London’s best hot chocolate
London finally has a dedicated hot chocolate café. Tucked away at the far end of Chapel Market in Islington, Jaz & Jul’s have found a permanent space to bring their range of single origin hot chocolates, much-beloved on the market and retail scene. Undoubtedly this is the place you’ll find the widest range of choice, as well as luscious homemade marshmallows. If hot chocolate is your preferred fix then you need to get here, pronto.
It’s amazing it’s taken this long. The rise of artisan coffee should indicate we care more about what we drink, but the options for hot chocolate lovers have long been threadbare in London. Even amongst the light-medium-roasted, obsessively-crafted flat whites and aeropress offerings, too often the hot chocolate comes scooped as powder from a tin and mixed with steamed milk. Thankfully there are cafés that don’t consider hot chocolate an afterthought:
Dedicated chocolate houses
The best hot chocolates in town by far are sold by the chocolatiers themselves. In these havens of deliciousness the ratio of chocolate to liquid is at its highest. The makers of these steaming cups of chocolate tend to be so addicted to dark stuff themselves that they’d be horrified if they didn’t come with a hefty hit of smooth chocolate in every sip. At William Curley’s boutiques in Richmond and Belgravia the house blend of Amedei hot chocolate comes straight up at 70% with milk or with spices in Aztec (chilli) or Mayan (ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg). There’s also a Gianduja version that’s like the adult version of drinking a Ferrero Rocher. In Rococo’s oasis on Motcomb St (I’m reluctant to share this location!) homemade marshmallows get swallowed up by rich, indulgent liquid. The mosaic-filled garden at the back is a beautiful place to enjoy it if the weather isn’t too biting.
In each of Paul A Young’s three boutiques a pan of rich hot chocolate simmers all day, the sight and aroma making it hard to leave without a cup. Here the hot chocolate comes as high quality chocolate mixed only with water and a touch of brown sugar. Tiny jars of spices are available to mix your own alchemy to your taste.
If you’ve returned from Europe dreaming of chocolate you can stand a spoon in, head to Italian chocolateria and café SAID for an espresso cup of their dark, milk or gianduja rich dessert-disguised-as-a-drink.
In some of Hotel Chocolat’s stores (Rabot 1745 in Borough Market, for example) they serve hot chocolate made from chocolate made on site – as fresh as you’re going to get! Get it with added cocoa cream. At Artisan du Chocolat the hot chocolate is reminiscent of soup and served at their Notting Hill location in a bowl with a spoon; a mixture of chocolate, cream, milk, sugar and a pinch of salt, this is like a meal in itself. You’ll also get hot chocolate in winter months in Melt Chocolates, Mélange Chocolate and Dark Sugars.
There are a few high end places in town to make an occasion of spoiling yourself with a cup of rich, hot chocolate. Hotel Café Royal wins for variety with more than eight options including Black Forest, Salted Caramel and White chocolate with Matcha – all made with Valrhona chocolate. At the ice cream parlour on the first floor of Fortnum’s the hot chocolate is a ritual: a tray arrives with a thick smudge of melted chocolate in the base of the cup, a metal jug of hot chocolate milk to stir in to your taste with your crystal sugar stirrer and a small glass of water to help you cope with all the intensity. For location impact, Sketch, where we start the Mayfair Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, cannot be beaten. The hot chocolate isn’t even on the menu but if you’re lucky they’ll whip one up for you. The building is a wow factor for anyone who hasn’t been before and the patisserie is superb, too.
Every day that bit better
Thick and bordering on sickly – but great for a chocolate rush – is the constantly churning chocolate from the chain of Paul bakeries in London.
Chocolate-lover Paul Eagles launched a range of single origin chocolate buttons for cafes in 2011. Look out for them in jars behind counters near the teas. If you see “Kokoa Collection” you can be fairly sure that ordering hot chocolate here is a safe bet.
De Rosier in Southfields, Ruby & Violet in Tufnell Park, the Pelican in Peckham and Ben’s House in Fitzrovia also boast special hot chocolates.