From purist-pleasing dark chocolate to artistic creations that (almost) look too good to eat to molten hot chocolates for cold mornings, London's chocolatiers really do raise the bar when it comes to cacao. Think we've missed a great chocolate shop in London? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
London's best chocolate shops
The name says it all – superb chocolate taken seriously. So seriously they produce their own chocolate from ground beans, rather than buying in couverture (high quality processed chocolate) from a larger concern. The standard range is excellent but it’s worth popping by the boutiques to see the seasonal treats and designs for occasions such as Halloween. We love the bars for people on special diets too: they include chocolates made from buffalo and almond milks, as well as sugar-free dark and milk. And if you’re after a knockout prezzie for an incorrigible chocoholic, check out the Cocoa Rehab service: sign your loved one (or yourself) up and they’ll receive a parcel of sweet treats through the letterbox each month.
Head down to this dinky Chelsea café-shop to grab a pastry and stock up on their beautifully packaged truffles, rather than stopping for a meal. You can (and should) order individual truffles to your table so you can sample before you buy big. Their chocolate boxes (ranging from £8.95 to £105) are a staple in high-class delis and fancy food halls, making them the ideal gift for the person who has everything. With truffle flavours like champagne, yuzu sake, rose and violet and Earl Grey tea, it’s hard to believe this snazzy range comes from England’s oldest chocolatier.
One can’t help but be distracted by the fantasmagorical cakes when visiting this store-cum-café, but there’s a wide range of chocolate here too. Tongue-in-cheek items include three types of chocolate popcorn bar, and the inevitable Choccywoccyrocky Road. For reasons we can’t quite fathom, Chunky Ladies’ Secrets is white chocolate studded with glacé cherries and walnuts. Want to truly freak out a loved one? Buy the life-size chocolate skull - £65 for over 3 kilos of solid choc.
You’ll smell Dark Sugars before you see it. The scent of Ghanaian cocoa beans wafts up Brick Lane, making it near impossible not to pop a head in the door – or at least press your nose up against the window. Mounds of uncut truffle shards are piled on cherry wood stands and can be bought in a pick and mix box (£7.50 for 100g) or individually. Flavours are kaleidoscopic, ranging from the overdose truffle (chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate) to more left-field tastes like cardamom and orange or Jamaican rum. Everything comes in a vegan variation, including chocolate-covered medjool dates, ginger and mango. Try before you buy and walk away knowing you’re clutching a piece of the chocolatey dark arts.
A new name in an unusual location – residential Southfields is lucky to have this friendly chocolate café selling elegant, on-trend designs, as well as tennis-themed chocs for the Wimbledon crowd. The fresh chocolates are made with Grenadian milk chocolate and Ecuadorian dark and come in approachable flavours such as passion fruit and vodka, and coconut caramel. We loved the bars featuring colourful animal and bamboo prints, and bags of indulgent blobs such as honeycomb in dark chocolate.
Mélange has a casual community vibe, and supplies Peckham not just with their regular fixes of croissants, brownies and truffles, but with chocolate making workshops, chocolate and wine (or beer, or rum) matching sessions, and classes in painting with chocolate. We like the thin chocolate slabs made from Belgian couverture – their flavour combinations are inspired: coffee and aniseed; coriander and grapefruit; cumin and mint; bergamot and cinnamon, and plenty more. There's also an impressive range of veggie and vegan options on offer.
Founded by Louise Nason, Melt has had a few notable chocolatiers at its helm since opening in 2006 but currently heading the kitchen is Eiichi Sukegawa. Colourfully glam packaging is bang-on what you’d expect for this corner of Notting Hill but there’s real substance to the range too. What’s more, Melt’s kitchen is found in the shop itself, so you can watch your treats being made, or chat about flavour combinations with the team of chocolatiers. We like the Smoke bar – not flavoured with tobacco but made from cocoa beans grown on volcanic soil, giving the 64 percent dark chocolate an adults-only smoky taste. Also hard to resist are the hot chocolate pops – a delicious alternative to powdered drinking chocolate.
Montezuma’s is to chocolate making what Lush Cosmetics is to skincare: fun, quirky, and ethically-minded. Big and little kids are well catered for. Think bars of white chocolate with ginger and chilli; dark chocolate with lime and sea salt; milk chocolate with apple and biscuit (‘apple crumble’ is part of the Great British Puddings range); plus mango chutney boiled sweets.
A class act with exquisite sense of taste, invention and discernment, Paul A Young is a former head pastry chef who shuffles ingredients like a croupier with a deck of cards. Black pudding truffle with ginger biscuit and beer? Did it last February. Marmite-flavoured Madagascan chocolate? Yep, £5.75 a bar. Sea salt caramel? Of course, gold medal winner at the International Chocolate Awards. He has additional stores in Camden Passage and The Royal Exchange. You can also buy Paul’s brownies at Fortnum’s – do treat yourself, because they are London’s best.
Founder Chantal Coady is revered as a pioneer of fine chocolate in the UK and even today seems several steps ahead, with her involvement in the Grenada Chocolate Company – their organic bars on sale here are some of the best on the market. Rococo’s own flavoured bars are justly popular (the rose flavour is heavenly) and the novelties – among them hand-painted chocolate sardines, and jersey new potatoes with mint (made from hazelnut praline, white chocolate and mint leaves) – always raise a smile. Next Easter, treat your BFF to the gorgeous artisan hand-painted chocolate eggs.