There are few things in life that beat a good ol’ cup of tea, but a piping hot mug of creamy hot chocolate is one exception. Now that the winter chills have set in and eager Christmas shoppers have started to pound the pavements, an escape to a cosy little café for a steaming mug of chocolaty goodness is just what the doctor ordered.
Forget the diet – the festive season is the time for indulgence after all. And after a mug of cocoa from one of these haunts, you’ll feel all your cares start to melt away.
Nestled away behind House of Fraser on Central Road, this independent, family-run coffee shop is quite easy to miss, but that hasn’t stopped the kooky café from acquiring quite a reputation as a fabulous place to stop and grab a bite. The décor is shabby-chic and the exposed brickwork adds a certain rustic charm to the place.
There’s a range of four different hot chocolates to choose from; namely white, milk, dark and Madagascar, and each cup comes served on a wooden board with a large wooden stirring spoon. The flavours are rich and intense and the spoon certainly comes in handy for scooping up the delicious creamy froth. But be warned: you’ll have a hard time just sticking to a cup of cocoa when faced with an impressive counter of mouth-watering cakes and gooey chocolate brownies. Good luck getting past that lot and saying “no thanks”.
10 Central Road, LS1 6DE, 0113 2455515; website
Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch
If you’re looking to spice up your hot chocolate drinking experience, then Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch should be your port of call. The stylish contemporary restaurant is a true chocolate haven. Along with a cocoa-infused food menu, the restaurant serves up an impressive selection of hot chocolate flavourings that would make Willy Wonka feel proud.
Choices range from more unusual concoctions such as fiery chilli, white chocolate and jasmine, and salted caramel, to the classic milk chocolate. If you’re in need of a strong sugar hit then chocolate ‘shorts’ are on offer in a variety of flavours, or you could really mix things up and get merry with a rum chocolate. The frothy mugs of cocoa are more than satisfying alone, but you can add a squirt of whipped cream for that extra bit of luxury.
Roast + Conch Restaurant, 55 Boar Lane, LS1 5EL, 0113 2442 421; website.
Located opposite Leeds University and a popular student hangout, the delights of the café can also be enjoyed in the more sophisticated surroundings of the Victoria Quarter, or at their newest premises on Stainbeck Lane in Chapel Allerton.
And while it may serve up a super cup of joe and truly scrumptious cakes, their hot chocolates are the perfect winter warmer. Made with organic milk, the cocoa is light and creamy and, when paired with their renowned homemade chocolate brownies, it makes for the ultimate indulgence. Of course, if you have an exceptional sweet tooth, the rich white hot chocolate is too good to pass up.
26 Blenheim Terrace, Opposite Leeds University, LS2 9HD, 0113 243 1321 / Victoria Quarter, Queen Victoria Street, Leeds, LS1 6AZ, 07818 433 082 / 4 Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton, LS7 3QY, 0113 266 2895; website.
La Bottega Milanese
While La Bottega Milanese may principally be an espresso bar, don’t be deterred from venturing inside as the café has more to offer than just cups of coffee. Located at the heart of The Light, the contemporary bar is open and inviting, and the selection of fresh pastries and cakes displayed on the counter make it hard to just pop in for a drink.
That said, the cafe’s self-proclaimed ‘legendary’ traditional Milanese hot chocolate is so satisfying that ordering a cake seems hardly necessary. Made with one hundred per cent cacao (along with a few other secret ingredients), this is the thickest, richest and creamiest hot chocolate you will ever taste. In fact it’s so thick you’d be better off eating it with a spoon, but the dense chocolate does make it perfect for dunking delicious Italian cantucci biscuits for the ultimate treat. It’s more like a meal than a drink. And that’s not a criticism.
Unit A11A, The Light, The Headrow, LS1 8TL; website.
Now here’s a café that really lives up to its name. Their deliciously velvety Belgian hot chocolate is, as the café’s moniker suggests, absolutely heavenly – and when topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream, mini marshmallows and a sprinkling of chocolate powder just for good measure, your cocoa cravings will be more than satisfied.
But if you need more of a sugar kick, the café has a tasty selection of cakes, pastries and mini Belgian chocolate treats to choose from. Well you know what they say, if you’re going to do something wrong, do it right.
Lands Lane, LS1 6LB, 0113 243 1270; website.
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