Fortnum’s is an unusual mix of grocery/department store and tourist attraction.
Situated just off the tourist
nightmare attraction of Picadilly Circus, in the frightfully posh area near Jermyn Street, an area which “dates back to 1664 when Charles II authorised Henry Jermyn, the Earl of St Albans, to develop an area close to St James’ Palace. It holds a worldwide reputation for high quality British artistry and craftsmanship.”
As a part of this area enhancement to supply the Palace, Fortnum’s was developed as a grocery store in 1707 by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason. It’s beautiful.
Plush red carpeting, trademark duck-egg blue packaging, russet wicker, gleaming silver accents and white feature points, just the building itself is a delight to wander.
It stocks pretty well everything you can imagine over it’s 6 floors. From the fresh food sections on the ground and ‘lower ground’ floor (because it’s clearly too posh to have a basement) with cheese, charcuterie and gorgeously gleaming patisserie all the way to the third floor Gentlemen’s grooming section and fourth floor tea tasting area.
For three centuries Fortnum’s has been committed to bringing the world’s best food to Piccadilly – often from continents away. Fresh food, though, has always come from as close to these Isles as possible. Respecting this hemisphere’s seasons has always seemed obvious to us: we’ve never really wavered from the path.
We take extraordinary care over the origins of everything we sell. Every sprout, lobster, truckle and rib comes direct from suppliers we know intimately rather than from markets. If we’re not to uphold our own standards, who is?
They should really add in ‘and we make bloody lovely tea and sticky toffee pudding’.
The English eat beans with everything. On Toast, in sandwiches, on their breakfast for dinner with Shepherds Pie, in their KFC sides – I think you’re beginning to get the idea. Well, in the process of doing a wee bit of research for this post, I discovered they claim to be the first store in Britain to stock tins of baked beans in 1886, after having bought the entire stock of five cases of a new product made by H.J. Heinz. You can still buy them there today.
You can also buy scorpion lollipops and ants in covered in Chocolate.
If you have a spare couple of hours and fancy a wander around somewhere that is the height of luxury, I highly recommend it. It can get busy with tourists but some of the items they have are just SO fascinating. Their tea makes a pretty awesome travelling/Christmas hamper gift and goods can be a little spenny – they are the grocers to the Queen you know – but it’s well worth a look. And their staff are super knowledgeable, I love asking them random questions.
In all honesty, living in the London does tend to look like this, as us plebs generally have to get most of our grocery items from one of the big four supermarkets, hard to get items from somewhere like Wholefoods and the occasional luxury item from Fortnum’s, but it’s certainly fun to go for afternoon tea as a treat.
Did you know they sell New Zealand Rainforest Honeycomb? Did you also know that New Zealand has a rainforest? I certainly didn’t (bad Kiwi I know!)
I’m getting excited for Christmas as Fortnum’s always have the most exquisite window displays (check out parts of 2012’s Dick Whittington display).
Have you been?