If you are in Paris in winter, it won’t be long before you are hit by a very strong craving for hot chocolate or le chocolat chaud. One of life’s simplest and greatest pleasures can be found in a cup as you wrap your fingers around it to ward off the winter chill and inhale the heady aroma of pure, dark chocolate. The hot chocolate in Paris bears no resemblance to the bland, instant blends you find elsewhere. It is rich and seductive and requires you to close your eyes for a brief moment to experience and acknowledge the true bliss contained in a single sip.
So where in Paris can you find that perfect cup? In one month I’ve done a fair bit of research in this matter (all for the common good, of course). While there are many places that are mediocre, it is far easier to find a cup of good hot chocolate in Paris than it is to find a decent cup of coffee. (Don’t get me started on that!) Here is a list of my favorites so far in ascending order of preference. (Winter is almost over, but with the grey skies and rainy weather, I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list soon.)
Le Loir dans la Théière
How can you not be charmed by a café whose name is dedicated to the dormouse that gets dunked in a teapot in Lewis Carroll’s fascinating ‘Alice in Wonderland’? If you get tired walking around the lively Marais neighborhood, step into this charming tea salon for a well-deserved break. The hot chocolate comes steaming in a copper kettle and you can enjoy it with one of the wonderfully home-style desserts that the café is famous for.
While the hot chocolate is very good, it will admittedly not take your breath away. What completes it is the relaxed vibe of the place with furniture that looks like it was picked up at a flea market and walls peppered with posters and announcements of local events.
There are no fussy desserts that look like miniature art pieces; instead, you’ll find comfort in plum clafoutis, chocolate-mascarpone tart or their mile-high lemon meringue tart. They also serve a good lunch as well as a very popular brunch on the weekend, which also means that you’ll be waiting in line outside the door. You might want to go late in the afternoon – have a chat with old friends or take a favorite book along – Alice in Wonderland maybe?
This place needs no introduction – it is a venerable institution in Paris and a pilgrimage here is as important as the one to go see the Eiffel. You’ll recognize the place easily not just by the banners hanging outside the door but also by the line that snakes down the sidewalk. Thankfully, the line moves along quickly and you are soon inside gaping at the swanky interiors and standing just a little bit straighter as you wait to be escorted to your table. Contrary to what I had imagined, the service is not starched and stuffy. (Our waiter, a grand old man in pristine black and white, cheerfully obliged as four girls handed him their cameras for a group shot, joking that nobody wanted his picture.)
The hot chocolate is served with flourish and accompanied by French whipped cream (which I could eat by itself). It is rich and luxurious, much like the place, and some of my friends voted it as the best hot chocolate they’ve had. And while it was indeed excellent, frankly, it was a little too much for me – after a few sips, I felt like I was drinking ganache straight up and I couldn’t finish my cup. (My friend sneaked the remaining portions into her water bottle – she got me a ‘doggy bottle’ from Angelina! And I love her for it!) We also had a round of desserts (that and the huge lunch we had previously might have had something to do with not draining our cups of every last drop), but the pastries were a hit-and-miss. The ‘Tartelette Eva’ (dark chocolate and raspberry ganache) and ‘Carla’ (candied chestnut mousse, blueberry jelly) were excellent, but the puff pastry in their classic Millefeuille tasted stale and the signature Mont Blanc (meringue, chestnut puree) failed to live up to its reputation.
So should you go? Absolutely! It is the complete experience at Angelina that makes it what it is – the history, the ceremony, and of course, the hot chocolate.
I might have a slight bias towards this cozy café located on a pretty cobbled street just off the river Seine, because it was my first in Paris, but take a look at that brilliant blue facade and tell me that you could resist stepping in. I couldn’t and it was love at first sight. Cozy interiors, blue vases on window sills, cushioned benches, windows that look out to ivy-covered stone buildings and my personal favorite hot chocolate in Paris so far – what’s not to love? (I went back with some friends for the sole reason of corroborating my research, of course, and they were immediately won over too.)
The hot chocolate comes in a big bowl – and it is literally that – hot chocolate. To this you add milk as per your preference – so you can make it as rich as you want. Their desserts are made in-house and the lunch menu looks promising, even though I haven’t tried it. (I did steal glances at what others were eating and it looked good.) The café has a casual vibe (I prefer the upstairs) and summer promises tables out on the pretty cobblestones. I can’t wait!
Le Loir dans la Théière
3 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris (Map)
01 42 72 90 61
6 Rue des Barres, 75004 Paris (Map)
01 42 71 09 69
Metro: Saint-Paul/Hôtel de Ville