What better way to warm up than with a steaming cup of rich, fragrant hot chocolate? The drink — which precedes solid chocolate — is believed to have been created by the Aztecs around 2,000 years ago. Originally used for medicinal purposes, hot chocolate was introduced from Mexico to Europe in the 16th century, where it became a firm favourite of royalty. Indulgent 'chocolate houses' began springing up in central London — we’ve told you about these (and the fascinating Georgian chocolate kitchen at Hampton Court Palace), before.
If you're looking for a more contemporary way of enjoying the drink, we’ve rounded up London’s best hot chocolates.
William Curley: In addition to a dedicated chocolate dessert bar at its Belgravia branch, this award-garlanded chocolatier serves hot chocolate in both its Belgravia and Richmond boutiques. The drink is made from fine Amedei Toscano 70% chocolate, and comes in plain, chilli and hazelnut varieties. Their delicious ‘Mayan spiced’ blend is flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger — Christmas in a glass.
William Curley Belgravia, 198 Ebury Street, SW1W 8UN
William Curley Richmond, 10 Paved Court, Richmond-Upon-Thames, Surrey TW9 1LZ
All hot chocolates cost £3.
Paul A Young: Purists insist that hot chocolate should be made only with pure chocolate and no milk — and the water ganache-based drink created by this much-loved chocolatier is so rich and luxuriant that you won’t miss the dairy. Into the plain classic flavour, you can have cinnamon, nutmeg, chilli, ginger or cardamom added.
Paul A Young Soho, 143 Wardour Street, W1F 8WA
Paul A Young Islington, 33 Camden Passage, N1 8EA
All hot chocolates cost £3.95.
Said dal 1923: We’ve already told you how much we love the super-rich ‘cioccolata densa’ (thick Italian hot chocolate) at this charming chocolate shop and café. Choose from milk, dark and gianduja (hazelnut praline from Turin) varieties — or try them one by one, we recommend them all.
Said dal 1923, 41 Broadwick Street, W1F 9QL
Hot chocolate costs £2.50-£6.
Artisan du Chocolat: This much-adored chocolate brand has a ‘chocolate boutique and chocolateria’ in Notting Hill that serves an entirely choc-centric food and drink menu. Made from real chocolate, the drinks come in dark and salted caramel flavours; plus a wonderful ‘death by chocolate’ flavour that’s intensely dark with a nutty taste.
Artisan du Chocolat Boutique & Chocolateria, 81 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UL
All hot chocolates cost £3.
Melt Chocolates: You can see your drink being made in the open-view kitchen of this smart chocolatier’s Notting Hill and Holland Park boutiques. Choose from rich, silky milk or dark chocolate from a regularly changing menu written on the blackboard; and don’t miss the luscious ‘fluffy bunny’ — a hot chocolate with a big ‘tail’ of whipped cream. Another fun option is to stir their ‘hot chocolate blocks’ into milk or cream to make your own bespoke drink.
Melt Notting Hill, 59 Ledbury Road, W11 4AA
Melt Holland Park, 6 Clarendon Road, W11 3AA
Hot chocolate costs £1.70-£3.30 for eating in; takeaway prices vary.
Rococo: The organic chocolate flakes of this beautiful chocolate brand have been awarded gold by the Academy of Chocolate for two years running. Judge for yourself with an intense hot chocolate shot, or classic, sea salted and spiced varieties — you’ll be hooked.
Rococo Belgravia, 5 Motcomb Street, SW1X 8JU
Hot chocolate costs £2.80-£3.80.
Cocomaya: This swish chocolatier sells only the classic variety — no other flavour — made from pure melted chocolate. It’s so rich and indulgent that no cream is needed.
Cocomaya, 12 Connaught Street, W2 2AF
Hot chocolate costs £2.60-£3.40 for eating in; takeaway prices vary.
Hotel Chocolat: This popular chain of chocolate shops has a buzzy café in its Kensington branch, where the classic dark hot chocolate is the most popular. Also on the menu are salted caramel, chilli and hazelnut flavours; and milk, white and 100% cocoa varieties are also sold.
Hotel Chocolat Café, 163 Kensington High Street, W8 6SU
All hot chocolates cost £3.50.
Rabot 1745: Owned by Hotel Chocolat and named after their 250 year old Rabot Estate cocoa plantation in Saint Lucia, this stylish café, restaurant and bar offers a menu in which every single dish contains some part of the cocoa plant. The hot chocolates here are thinner in consistency than in other choc-centric venues but are made from real chocolate, not cocoa powder. We’ve had trouble choosing from classic, milky, chilli, white chocolate and nutmeg, gingerbread, the highly popular salted caramel and hazelnut flavours — and can heartily recommend the latter. It’s made from finely pulverised nuts, not essence or liqueur. There’s also hot chocolate with rum (£5); plus a number of cocoa drinks.
Rabot 1745, 2-4 Bedale Street, Borough Market, SE1 9AL
All hot chocolates cost £3.50.
DeRosier Chocolates: A neighbourhood favourite, this small, family-run shop sells drinks made from single origin chocolate from Venezuela, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Choose from coconut, honey, caramel, mint and orange flavours.
DeRosier Chocolates, 81 Revelstoke Road, Southfields, SW18 5NL
Hot chocolates cost £3-£3.25.
Café Godiva at Harrods: The classic Belgian chocolate brand has a café on the second floor of the luxury department store, and the drinks menu encompasses not only hot chocolates but cold chocolate drinks too. Both are made from layering either dark, milk or white chocolate with milk, cream, ice cream, coffee or fruit compote. And if that’s not enough, there are gorgeous chocolate cakes, pastries, pancakes, fondues and chocolate platters to nibble on.
Café Godiva, Second Floor, Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, SW1X 7XL
Hot and cold chocolate drinks cost £6.50-£8.50.
The Knightsbridge Lounge: Part of the sumptuous Park Tower hotel, this is a beautiful tea parlour, champagne and hot chocolate bar that serves food and drink under a canopy of magnolia blossoms, inspired by nearby Hyde Park. There’s a separate hot chocolate menu, in which Rococo chocolates are flavoured with espresso, orange, peppermint, strawberry, chilli and allspice, blackcurrant and vanilla, whisky or amaretto flavours. Their classic hot chocolate is an extravagant delight, decorated with chocolate curls, whipped cream and own-made marshmallows.
The Knightsbridge Lounge, Park Tower Knightsbridge, 101 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RN
All hot chocolates cost £8, or £12 with alcohol.
Venchi: This smart Italian chocolatier and gelateria — with several branches around the world — sells velvet-smooth drinks made from 75% dark powdered chocolate. Flavoured varieties include hazelnut, chilli and rum.
Venchi Chocolate-Gelato, Unit 18, The Market Building, Covent Garden, WC2E 8RB
Hot chocolates cost £4-£4.50.
Dark Sugars: Located in Brick Lane, this lovely chocolatier sells hot chocolate made from cocoa powder topped with chocolate shavings. Perk it up further with spicy cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon or chilli.
Dark Sugars, 141 Brick Lane, E1 6SB
Hot chocolates cost £2.75-£3.50.
Jaz and Juls: Hot chocolate connoisseurs Jasmine and Juliet source single origin chocolates from small producers in Madagascar, Peru and Brazil and turn them into five kilo bars, ready to be grated. They supply to cafés, restaurants, delis, food halls, festivals and events around the UK, and sell their delicious drinks every Saturday at Broadway Market between October to April. The drinks come in a wide range of flavours, such as orange, gingerbread, nine spice, rose, raspberry, caramel, peppermint, white chocolate with peppercorns and more. They use cows’ and oat milk, and top with whipped dairy or coconut cream and flavoured handmade marshmallows. The duo have just opened a hot chocolate-centric Chocolate House at 1 Chapel Market, Islington, selling everything from boozy hot chocolates to chocolate-based savoury and sweet vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Jaz and Juls, Broadway Market, E8 4QJ
Hot chocolates cost £2.80-£4.95.
So have we included your favourite hot chocolate in London? Tell us in the comments below.