Sunday, February 14, 2010

Where to find London's best hot chocolate

Nothing to do with design, but so very important.

The best hot chocolate will banish all memories of milky bedtime cocoa - it's rich, complex and made with quality raw ingredients. London is starting to wake up to the idea of hot chocolate as a serious drink - here's Time Out's pick of some of the best purveyors in the city:

Artisan du Chocolat
89 Lower Sloane St, SW1W 8DA (0845 270 6996/
The all-white ‘chocolateria’ at Artisan du Chocolat may be oddly reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's milk bar in ‘A Clockwork Orange’, but thankfully the similarity ends there. You can pop in for hot chocolate to take away (£2) and if you drink in, the £3 includes your choice of three fresh, handmade truffles. The intense espresso hot chocolate will blast any cobwebs from the brain or you can go for the gentler matcha white hot chocolate made with Japanese green tea.

Carluccio’s Caffè
The Italian caffè chain does hot chocolate better than most. Its specialites include bicerin, a concoction from Turin which lets the drinker mix their own preferred combination of espresso, Florentine chocolate and cream from little jugs. Branches throughout London.

184 Bellenden Road, SE15 4BW (07722 650 711/
The hot chocolate served up by self-taught French chocolatiere Isabelle Alaya in her colourful little shop has become something of an obsession among posh Peckham-ites. The recipe is a secret, but it’s based on high-quality Belgian chocolate; rich and aromatic, it’s thick but not cloying, with a good balance of sweet and bitter flavours.

59 Ledbury Rd, W11 2AA (7727 5030/
Chocolatier Chika Watanabe creates Melt’s hot chocolate with Madagascan vanilla-infused double cream and a drop of peppermint oil. The result is an intensely dark and rich drink enjoyed in tiny cups.

Paul A Young
33 Camden Passage, N1 8EA (7424 5750/ Branch at 20 Royal Exchange, Threadneedle St, EC3V 3LP
Former pastry chef Paul A Young makes different strengths of hot chocolate according to the weather forecast, and mixes it only with water to preserve the complex flavours of the beans. Slip into his tempting brown-and-cream basement atelier in Camden Passage and try the warming Aztec blend, made with Ancho chilli.

135 Wardour St, W1F 0UF (7478 8888/
This buzzing Soho bakery and caffè is a branch of a stylish Milanese coffee shop, and imports its chocolate from the house of Mussetti, which has been blending coffee and chocolate in Piacenza since 1934. Accompany your drink with one of the great Italian savouries or cakes and enjoy the buzz.

William Curley
198 Ebury St, SW1W 8UN (7730 5522/ Branch at 10 Paved Court, Richmond, TW9 1LZ
William Curley’s original shop is in Richmond. The second shop, in spacious new premises in swish Belgravia, opened late last year, giving the husband-and-wife team of William and Suzue more room to develop new ideas, including a breakfast and dessert bar, and a new teaching area/demonstration space downstairs. The hot chocolate tends to be light and frothy, rather than stand-a-spoon thick. The house blend is 70 per cent Amade, but there’s also Gianduja, with hazelnut praline and Aztec, which has a clean, clear flavour, with a spicy sting in its tail. Just try to resist the range of Viennoiserie and ‘fancies’ on offer, from raspberry delices to Bakewell tarts and yuzu cakes, flavoured with Japanese citrus, or the range of handmade truffles.

The Wolseley
160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB (7699 6996/
Hot chocolate is considered to be a proper, grown-up drink on the Continent. Accordingly, this European brasserie serves a few types, including the espresso-sized fondant, versions with whipped cream, and a truly decadent rum version that’s scrumptious.

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