I didn’t quite manage to get woken up by my bank manager calling today, but I did get woken up by Chory (one of my housemates from Japan who’s come to stay) telling me that if I didn’t get up then I’d be late to meet him.

The actual meeting itself was a little bit less scary than I was dreading, but I stupidly promised to give them a business plan by next Thursday… why, why, why did I say that?! I’ve been not doing this plan because it looks too hard to get sales forecasts in a short space of time and now I’ve only got a week! Definitely going to be pulling a horrific allnighter this time next week and my plan will be the biggest pile of bullshit ever since my final year research project.

There’s a horrible chance I might be in the middle of being sucked into Magic again… I got offered less than £100 for the cards and so I’m going to keep them… and the store says I should come along to their games nights… not healthy, but I promise this is the last you’ll hear of it here. If it gets really bad then there’ll be a fresh blog.

Today was also the final stage in my “competitor evaluation”… basically going around London to every chocolate shop that I’d heard was good and eating lots and lots. It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it. It would be a shame to have all this information on chocolate shops and just send it in to the bank along with the rest of my plan so I thought I’d share it with you. Obviously I don’t like any of their chocolate as much as mine, but some of these shops do produce unbelievably good stuff.

Vosges: Although it’s not available in London anymore (as far as I know) I had to mention it first since I think that it’s the most interesting and exciting chocolate I’ve ever seen. I haven’t been able to taste it yet, but if he’s half as good as he sounds then oh my god is he good! Not only are the flavours amazing sounding, but they’re really thinking of advancing chocolate as an idea, welcome to the chocolate revolution. If they had a London shop it might make me think twice about being able to open up. (thanks for linking me up Alex)

Flaneur: is a really nice deli up near Farringdon. It’s got amazing cakes and cooked food to die for as well as a huge selection of bar chocolate including…

Zotter: is a really interesting looking Austrian chocolatier (thanks for the link Patrick) with a huge selection of imaginative chocolate bars. Although most of the unusual ones aren’t available in the UK unless you ask for them specially, the standard of his chocolate is excellent and his sourcing is fantastic.

The Orrery: epicerie stocks Bonnat chocolate, probably my favourite dark chocolate bar manufacturer, but nothing else really. It’s a nice place for tea too.

Mortimer and Bennett: also stock Bonnat along with a range of really good cheeses and really lovely rare foody thing.
Marcolini: is pretty much the final word in Belgian chocolate (though I would say Blondele is better) their shop in London has some very tasty chocolates, but you won’t find anything unusual or extraordinary here, just classics done very well.

Montezuma’s: has been raved about by so many people, their bars are well worth trying and their broken bits even more so, but avoid their truffles like an albino avoids a tanning salon. The coatings are all too thick and don’t add anything to the flavours inside… which is unfortunate since the insides need all the help they can get. I ate a pretty big bag and liked 2, ’nuff said.

Enric Rovira: is quite an exciting Spanish chocolatier sometimes available at borough market. His truffles are beautiful, but slightly on the dry and flavourless normal truffle side for my liking, suppose it can’t be helped if they’re shipped in.

Dark Sugars: are a little bit too good for my liking. As much as I hate to say it since they are the nearest thing to me in the market, their chocolates are damn tasty and their salespeople aren’t snooty in the slightest. They’ve also got a few flavours that are a little bit unusual… apple cider and cinnamon anyone?

Harrods: has a bewildering range of chocolates, but nothing really out of the ordinary. If you’re there then you’ll be better off going to Krispy Kreme to get freebies or buying the most sinfully rich and heavy baklava I’ve found in London.

Fortnum and Mason: is not the place to go if you’re looking for exciting chocolates, they’re selection is good and they’ll impress if you’re giving them away, but they just don’t do anything to stop my chocolate urges. They do have a very good range of bars including Amadei, the standard by which other chocosnob bars are measured.

Selfridges: used to stock Vosges and now they tell me they don’t… unforgivable! Good for candy, but poor for chocolate in comparison. They do have a large Valrhona counter, which is nice in it’s own way, just don’t ask the guy behind the counter where the Vosges section is, he’ll look at you like you’ve just shat in your hand and waved hello.

Harvey Nichols: has it’s own chocolate range, but it’s not worth the money, you’d be far better off buying better from anther shop for the same price. The Paul Wayne Gregory Collection is meant to be good, but it’s too painfully expensive for me to try and be shocked at how average it is.

William Curley: is meant to be one the hot new guys to watch with his Japanese sensibilities and flair for patisserie… but his chocolates are not outstanding. His cakes on the other hand are very very good, go for cake and coffe and watch the yuppies and yummy mummies float by.

Theobrama Cacao: Probably the most dangerous shop in London to go into with not very much money. It is very pricey but unbelievably tasty. Their chocolate is gorgeous and very good, if I wanted to buy someone a gift I would go here.

Sandrine: is down my road and comes up when you search London chocolatier on google so I thought I’d give them a try. Don’t make the same mistake, Godiva or Neuhaus is better and far less pretentious.

Rococo: you might now from their artisan bars that you can get in some supermarkets. Their shop’s really lovely and quaint and their floral chocolates are pretty good. They’re not all that chocolatey though, hmm….

Charbonnel et Walker: traditional English chocolate making at its best. Their drinking chocolate is seriously good and they’re Pink Champagne truffles are very traditionally good. Prices are a little steep, but if this is the sort of thing you like then I don’t think you can find better.

Prestat: is kind of like Charbonnel et Walker’s inbred cousin. I think it mostly survives off it’s impression of brand prestige, since it’s chocolate is only passable yet pricey. It’s in Chory’s Japanese Tourist guide so I guess it’s got all the right connections or something.

Paul A Young: Check out his chocolate necklace, nice idea! The presentation kitchen’s pretty cool too but even though his chocolate is very good, it’s not quite so good that I’ll be going to Islington especially for it.

Melt: is apparently THE place to go. It’s got uber-chic oozing out of every pore and I can’t help but like it for that. Even if it wasn’t so achingly cool I would still love it for it’s chocolate, they’ve got some great ideas and some great chocolatiers to back them up. It’s expensive, but that all adds to desirability dahling.

La Maison du Chocolat: if you’re fed up with staff being clueless about what you’re trying to buy then go here, it’s great. The chocolate selection is fantastic, if a little bit too normal and huge and the staff know their way around it like the back of their hand.

L’Artisan du Chocolat: is without a doubt my favourie chocolatier in London. Their website looks like a chemist’s but don’t be put off, their shop is chocolate nirvana and if you have £25 spare that you don’t feel like spending on my chocolate then buy the tasting selection box, I did and pure chocolate happyness for about half a day. If you’re feeling slightly less rich then they also make the best chocolate spread I’ve ever bought.

Demarquette: again a really dodgy website for a really lovely shop. I wouldn’t say it was outstanding, but if you’re passing by then pop in and eat something, it’ll put a smile on your face.

The Chocolate Society: serves probably the best hot chocolate in London (until I open up of course). It’s a really nice place and the staff aren’t in the least bit snobbish, which is always a plus. Best for chocolate products rather than boxed chocolates.

Hope and Greenwood: isn’t really a chocolatier, but I had to put it in because it’s a really really really fun sweetshop. Their strange Famous Five stylee bars are really something and it’s almost impossible not to grin like a schoolboy on the first day of summer holiday when you walk into their shop. I mean, they have a Jam Roly Poly Pudding Bar, that rocks in so many different ways!

phew… well that about wraps it up for chocolate shops for the moment. If I’ve missed a good one then comment it and I’ll go and “review” it’s chocolate. I was a little afraid before that seeing all these other chocolate shops would really make me feel my lack of training and although it has been a bit intimidating going to all these shops and seeing the vast amount of skill and awesomeness these chocolatiers have, I find it really really comorting that despite all the chocolate I’ve tried being technically much more advanced I still like my own the best. The professional chocolates may be beautiful, but I’m just not having my attention grabbed. When I eat one of my chocolates everything else I’m doing just stops and the chocolate forces me to pay attention to it, with all of the chocolates I tried I had to stop, focus and concentrate to get even half the pleasure out of them that I get out of my own.

mmmm….. reviewing…

ooh and just to give some prizes:

Overall Best Chocolate Shop in London: L’Artisan du Chocolat

Best Truffles: L’Artisan du Chocolat/Dark Sugars

Best Bars: Flaneur

and for balance, three special mentions:

Vosges: for being the most interesting chocolate I have never tasted

Hope and Greenwood: for being rather scrummy after a few jolly adventures

Melt: for the awesomeness of its chocochic

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