Huge debate raged on this topic when I asked for suggestions so it has been hard narrowing the list down. I've used the criteria of: central London, must be open regularly and not seasonal or part-time, well-established, i.e. not going to shut down as soon as I finish this list, and must sell it ready to drink even if they don't have a cafe.
I've also listened to the comments of readers to help me make these choices and would love to hear if you agree or disagree. You can comment or add to the list by telling me where's your favorite place for hot chocolate in London?
1. Paul A Young
Paul Young is a British chocolatier who has continued to impress Londoners since opening his first store in Islington in 2006. Recommendations such as "wonderful stuff" and "Paul A Young's hot choc rocks" made this the clear winner.
The drink is made with water not milk as chocolate has it's own natural fat (cocoa butter) so adding more would spoil the taste. Throughout the year the cocoa solids % varies so that in the winter, on a cold day, you can get 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 weather to inform their hot chocolate is truly thinking of us in London.
Paul A Young, 33 Camden Passage, Islington, London N1 8EA
Yes, I'm surprised too - a chain cafe ranking so highly - but readers really love this place. Comments included: "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 them 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 cafe branches that is well-loved for its cakes. The Curzon Soho branch should get a mention as it's also a great place to sit in the window for some serious people watching.
I'm told their hot chocolate is: "gorgeously scrummy" and "thick and creamy". It's dark hot chocolate, made with 70% cocoa solids chocolate, plus milk, double cream and vanilla pods.
Konditor & Cook, Curzon Soho Cafe, 99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 5DY
William Curley has won the the Best UK Chocolatier Award more than once and his shop in SW1 in a chocolate heaven. There's fresh patisserie and chocolates, an ice-cream counter, and plenty of space to enjoy a hot chocolate. (Another recommended store in Richmond too.)
They use a chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids and make it up with one part chocolate to five parts of full fat milk. It's a combination of whisked milk and chocolate with a frothed milk layer and grated chocolate on top. Very rich, creamy and luxurious.
William Curley, 198 Ebury Street, London SW1W 8UN
La Maison du Chocolat on Piccadilly has been described as "the most memorable hot chocolate" and "a meal on its own". The smell of cocoa when you walk in is impressive and the counter of hand-crafted French chocolates is quite stunning. It's reassuringly expensive but it's a real treat. There's another branch in Harrods.
La Maison du Chocolat, 45-46 Piccadilly, London W1J 0DS
6. Hotel Chocolat in 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 is exceedingly chocolatey.
Hotel Chocolat Kensington, 163 Kensington High Street, London W8 6SU
There are three choices of Godiva chocolate and 19 flavorings to add making this the most options of luxury chocolate you can enjoy in one sitting!
This cafe is quite unique. It was a scooter repair shop known as Scooterworks which had a small cafe but the 2009 name change should hopefully let customers know the focus is now on eating and drinking and not bike parts.
They have events such as film screenings in the basement, and 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 caff for miles around." Look out for the friendly cats who like to be stroked.
Scootercaffe, 132 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7AE
Paul is a chain of French patisseries that you'll find across London (over twenty 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. So getting some tomorrow."
It's not big but it is popular so be prepared to wait on weekends. The hot chocolate has been described as "A*" and "very chocolately" and is great for a hot chocolate addict as there are plenty of choices from traditional hot chocolates, thick hot chocolates, and even chocolate hot toddies. I've always wanted to try the chocolate fondue but it seems it's the hot chocolate that keeps the place so busy.
Harrods Chocolate Bar, 2nd Floor, Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1X 0LZ
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
A special honorary mention must go to Theobroma Cacao in Chiswick, W4. I didn't include them as they're not in central London, but the praise was high for their hot chocolate where you get a free truffle with every cup. Ginger and chili flavors got the most votes. "Absolutely without a shadow of a doubt the best hot choc in London." "Outstanding." "It's so intense it gave me a shaky leg and goosebumps."