient Mayans were sipping on hot cocoa-based bevvies as early as 500BC (in between human sacrifices, that is). And you know what, they were on to something. Hot chocolate is rich, warming and entirely delicious, capable of lifting your spirits and getting those sweet endorphins flowing.

If you're thinking of becoming a cocoa-aficionado, then you're in luck: London’s brilliant cafes and chocolatiers are known for serving up truly luxurious takes on the classic drink. From marshmallow-topped and cream-covered concoctions to seriously challenging brews (80 percent dark, anyone?), London has a selection of hot chocolates stupendous enough to warm anyone’s cockles in these winter months. We’ve tasted our way around the city’s finest chocolatiers and bijou cafés to find you the best. 

Recommended: Warm your cockles with London's best mulled wines.

The best hot chocolates in London

Chin Chin Dessert Club
  • Restaurants
  • Ice-cream parlours
  • Soho

Hot chocolate + marshmallows = nothing new. But the bona fide Willy Wonka boffins at Chin Chin have upped the ante in typically zany fashion. A paper cup of the good stuff is topped with a giant orb of handmade marshmallow, which is then blowtorched to Bonfire Night levels of charred, sticky decadence. It now does a vegan hot choc too, with hints of raspberry and apricot. Of course, Chin Chin’s experimentalists are also wizards with nitro-fuelled ice cream and this Soho shop is an ostentatious showcase for their wares – not only their signature ices (anyone for halva black tahini?), but also full-on desserts.

Melange

Melange

A longstanding fave, Peckham’s Melange (run by chocolatier Isabelle Alaya) is currently only open at weekends. As well as supplying sweet-toothed local residents with their regular fix of French groceries, artisan ice creams and intriguingly flavoured chocolate slabs, it also sells some of London’s best hot chocolate: the outrageously delicious salted caramel number is their biggest hit, but for a more exotic fix, try the white chocolate version tweaked with matcha tea. Sugar-free, dairy-free and gluten-free variations are also readily available. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Borough

Buoyed by its location overlooking Borough Market, Hotel Chocolat has acquired some additional street cred with Rabot 1745 – a slick café named after a cocoa estate founded in 1745 on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. As you might guess, this venue is famed for its hot chocolate: their premier-league brew is a well-balanced, savoury-edged elixir guaranteed to warm the cockles, and you can even add a shot of St Lucian rum if you’re feeling chilly. There’s also a chilli-spiced version, a hazelnut riff, a salted caramel mix and a white chocolate with nutmeg, while its iced brew does the trick in summer.

Dark Sugars Cocoa House

You’ll can smell Dark Sugars before you see it. The scent of Ghanaian cocoa beans wafts up Brick Lane, making it nigh impossible not to pop your head round the door. Mounds of uncut truffle shards are heaped into mango leaf bowls or piled on cherry wood stands. Flavours are kaleidoscopic. And the hot chocolate? Intense, available in numerous flavours and covered in real shaved chocolate. Fucking hell, it's good stuff.

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Farm Girl
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Portobello Road
  • price 1 of 4

This cute café from Aussie-born ‘farm girl’ Rose Mann is a little ripper – and it's doing both takeaway and click and collect at the moment. Don't expect an ordinary choccy at this joint. The standard hot chocolate here involves cacao and date syrup, while the Happy Hot Choc also includes peppermint, matcha, hazelnut milk and CBD. There are branches in Chelsea and Soho

With a passion for sustainability, Intermission in West Hampstead is a trendy coffee shop that was bravely opened last year. It's already become a neighbourhood staple though, beloved for its tasty cakes, high quality brews and quirky style. Expect hot chocs from here to come packaged in cute illustrated (and recyclable) cups. 

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Paul A Young Fine Chocolates

Paul A Young Fine Chocolates

Known for his exquisite sense of taste, former pastry chef Paul A Young is a chocolate magician who shuffles ingredients like a croupier with a deck of cards. Black pudding truffle with ginger biscuit and beer? No problem. Hot chocolate? Of course. A bubbling pot of purple-brown liquid hums in the window, and its Aztec-style brew is made without milk, using Valrhona 100 percent cocoa powder, 70 percent chocolate, light muscovado sugar and a pinch of Cornish sea salt. You can also have it luxed-up with a spoonful of thick double cream and some chocolate pearls. Young has another shop in Camden Passage.

The Haberdashery
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Crouch End

Festooned with bunting and furnished with mismatched tea sets, hand-labelled cocktails in jam jars and a tuck-shop-style sweet selection, The Haberdashery may well be London’s cutest make-do-and-mend café, and all visits should factor in a hot chocolate. It’s made from Italian white or regular dark stuff, topped with a marshmallow and served in a handspan-sized bowl… with a spoon. There’s even a smaller, milkier version for kids. The Haberdashery also sells tea sets, groceries, prints and books (lovely, locally published novellas), as well as hosting sales, launches and monthly themed supper clubs. There’s an offshoot on Stoke Newington High Street.

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  • Restaurants
  • Filipino
  • Battersea
  • price 1 of 4

Kapihan is an artisanal Filipino café in Battersea run by two brothers who have swapped the corporate world for the coffee world. Currently open for takeaway at weekends, its menu spans Palawan Honey Lattes made with honey from El Nido island and Golden Milk (a mix of turmeric, cinnamon, raw honey and oat milk). But it's the hot chocolate that's the reeeal highlight. It's made the traditional Filipino way: by dissolving 100% Malagos cocoa in hot water, then whisking with milk and sugar. 

 

The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason
  • Restaurants
  • Ice-cream parlours
  • Piccadilly

It’s all about ice-cream cornets and coupes, sundaes and scoops at this fun (but pricey) spot on the first floor of Fortnum & Mason – although the famous location means that you’ll usually be surrounded by tourists and families with kids on a spree. However, don’t forget to pay a visit to the bespoke hot chocolate bar. F&M’s ‘ultimate’ brew is served in a bespoke mug with freshly whipped cream and a magical sprinkling of their renowned ruby chocolate, and you can have even more fun by adding your own bits and bobs – perhaps salted caramel marshmallows, honeycomb or popcorn.

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Highbury spot Cafe La Divina might look unassuming from the outside, but head inside and you're able to pick up a vast array of Italian treats to take away. Pizza! Pasta! A calzone filled with Nutella! The hot chocolate here is thick, authentic Italiano stuff – like delicious battery fluid to fuel your body through long lockdown walks. 

Italian Bear Chocolate
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Soho

This bustling cafe (formerly known as Said) in Fitzrovia is related to the oldest chocolate factory in Rome and mamma mia, do they make a mean hot chocolate: super-thick and rich in cocoa solids, with molten choc ladled all over the cup – you can see the sweet stuff bubbling away in little cauldrons behind the glass counter. For pure indulgence, sit down with a cup of this thick, cocoa-rich stuff plus a Nutella pizza or a salted caramel tart on the side. The fascinating interior is also worth more than a cursory glance – check out the wall decorated with shiny metal chocolate moulds. Italian Bear also has an outlet in Soho.

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Ruby Violet
  • Restaurants
  • Ice-cream parlours
  • Tufnell Park

Superb ice creams and sorbets are RV’s stock in trade, but this charming parlour also takes its hot drinks seriously. In fact you can now order jars of its hot chocolate callets from Deliveroo to make at home. Intense shots of delectable hot chocolate are made from catering favourite Callebaut (the menu outlines its ethical trade credentials) and served on dinky vintage trays. The longer version (with hot, foamy steamed milk on the side) also has oomph.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Southfields

Residential Southfields is lucky to have this smart but friendly chocolate shop and café selling elegant handmade treats, tennis-themed morsels and hot chocolate bevvies – made with pieces of single-origin chocolate scooped straight from the tub and steamed with plenty of milk. The rich brews bubble away in bain maries along the counter, and you can take your pick – perhaps a mild Venezuelan milk version or a punchy 80 percent Ugandan dark (for hardcore chocoholics only). There are a few seats inside, so take a pew and enjoy your hot choc with a cake, brownie or sandwich. There are branches in Earlsfield and Wimbledon Park.

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  • Restaurants
  • Pâtisseries
  • Waterloo
  • price 1 of 4

Gerhard Jenne made quite a stir when he opened this offbeat bakery and café on a South Bank side street back in 1993, but Konditor has flourished and now boasts several branches around the capital. Don’t be fooled by the plastic bottles used to store its drinking chocolate – it’s made fresh every day to a recipe that would make the Sugar Plum Fairy swoon. Complex, not too thick yet discernibly luxurious, the concoction contains double cream, full-fat milk, vanilla pods and two types of Callebaut chocolate.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Clerkenwell
  • price 1 of 4

We’re sold on this gorgeous-looking Clerkenwell joint, with its clever gluten-free cooking. Its hot chocolate is a good ‘un too: made with single-origin Peruvian cocoa and blossom and available to takeaway. If you’re peckish, also order one of the excellent victoria sponges made with a secret gluten-free flour blend. 

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