On a cold, gray day, there's nothing better than settling down in a cozy cafe with your hands wrapped around a hot, sweet, steaming cup of hot chocolate. London offers a fine selection of cafes in which to treat yourself. We've rounded up the best of the best.
Paul A Young is an award-winning British chocolatier who opened his first chocolate store in Islington back in 2006.
His signature hot chocolate is made with water rather than milk (chocolate has its own natural fat so adding more would spoil the taste according to Paul). The percentage of cocoa solids that you'll be served varies throughout the year: on a cold winter's day you'll enjoy 70% chocolate which is a rich and decadent, while in the summer a 64% might be used for a lighter taste. Anyone who checks London's weather forecast to dictate their hot chocolate recipes is a true pioneer.
Paul A Young, 33 Camden Passage, Islington, London N1 8EA
Yes, I'm surprised too - a chain cafe ranking so highly - but our readers really love this place. Comments we received include: "delicious hot chocolate, the thickest I have ever seen… !!", "properly thick!", "Thick and gloopy – melted chocolate really!", and "Definitely the best hot chocolate in London".
Apostrophe is a boulangerie-patisserie cafe with funky, contemporary decor. And although I always think of it for coffee and pastries, it seems the hot chocolate is superb too. There's a great relaxed atmosphere at all the branches I've tried and everything tastes very fresh.
Their hot chocolate will require a spoon to drink/eat as it is so thick. They use whisked milk and whisk away for around half an hour for each batch.
K&C is a bakery with a small chain of cafes that serve excellent cakes.
I'm told their hot chocolate is: "gorgeously scrummy" and "thick and creamy". It's dark hot chocolate made with 70% cocoa solids chocolate mixed with milk, double cream and vanilla pods.
Konditor & Cook, Curzon Soho Cafe, 99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 5DY
Hotel Chocolat, Kensington
I already like the chocolate from Hotel Chocolat but it seems many people like to visit the High Street Kensington store as it "just seems that bit nicer" and the in-store hot chocolate bar has the "best [hot chocolate] I've ever had".
This is liquid chocolate made with 72% dark chocolate and skimmed milk, and has less sugar than traditional hot chocolate so it is not overwhelmingly sweet but it's exceedingly chocolatey.
Hotel Chocolat Kensington, 163 Kensington High Street, London W8 6SU
This cafe on Lower Marsh near Waterloo used to be a scooter repair shop known as Scooterworks.
They host events like film screenings in the basement. Praise for the hot chocolate ranged from "reaaaaly good" to "epic". I was also told, "I have a personal preference for the hot chocolate dusted with a bit of nutmeg that they serve at Scootercaffe on Lower Marsh near Waterloo. Not only is the cocoa excellent, it is also the most interesting little cafe for miles around." Look out for the friendly cats who roam around the cafe.
Scootercaffe, 132 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7AE
Paul is a chain of French patisseries that you'll find across London (there are over 20 branches). I've been told "their hot chocolate is as good as anyone's" and "I recommend Paul South Kensington". Also "Paul has that really rich, gloopy hot chocolate that is just like melted heaven."
The hot chocolate here is served in tiny cups but packs a serious punch. It's very rich and dark and you can buy blocks - yes, blocks - to take home and melt. There are seven different blocks to try and they describe their hot chocolate as having a "sensuous and sticky texture".
Melt, 59 Ledbury Rd, London W11 2AA