With the West End welcoming an all-singing, all-dancing Willy Wonka into its warm, theatrical bosom this week, it seemed a good time for us to assess the best of London’s real-life chocolatiers. So if you’re yet to buy tickets for the Sam Mendes-directed theatrical spectacular Charlie And The Chocolate Factory here’s a sweet selection of London’s finest chocolate shops as a taster.
The One Run by a Yorkshire Willy
For experimental London chocolatiers, Paul A Young is probably the closest pretender to Willy Wonka’s golden crown. Winner of Best Sea Salted Caramel in the World, a prize with a name surely Mr Dahl would appreciate, Paul’s reputation as a creative chocolatier and flavour alchemist is world renowned. Everything in the shop is made by hand, using the freshest ingredients. The smell of the shop alone can make even the coolest Camden dwellers coo like cosseted school children.
Budget like Charlie Bucket? Just one Paul A Young chocolate costs £2. Choose yours with care
The Golden Ticket: 42 pieces cost £65
The Willy Wonka: Aside from those famous Marmite chocolate concoctions, it’s a tough choice between The Love Potion (with Jasmine flower, ylang ylang, geranium, vanilla and lavender) and The London Gent (a black pepper and treacle caramel ganache)
Address: 33 Camden Passage, Islington, N1 8EA (with other branches in Wardour Street and the Royal Exchange)
The One Run By An Ex-Punk
Rococo was founded in 1983 by Chantal Coady, a punky ex-art student who’d just been sacked from Harrods chocolate department for dyeing her hair green. Back in the 80s, the Kings Road shop was a revelation: painted with cherubs and clouds and featuring a sugar chandelier, it was a world away from stuffy department stores. One of her early customers was Joanne Harris — might Coady be the inspiration for Harris’ hit book “Chocolat”? In 2008, Chantal’s company was awarded a special Academy of Chocolate Award for “Changing the Way People Think About Chocolate”.
Budget Like Charlie Bucket? A 20g Sea Salt Organic Milk Chocolate Bee Bar will set you back £1.30
The Golden Ticket: The massive Nebuchadnezzar Hamper No4 costs £160
The Willy Wonka: A bag of Jersey New Potatoes with Mint, £9.50 (in reality, hazelnut praline covered in white chocolate and shaped into potatoes. Served with crystalised mint leaves, obviously.)
Address: The Rococo flagship store is at 5 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8JU (with other branches on Marylebone High Street and the Kings Road)
The One With The Dessert Bar
A luxury patissier and chocolatier from Scotland, William Curley set up his Belgravia store in 2009, following the success of his Richmond store. Inside, there’s a dessert bar where you can sample a tasting menu of desserts created in front of you by one of the chefs. Look out for the Mille-feuille au chocolate — layers of hazelnut daquoise and chocolate with an orange sauce and muscavado ice-cream. They even have a brunch menu for actual problem chocoholics. William Curley has won the Academy of Chocolate’s “Britain’s Best Chocolatier” Award four times since 2007.
Budget Like Charlie Bucket? Their Nostalgia Jaffa Cake costs all of £3.50
The Golden Ticket: A box of 100 “couture” chocolates costs £150
The Willy Wonka: Look out for the chocolates laced with Japanese black vinegar, inspired by Curley’s wife’s Japanese heritage
Address: Their flagship is at 198 Ebury Street, Belgravia, SW1W 8UN (with a smaller branch in Richmond)
The One With The Royal Seal of Approval
Purveyors of fine English chocolates since 1875, Charbonnel et Walker has always been located in Bond Street. Started by two women, Mme Virginie Eugenie Lévy (née Charbonnel) from Maison Boissier chocolate house in Paris and Mrs Minnie Walker, the partnership was encouraged by the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. It still has a Royal Warrant as chocolate manufacturers to The Queen. A must-try if you find too much cocoa overpowering: because of their delicate flavours, C et W use about 58-60% cocoa in their chocolates. Perfect for chocoholics with a sweet tooth.
Budget like Charlie Bucket? The Delicious Art Dark Ginger Bar will set you back £3.99 for just 85g
The Golden Ticket: A 2,000g box of their fine chocolate selection costs £125
The Willy Wonka: English Rose and Violet Creams. Sound a bit grim to us, but then so does Dahl’s Hair Toffee.
Address: One The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, W1S 4BT
The One With Roald’s Seal of Approval
Another of London’s oldest chocolate shops, Prestat has enjoyed the custom of various famous clientele over the years, including Her Maj and the Queen Mum, John Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft, Tina Turner and Paul McCartney, and brilliantly, Roald Dahl himself. (Prestat chocolates are at the centre of Dahl’s comic romp My Uncle Oswald.) The brand won a Royal Warrant in 1975 as Purveyors of Chocolates to Her Majesty The Queen. As for the shop itself, well, we’ll just say it’s not the place you want to be with a hangover. But if garish is your thing, you’ll be in heaven. Fight through the brightly coloured packaging and the chocolates are a real treat.
Budget like Charlie Bucket? Prestat’s Union Jack Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almond and Sea Salt 25g bar costs £1.25
The Golden Ticket: The Jewel Box contains 98 Prestat chocolates and costs £90
The Willy Wonka: The dark chocolate wafers with fiery chilli and cool lime are kind of Wonka-weird. £11 for a box
Address: 14 Princes Arcade, St James’s, Westminster, SW1Y 6DS
The One for Francophiles
Developed in France by Robert Linxe in the 1950s, La Maison du Chocolat arrived in London in 2004. Linxe was dubbed The Wizard of Ganache in the 70s, and now has shops all over the world, including in Tokyo and New York. The teeny London shop is as suave and sophisticated as you’d expect from a posh Paris expat. We recommend creating your own selection box, as long as you’re not intimidated by the besuited French-speaking staff. Ahh, but the taste of the chocolate as it melts on your tongue makes all the pretentious Parisian nonsense worth while.
Budget like Charlie Bucket? A Bouchee Rocher costs £2.95
The Golden Ticket: The Boite Maison contains 209 pieces of chocolate (including “onctuous (sic) plain dark chocolate truffles) and costs £204
The Willy Wonka: It’s all a bit too français classique to be Willy-innovative. Unless combining pistachio and marzipan (in the Bouchee Jolika) is your idea of a wild time?
Address: 46 Piccadilly, W1J 0DS
The One For Mike TeaVee
This Carnaby Street confectioner Choccywoccydoodah is the sister store of the Brighton original. Run by a team of artists, designers and chocolatiers, the company’s emphasis is perhaps more on crazy cake design than the taste of their chocolate. It’s also been helped by a couple of super-promotional TV series. Inside the tall Carnaby Street store, you’ll find a Marmite combination of super-sweet food and attitude, with a generous side helping of quirk. Some might say it’s guilty of aiming for style over substance; we’ll just suggest it’s in a different league to the posh European-style chocolatiers found elsewhere in the capital.
Budget like Charlie Bucket? A 55g Chocolate Love Heart costs £4.99
The Golden Ticket: The £130 Huge Choccywoccydoodah Hamper was sold out at the time of writing; instead, if you’ve got money to
melt burn, we suggest the Milk Chocolate Hand Painted Skull: a snip at £100
The Willy Wonka: There’s a lot in this shop that we think Mr Wonka would approve of. Sticking to our chocolate theme, the £17.50 Salted Popcorn Slab could well be a Willy-inspired creation.
Address: 30-32 Fouberts Place, Carnaby, W1F 7PS
The One Worth Getting the Overland For
Found on the increasingly chi-chi Bellenden Road in Peckham (a Butcher and a Deli have opened there in the last six months) The Melange Chocolate Shop and Cafe is South East London’s finest chocolaterie. Run by French artisan chocolatier Isabelle Alaya, The Melange is a small, unpretentious café specialising in self-indulgence. Look out for the proper thick, rich hot chocolate and chocolate cakes served with a welcoming smile within. We recommend you sample, then leave with a selection of yummy chocolates infused with interesting flavours to enjoy at home.
Budget like Charlie Bucket? A 20g strip of chocolate costs £1.25
The Golden Ticket: 5 strips of 20g chocolate cost £6.25. The only way to spend a lot at The Melange is to book one of their fun-sounding workshops. Prices start from £18
The Willy Wonka: Either Coffee and Aniseed Milk Chocolate, or Cardamom and Clove Dark Chocolate
Address: 184 Bellenden Road, Peckham, SE15 4BW
Have we missed any out? Disagree with our choices? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll add a Reader Recommendations section above.