Wherever we are in the world, we'll take any excuse to gorge on confectionery and we're not always that fussy. Nothing beats the rich, melt-in-mouth goodness of speciality chocolate though and with Easter on the horizon it's time to really spoil ourselves (and maybe our friends). Though the likes of Paris and Brussels may be the first places that spring to mind at the mention of artisan chocolate, London is home to many masters of the craft. These are some of our favourites…
The original Rococo Chocolates is in Kings Road, but the flagship store in Motcomb Street, Belgravia, with its own café and courtyard is the one to visit. Company founder Chantal Coady has published several books on chocolate, so you know the selection here is seriously good. Special Easter products include everything from unique hand-painted luxury eggs to cute farm animals for kids.
Paul A. Young
A true artisan endeavour, Paul A Young Fine Chocolates fits right in with its antique, design and vintage fashion store neighbours in Islington's village-like Camden Passage. The dark purple décor and packaging let you know this is chocolate making as alchemy. Sea Salted Caramel and artisan bars with cranberries, orange zest & cinnamon or green peppercorns are among the magical creations made on site. A second shop is located in Royal Exchange near Bank.
Artisan du Chocolat
Artisan du Chocolat founder Gerard Coleman's credentials will give you a clue as to the quality and uniqueness of his products. Trained in Belgium, his chocolates have graced the menus of both Heston Blumenthal’s and Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. He now has several shops and outlets in Selfridges around the UK, but the Notting Hill store at 81 Westbourne Grove is the only one that serves chocolate cocktails. The innovation continues with the Easter collection featuring 'fluffy' chocolate bunnies sprayed with a fine layer of naturally coloured cocoa butter. Almosttoo cute to eat.
It's not hard to see why Demarquette on Chelsea's Fulham Road was 2010's most awarded UK chocolatier. This is a true class act, known as much for their great service as their incredibly individual creations. Even if award-winning chocs like Sicilian Lemon, Tunisian Bharat (mixed spices) or Arabian Coffee aren't to your taste, you simply can’t fail to find something that will tickle your tastebuds. Easter-wise, the 'Glam Egg' - divided in half by a colonnade of 6 hand-painted individually-flavoured caramel mini eggs – really is something to behold.
As both chocolatier and patissier William Curley is a true gift for those with a sweet tooth. If you want to really indulge, The Belgravia store at 198 Ebury Street is the place to head. Here you can spoil yourself with a pancake brunch or something from the decadent dessert menu in-between browsing incredible creations like mulled wine chocolates and Japanese sake truffles. The handmade Easter eggs come stuffed with store specialities.
Kensington's 40point5 is an independent, traditional, family-run chocolatier who make and decorate their exquisite creations in-house - even the labels are hand-written. Exotic specialities include Pistachio, Saffron and Olive oil and Wild Mint chocolates, while their amazing 'artworks' selection features masks, shoes, flowers and musical instruments, finely crafted with marbled dark, milk and white chocolate.
A British institution since 1902, Prestat are not only the Queen's chocolatiers, but were a firm favourite of Roald Dahl. And with its wooden frontage and bright pink and blue décor, the Piccadilly store certainly has the most Wonka-like feel of all confectioners. Handmade to-die-for truffles and creamy, fondant-centred chocolates in colourful selection boxes are the speciality here - pure old-fashioned indulgence.
For a real experience, the supremely chic Melt in Ledbury Road, Notting Hill can't be beaten. You can see (and smell) their wares being made and make your own selection to be boxed up from the dazzling array on display. Seasonal specials for Easter include patterned milk chocolate eggs filled with dried orange, passion fruit and banana, and a touch of cardamom. Wow. Check out their video for a perfect taster:
A little bonus...
If you happen to be in London this weekend (Friday 8th and Sunday 10th April) there's an Easter Chocolate Festival at the Southbank Centre. The free event will be expounding the health virtues of real chocolate, so it's guilt-free too.
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About the author: andrewAndrew Bowman
Andrew is an occasional contributor to the Virgin Atlantic blog. He lived in the Japanese countryside for two years until he could no longer resist the pull of London's galleries, pubs and clubs. He likes to pretend he can speak Japanese and also sometimes writes about music.