In search of London’s best hot chocolate? Stylist’s digital writer Hollie Richardson was set with the task to sample the city’s most highly recommended hot chocolates – and this is what she found.
There are few things that bring unbridled joy into my life: hot bubble baths, Outlander marathons and a bloody good mug of hot chocolate. I also really like rating things out of 10. So, when given the task to rank the best hot chocolates in London, it was a personal duty.
Sure, I could concoct an indulgent boozy hot chocolate recipe at home. But, I enjoy the performance of wrapping up in a hat and scarf, heading to a café with a great book and sitting down with a big mug of the good stuff.
Full disclosure: this ranking is totally bias. So, there are probably a few things you should know about my hot choc preferences before we continue. I like cream. I like theatre. I like gloop. The idea of melting a Dairy Milk bar of chocolate in a mug, mixing it with double cream and topping it with half a can of squirty cream, is a recurring dream of mine.
Ok, so now that’s out of the way – let’s go.
The Theatrical One
Dark Sugars, Brick Lane, Nutmeg Hot Chocolate, £4.75
If you can face the crowds of Brick Lane on a weekend (eugh), make your way to Dark Sugars to watch the chocolatey performance of a lifetime. The barista carves three blocks of chocolate on the counter, ready to top your frothy hot chocolate with milk, white and dark shavings. It’s like a work of art. You then have a minute or so to nibble on some of the shreds, before they melt into the drink. The texture of the drink itself is pretty good – a light to medium thickness – and the dissolved shreds add to this. I opted for a hint of nutmeg, which added a subtle spicy taste.
It set a high standard, but could this be bettered?
Rating: 8/10 (I like to relax with a hot chocolate, so didn’t really enjoy the buzz of the shop)
The Fiery One
Rabot 1745, Borough Market, Chilli Hot Chocolate, £3.95
Located opposite Bridget Jones’s flat in the films (fun fact), Rabot 1745 is a cosy Hotel Chocolat café and restaurant. The hot chocolate I tried had a velvety texture with a medium consistency, and the chilli added a welcome fiery kick. But the best thing was the pot of rich chocolate whipped cream that accompanied it. I have no idea why the barista didn’t just top the drink with the cream like in the photo, but I also didn’t care – because I enjoyed scooping it all out with a spoon after finishing my drink.
Rating: 9.5/10 (a half point goes to the pot of cream)
The Classic One
Rococo, Belgravia, Hot Chocolate, £3.50
A hot chocolate without cream? I would usually scoff at such an idea, but Rococo chocolates are known for being very posh and delicious – so it had to be good. The drinks are made on a stove in all of the shops, and there is a garden café at the Belgravia store. They are concocted with whole organic milk, dark chocolate shavings and a dash of milk chocolate callets. I found mine to be a simple but decadently creamy hot chocolate that is more bitter than sweet. However, it was a smaller serving than the first two samples.
Rating: 7.5/10 (this girl needs cream)
The Vegan One
Paul A Young, Soho, Aztec Hot Chocolate, £3.50
OK, this was the award-winning one that is often hailed as the ultimate hot chocolate in London. But I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much. The chocolate was simmering in a stove in the corner of the shop, ready to be poured into a takeaway cup and seasoned with a selection of spices and flavours in the surrounding glass jars. I decided to keep mine classic and found the rich taste to be quite similar to Rococo – so I was surprised to learn that this was actually a vegan hot chocolate. It’s made with Valrhona 100% cocoa powder, 70% chocolate and light muscovado sugar.
I really wouldn’t have thought there was no dairy in it. But the knowledge made me hunger for cream even more.
Rating: 7.5/10 (I obviously have no taste if my low opinion is the opposite to everybody else who has praised this one)
The Italian One
Said Dal 1923, Soho and Fitzrovia, Regular Hot Chocolate & Triple Chocolate Cup, £6.80
Guys, this is what I came for. Just look at it. The Italian recipe is basically a cup of gloopy chocolate – a real dream come true. Melted milk, dark and white chocolate is then ladled over the sides of the cup. That might sound unnecessary, but it was a pure joy to mix them and scoop up with a spoon. In fact, I ate the whole thing with a spoon, because this is definitely not a drinking chocolate. Sure, I felt sick afterwards. But this was an experience I will not be forgetting.
But still… NO CREAM.
Rating: 9.5/10 (It is very expensive, there was no cream and it was more dessert than drink… and yet, it still BLEW MY MIND)
The Well-Topped One
Chin Chin Labs, Soho, Hot Chocolate, £4.95
Deprived of whipped cream, I went one step further with the blow-torched marshmallow topping on Chin Chin Labs’ hot chocolate. I tried to get an equal ratio of hot chocolate and marshmallow on each spoonful. But there was so much topping that I almost forgot there was a drink underneath it. Don’t get me wrong – that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I especially loved the slightly scorched taste in the same way that I enjoy a bit of burnt toast. When I did get to the Valrhona hot chocolate, it had a medium consistency and richness.
What a way to end this review (and it didn’t even involve cream).
Rating: 8.5/10 (And only a couple of those points count towards the actual drink)
As you can see by my ratings, all of these hot chocolates scored well. So this is a very difficult decision indeed. But I’m going to go with Rabot 1745, thanks to the perfectly thick texture, fiery chilli kick and generous serving of chocolate whipped cream. The warm atmosphere in the cafe was also the ideal setting for a hot choc.
It’s followed closely by Said Dal, which missed out on the top spot because I really did feel sick afterwards. I won’t be able to handle another one for at least three years.
But, quite honestly, any of these hot chocolates will spark joy for you this winter.
Consider my duty: done.
Images: Getty, writer’s own, supplied for press