Time Out Chocolate Tour of London

What better way to spend a gloomy grey London Sunday than on a London chocolate tour?

I originally bought this tour for my husband for his birthday. Time Out were selling tickets at a discount and as usual, I couldn’t resist a bargain (or the chocolate) so I bought 2! Someone had to accompany him of course, and that someone would be me. So I thought. Not so luckily for my husband, one of my daughters got sick so one of us had to stay home. Naturally that should have been me, it was his birthday present after all. But he insisted that I spend some time with my eldest daughter given that I hadn’t done so since she had started school. So with much arm twisting, I went.

The tour kicked off at the Algerian Coffee Store on Old Compton Street. The “Chocolate Man”, as my eldest daughter liked to call him, was waiting for our arrival and was much relieved that our original party of 5 had reduced to a much more manageable 2. He actually admitted he’d had a few pints beforehand in preparation (smart man).

Our first stop was Hotel Chocolat just down the street. I’d seen one of these before on Kensington High Street but had never actually been in.  We were welcomed with a sample of chocolate covered popcorn. A good start. They were actually quite delicious. There was a great assortment of chocolate bars, chocolate trays and even champagne! Their “pink collection” looked enticing and would be perfect for a girly get together.

Being close to halloween there was also an array of ghoulish treats – chocolate vampires, skulls and menacing looking pumpkins (but not menacing enough to keep my daughter away unfortunately).

The next stop was definitely a step up a notch. Paul.A.Young on Broadwick Street. This place was special. From the moment you walked in, the smell of chocolate engulfed you. It was overpowering. There, in the middle of the room was a chocoholics dream. Plate after plate of delicate little parcels of chocolate deliciousness.

The chocolatier was very informative. A little too informative for my 3 year old… It was here that I realized why mine was the only child in our party. While the chocolate tastings were all very nice, they were too few and far between for her. She didn’t care about where the chocolate was sourced from or how they made them. She just wanted to get her hands on them! With flavours such as banofee pie, bakewell tart, and spiced pumpkin pie, could you blame her? After tasting the best salted caramel chocolate in the world (which was the perfect mix of sweet and savoury) we were both itching for more. Luckily they had samples of their award winning chocolate brownie available for tasting. It was delicious – even better than the ones at Ottolenghi and that’s saying a lot!!!

Freggo, Gaucho’s relatively new Argentine ice cream bar, was next on the agenda. We all got to have a taste of any ice cream of our choosing from the board. My daughter was in her element at last. There were no explanations here, just straight tasting. She chose the banana split and was lucky enough to have a mini cone thrown in to the envy of the rest of us. She chose better than me – it was divine and tasted exactly like the real thing!

We went on to Prestat housed in the majestic Princes Arcade. By now my daughter wanted to go home but settled for a rich dark chocolate truffle coated in cocoa powder instead. A wise choice. It was decadently dense but velvety smooth. The Chocolate Man kindly relinquished his gooseberry ganache which my daughter reluctantly shared with me. I’m glad she did. It was probably my favorite of the day.

The obligatory toilet stop was at Fortnum & Mason. No tastings were to be had here but it was a pure visual delight. The Halloween offerings kept my daughter occupied. She was mesmerized by the grizzly green chocolate brains on a stick, the white chocolate bones littered across squares of milk chocolate graveyards and white chocolate covered gingerbread ghosts.

Our last stop was Charbonnel & Walker, the Queens chocolatier of choice, where we were given a violet and a rose water chocolate to taste. They were a little too gourmet for my daughter, and admittedly for me. Not really to our taste. It didn’t stop us from devouring them though! We were spared the last chocolate history speech for the day. My daughter was now high on chocolate and giddy from missing her afternoon nap. The Chocolate Man was indeed a very smart man.

In addition to being smart, the Chocolate Man was a fantastic guide. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed herself. What kid wouldn’t enjoy visiting chocolate stores and sampling their delights? What adult for that matter? In addition to the chocolate, I also enjoyed walking around the back streets of the West End en route to our various chocolate spots discovering all the quirky and historical pubs and restaurants to be found there. Definitely date night territory!

It was a good tour and would have been great if there were more samples on offer. While it was definitely suitable for kids, if you bring them, make sure you bring them something to occupy them during the chocolate “talks”.

All in all a great way to sample some of London’s best chocolate shops!

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