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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)?
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.
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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