Looking to buy a box of chocolates in London, and a supermarket selection just won't cut it?
Get yourself to the capital's finest chocolate shops and chocolatiers. Some have been going for centuries, and many have French, Belgian or Swiss influences, so they know their stuff. Plenty have online stores too, so you can support local or independent businesses, from home.
Artisan du Chocolat, Chelsea and Selfridges
Established at a Borough Market stall in 2000, it's fair to say Artisan du Chocolat has done pretty well for itself — the boutiques in Chelsea and Selfridges are sleek, classy affairs, with plenty of space to encourage browsing.
Products range from individual truffles to gift hampers, with boxes of chocolates in a range of sizes, shapes and colours. And know this — Artisan du Chocolat is responsible for the salted caramel flavour which is so widely found now, having created it for Gordon Ramsay almost 20 years ago. As you'd expect, salted caramel products — from truffles to bars to hot chocolate to sauce — feature fairly prominently in Artisan du Chocolat's signature range.
If you're shopping for someone who isn't keen on salted caramel (!?), the couture chocolates make for a jazzy gift that stands out from the usual boxes. Sure, you've got your usual vanilla in there, but also liquorice, poppy seeds, and mushrooms, all decorated in eye-catching patterns. Coming from the same kitchen that brought us salted caramel, we'll try anything.
Chocolates are made at Artisan du Chocolat's factory at Ashford in Kent, using traditional methods rather than machinery where possible.
Artisan du Chocolat, 89 Lower Sloane Street, SW1W 8DA, and Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, W1
Charbonnel et Walker, Old Bond Street
This fancy chocolate shop comes with a couple of additional credentials: it's London's oldest chocolate shop, and it's the holder of a coveted Royal Warrant.
There are three Charbonnel locations across London, but for our money, the original Old Bond Street branch is the one to visit. It looks exactly like a chocolatier should — located at the entrance of the Royal Arcade, sweeping, gold-framed windows enticing you inside. There, a glass cabinet piled high with perfectly-placed chocolate pyramids take up much of the space, with expert staff on hand to offer advice as you make your purchases.
It's truffles which Charbonnel is best known for, the gold-trimmed tubs instantly recognisable. The Pink Marc de Champagne truffles are fairly well known, but we have it on good authority that the Rose Creams are a favourite with none other than Queen Elizabeth II. We can't promise you'll bump into her when you visit, mind.
Charbonnel et Walker, One The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, W1S 4BT, plus other locations in Canary Wharf, Broadgate, Harrods, Selfridges and Leeds.
Dark Sugars, Brick Lane and Greenwich
Though better-known for its gravity-defying hot chocolates, Dark Sugars is a chocolatier first and foremost, and they seriously know their stuff. Nyanga, one of the co-owners, spent three years in South America and West Africa researching cocoa, before setting up shop on Brick Lane.
That doesn't mean they don't have fun with chocolate. Flavours currently available include dark chocolate with popping candy, a cinnamon cider dark chocolate ganache (we're intrigued...), and white chocolate nutmeg truffles. Buy pre-packaged boxes, or pick and mix your own from the options spilling out of bowls and across trays and tables in store — you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd stepped into a Middle Eastern bazaar, rather than London chocolate shop.
At one point, there were two Brick Lane branches, but they're back down to one, with a second store now open in Greenwich. Both branches serve the famous hot chocolate, and it's the law that you have to get one every time you go in. Sorry, we don't make the rules.
Dark Sugars, 141 Brick Lane, E1 6SB, and 9 Nelson Road, Greenwich, SE10 9JB
DeRosier Chocolates, Wimbledon Park and Earlsfield
Unless you know the area, you may never have heard of DeRosier. It's a very local set-up — chocolates are made in the Earlsfield kitchen, and sold at two shops, in Earlsfield and Wimbledon Park. As the products are so fresh, it's recommended that they're eaten within two weeks of purchase, which has never caused us too much of a problem.
Eye-catching boxes of chocolates feature flavours including peanut praline; and lemongrass, lime & chilli. The menu is the easiest-to-read we've ever seen: flavours are distinguishable by the psychedelic patterns printed on top (eg. hazelnut praline is giraffe print).
Chocolate bars are available too, with themed packaging, some of which celebrates the local area. The Earlsfield is a dark chocolate with caramelised almonds, while the Southfields is milk chocolate with sea salt, both wrapped in historic black and white photos of the area. Cocoa purists are catered for with a 100% dark bar, and more playful treats include chocolate covered honeycomb.
DeRosier Chocolates, 81 Revelstoke Road, Wimbledon Park, SW18 5NL, and 380 Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, SW18 4HP
Godiva Chocolates, Harrods, Covent Garden and Canary Wharf
Godiva's a brand familiar to many chocolate lovers, but did you know about its London stores? Whatever you're after on the chocolate spectrum, they sell it: truffles, bars, tablets, hampers, biscuits, snacks and even chocolate truffle coffee.
Flavours are fairly run of the mill (caramel, almond, hazelnut), and prices are decent — you can pick up a bar of chocolate for £2, and boxes from £6. The Covent Garden branch doubles up as a cafe, serving ice creams and hot chocolates to take away.
Godiva Chocolates, Unit 2, The Market, Covent Garden, WC2E 8RA, and Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf E14 5NY, with concession stores inside Harrods and Selfridges.
Läderach, Regent Street, Harrods and Shepherd's Bush
Läderach is a Swiss chocolate brand, and a relative newcomer to the London chocolate scene, though it's been operating in Switzerland for 60 years. Tartufi — individually wrapped truffles made from Piedmontese hazelnut — are a speciality, and available in nine flavours, including white chocolate, pistachio and amaretti.
Chocolate-covered popcorn is another speciality, along with a wide range of pralines, truffles and chocolate tablets, whose flavours are kept simple but decadent.
Läderach, 254 Regent Street, inside Harrods, and at Westfield White City.
Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, King's Cross
If the name Alain Ducasse sounds familiar, that's because he's a renowned chef, operating several of his own restaurants including the eponymous Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, which holds three Michelin stars.
Ducasse found his way into chocolate when he began manufacturing his own, as a way to ensure standards of products in his restaurant were as high as possible, first opening chocolatiers in Paris, before announcing he was opening a chocolate shop in London in 2018.
All of the products sold here are made in Ducasse's Parisian workshop and imported to the UK, so you're getting French-grade chocolate.
Dark chocolate is the prevailing base flavour, with lime, coconut and passion fruit among the ganache and praline options. Bars go up to the full 100% cocoa, though milk chocolate bars are also available for those who can't handle it that intense. Some of the bars have fillings such as caramel mousse, while others are topped with varying combinations of fruits and nuts. Packaging is environmentally friendly too, with paper used instead of plastic where possible.
Le Chocolate Alain Ducasse, Bagley Walk Arches, Coal Drops Yard, King's Cross, N1C 4DH
Leonidas, City and St James
We now move onto Belgian chocolate, thanks to Leonidas' two London branches. They go big on seasonal products here — Christmas and Valentine's, yes, but also Halloween.
That said, it's worth a visit year-round, not least for the lengthy list of packaging options. Sure, you can buy a box of chocolates, or you can have them packaged in a wooden crate, or a cute house-shaped tin, or even a jewellery box. As for what's inside, it's all very luxurious; creams, pralines, caramels and ganache chocolates. None of the flavours are particularly outrageous, but Leonidas does a sideline in confectionery, including marzipan, fruit jellies and marron glacé.
Leonidas Chocolate, 5 Bow Lane, EC4M 9EB, and 15 Broadway, Westminster, SW1H 0AZ
Maison Samadi, Ravenscourt Park and Knightsbridge
Tucked away among the salons and restaurants of west London's King Street, Maison Samadi is a small but smart chocolate boutique which wouldn't look out of place on a fancy Parisian boulevard. Thankfully for us, the fourth generation of the Samadi family to run the business are sticking firmly to London.
In addition to a classic selection of truffles and bars, Maison Samadi offers Petits Gateux (delicate mini chocolate cakes), as well an impressive selection of hampers if you've got slightly deeper pockets. Otherwise you can't go wrong with a selection of the signature truffles — hazelnut, pecan, lemon, blueberry and strawberry all feature.
Maison Samadi, 301 King Street, Ravenscourt Park, W6 9NH, and Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge.
Did you know that London has a chocolate museum? Though that's located in Brixton, it has a sister shop specialising in the sweet stuff, Melange, which you'll find in Peckham.
Isabelle Alaya is the woman behind both, passionate about chocolate, concocting her own chocolate bars, buttons, hot chocolate lollies and more, with a selection from 18 different flavours available at any one time. Lavender & lemon, cumin & mint, and coriander & grapefruit are among the more unique options, and chocolate is sold in 20g strips, meaning you can mix and match, and try a few different options.
It's worth swinging by at Easter, when Isabelle fashions all manner of eggs, rabbits, ducks and the like from chocolate, and Christmas brings penguins, trees and other festive shapes that look (almost) too good to eat.
Melange is also a cafe serving ice cream and hot chocolate, and even opens as a cocktail bar, where drinks are served with matched chocolate bites.
Melange Chocolate, 2 Maxted Road, Peckham, SE15 4LL
Melt Chocolates, Notting Hill and Holland Park
Natural, fresh chocolate, made daily is the philosophy of Melt, which is also locally based and family-run. (The name, we presume, is what your resolve does as soon as the aroma hits you.) That's right, the kitchen is in the shop, so you can watch the chocolates being made.
Flavours are simple, but deliciously effective — champagne, hazelnut, praline — and Melt also offers treats such as brownies, honeycomb and caramels, all with a chocolate twist. Plus, they serve hot chocolate in store, or you can buy it to make at home.
Impressively, Melt's packaging has all been plastic-free since the brand was founded in 2005, making it an excellent option for anyone with big eco interests.
Melt Chocolates, 59 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AA and 6 Clarendon Road, Holland Park, W11 3AA, with a concession inside Selfridges too.
Montezuma's, Spitalfields and Kingston
We love Montezuma's for several reasons: ethically sourced cocoa, no palm oil, and completely recyclable, biodegradable or compostable packaging. Oh, and really good chocolate. The husband and wife team behind Montezuma's know how to have fun with their products— that eco-friendly packaging comes in bold colours, with equally bold flavours inside (chilli, lime and tequila truffles, anyone?).
Oh, and if you look underneath the orange awnings of the Spitalfields shop, the beautiful (and previously restored) Verde & Co tiled shopfront can still be seen intact.
Montezuma's, 40 Brushfield Street, Spitalfields, E1 6AG, and 4 Fife Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 1SZ, with further shops in other UK cities.
Paul A Young
When we think of Paul A Young, we think of Marmite — not because there's any chance of you hating the products, but because the chocolatier came to prominence a few years back for introducing the Marmite truffle to London (and, later, the Marmite and grilled cheese truffle). Other unusual truffle flavours at this boutique include banoffee pie, treacle tart, and the 'basil-tini' (basil, gin, dark chocolate).
Basically, this is where you go for a present for the person who thinks they know everything about chocolate, and have tried every chocolate possible. Brownies, cookies and bars of chocolate are available too, along with drinking chocolate, lollies for kids, and jars of sea salted caramel which will, and we don't say this mildly, change your life.
Paul A Young, 33 Camden Passage, Islington, N1 8EA, and 143 Wardour Street, Soho, W1F 8WA (though the Soho store remains closed at time of writing).
Pierre Hermé, Covent Garden and Selfridges
Though it's a name more commonly associated with delicate, pastel macarons, Pierre Hermé does an equally delectable line in chocolate — and happily, the London boutiques offer both, which is ideal if you can't make up your mind.
In fact, they even combine the two in the signature chocolats au macaron — literally, macarons enrobed in chocolate. If it's pure chocolate you're after, the bars are your best bet — though be warned that some of them are upwards of £10 a pop. Alternatively, have a mooch around the chocolate snacks section, where nuts, fruit and chocolate combine in tempting combinations, ones of which your dentist definitely wouldn't approve.
Pierre Hermé, 38 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, and a concession inside the Food Hall at Selfridges.
Pierre Marcolini, Marylebone, Harrods and Selfridges
From one Pierre to another, Monsieur Marcolini is all about the chocolate. He spends part of each year travelling around the world to source the best cocoa for his products, which take the form of ganache, pralines, bars and tablets. Luxury words like champagne and noisette are flung around with wild abandon, though the chocolate tablets keep things simple — a slab of the good stuff, big enough to slay your cravings, but small enough that no-one could reasonably expect you to share.
Pierre Marcolini, 37 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4QE, and inside Harrods and Selfridges.
Ever wondered what a chocolate shop run by Willy Wonka would look like? Prestat is perhaps the closest you'll get to knowing the answer: rumour has it that the colourful cocoa heaven inspired author Roald Dahl, who was a regular customer.
Despite its literary links — and Royal Warrant — Prestat still feels like something of a hidden secret. It's somewhat tucked away inside Princes Arcade off Piccadilly, but that hasn't stopped it — it's been here since 1979, luring chocolate lovers into its petite but vibrant premises. Inside, you'll find shelves laden with Prestat's iconic hot pink and bright blue boxes, containing truffles in flavours such as salted caramel, pink champagne and London gin.
You can pick up a small box of chocolates for under a tenner, and there's also a traditional glass confectionery cabinet, with individual flavours of chocolates and truffles, so you can select your own flavour combinations. Bars are an option too, and tend to venture into the unique — how does milk chocolate with earl grey and lemon sound?
The tiny shop doesn't have the space for making the chocolates — that's done a few miles away at Prestat's factory in Park Royal
Prestat, 14 Princes Arcade, SW1Y 6DS.
For us, it's got to be the Belgravia branch of this chocolate mini-chain. Not only is it the flagship store, home to its Chocolate School where you can take part in all manner of delicious-sounding workshops, but it also has a hidden Moroccan garden tucked away out the back, where you can kick back and enjoy ice cream, milkshake or hot chocolate from the cafe menu.
But we're to talk about edible chocolate treats. The fresh handmade truffles are the company's pride and joy, made in small batches in Rococo's London kitchen, with flavours that change every few months, with the seasons. But the Rococo range extends far beyond that, across bars, boxes and drinking chocolate, along with cocoa-based treats you don't really see anywhere else, such as white chocolate-coated cranberries, and dark chocolate-dipped orange slices.
Pricewise, you're looking at just shy of £7 for a 70g bar, or £8.95 for a mini truffle selection. The packaging here is unique too, many products wrapped in Rococo's signature blue and white designs, illustrated with seashells, fruit and flowers.
Rococo Chocolates, stores in Belgravia, Covent Garden, Chelsea, Marylebone and St John's Wood.
William Curley, Soho and Harrods
What could be more charming that a tiny courtyard, tucked away among the back streets of Soho? A chocolate shop within that courtyard, that's what.
The finest ingredients and most natural produce are at the forefront of William Curley's values — and he's written three books on the subject, so he knows what he's talking about. This doesn't restrict him though — we've seen some jolly inventive flavours coming out of this boutique, some extremely British, and several Japanese inspired.
Thyme & Scottish Heather Honey, Rosemary & Olive Oil, Juniper & Blackcurrant, Japanese Black Vinegar, Yuzu and Apricot & Wasabi flavours have all won prizes, though what's available in store varies from day to day, so do call ahead if you're after something specific. For the quality and creativity, these chocolates are very reasonably priced, with bars starting at £5. Boxes of truffles start at £16, and while that's pricier than your local supermarket, it's something of a bargain compared to some other places.
William Curley, 33 Smiths Court, W1D 7DP, and a concession within Harrods.