When it comes to cocoa, these chocolatiers are raising the bar. Here's where to go to get your chocolate fix – and there's not a Dairy Milk in sight …
Paul A Young’s creations are something Willy Wonka would be proud of.
Widely celebrated for his salted caramels and Marmite truffles, the former pastry chef and master chocolatier shuffles flavours like a master card-player.
Red onion and stem ginger conserve with a balsamic ganache? Yes. Black pudding? Check. Stilton? Yep, he’s made that one too, and has won numerous awards along the chocolate-making way.
There are also Billionaire’s shortbreads, which are even better than the original with its crumbly chocolate base and thick layer of salted caramel (who knew that was possible?) and fudgy brownies. There's a peanut butter and jelly one on its way and We. Can't. Wait.
Yes, these chocolates may seem pricey, but they are well worth the investment.
Try: go for a nine-piece box and choose your selection
The Willy Wonka moment: aside from the Marmite truffle, which is well worth trying, go for the goat’s cheese, lemon and thyme which has just made a comeback in the shops
Where: Soho, Islington, Bank and Fitzrovia, London
The emphasis here is on 'real' chocolate.
Their old-fashioned-style shop is like walking into a cocoa treasure trove of bars, boxes, pistachio nougat and chocolate-covered nuts. You can choose from the Grenada Chocolate Company’s (the Grenada farm that founder Chantal Coady part owns) assortment of organic bars as well as Rococo's own, and ganaches, truffles, fondant creams and chocolate sardines. Obviously.
How did it all start? Well, the story goes that before Rococo, Coady was sacked from Harrods' chocolate department for dying her hair green. We like her even more.
Try: Rococo’s rose chocolate bar
The Willy Wonka moment: Jersey new potatoes with mint. OK, they're really hazelnut pralines covered in white chocolate, shaped into potatoes and come with crystalised mint
Where: Marylebone, Belgravia and Chelsea in London, and Chester
These shops are more like temples for chocolates that are piled high with bars and truffles.
Truffles are traditional with an edge and include praline, peanut butter, orange and dark chocolate, and lime, chilli and tequila.
The bars are slightly more quirky with their great British pudding range (hello there apple crumble, treacle tart, lemon meringue and spotted dick), and monkey bar range which includes cockney rhyming names such as shakes and shiver (otherwise known as dark chocolate with peppermint and cacao nibs), daisy roots (that’s dark chocolate with cherry and almond slices) and nanny goat (milk chocolate with salted peanuts and butterscotch).
Try: if all else fails, their giant milk, dark and white chocolate buttons will pop a smile on your face. If you’re being serious, try the milk with chilli and lime bar
The Willy Wonka moment: the monkey bar range, purely for their names
Where: London, Brighton, Chichester and Kingston
This is a man who has won the Britain’s best chocolatier award five times, so you know his chocolates are going to be good. If you can tear yourself away from the five-course dessert bar (there’s also a cocoa brunch menu if you’re a die hard chocoholic), stock up on slabs of chilli chocolate, praline feuillantine milk chocolate bars, and milk chocolate plaques with nuts and fruit.
Try: milk chocolate and chilli praline feuillantine
The Willy Wonka moment: the chocolate thins with chilli and lime are wonderfully weird
Where: Belgravia and Richmond, London
Don’t get distracted by the crazy cake designs because it would be an error to miss out on their cocoa creations. It’s all a bit bonkers and tongue-in-cheek but that’s part of the appeal: chocolate popcorn lollies, giant jazzies, chocolate frogs and layered chunk bars (yes, that's milk, white and dark chocolate all melted together into one giant bar).
Kids in a candy store, eat your heart out.
Try: salted caramel popcorn slab
The Willy Wonka moment: we suspect he would approve of pretty much everything
Where: Brighton and London
Yes, they have the royal seal of approval and rumour has it, this store inspired Roald Dahl’s chocolate-themed story.
Packaged in vibrant colours, this will get those childhood nostalgia juices going. The hand-crafted chocolates include sea salt caramel truffles, gin truffles, and Marc de Champagne balls of chocolatey goodness. Bars such as dark chocolate with pink Himalayan salt are a good bet, too.
Try: London gin truffles
The Willy Wonka moment: say hello to the knickerbocker glory bar – that’s passion fruit, meringue, strawberry and almonds all wrapped up in a white chocolate bar
Where: Piccadilly, London
This is not your average posh chocolatier: it’s rustic, down-to-earth but with delightfully wacky flavours. Yes, this place does croissants but you really want to go there for the chocolate and classes (they do chocolate-making and painting as well as chocolate and wine/beer/rum matching classes). It’s all about the thin chocolate strips here, with their unusual but clever uses of spices, herbs, fruits, flowers and coffee.
Try: the ginger and lime milk bar or the raspberry and rosemary dark chocolate
The Willy Wonka moment: the coriander and grapefruit chocolate slab is genius, as is the mint and cumin
Where: Peckham, London
This is a place for serious chocolate lovers – they even produce their chocolate from ground beans.
The standard collection is good but if you’re popping into the store, check out the seasonal chocolates, giant buttons with dried fruits, and the famous No. 1 original liquid sea salted caramels which founder, Gerard Coleman, created in 2003 for Gordon Ramsay at Claridges.
They also have bars for special diets including chocolate made from almond milk as well as sugar-free dark and milk chocolate.
Try: if you haven’t already then the No. 1 original sea salted caramels
The Willy Wonka moment: cannon malts (otherwise known as posh Maltesers) and chocolate pearls (that’s smooth ganache covered with a nutty praline glaze and edible gold and silver dust)
Where: boutiques across London and concessions in Selfridges in Birmingham and Manchester
Walking into their open-style chocolate shop in west London is like being hugged by chocolate – it’s all you can smell. If you can contain your excitement long enough, this is the place to pick up some pralines, peanut butter and jelly bourbons, and slabs of dark chocolate studded with caramelised popcorn.