London’s chocolate shops are world-class now. Even chocolate walking tours have become big business here. But this hasn't always been the case: around 15-20 years ago, Thornton’s Viennese truffle was about as 'gourmet' as chocolate got. Then at the beginning of the millennium, British chocolatiers started opening shops, and suddenly London had a chocolate scene. Here’s our pick of our favourite chocolate shops in London today.
Paul A Young Fine Chocolates, Soho and Angel
Paul A Young is best-loved for his unusual and innovative flavour combinations, such as the surprisingly subtle dark chocolate with Marmite, and retro-style rhubarb with ginger. He and his team make all their chocolates daily, in small batches, completely by hand in the shops’ own kitchens. They use fresh ingredients; not flavourings, concentrates, essences, additives or preservatives.
There's a mind-boggling and regularly changing variety to choose from — but the utterly scrumptious passion fruit curd and sea salted caramel have won numerous awards over the years, so don’t miss those. The Soho branch runs a number of tastings and classes, including truffle rolling, sea salted caramel making, and brownie baking. Staff are wonderfully welcoming and helpful.
Paul A Young, 143 Wardour Street, Soho, W1F 8WA. There's another branch in Camden Passage, Angel.
Melt Chocolates, Notting Hill and Holland Park
Another chic boutique which makes seasonal chocolates daily in its on-site kitchen, Melt was founded by Londoner Louise Nason around a decade ago. There's certainly a theatrical element to the open-view kitchen: you can watch friendly chocolatiers rolling truffles while inhaling their intoxicating aroma and planning your purchases.
Bestselling items include dark chocolate with sea salted caramel, white chocolate with pistachio and their 'hot chocolate blocks' (to stir into hot milk). Our personal favourites are the mango and passion fruit, blackberry and cinnamon, and popcorn flavours. Ingredients are carefully sourced from ethical producers around the world; and there's also an enticing vegan range. The store hosts chocolate tasting and making classes for adults, teenagers and children.
Melt, 59 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill W11 2AA. There's another branch in Holland Park and a concession in Selfridges.
SAID dal 1923, Soho and Fitzrovia
We’ve already told you about this stylish Italian chocolatier in some detail. The pralines, truffles and other goodies remain as innovatively displayed as ever; and the must-try hot chocolate is now a London legend.
SAID, 41 Broadwick Street, W1F 9QL.
Artisan Du Chocolat
Salted caramel — the vanilla of the 21st century — might be ubiquitous now, but it was first invented as a chocolate flavour by Artisan Du Chocolat for Gordon Ramsay's restaurant in 2002. Besides Ramsay, Belgium-trained Irish chocolatier Gerard Coleman's chocolates have graced the menus of Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck, and have even been sent into space.
In addition to the signature salted caramel, you'll find chocolate bars made from buffalo and almond milks, and unusual flavours such as ruby chocolate. There's also great selection of vegan chocolates, and a small sugar-free range. All the chocolates are made in the factory in Ashford, Kent.
Artisan Du Chocolat Boutique and Chocolateria. Branches in West Hampstead, Chelsea, Borough Market and Selfridges.
Pierre Hermé, Belgravia
Famous for its macarons, this Parisian chocolatier's Belgravia branch is decked out in lively colours, moody lighting and neat displays. It sells beautifully packaged truffles, bars nougatines, mendiants, bonbons, croquants, pralines and other French fancies. You'll also find cakes, pastries and hot chocolates, with many items in the signature 'ispahan' flavour — a gorgeous, aromatic combination of rose, raspberry and lychee.
Pierre Hermé, 13 Lowndes Street, SW1X 9EX. Other London branches in Regent Street, Seven Dials and Selfridges.
Pierre Marcolini Chocolates
Renowned for its caramel and dark chocolate ganaches, fruit-flavoured pralines, raspberry hearts, chocolate squares, and macarons themed on tropical cocktails, this upscale chocolatier sells sweet treats packaged like precious jewellery boxes. Belgian-Italian Marcolini is famous for his imaginative flavour combinations, classical technique and attention to detail.
His chocolates are often made from rare beans, meticulously sourced from small producers in Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and Vietnam. The smart Marylebone store has solid oak floors and bright red varnish; plus a chocolate counter, macaron carousel, sweet bar and tasting area. Don't miss the freshly made éclairs and almond financiers.
Pierre Marcolini, 37 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4EQ. Other London branches in Selfridges and Harrods.
Rococo Chocolates, Belgravia
Founder Chantal Coady is a rare female chocolatier, and Rococo's award-winning chocolates in distinctive blue and white packaging have been beloved of Londoners for many decades. Choose from exquisitely retro rose and violet fondant creams, coffee and cardamom wafers, basil and Persian lime bars, and Italian fruit nougat. There's also a good selection of vegan chocolates; and small sugar-free, nut-free and gluten-free ranges.
At the flagship Belgravia store, there’s a chocolate café that serves freshly made cakes, hot chocolates, chocolatey breakfasts and afternoon tea; a hidden Moroccan-style garden; and a glass floor through which you can glimpse all the chocolate action. There's also a chocolate school, with classes and tastings for adults and children. The shop sells novelty items, too, such as chocolates shaped like animals and fish; plus a few ingredients for making your own.
Rococo, 5 Motcomb Street, Belgravia SW1X 8JU. Other London branches in Chelsea, Marylebone, Notting Hill, Covent Garden, St John's Wood and St Paul’s.
DeRosier Chocolate & Coffee, Wimbledon
A cosy little Southfields shop and café with a loyal local following, DeRosier specialises in handmade, single-origin chocolates with high cocoa content from Venezuela and Peru. In addition to a small but exquisite selection of chocolate bars, truffles and boxes, they also sell novelty gift items such as Wimbledon-themed chocolates, chocolate phones, and chocolate cups and saucers. The café sells delicious hot chocolates, brownies, pastries and cakes (including a few gluten-free ones).
DeRosier Chocolate & Coffee, 81 Revelstoke Road, Southfields SW18 5NL. Other shops in Wimbledon Park and Earlsfield.
Philip Neal Chocolates, Wimbledon
This tiny Turnham Green 'chocolaterie' was once a well-known chocolate shop called Theobroma Cacao. It closed, but its chocolatier Philip Neal, who has worked as a pastry chef in many top restaurants, took over. The shop sells pure, additive-free hand-made chocolates based on only five ingredients (cocoa solids, soya, vanilla, cane sugar and cocoa butter). We can recommend the blackcurrant truffles, violet squares, sea salted walnut truffles and pistachio ganache; and there's also a notable selection of almond chocolates. There are clever novelty items, too, such as white chocolate mice, chocolate stilettos, chocolate Buddha, chocolate shaped like fish, dog and a mask; and even a chocolate kama sutra set.
Philip Neal, 43 Turnham Green Terrace, Chiswick, W4 1RG.
L’ Appetit Fou, Turnham Green
Another independent chocolate shop in Turnham Green, L’Appetit Fou — which translates as 'crazy appetite' — was opened by Edward Cloet and Moira Verbelen. The attractive boutique, decked out in Magritte motifs, specialises in imported Belgian chocolates and biscuits.
Many are made by long-established family producers in Belgium, such as the renowned Daskalides brand. Here you'll find pralines in flavours such as rhubarb and speculoos (spiced biscuit pieces), pretty truffles that look like marbles, versatile cooking chocolate, and traditional Belgian favourite Cuberdon — delicious soft, fruity candies with a hard outer shell that are hard to find outside Belgium.
L’Appetit Fou, 4 Turnham Green Terrace, Chiswick W4 1QP.
Additional material by Laura Reynolds.