Hot chocolate is the drink of the gods, and there are plenty of places to find this heavenly bevvy in the capital. Allow us to point you in the right direction.
Hot chocolate at SAID dal 1923, Soho
This Soho chocolate cafe is an outpost of the oldest chocolate factory in Rome, so you know it's going to be good stuff.
The 'cioccolata densa' (thick Italian hot chocolate) is extremely rich and comes in milk, dark or gianduja (that's hazelnut praline from Turin). We recommend — nay, insist on — trying one of each, melted chocolate glazing the outside of your cup as you sip. Oh yeah, it gets messy.
Said dal 1923, 41 Broadwick Street, W1F 9QL
Hot chocolate at Rococo Chocolates
Chocolatier Rococo has four London shops, but for hot chocolate, head to the Chocolate Cafe in Belgravia. Here, you can slurp your drink in the secluded Moroccan garden (there's indoor seating if the weather's iffy). Choose from classic, sea salted or spiced hot chocolate — and perhaps a slice of cake too.
Hot chocolate also available as take away at the Seven Dials branch.
Rococo Chocolates, 5 Motcomb Street, Belgravia, SW1X 8JU, plus shop locations at Chelsea, Covent Garden and Marylebone.
Hotel Chocolat and Rabot 1745
Don't write this high street chain off as simply somewhere for last minute presents — some of the stores are now opening cafes too. Here in London, the Seven Dials, Covent Garden and Euston station branches all have cafes serving chocolate treats including cakes, ice cream, and of course, hot chocolate. Dark chocolate is the most popular flavour, with salted caramel, hazelnut and chilli also on the menu.
Rabot 1745 is part of the Hotel Chocolat chain too, named after the St Lucia plantation where the company's cocoa is grown. The Borough Market restaurant, bar and cafe offers everything from cocoa cocktails to breakfast and brunch. But we're here for the drinking chocolate, of which there are nine varieties, ranging from the standard classic and milky, to mint and chilli flavours, and 100% dark for true chocoholics. They're all made from real chocolate, rather than cocoa powder. Seasonal flavours make an appearance for Christmas and Easter.
Hotel Chocolat, 4 Monmouth Street, WC2H 9HB, 10 The Market, The Piazza, WC2E 8RB and 46 Euston station, NW1 2DU — though there are plenty of other HC cafes too.
Rabot 1745, 2-4 Bedale Street, Borough Market.
Hot chocolate at Melt Chocolates
You may be so dazzled by the stunning array of chocolates and goodies on offer at these west London boutiques (not to mention the delicious smells pouring out of the open-view kitchen) that you'll overlook the fact they serve hot chocolate... but don't. Peruse the menu, chalked up on a blackboard and changed regularly, place your order, then sit back and watch them prepare it. For a little luxury, go for the 'fluffy bunny' with a tail of whipped cream, or make your own drink by stirring a hot chocolate block into warm milk.
The hot chocolate goodies are available to purchase to make your own drinks at home too.
Melt Chocolates, 58 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, W11 2AA, and 6 Clarendon Road, Holland Park, W11 3AA.
Hot chocolate at Stanfords Coffee House
For our money, one of London's best milk hot chocolates could always be found in the tiny cafe tucked away at the back of Stanfords travel book shop in Covent Garden. Thankfully, when the store relocated just around the corner in early 2019, it took its cafe — and that hot chocolate recipe — with it. Made from real melted chocolate, choose from milk, white or dark chocolate (the first is too creamy for us, the latter too rich, pitting milk perfectly in the middle). No fuss, no bells and whistles, just simple, rich hot chocolate. With a side of cartography.
Stanfords, 7 Mercer Walk.
Hot chocolate at Paul A Young
This chocolatier has two boutiques in the capital, each serving hot chocolate from an instore hot plate alongside the truffles, pralines and other sweet snacks it's known for.
Rather than the usual milk base, these hot chocs are water-ganache based, making for an unctuous, luxurious serve. Feeling brave? Spice it up with an Aztec hot chocolate instead — choose from flavours including chilli, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon or sea salt to really warm your cockles. That said, we're still waiting for the day the brand's famous Marmite truffles make it into a hot chocolate. The classic and Aztec hot chocolates are also available to make for yourself at home.
Paul A Young, at Wardour Street in Soho (currently closed), and Camden Passage in Islington .
Hot chocolate at Venchi, Covent Garden
This place in Covent Garden may look like it focuses on ice cream, but head inside to the cafe for the full drinks and snacks menu. The hot chocolate is velvet-smooth — would you expect any less from the Italians? — and made with 75% dark powdered chocolate.
Venchi, Unit 18, The Market Building, WC2E 8RB. Also located inside Harrods.
Hot chocolate at Copperhouse Chocolate, Chapel Market
Previously known as Jaz and Jul's, this Islington chocolate house is largely vegan (and does a mean chocolate fondue). When it comes to hot chocolate, they know their stuff, comparing the tasting process to that of wine or coffee, and making it all fresh onsite. Choose from Madagascan, Ecuadorian or Peruvian origin cocoa, or go for one of their flavours; mint, raspberry, cinnamon and chilli are just some of the offerings. You can also buy their (very reasonably-priced) hot chocolate ingredients to take home and make your own.
Copperhouse Chocolate, 1 Chapel Market, N1 9EZ
Hot chocolate at Knoops
When we visited Rye in early 2020, we returned to the city full of praise for hot chocolate shop Knoops, and full of joy about its impending arrival in London. Fast forward to now, and Knoops hasn't let a little thing like a global pandemic stop its growth, with four shops open in London.
Chocolate drinks, both hot and cold, are the speciality at Knoops — but not just the speciality, the raison d'être. Hot chocolates are available in a staggering 22 different % levels, from the very dark (100%) to the barely there (28%). Add various flavours and toppings (think ginger, marshmallows...) to make your drink just the way you like it.
Knoops, Kensington, Chelsea, Clapham Junction, Richmond, Brighton and Rye.
Hot chocolate with biscotti essi at Polpo, Chelsea
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Being a fairly new addition, we've not yet tried this one ourselves, but there was drooling when it appeared in our Instagram feed. The Chelsea branch of Italian restaurant Polpo is now serving breakfast at weekends, and the menu includes a thick and creamy hot chocolate served with biscotti. Still hungry? Pair it with a Nutella-stuffed croissant for a sweet and warming weekend breakfast fix.
Polpo Chelsea, 81 Duke of York Square, SW3 4LY.
Hot chocolate at DeRosier Chocolates, Wimbledon
This small, local chocolate shop is family-run, serving drinks made from single origin chocolate from Venezuela, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Flavours include coconut, honey, caramel, mint and orange.
DeRosier Chocolates, 380 Garratt Lane SW18 4HP and 255-257 Wimbledon Park Road SW19 6NW.
If you're looking for even more decadence, indulge in our article on London's most luxurious hot chocolates — which come decked in all manner of cream, marshmallows and chocolate shavings.