One good thing about a cold snap – it offers a very good excuse indeed to indulge in a hot chocolate – the perfect comfort drink for winter weather. The day when ‘hot chocolate’ meant simply a teaspoon of mass-produced, sweetened cocoa powder mixed with hot water are long gone. Nowadays, chocolatiers around London offer a range of hot chocolates to drink. Ingredients range from melted chocolate to cocoa powder and water to creamy milk, while flavoured options such as spices or hazelnut are also on offer. Chocolatier.co.uk’s correspondent Jenny Linford set to sipping and slurping her way through a selection of the capital’s finest. Here, in alphabetical order, are her hot chocolate experiences.
Artisan du Chocolat, 81 Westbourne Grove, London W2 4UL
The drink: Original Hot Chocolate (£3)
Service: polite and helpful.
Texture: smooth and creamy, slightly thick.
Taste: good chocolate flavour, on the sweeter side than others, with a slightly salty finish.
Verdict: very easy to drink, enjoyable
Presentation: A rather nice drinking bowl, complete with spoon. L’Artisan du Chocolat get brownie points for being the only chocolatier to bring out a glass of cold water with their chocolate - a nice touch. The hot chocolate also comes with two chocolates, in whichever flavour you choose. A generous sprinkling of mini-marshmallows were also offered at the table.
Surroundings: the brightly-lit, white-walled futuristic surroundings of L’Artisan du Chocolat’s Westbourne Grove ‘Chocolateria’.
Paul A. Young, 143 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8WA
The drink: Aztec Hot Chocolate (£3.95), this being the spiced option. Appealingly, you can choose yourself from a range of ground spices. I went for lighter-flavoured spices – cinnamon and green cardamom.
Service: polite and helpful, pointing out the black cardamom option to me.
Texture: This is a dairy-free option, made using cocoa powder, chocolate, sugar and water and consequently has a noticeably light texture
Taste: Impressively full of flavour, with the spices adding an aromatic touch to the drink without overpowering it.
Verdict: Stylish and more-ish
Presentation: a smart, take-away paper cup
Surroundings: sip it on the Soho side-streets
Rabot Estate, 2 Stoney Street, Borough Market, London SE1 9AA
The drink: Classic Hot Chocolate (£2.75) made from melted 70% dark chocolate mixed with full-fat milk
Texture: not thick, but creamy
Taste: Balanced, not overly rich or overly sweet, slightly muted chocolate flavour with lingering creaminess from the milk
Presentation: a take-away paper cup
Surroundings: sit at a table or perch at a bar in Rabot Estate’s wood-panelled, informal ‘Cocoa shack’ surroundings.
Rococo, 5, Motcomb St, London SW1X 8JU
The drink: Small Intense Shot (£2.80) – “like a chocolate espresso,” made from Rococo’s 70% drinking chocolate and water. Can be flavoured using Rococo’s flavoured chocolates, but went for straight chocolate.
Service: very polite and helpful, describing the options of the ‘shot’ or a mug of hot chocolate (made using milk, £3.50)
Texture: light and elegant
Taste: rich, full chocolate flavour, with long finish.
Verdict: sophisticated, one for chocolate-lovers
Presentation: as ever with Rococo, simple but stylish presentation in a proper cup.
Surroundings: With its cosy tables and chairs, the hot chocolate here can be enjoyed within the appealing setting of the shop or (when the weather is better) in the picturesque tiled Moroccan garden at the back.
Venchi, Covent Garden Market Building, Covent Garden Plaza, WC2E 8HD
The drink: Hot chocolate with Hazelnut (£3.50). Given Venchi’s Piedmontese connections, this seemed a good combination to sample.
Service: pleasant and friendly
Texture: noticeably thick, in the Spanish style of hot chocolate.
Taste: chocolate notes with a good hazelnut flavour coming through, not too sweet, indeed with a slight salty finish.
Verdict: Very rich – the thick texture may be too much for some people’s tastes
Presentation: a clear plastic cup
Surroundings: The rather functional basement café area at Venchi, a setting rather lacking in atmosphere
William Curley, 198 Ebury Street, London SW1W 8UN
The drink: from four flavour options, went for the Curley Aztec Hot Chocolate (£3.50), made from grated Amedei Toscano 66% with milk and chilli
Service: polite and helpful
Texture: light and frothy
Taste: a delicate chocolate flavour with a subtle chilli finish
Verdict: an elegant drink
Presentation: in a simple, stylish white mug
Surroundings: can be sipped at a table in the discreetly elegant surroundings on Curley’s Belgravia shop-cum-cafe.
Chocolatier.co.uk would love to know What your hot chocolate recommendations are across London?
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