The British make really fabulous chocolates. Here's where to find the best choccies in the UK.
Chocolates are a classic holiday present. Whether you're shopping for Christmas, Valentine's Day, or a special occasion just remember this is one category of gift where it isn't only the thought that counts. If all you could think of was a box of choccies as the Brits say from the supermarket or the gas station—well, afterthoughts don't really count.
This list will steer you to some of the best chocolate makers in Britain. A cellophane and ribbon wrapped or moire silk-dressed box from one of these shows that on the scale of thoughts that count, you are most definitely a heavy thinker.
Though most of the shops in this list are in London or the southeast of England, Scotland—which is experiencing a chocolate Renaissance—is also represented. Some of these chocolatiers have branches outside of the capital, most will take online or telephone orders and some will even ship to the USA.
1. Charbonnel et Walker
Charbonnel et Walker have been trading from the same tiny shop on Old Bond Street since 1875. Founded by a Mme Lévy (née Charbonnel) who trained at a famous Paris chocolatier, and Mrs. Minnie Walker, the shop's distinctive gold-banded boxes and coffrets are familiar to chocolate lovers worldwide. The two ladies had been encouraged to join forces by that notorious womanizer, the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
We wonder if his mistress Lillie Langtry liked the exquisite marc de champagne truffles they still sell. They hold a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty the Queen.
One The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street London W1S 4BT, +44 (0)20 7318 2075
Roald Dahl was a fan of Prestat. The shop, now tucked away in a historic Piccadilly arcade began in London's Oxford Street in 1902. It has held a Royal Warrant from the Queen since 1975. Known for bright colored packaging and unusual flavors like orange and cardamom chai thins, black forest gateau, or London gin truffles, they also use recipes that date back to the 18th century. The founder of the business, Antoine Dufour, came from a French family who created the first chocolate truffles in Chambery in 1895. The current owners discovered a locked room in the basement with a treasure trove of original, period packaging, some of which is now used or has influenced the style and garish colors of the present.
14 Princes Arcade, Piccadilly, London SW1Y 6DS, 44(0)20 7494 3372
3. Rococo Chocolates
Rococo Chocolates, with branches around London and in Chester, was founded more than 30 years ago by Chantal Coady, who was also a founder member of the Academy of Chocolate. In July 2014, she received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen's Honours List for services to charities and also for completely changing the way that chocolate is viewed in Britain. Rococo co-owns a chocolate plantation in Grenada.
According to popular story, her punk roots resulted in her being fired from the chocolate department at Harrods when she dyed her hair green. The King's Road shop, the first and our favorite, is packed with goodies wrapped with colored ribbons and the shop's signature blue and white paper. Standouts are dark chocolate bars flavored with chili, basil and Persian lime, thyme, rose, Moroccan mint, and a seasonally changing variety (such as gold, frankincense, and myrrh for Christmas). It's one of the few places in London where you can consistently buy chocolate covered stem cherries in cognac, and their soft nougat, studded with nuts or candied fruits, is to die for. And don't even let's get started on their candied orange slices dipped in dark chocolate.
3 Moxon Street St, London W1, +44 (0)20 7935 7780
321 King's Road, London SW3, +44 (0)20 7352 5857
4. Artisan du Chocolat
Artisan du Chocolat on Lower Sloane Street, between Chelsea and Belgravia in London, offers handmade chocs made from single plantation chocolate beans, fresh cream, butter, spices, herbs, and even flowers. Fancy banana and thyme flavor, or tobacco? They claim credit for inventing salted caramels while making chocolates for Gordon Ramsey's restaurant at Claridges. Very special and very delicious. And their latest wrinkle is chocolate that's so good for you, you're supposed to subscribe monthly to use it as a nutritional supplement!
89 Lower Sloane Street, London SW1 8DA, +44(0)1233 505 170 (option 3)
Melt's shops in Notting Hill and Holland Park have open kitchens where you can watch the chocolatiers make some of their signature treats, like crispy sea-salted chocolate feuillantines and passion fruit and mango squares. The chocolates are luxurious and so fresh they should be eaten in 10 days. They deliver and they run classes, too.
59 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AA, +44 (0)207 727 5030
6 Clarendon Road, Holland Park, London W11 3AA +44 (0)208 354 4504
6. Coco Chocolatier
Coco Chocolatier in Edinburgh, specialize in single origin dark and milk chocolate bars in the most extraordinary flavors like apple crumble, haggis spice, gin and tonic, rose and black pepper, caramel with hazelnut and sea salt, and roast espresso. They also do colorful assortment boxes and thoroughly intoxicating liqueur cherries.
Coco Bruntsfield, 174 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4ER, +44 (0)131 290 2159
7. Cocoa Black
Ruth Hinks, who runs Cocoa Black, a school and a coffee shop beside the Tweed in Peebles, is UK World Chocolate Master 2013. She turns out beautiful boxed chocolates, single origin and plantation tasters, and exquisite patisserie that are also available online. Try the chocolate fruit selection box, flavored with tropical fruit, banana and passionfruit, morello cherry, and cold pressed raspberries.
1-3 Cuddybridge Peebles EH45 8HX, +44 (0)1721 723 764
8. Iain Burnett the Highland Chocolatier
The Highland Chocolatier, also known as Iain Burnett, offers wonderful truffles and such treats as whole clementines and cherries enrobed in chocolate and suggested whisky pairings. For the Queen's 90th birthday, he produced an exclusive range of blackcurrant truffles made with blackcurrants from the Queen's own garden at Sandringham.
Iain Burnett, Grandtully, Perthshire, PH9 0PL, +44 (0)1887 840775
9. William Curley
William Curley, both a famous brand and the man behind it, is a beloved chocolatier and dessert bar. You'll find products made with the finest ingredients and some creativity. Discover Japanese influences in chocolate flavored with Japanese black vinegar. Available at Harrods or through the online boutique.
10. Paul A Young
Claimant to title of Best Sea-salted Caramel in the World, Paul A Young gives sea-salted caramel classes in his Camden Passage, Islington Shop.
Soho, 143 Wardour Street, Soho, London W1F 8WA, +44 (0)20 7437 0011
Islington, 33 Camden Passage, Islington, London N1 8EA, +44 (0)20 7424 5750
London, 20 The Royal Exchange, Threadneedle Street, London EC3V 3LP, +44 (0)20 7929 7007
Find fresh cream, handmade chocolates from this award-winning Dorset maker. At Chococo, a high level of visual artistry enhances these beautiful sweets flavored with local ingredients. We want the "Love Pod," a large chocolate pod filled with gorgeous chocolates.
Commercial Road, Swanage, Dorset BH19 1DF, +44 (0)1929 408288
High Street, Winchester, Hants SO23 9AY, +44 (0)1962 658181
22 Gandy Street, Exeter, Devon EX4 3LS, +44 (0)1392 249 422
Montezumas is another chocolatier with roots in Brighton's Lanes. A pair of lawyers who turned their travels in South America into a chocolate making passion, they now have six shops in the Southeast including the Brighton original and a shop in London's Spitalfields. A good choice for your dairy-free or vegan Valentine, they have a big selection of dairy free chocolates. They even make a chocolate lager!
30 Duke Street, Brighton BN1 1AG, +44 (0)1273 324 979
Don't miss out on their other shops in Winchchester, Chichester, Kingston, and Woking.
13. Charlotte Flowers
Charlotte Flowers offers simply shaped, very fresh chocolates filled with seasonal flavors or with sea-salted caramel. The easiest way to buy these chocolates is online from the website. Or you can look for her regular market stalls at Perth Farmers Market, Aberfeldy Farmers Market, and Logierait Country Market. Other seasonal market dates are posted here.
The Old Schoolhouse, Acharn, Aberfeldy, PH15 2HS, +44 (0)1887 830307
14. Oban Chocolate Company
This very Scottish company does lovely artisan bars and a selection of whiskey chocolates that includes whiskey barrels and cranachan truffles with whiskey, honey, raspberries, and toasted oatmeal. An acquired taste are their Marmite choccies. Oban Chocolate Company offers online and overseas orders as well as the Oban shop and cafe in western Argyll.
34 Corran Esplanade, Oban PA34 5PS, +44 (0)1631 566099