For those in search of last-minute sweet treats for Christmas, Alexeeva & Jones is paradise found. At this Notting Hill boutique, Natalia Alexeeva-Jones and her husband, Gareth Jones, sell their own handmade chocolates alongside a lovingly curated selection of luxury artisan creations from France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and Britain.
Try the elegantly restrained own-brand truffles in sea-salt caramel or plain dark chocolate (£1.50 each, from £16 for a box). Or perhaps the Ganache Ingots (£1.50 each, from £16 for a box) by Michelin-starred pâtisserie chef Paul Wayne Gregory; they look like mini Jackson Pollocks, flavoured with passion fruit, raspberry, sea salt, coffee, dark rum and popping candy, which really does fizz and explode on the tongue.
Parisian Franck Daubos, famed for his roasted pralines and the sole supplier of chocolates to the George V Hotel, has created a Dark Single Origin Ecuadorean Ganache (£1.50 for one, from £16 for a box), a tiny, handmade block of chocolate that is sublimely simple and dangerously addictive. And his pretty, beribboned cellophane bags of Dark Lemon (£12.95 for 150g), Seville Orange (£12.95 for 150g) or Ginger Sticks (£12.95 for 150g) make gorgeous gifts.
The award-winning Sweet Salted Caramels by Centho (£1.50 each, from £16 for a box) from Belgium are meltingly delectable (no wonder people seek out the shop just for them), while its Hazelnut and Almond Pralines with Gingerbread Spices (£1.50 each, from £16 for a box) lift the notion of Christmas chocolates into a higher realm altogether – as do the Christmas Pudding chocolates (£1.50 each, from £16 for a box) by Paul Wayne Gregory.
Perhaps most divine of all, however, are Lauden’s Fruit Ganaches (£1.50 each, from £16 for a box); these beautifully etched and patterned oblongs of heaven come in indulgent flavours such as lychee and rose, or succulent yet refreshingly tart passion fruit.
Lots of the chocolates are available to buy online, but to luxuriate in a cup of smoky hot chocolate (£3.50), made with 70 per cent dark Cru Virunga cocoa, as you shop, you'll need to head to Portobello. Here you could just relinquish control altogether and go for a full tasting with champagne, before putting together the Christmas hamper.