A heady combination of bespoke chocolatiers, grand hotels and the new
Sam Mendes musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory make London irresistible for five star families.
WORDS Sheriden Rhodes
’m licking freshly tempered chocolate off a tasting spoon at luxury chocolatier Roast and Conch in London’s West End – the only place in the UK capital that makes chocolate from the bean. I’ve also just tasted my first ever cocoa shot – that’s espresso made from cocoa beans for the uninitiated. It’s the first stop of a decadent tour exploring London’s bespoke chocolate side. Jennifer Earle, a food scientist by day and self-confessed chocoholic, teaches chocolate lovers as young as five how to taste and appreciate quality chocolate as part of her Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. I mean, who knew you needed a lesson?
With its luxurious five star hotels that throw out the welcome mat for families, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, red double decker buses, world-class museums and more, London has always been a popular destination for five star families. But throw a liberal dose of chocolate into the equation – the new Sam Mendes production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the chance to sample incredible truffles, delectable chocolate and sublime hot chocolate concocted by some of the UK’s best chocolatiers – and you’ve got yet another good reason to go.
Earlier this year, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical’, opened at London’s Theatre Royal, directed by Academy Award-winning film and theatre director Sam Mendes. The story follows a poor young boy, Charlie Bucket, who gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the famous and magical Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
Lead image: Choc Ecstacy Tours
Above: Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka for Charlie and
the Chocolate Factory - The Musical
A sure fire way to get families in the mood for this magical musical is by taking one of the aforementioned Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. You'll not only get to sample some of London's best chocolate, but learn about the history of the cocoa bean and chocolates' place in London's own history. While Britain isn't the first country that springs to mind when you think of premium chocolate given Belgium and Switzerland receive all the press, the first ever chocolate bar was actually produced in Bristol, Earles tells us. The UK's bustling, historic capital meanwhile is home to Paul A. Young (his award-winning sea-salted caramels are a revelation); one of Britain's earliest chocolatiers Charbonnel et Walker, founded in 1875 after encouragement by Edward VII; and Prestat, the second oldest chocolate shop in London particularly famous for its truffles - one of which, the Napolean Truffle, is still made to the same recipe devised by Napolean's own chef.
We visit this iconic British institution to taste for ourselves the magnificent truffles that have travelled the world aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. Prestat has held a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty The Queen for some 35 plus years and their boxes still adorn her staterooms. They were also a favourite of Roald Dahl - the author of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. Dahl mentions Prestat in his novel, 'My Uncle Oswald', and was a huge fan of the colourful Piccadilly store which exudes a certain Wonka-like feel.
From there we visit Fortnum and Mason's fabulous ground floor Food Hall with shelves lined temptingly with first-class chocolate brands such as Valrhona and Amedei. Fortnum's also features the Ultimate Chocolate Counter with its Marc de Champagne Truffles, golden-coated Salted Caramels and rich Rose and Violet Creams. The Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge all popped into the historic department store, which boasts three centuries of royal service, for a morning tea to celebrate the jubilee last year.
Speaking of tea, another hedonistic experience for chocolate loving families is Camellia's Tea House, tucked away on the third floor of Kingly Court in trendy Carnaby St. Here you can actually try chocolate tea, a blend of Chinese and Ceylon black tea blended with dried cocoa and chocolate chips producing a traditional black tea flavour with a hint of chocolate undertones. We sip on this surprisingly refreshing drink with a selection of delicate sandwiches, cakes and other artisan bites served on a three-tiered stand in the gorgeous teahouse surrounds.
Top: Stage shot from Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory - The Musical
Below: Stunning exterior of the Langham London
Far above: The Family Room at the Langham London
Above: Girls at the Grosvenor House Apartments
From there it’s a short stroll back to the Langham, London – an ideal base for five star families – looking fresh from an £80 million restoration which has recaptured its grand past and quintessential English feel. Regarded as Europe’s first Grand Hotel, this historic property offers one of London’s best afternoon teas (served for more than 140 years) in the luxurious heart of the hotel, Palm Court.
Young guests meanwhile are made to feel welcome with family packages offering the option of shopping at the UK’s most famous toy store, Hamleys, or a day out at the fascinating London Zoo in Regent’s Park, both a short stroll away. Kids are spoiled with mini slippers and bathrobes, a dedicated kids’ menu and a wonderful pool to swim in.
Another property just perfect for families is the Grosvenor House Apartments. Residents of all ages are welcome and the apartments go from studios right up to five bedroom penthouses, perfect for those extra-large groups. Kids are kept busy with Busy Bee entertainment packs featuring toys and puzzles. The property is located on Park Lane, so it’s perfectly situated near all the capital’s sights, especially the West End and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, which is just a hop, skip and a jump away.
FIVE STAR TIPS
Other top chocolatiers in London
- Rococo Chocolates, Motcomb Street, Belgravia
Artisan du Chocolat, Lower Sloan Street, Chelsea
- William Curley, Ebury Street, Orange Square, Belgravia
- Demarquette, Fulham Road, Chelsea
- La Maison d u Chocolat, Piccadilly, Mayfair
Click here for our:
Fly: Virgin Atlantic www.virginatlantic.com.au Stay: The Langham London www.london.langhamhotels.co.uk
• Grosvenor House Apartments www.jumeirah.com/resorts
Play: Chocolate Ecstasy Tours www.chocolateecstasytours.com • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The Musical www.charlieandthechocolatefactory.com • Camellia's Tea House www.camelliasteahouse.com