Here at Londonist we love a chocolate shop — these are our favourites.
We got to thinking recently; which is London's oldest chocolate shop? Which has been gracing the streets of our city for longest, offering sweet, delectable refreshment to the well-heeled and well to-do (let's face it, most of us make do with a bar of Dairy Milk on a day-to-day basis, do we not?).
We did a bit of digging and as far as we can ascertain, at 141 years old, Charbonnel et Walker is the oldest chocolate shop still in existence in London.
The shop was opened on Bond Street in 1875 by Frenchwoman Eugenie Charbonnel and Englishwoman Minnie Walker, specialising in Parisian bon-bons and confectionery.
Charbonnel et Walker has always been a resident of Bond Street (although as any self-respecting Londoner knows, Bond Street doesn't exist). The company itself claims that the original shop opened at 173 New Bond Street, although various newspaper reports put it at 169 Bond Street (1875 — the year it opened) and 31 Old Bond Street (1923). What we do know for certain is that after Walker's death in 1883, the company went into liquidation, and was re-established under the same name at the current premises in the Royal Arcade.
Despite the name Charbonnel et Walker being well-known — and adorned with the Royal seal of approval today — it was nearly not to be. An article in the Morning Post of 6 February 1879 reports on a legal case in which Charbonnel and Walker grappled over the moniker.
Charbonnel sold her part of the business to Walker in 1878, after getting married and moving to Paris, where she wished to establish her own confectionery business with her husband. Her own business was to be named Charbonnel & Co. and she wanted Walker to stop using Charbonnel in the name of the London business which she no longer had anything to do with, to prevent people from thinking the two businesses were affiliated.
Walker won the case and kept the name Charbonnel et Walker until her death in 1883. Which is just as well really — we've already got Walkers crisps and Walkers shortbread, and there's only so much obesity one name can be associated with.
Today, Charbonnel et Walker has additional shops at Canary Wharf, Liverpool Street and in Leeds.
Prestat is a close runner-up in being London's oldest chocolate shop — the first record of Prestat truffles being made is 1891, although there is no record of the shop being in existence until 1902.