If you’ve been invited to spend time with friends or family over Christmas and New Year, you’ll be the most welcome guest to the party if you turn up not just with chocolate, but with the most indulgent, luxurious, festive chocolates on offer.
Here’s our pick of the best luxury chocolate boxes for 2018.
Classic Chocolate Cabinet, 590g: £50, Hotel Chocolat
For quality of chocolate, variety of choice and flavours, eye-catching presentation and sheer indulgent joy, Hotel Chocolat is the pick of the bunch. A lavish array of delicious chocolates is presented in a luxurious 2-tiered box with a sliding compartment – a definite reusable option once the chocolates are gone.
Chocolates range from bite-sized nibbles to major mouthfuls, including a few mini chocolate slabs. The menu reads like a mini novel and our tasters were in particular ecstasy throughout. Meltingly delicious goodness.
Milk & Dark Chocolate Selection Box, 460g: £38.95, Fortnum & Mason
The elegant box with gold detailing will create a wow factor when you hand it over. And the wow factor continues when the box is opened to reveal a beautiful colour illustration inside the cover. The chocolates are encased in layers of luxury paper, presented in individual paper cases and tightly packed in.
Twenty-five varieties are on offer, an excellent choice for a box of this size. These are simple and elegant chocolates that don’t mix over-powering flavours, a good choice for a refined palette.
Rose & Violet Cremes, 245g: £19.50, Prestat
Luscious layers of wrapping paper revealed one of the prettiest presentations we’ve seen, attractive large dark chocolate squares alternately topped with dried rose and violet pieces. Strong on visuals, strong on floral fragrance, this one is a bit of a feast for the senses.
Dark chocolate casing gives way to an inner crispy shell, oozing rich cream filling, flavoured with violet and rose. There were groans of appreciation around the table. It’s a great chocolate hit and the floral notes bring something a little bit different.
Dancing Ballerina Milk Sea Salt Caramel Truffles, 245g: £27, Charbonnel & Walker
The ribbon unties to reveal the dancing fairies on the box, beautifully designed with gold detail on a deep green background – a keepsake box for a little girl to keep her treasures in.
The lid opened to an excited reception as the sugar-dusted truffle balls, nestled in paper cases, were revealed. The truffle features a crisp thick chocolate shell, encasing a creamy soft salted caramel, very sweet, very gooey, very rich and very, very tasty.
Christmas Tree, 70g: €14, Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse
A gift for a sophisticated chocolate lover, this is a grown-up gift from the stable of triple-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, renowned in particular for his restaurant at The Dorchester in London. He has also recently opened his first Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse store in London’s Kings Cross.
The hexagonal Christmas Tree comes in a choice of milk or rich dark chocolate for a true connoisseur, a sharp hit of chocolate satisfaction.
Friars Vegan Signature Chocolate Box, 400g: £24.99, Friars
This vegan selection is presented in a simple, classic box and there were sighs of approval all round when it was opened. These chocolates are beautifully crafted and promised fabulous flavours – like the Prosecco Truffle and deep red Strawberry Champagne – but unfortunately the flavours were not as strong as some of the others we tasted.
It all looks really good and there is certainly a limited choice on the market when it comes to vegan-friendly chocolate, but this perhaps offers more style than substance.
Christmas Chocolates Selection Box, 430g: £35, Rococo Chocolates
You know you’re dealing with a classy chocolate brand when the box presents you with a delicately illustrated menu. Each chocolate rests in its own compartment, another luxury detail in an eye-catching presentation.
These are chocolates of distinction, truffles and ganaches with punchy flavours and quality ingredients. Just as you’d expect from this multi-award-winning luxury chocolatier, which handmakes its chocolates in small batches in its London kitchen.
CHOCOLAT des MANDARINS® Esprit de Noël®, 120g: €17, Mariage Frères
An elegant collection, designed to impress – you definitely haven’t picked these off in a shelf in the petrol station at the last minute. A chocolate with a history, first presented in 1860 and a creation of Henri Mariage, Chocolat des Mandarins® is a ganache subtly flavoured with tea.
There were gasps of delight when the small but perfectly formed box was opened to reveal 16 perfect squares of smooth dark chocolate ganache, covered with a crisp layer of fine white chocolate and topped with delicate strands of black tea.
These chocolates have a wonderful scent and a seasonal twist, flavoured with festive spices, orange zest and vanilla; this is Christmas in an extremely elegant package and will win you lots of kudos.
Delicious Art Dusted Praline Truffles, 175g: £10, National Gallery
We love the presentation on this one, a range of neatly-sized boxes showcasing art treasures from The National Gallery’s collection, and the top slides off to reveal a gold box of truffles underneath.
Created by chocolatier Prestat for the gallery, these truffles are based on a 100-year-old recipe and crafted from a mixture of crushed roasted hazelnuts and sugar piped into a velvety milk chocolate shell and dusted in cocoa. They are creamy but not too sweet, with very pleasant light crunch.
Quite frankly, they are exceptionally tasty and very moreish.
M&S Artist's Collection, 272g: £15, Marks & Spencer
M&S always deliver the goods at Christmas and while this limited-edition Artist’s Collection box isn’t overflowing with chocolates, the colourful finish is certainly eye-catching. ‘A selection of hand finished chocolates with gourmet flavours’, say the brand – these include Morello cherry, Piedmont hazelnut and mango, lime and chilli.
They’re quite hard to extract from the box, however – a bit of subtle finger work was called for to detach them from their casing – but the flavours are nicely layered for a tasty mouthful and the quality, as you would expect from M&S, is very good.
Booja Booja The Wonderbox, 230g: £17.49, Ocado
Organic, dairy free, soya free and gluten free, the Booja Booja is certainly a bit of a wonderbox when it comes to ‘free from’ requirements. And while the initial presentation won’t blow you away – all chocolates are uniformly square and identical – it turns out that there are several flavour varieties to sample, you just follow the colour-coded menu card inside.
These were a complete revelation and one of the best chocolate boxes we tried, each flavour packed a hearty punch, with a creamy chocolate texture that isn’t too sweet.
The overall taste is very impressive given the lack of traditional ingredients, nobody will feel like they are stinting with this offering – in fact, it quite swayed the traditionalists in the review group over to the “other side”.
Cru Sauvage Truffles, 130g: £19.95, Bettys
This is one for the chocolate connoisseurs, bringing together rich Grand Cru chocolate from the Amazon with fine Swiss roasting techniques, all assembled at Betty’s Craft Bakery in Harrogate. Dusted in faintly bitter, rare wild cocoa from the Bolivian Amazon, it’s the perfect counterpoint to the richly luxurious smooth ganache centre inside.
The truffles have been shaped to resemble Mont Blanc, a fact the hosts can use to impress their guests. That and the fact that the Cambas – as the locals from this Amazon region of Bolivia are known – travel on foot, horseback and dugout canoes to track down these precious rare beans, known for their intense and unique flavour.
Christmas Gift Box, 230g: £28, Godiva
This very festive box certainly looks the part, in deep red with a gorgeous wreath design on the cover. Instead the Christmas theme continues in the chocolate selection, there are fir-tree-shaped chocolates decorated with ‘lights and baubles’, some sporting the word ‘Noel’ and a chic gold-wrapped lingot noisette.
The chocolate is rich and luscious, and flavours include the very sophisticated tarte pecan chocolat and the brand’s signature lait café, created in the 1940s for the film premiere of Gone With The Wind and hand decorated with a feature motif to resemble the feature in Scarlett O’Hara’s hat.
Personalised Ferrero Rocher Sweet Tree, 25cm x 10cm x 15cm: £29.99, Prezzy Box
One to take with you to the ambassador’s residence perhaps – or just to the home of a Ferrero Rocher lover. Another gift with a wow factor, the ‘tree-top’ is entirely edible, constructed of a chocolate ball and a selection of Ferrero Rochers, the glass pot it stands in can be personalised with the recipient’s name or a Happy Christmas message.
A wonderfully inventive gift that will create a fun centrepiece and you’ll be the guest with the most brownie points for the evening.
The Verdict: Best luxury chocolate boxes
For wow factor, presentation and taste, it has to be Hotel Chocolat’s Classic Chocolate Cabinet, it really doesn’t get any better than this for Christmas chocolate treats.
A very special mention goes to one of the 'non-chocolate' boxes on the chocolate list – which out-performed many of the more traditional offerings – the Booja Booja Wonderbox, for sheer mouth-meltingly wonderfulness.
And finally, for an elegant choice that offers something very different from the ordinary, we have to call attention to the rather wonderful Mariage Frères CHOCOLAT des MANDARINS® Esprit de Noël®.