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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.

By Time Out London Food & Drink |
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January 2019: For those who want to indulge, we’ve added The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason, Le Pain Quotidien (a French bakery/patisserie chain that does things the old way), and the calming, restorative Nordic Bakery in Soho. We’ve also included a few places for all you clean-eating, wellness types: Aprés Food Co in Farringdon, Aussie-owned Farm Girl in Notting Hill, and pretty-pretty plant-filled Palm Vaults in Hackney. Finally, something completely different: Jim’s Café, a biker-themed greasy spoon down Homerton way.

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.

Restaurants, Cafés

Apres Food Co

icon-location-pin Clerkenwell

The owners of this gorgeous-looking Clerkenwell joint want us all to ‘make friends with food’ – and we’re certainly sold on the place, with its low-key backstreet vibe, pretty plants and clever gluten-free cooking. Its hot chocolate is a good ’un, too: made with single-origin Peruvian cocoa and blossom, it might be sweetened with coconut sugar rather than the refined stuff.

Ed Marshall
Shopping, Chocolate and sweets

Artisan du Chocolat

icon-location-pin Notting Hill

Gerard Coleman’s Notting Hill boutique is more of a glitzy choc shop than a cosy café, but who gives a hoot when the hot chocolate’s this good? There are gingerbread, mint, cinnamon and coffee-laced variations on offer, but plump for the artisan original: made with 70 percent Colombian chocolate cooked up with milk and cream, it’s smooth, rich and tastes a bit like Maltesers.

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Restaurants, Ice-cream parlours

Chin Chin Dessert Club

icon-location-pin 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. They now do a vegan hot choc too.

Ed Marshall
Restaurants, Cafés

DeRosier

icon-location-pin Southfields

Located close to Wimbledon Park, DeRosier is a friendly chocolatier with a smattering of smart seating. Hot-chocolate bevvies are kept in bain-maries along the counter, from mild Venezuelan milk varieties for those who like things unchallenging to punchy 80 percent Ugandan dark for hardcore chocoholics. It also sells various DIY pouches containing all the necessary dry ingredients. There’s a branch in Earlsfield, too.

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Restaurants, Cafés

Farm Girl

icon-location-pin Portobello Road

This cute café from Aussie-born ‘farm girl’ Rose Mann is a little ripper. Colourful interiors and non-stop sunny service come as standard, and its hot chocolate is a fair dinkum brew. The standard version involves cacao and date syrup, while the Happy Hot Choc also includes peppermint, matcha, hazelnut milk and CBD (cannabidiol, the latest wellness craze). Branches in Chelsea and Soho, too.

Restaurants, Cafés

The Haberdashery

icon-location-pin Crouch End and Hornsey

Festooned with bunting and furnished with mismatched tea sets and a tuck shop-style sweet selection, The Haberdashery may well be London’s cutest café, and all visits should factor in a hot chocolate. It’s made from Italian white or regular chocolate, topped with a marshmallow and served in a bowl… with a spoon. There’s a smaller, milkier version for kids too. Also on Stoke Newington High Street.

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Restaurants, Contemporary European

Jim's Café

icon-location-pin Clapton

Real bikers don’t drink hot chocolate, right? Wrong! At this reborn greasy spoon, East End hipsters channel their inner ‘Easy Rider’, ogle the leather jackets for sale (courtesy of the Black Skulls motorcycle collective) and drink mugs of the cocoa-based warmer. Marshmallows come as standard, and you can choose oat or soya milk if required. There are breakfasts, diner food and freaky cocktails too.  

Ed Marshall
Restaurants, Pâtisseries

Konditor & Cook

icon-location-pin City of London

Don’t be fooled by the plastic bottles used to store Konditor & Cook’s 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. The City’s Gherkin branch also serves K&C’s fabulous cakes.

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Restaurants, Pâtisseries

Le Pain Quotidien Oxford Circus

icon-location-pin Soho

At this French bakery/patisserie chain, hot chocolate is made in the old-fashioned, European way: you’ll be presented with a big bowl of frothed milk plus a tiny jug of luscious, creamy concentrated chocolate (produced by melting pieces of the dark stuff rather than using cocoa powder). Simply pour the chocolate on the milk and mix together. Gorgeous! Branches across London.

Shopping, Specialist food and drink

Melange Chocolate

icon-location-pin Peckham

A longstanding fave, Peckham’s Melange (run by chocolatier Isabelle Alaya) is an adorably cosy little shop-cum-café, with ramshackle furniture, botanical wallpaper and dinky sample bowls along the counter. It also sells some of London’s best hot chocolate. The outrageously delicious salted caramel number is its biggest hit, but for a more exotic fix, try the white chocolate version tweaked with matcha tea.

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New_NordicB_web.jpg
© Jael Marschner
Restaurants, Snack bars

Nordic Bakery

icon-location-pin Soho

An oasis of Nordic calm amid the frenetic anarchy of Soho, this cool wood-lined café is a fantastic under-the-radar pit stop for pretty-looking Scandi-style sandwiches and sweet treats – what could be more deliciously tempting than one of its famously addictive cinnamon buns (or perhaps a squishy, sugary butter bun) with a mug of richly flavoured hot chocolate (made with 32 percent cocoa)?

Restaurants, Cafés

Palm Vaults

icon-location-pin Hackney

Plants, plants everywhere… tumbling from the ceiling, sprouting from pots, lurking in corners. If that’s not enough, the menu at this Hackney café is loaded with plant-based possibilities. Drinks-wise, that means cashew-milk mochas, jazzed-up vegan coffees and five different hot chocolates: ‘warm’, ‘smooth, ‘dark’, ‘palm’ (white chocolate, beetroot, steamed oat milk) and a variant with freshly juiced turmeric added to the mix.    

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Restaurants, Ice-cream parlours

The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason

icon-location-pin Piccadilly

It’s all about cornets and coupes, sundaes and scoops at Fortum & Mason’s ice-cream fun palace, but don’t forget its ‘ultimate’ hot chocolate, served in a bespoke mug with freshly whipped cream and a magical sprinkling of its own Ruby chocolate. Cakes, savouries, boozy floats, premium teas and other treats make this beauty a shoo-in for young and old alike.

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