Sweet tooth: The best chocolate shops in London


Some purchasing decisions are so much more satisfying in real life, whether you’re choosing pets, paint samples, couture dresses or chocolate. When it comes to the latter, a website just can’t match the experience of perusing row upon row of perfectly spherical truffles, identical artisan chocolates and beautifully illustrated boxes, in a place scented not by your morning coffee, children, cat or all three, but by the most intoxicating blends of cocoa.

London is home to some of the world’s finest chocolatiers and these are the boutiques worth visiting, both for Valentine’s Day and, quite frankly, any occasion which warrants a first-class cocoa experience. Birthdays, anniversaries, congratulations, Easter, Tuesdays, Sundays…

William Curley, Soho & Harrods

william curley chocolate shop

This chocolatier’s name appears on his business card followed by MCA – Master of Culinary Arts – the highest accolade awarded to chefs in the UK. William Curley certainly knows his craft, and has a passion for chocolate that feels Wonka-esque in its intensity; his whole career has been dedicated to culinary excellence and he launched his eponymous chocolate and patisserie business 13 years ago with wife Melissa.

william curley chocolate box

The four-time winner of Britain’s Best Chocolatier, awarded by the Academy of Chocolate, makes everything by hand in London in a little kitchen overlooking the Thames, without adding any artificial preservatives, flavourings, colours or excess sugar. Curley’s stylish Couture Chocolate boxes contain a selection of his signature chocolates – winning flavour combos include Rosemary & Sea Salt (trust us on this one).

William Curley, 33 Smiths Court, Soho, W1D 7DP, williamcurley.co.uk

Pierre Marcolini, Marylebone, Harrods & Selfridges

There are as many differences between cocoa beans as there are between the grapes of different vineyards, says connoisseur Pierre Marcolini. The eight plantations that supply this master chocolatier have pledged to respect three ethical criteria: no child labour, no glyphosate (labelled by the WHO as a “probable carcinogen”) and no beans from the genetically-modified CCN-51 cocoa tree. In return, these plantations are paid more than double the market price to reflect their commitment.

Now you know, browse Marcolini’s colour-popping Cœur à Cœur collection, and admire how the clever Hearts Unite chewy bites combine two halves of a heart: on the red side, Piedmont hazelnut and charred sesame are accompanied by a Quimper lace and, on the pink side, a hazelnut praline is sprinkled with hazelnut chips.

Pierre Marcolini, 37 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4QE, marcolini.co.uk

Cartografie, Battersea

cartografie chocolate

This is technically an online business but, as it does brilliant masterclasses in Battersea, and its chocolates are so elegantly artistic they’re (almost) too good to eat, we couldn’t leave it out. Its ethos centres around the promise that “because sumptuous should be sustainable, we don’t take shortcuts”. There’s a tab devoted to terroir on the Cartografie website – the complete natural environment in which a product is produced – and that’s not the only thing about the brand that makes us think of fine wine; the team believes filled chocolates are “celebratory expressions of particular regions, couvertures and cocoa bean varieties”.

Descriptions of chocolate ageing, tempering, filling and dipping remind us of the skill and craft involved in chocolate-making. Find out for yourself in a Cartografie workshop, whether at home, by means of a Virtual Tasting Experience, a Studio Tasting Experience or a full Ultimate Chocolate Masterclass. The perfect gift for a genuine lover of all things cocoa.

Cartografie, 14 New Union Square, Embassy Gardens, Nine Elms, SW11 7AX, cartografiechocolate.com

Melt Chocolates, Notting Hill, Holland Park & Selfridges

Not only can you buy all the Melt chocolates that you like – for the one you love? Yourself?! – and watch them being made in the shop’s kitchen, but you can also sign up for a chocolate experience, from brownie or bonbon making to something called the Power of Memory. Intriguing. Melt also does subscription boxes, which means your Valentine’s gift genuinely is one that just keeps on giving.

melt london chocolate

Melt was launched in 2005, so named because chocolate is the only food that melts at body temperature, and has stayed true to its ethos: nature knows best. Its designer boxes and bars have always been plastic-free plus it uses renewable energy in its kitchens and has an electric delivery van.

Melt Chocolates, 59 Ledbury Road, W11 2AA and 6 Clarendon Road, W11 3AA, meltchocolates.com

Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly

For confectionery with the weight of history behind it, there’s nowhere finer than Fortnum & Mason – which has been in business and operating from its Piccadilly site for more than 300 years. Charlie Bucket’s wildest dreams come true – there are caramels and pralines, truffles and napolitains, the usual milk, dark and white suspects, of course, but also pale-pink ruby chocolate and ginger flavours too. If your loved one has a seriously sweet tooth, add some fudge, toffee, Turkish delight or petit fours to your basket, or use the tempting Create Your Own Hamper service. Its Valentine’s chocs are particularly suited to the occasion, many packaged in lavish cherry-red, heart-shaped boxes.

Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, St. James’s, W1A 1ER, fortnumandmason.com

Harrods Chocolate Hall, Knightsbridge

harrods chocolate hall

Quite simply, the stuff a chocoholic’s dreams are made of. Harrods has an entire food hall devoted to cocoa-based creations, opened to mark 150 years in the chocolate business; the store first sold bars in 1870 and began making its own in-house in 1897. The Hall showcases slabs, bars and boxes, Belgian chocolates, vegan chocolates, chocolate-dipped confit fruit and chocolate-coated nuts, plus the world’s best confectionery brands, from William Curley and Pierre Marcolini to Laderach, Booja Booja, Venchi and To’ak.

Markus Bohr, at the helm of this vast chocolate emporium, has created four own-brand chocolate lines in his 13 years at Harrods, officially known as Harrods Grand Cru Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4. “Our couverture is one of our pillars; part of our uniqueness,” he says, as is the signature Harrods Gold Bar, made to a recipe unchanged for more than 20 years.

Harrods, 87–135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge SW1X 7XL, harrods.com

Paul A Young, Camden

paul a young chocolate

Boutique chocolatier Paul A Young opened his first store on Camden Passage in 2006 and has been delighting locals and tourists alike with flavour combinations he deems “original, experimental, sometimes daring, yet always perfectly balanced.” (Side note: Harry Potter fans will know that the shop can be found on the narrow street that inspired Diagon Alley – Young includes chocolate frogs as part of his product range.)

What could be a safer or more appreciated bet for Valentine’s Day than a box of Paul A Young’s sea-salt caramels, a customer favourite and multiple awards winner? Thin dome shells of 64 per cent single-origin Madagascan dark chocolate are filled with smooth Cornish sea salted caramel. Or what about more-ish, fudgy brownies stamped with hearts (available from 1 February)? Every product is made by hand in the shop’s kitchen, in small batches and using fresh ingredients, so you won’t find any concentrates, essences, preservatives and additives.

Paul A Young, 33 Camden Passage, Islington, N1 8EA, paulayoung.co.uk

Read more: The best vegan restaurants in London

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