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Published April 23rd 2012
Great British Tours organise a few walking and chauffeured tours around London, but their Chocolate Tour beckons all chocoholics like a beacon on a dark night. Our helpful and informative guide was Ferry, a mature science student, who supplements his income by taking chocolate addicts around central London and pointing out where the best chocolate fixes can be found.
The tour started outside the Algerian Coffee Stores at 52 Old Compton Street. If you're early for the 3pm start you can go in and check out their huge ranges of coffees, loose leaf teas and speciality confectionery. You could buy yourself a coffee whilst you are in there, but bear in mind that you won't be able to stop for a wee break for a good hour or so.
Algerian Coffee Stores
Next port of call was over the road at no 25, the home of Hotel Chocolat. Staff were on hand to offer us samples of chocolates and to give us information about the company. They now have their own cocoa plantation in St Lucia, but also produce chocolate from Ecuador and Peru. You can buy their goodies by the box, bar or slab from numerous stores around the UK, or you can join their Chocolate Tasting Club and subscribe to monthly postal boxed selections of their newest flavours.
Outside Hotel Chocolat
Staying in Soho, there was a slight divergence from chocolates to ice cream. Amorino at 41 Old Compton Street is a franchise of a Gelateria that was founded in Paris and now has several branches in Europe, New York and New Caledonia. I've been to Italy many times, but the gelati served at Amorino are the most sublime and flavour intense I've ever tasted. We were only allowed two small samples each and I opted for the coffee and the grand cru chocolate. There were other recommendations too, from the sorbet flavours, through to other chocolate variations and the yogurt made with fat free yogurt. There is a flavour of the month, and you can also treat yourself to their sweets or chocolates, hot drinks, milkshakes and waffles.
By this time we needed a little bit of exercise so made our way through the crowds on Shaftesbury Avenue, on to Regent Street and into Swallow Street. There we had more ice cream samples from Freggo at no 27-29, where I tried a Temptation: Dulce de Leche and Caramel.
Back on the chocolate theme we ambled along to Prestat at 14 Princes Arcade, Piccadilly. Their history stretches back over 110 years when a Frenchman, Antoine Dufour opened a shop on South Molton Street. He named the business after his nephew, Pierre Prestat. The shop was also the first in London to sell the newly invented chocolate truffle. The business passed through several lots of hands and was eventually bought by two brothers in 1988. They relocated to the present premises and were also awarded a Royal Warrant by the late Queen Mother. More chocolate samples were on offer here too.
From Prestat we continued along Piccadilly to Fortnum and Mason, a rather 'convenient' stopping place. We were free to wander around for about 25 minutes and had an opportunity to sample more goodies.
Our next stop was the Burlington Arcade and Ladurée, producers of the iconic macaroons, who have had a presence in Paris since 1862. They weren't offering samples.
Laduree Macaroons - Picture Courtesy of their Website
It was a tough job, but some of us had to do it, so we continued our walk along Piccadilly and down to Old Bond Street to visit Charbonnel et Walker. The business dates back to 1875 and was founded by a Mme Charbonnel and a Mrs Walker, with the encouragement of Edward VII, who was then Prince of Wales. The royal patronage continues with Her Majesty the Queen's endorsement of the business and the granting of a Royal Warrant. The Queen has excellent taste and I actually realised that I like violet creams after all.
Outside Charbonnel et Walker
The tour wound up on Oxford Street, where we entered Selfridges and were offered more samples by Godiva, and where I took this photograph of our guide, Ferry.
Ferry by Godiva Chocolates in Selfridges
You could probably do this tour on your own, but you wouldn't have the expertise of Ferry to fill you in on the historical facts and information that he so helpfully supplied, and I don't think you would be able to taste so many different chocolate delicacies without having to buy anything. Of course we all treated ourselves along the way. We're only human and chocolate addicts after all.