surviving London’s chocolate revolution

The best thing about my job as the author of Chocolatour is that I get to eat an abundance of tremendously wonderful chocolate and that I get to meet a lot of amazing chocolate masters who are generous with their chocolates. That is also the worst thing about my job. Once that chocolate is in my possession it is quickly eaten unless I give it away. But I can’t give it away and still get to eat it (and test it, savour it, review it, write about it.) So there is a bit of a dilemma I have to deal with, in addition to the expanding reach of my waistline. Believe me. I share as much of the chocolate I am exposed to as I can, but for the most part, the tasting, comparing, analyzing and appreciating is mine to do.

It’s wonderful when the chocolate has a shelf-life of at least a few weeks. That gives me time to taste and share while the chocolate is still at full quality. But that’s not always the case.

Some freshly-made chocolates, like the truffles of Paul A. Young of London only have a shelf-life of one week. It is not the kind of chocolate that you can take home and savour for awhile. It pretty much needs to be eaten within a few days of leaving the shop for optimum flavour. And it cannot be frozen and should not be refrigerated. But it’s still worth a trip to one of Paul’s intoxicating London locations, as there are other options that have a slightly longer shelf life and will better survive a journey.

Paul A. Young launched his recipe book in New York on November 11/11

Just walking into his shop is worth the visit. You are nearly bowled over by the potent smell of fresh chocolate. All the chocolate sold in the shop is made on site. I mean it when I use the word “intoxicating” to describe Paul’s chocolate — and his brownies! Those brownies are a hybrid that marries deep rich chocolate with salted caramel and pecans. There is absolutely nothing better in my opinion than Paul’s soft, moist dark chocolate brownies. They are individually wrapped and come in squares large enough to satisfy the chocolate cravings of any die-hard chocolaholic.

Every one of Paul’s staff is highly knowledgeable and passionate about chocolate. They are there to help you find the right chocolate creations that are just right for you. And Paul’s chocolate shops are unique in that many of the chocolates are unwrapped and unadulterated.

a visit to a Paul A. Young chocolate shop is truly a captivating experience

They are displayed openly, for you to smell and admire, making the chocolate shopping experience more enriching, personal and satisfying. It truly is intoxicating, and a chocolate experience that no chocolate loving chocolatourist in London should miss.

Which is why I was happy to include Paul A. Young Chocolate on the list I wrote for National Geographic Traveler featuring the 10 Best Chocolate Shops in the world.

I also really loved the chocolate of William Curley. William originally hails from Scotland, and his wife, Suzue, from Japan. This cross-cultural heritage not only makes for an interesting marriage, but an amazing collaborative process in the chocolate lab. You’ll find chocolate with a strong Asian influence, with sake, sesame seeds and mustard providing subtle enhancements to the chocolate.

William’s shop is elegant and inviting. You can linger inside at a few tables, or outside at tables in front of the Belgravia (Westminster District) shop.

I adored the Sea Salt Caramel Mou — dark chocolate covering soft caramel enhanced with a taste of sea salt from Brittany. Absolutely astounding, and not too sweet at all. The chocolate is wonderful, and the caramel, a perfect blend of sweet and salty. All that quality, and a shelf-life of four months makes this a terrific take-home souvenir of your Chocolatour.

William Curley’s marzipan mushrooms (on left) are truly divine

Another really unique offering from William Curley are the dark chocolate marzipan mushrooms! They look like exotic mushrooms and are filled with tasty marzipan. William was originally trained as a pastry chef and continues to offer an amazing array of exquisite pastries in addition to his enticing chocolates.

I’ll have more to say about the amazing chocolate revolution that has changed the face of chocolate in London and area in the next post. Until then, please enjoy surfing the sites of Paul A. Young and William Curley and you’ll see why these are my two favourite men of chocolate in the UK.


Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

24 Responses

  1. Marta says:

    Great article! There is definitely a chocolate revolution going on in London!My last discovery in the city is Montezuma´s chocolate- very unique and very British 🙂 These guys were inspired by their trip to South America and they came up with a wide list of flavours.

    I live in London and if there is something I can’ t stop eating that’ s chocolate!

  2. Terri Fogarty says:

    I want one of those Marzipan mushrooms! Next time I’m in London, I am going for it! I have done a study of the best chocolates in Paris. Here is my list. Would love more suggestions, though. You can never get too much of a good thing.

    • Hello Terri: Thanks for dropping into the blog.

      I absolutely love the Puyricard chocolates. We had the pleasure of going to the village of Puyricard and eating their chocolates. It was a magnificent experience. I must confess that in Paris, we spent our time at the Salon du Chocolat and the Chocolate Masters World Championships, so that left little time for visiting individual chocolate shops. Perhaps on a future visit …

  3. Thanks, John and Lori for your comments. You and me, both, Lori! I can’t wait to go back to London. One week is never enough time. Happy travels!

  4. Lori Henry says:

    A chocolate revolution – I love it! And the Sea Salt Caramel Mou… oh my… can’t wait for my next trip to London…

  5. Nat. T. says:

    Wow, Doreen!

    All this talk about chocolate has made my tastebuds dance. I will have to take note and visit these places on my next visit.

    I will have to agree with Jeff. You have created quite the combo. Travel and chocolate together is amazing!

    • Thanks, Nat. I really do feel privileged to be researching Chocolatour. It’s been 2 years of travel in search of the best chocolate and I know my journey is not nearly done! So stay tuned and we’ll share more of it together. Thanks again for dropping by.

  6. Wow…Chocolate and travel together??!! I can’t think of a more heavenly and alluring combination. You have a wonderful job my friend and keep these delicious posts coming!!

    • Thanks so much, Jeff.

      Looking forward to sharing more thoughts with you. Feel free to jump in with any travel tips and thoughts anytime you like as I know you are quite the expert on Europe.

  7. Mostly About Chocolate Blog says:

    Awesome people you have here. Both are top masters and both are chocolatiers I frequently recommend!

    I’m so thrilled you got the lucky chance to meet these two great men who are giants of the chocolate industry.

    Hope you enjoyed the chocolates too!!

    • Absolutely, Judith! I feel to really fortunate when I get to meet the top chocolate makers/masters. Eating the chocolate is great too, but my focus really is on the people!

      Stay tuned for next week’s post when I’ll reveal more London favourites.

  8. Kathe Lieber says:

    Doreen, your mention of cross-cultural chocolate took me back to Brussels and our visit with Laurent Gerbaud, Remember? I loved his Asian flavours and his account of developing chocolates on a hotplate in a tiny apartment in China.

    It’s more mass-market, but I do love Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate – especially the one with ginger. Yum….

    • Hi Kathe: How could I forget Laurent Gerbaud? He continues to be one of my favourites, and I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate since meeting him. His chocolate, flavours and even packaging are similar to William Curley’s who also has a strong Asian influence in his chocolate-making.

      Yes, I’ve tried Green & Black. Agree it’s definitely worth trying for someone on a budget who is wanting chocolate of a better grade.

      Always enjoy your chocolate insights. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  9. My vote was for Paul Young’s shop and chocolates. You’re right when yous ay intoxicating. You open the door and are engulfed in a sea of chocolate smells that touch every one of your senses. I am so sorry that I didn’t bring home his chocolates filled with rum and a raisin. Pop one into your mouth and you get this rush of heat from head to toe – honestly, I kid you not. They were my absolute favorites. I look forward to re-living the highlights of that trip with you again in your next post.

    • Yes, one thing I’ve learned in my travels, is that if something strikes your fancy … buy it, as you most often will never get back to experience that flavour (or whatever it is) again.

      Thanks for sharing the tasting and the travels with me, Suzanne. It truly was a blast.

  10. Hey Doreen, will definitely put these chocolate shops on my “must see” (or “must taste”) list the next time I’m in London. Was just there last fall… had I’d only known 😉 Thanks for the sweet info.

    • You’re welcome, Barb. Yes, I’d never thought as London as being a chocolate capital, but it certainly now is. Britain’s chocolate masters are undoubtedly among the best in the world. Cheers!

  11. You’ll just have to get yourself over to London, Esther. You will indeed find fine chocolate there. The best in your area (Vancouver) is Thomas Haas. If you haven’t already, do get yourself a box.

    And for those of you not subscribed to the comments feature of this blog, thanks to Laura Porter whose comment on the last post led us to her UK vs US chocolate comparisons. You’ll find them posted at

    Although it is not my intent to provide attention to mass marketed consumer chocolate in Chocolatour, it is interesting to hear the perspective given. It would also be fascinating to have the same set of tests performed by someone native to the US and see what results they come up with!

    I have found that, just as different regions produce different tasting wines, the same is very true for their chocolate. And as the chief chocolatier at Thorntons told me, “We are here to please the consumer, and British consumers likes a sweeter chocolate so that is what we make for them.”

  12. satinka says:

    Mmmmmmmm mouthwatering…gimmee some of that chocolate! 😉

    • Sarah says:

      I do think London has come on in keeps & bounds over the past few years. With the likes of Gerard & Paul, who have certainly placed London on the map.

      Having said that, I do feel it’s a shame that everything appears to happen in London! We get the odd festive run in some places that are North of the Watford gap but not many:(

      How about running next years Chocolate Unwrapped in Birmingham or Manchester! So the rest of the UK can enjoy some if these fantastic events? With travel cost etc becoming expensive, it would be great to see these great Chocolate Masters coming up North!


      • Thanks for joining the blog, Sarah! Nice to have you onboard.

        I’d love to explore more chocolate in the rest of the UK. Judith has introduced me to Duffy of Scotland (virtually, I didn’t have the opportunity to physically met him – yet) and his chocolates are divine.

        Where in the UK are you located?

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