I'll be in London next month and I like to explore chocolate shops, both for myself and to bring back as a gifts. Any suggestions on particularly good ones? I especially like dark filled chocolates with intense fillings, such as Richart and La Maison du Chocolat in France. I'm also interested in bars with a high percentage of cocoa solids--80% and over.
Just wanted to thank you for all the suggestions. I had a great trip and I made it to William Curley and Roccoco. I couldn't find Cocomaya :( And I ened up succumbing to La Maison du Chocolat in Harrod's. What could do I do after he gave me one while I looked around? They really do have an amazing texture. I though about Prestat but I think it's too sweet for my giftees. Nice packaging, though.
Anyway, I was most impressed with Curley. I loved the herbal combinations--basil, oregano? I almost came to blows with my mother over the salt caramels. Roccoco was a tad sweet though the boozy ones were particularly good: Gin and Lemon, malt whiskey. The violet and rose creams, however, are one of the nastiest things I've tried in ages. Like candy left in a potpourri dish. Shudder.
In terms of bars, my recipient loved the bar from Curley. I can get Arriba and he's had that. He's had just about every kind I can find in Michigan. For Xmas he got something like 25 different bars at 70 percent and higher! At least he's easy to shop for :)
For a shop to explore Melt at 59 Ledbury Road Notting Hill is a really beautiful shop with all the chocolates laid out in the open so you can reallly inhale that chocolate scented air. They don't do "trendy" combinations like chilli chocolate but stick to good quality chocolates and fillings.
My current favourite is Cocomaya, on Connaught Street near Paddington. Exquisite tempering, bright flavours, gorgeous looking.
For something more restrained, but elegant nevertheless, try William Curley, which is my second choice - they have a branch near Green Park.
Have some old posts on both, you should be able to find them with a search.
I still go to La Maison du Chocholat for their textbook champagne truffles, they have a branch near Picadilly Sq and a stand at the Harrods food hall.
Also totally worth checking out is the stuff from Pierre Marcolini (an awesome Belgian chocholatier, my world wide favourite). Go to Verde & Co. at Spitalfields Market, they distribute Pierre Marcolini here. There is a limited selection of their chocolates with fillings but they're superb. Be sure to get their 85% Fleur de Cacao, a blend of several varieties of beans from all over the world.
If you can't easily get Arriba Plantations where you're from, the Whole Foods on Kensington High Street stocks them. Go for the 90% bar that is a blend of Forestaro and the hard-to-find Arriba Nacionale beans. It's from Ecuador. Do note that these chocs made from Forestaro beans tend to be less fruity but the right ones (such as those from Arriba Plantations) can give off a deep complex woodsy flavour. Not as generally popular as chocolates made from Criollo beans and their sub-varietals that have more vibrant, gorgeous fruit. But I generally like great Forestaro chocs (or blends) more.
I'm not a a huge fan of L'Artisan du Chocolat (I think of them as good not great after having tried about a dozen different pieces a couple of months ago). They're about the same price as William Curley and Cocomaya but they have a stall at the Borough Market that sells bags of random loose pieces for £2, which is great value.