IF, like me, you’re impervious to the charms of caffeine drinks, or else – also like me – you’re powerless to resist the lure of cocoa, the idea of the perfect hot chocolate takes on holy grail status. When I meet people in cafes, I often watch glumly while they strain exotic tea through a dainty sieve, or enjoy a frothing coffee concoction, while my not-so-hot chocolate arrives like a consolation prize.
The ways a hot chocolate can be bad are far more numerous than the ways it can be good. It can be tepid and gloopy; destroyed by a grizzly island of synthetic whipped cream floating on top; have gooey little marshmallows bobbing around in it like damp cardboard; or be watery and grey, with cement-like mounds of unmixed chocolate powder lurking at the bottom.
But proper, luxurious, velvety, sweet hot chocolates are out there if you know where to look. This is our top four.
At Mayfair’s jazzy Italian restaurant, having a chocolate comes with a real sense of ceremony. First you’re brought a glass full of frothy milk, followed by a small teapot containing some sensational, melted Italian chocolate. The chocolate drips into the milk like a thick, sensuous syrup, ensuring you earn the envy of any neighbours nursing a mere cup of tea or coffee. £2.50 a cup. www.cecconis.co.uk
PAUL A YOUNG
Walk into chocolatier Paul A Young’s shop at the Royal Exchange (or his flagship venue in Islington’s Camden Passage) and you’re hit by the glorious smell of the hot chocolate that simmers away on the counter all day long. Deliciously thick, it’s ladled into a cup for you to take away. You can also add spices like chilli, nutmeg, cardamom or ginger. £3.50 a cup. www.paulayoung.co.uk
HARRODS CHOCOLATE BAR
When it comes to treating chocolate as a truly luxury product, you can’t beat the Chocolate Bar in Harrods. Here you find everything from rich chocolate fondues to creamy drinks made from chocolate sourced from all over the world. Its signature hot chocolate is the Suckao, which is literally liquid chocolate – you can have dark, milk or white – made from melted down ganach, and served in an espresso cup. It’s luxuriously thick, and you suck it up through a spoon straw. £5.75 a cup. www.harrods.com
KONDITOR & COOK
With branches at Chancery Lane, Borough Market and by the Gherkin, Konditor is the City chocolate lover’s Mecca. It has a mean hot chocolate made from two types of dark Belgian chocolate. That’s mixed with double cream, whole milk, natural vanilla and a spot of sugar to create something truly indulgent. £2.85 for a large cup. www.konditorandcook.com