BY ROYAL AP­POINT­MENT

Rob Dun­lop fol­lows in the foot­steps of their high­nesses for a gilt-edged Lon­don shop­ping spree

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

THE Queen’s gro­cer, Fort­num & Ma­son, has just turned 300. It has been serv­ing the royal fam­ily for al­most 150 years. Al­though that his­tory is hardly a se­cret, de­tails of ex­actly what tan­ta­lises the Queen’s taste­buds are less well known.

Hold­ers of royal war­rants — of­fi­cial sup­pli­ers to the royal fam­ily — must keep tight-lipped about the ex­act goods and ser­vices pro­vided. Oth­er­wise they for­feit the pres­tige of be­ing able to dis­play royal in­signia on build­ings, pack­ag­ing and sta­tionery.

Royal war­rants are is­sued by three mem­bers of the royal fam­ily — the Queen, the Duke of Ed­in­burgh and the Prince of Wales — for recog­ni­tion of qual­ity goods and ser­vices that tickle their fancy.

But it’s not about free­bies; money changes hands in a strict com­mer­cial ar­range­ment be­tween the par­ties. There are about 1000 hold­ers of royal war­rants to­day; here are six of Lon­don’s tasti­est.

Fort­num & Ma­son

Prince Charles and the Queen par­take of the good­ies in this posh gro­cery store in Pic­cadilly, which has cel­e­brated its ter­cente­nary with a $55 mil­lion facelift. Fa­mous for its ex­trav­a­gant pic­nic ham­pers, sought af­ter by high-end cus­tomers since the Vic­to­rian era, it’s more than a gro­cery store. On the up­per floors you can even buy an um­brella and other ac­ces­sories that might make a day out at As­cot more com­fort­able.

Word is that this is the roy­als’ favourite food hall, so head to its wine bar, 1707, for a plate of smoked wild salmon with a glass of Aus­tralia’s Mer­ricks Creek Pinot Noir 2004. While there, ponder the beau­ti­fully ar­ranged foods, guess­ing which ones might tempt the royal cus­tomers. Where: 181 Pic­cadilly, West­min­ster. Open: Mon­day-Satur­day, 10am-8pm, Sun­day, noon-6pm; www.fort­nu­mand­ma­son.com.

Pax­ton & Whit­field

This cheese­mon­ger evolved from a stall op­er­at­ing at Ald­wych Mar­ket in 1742. Queen Vic­to­ria was the first long-term royal cus­tomer and to­day the Queen and Prince Charles in­dulge in its sump­tu­ous ar­ti­san cheeses. Spe­cial­is­ing in the best prod­ucts from Eng­land and con­ti­nen­tal Europe, the gor­geous of­fer­ings in­clude Tun­worth, a rich, creamy, white cheese with a nutty flavour from a small farm in Hamp­shire, and the flo­ral-toned Machecoulais from the Vendee re­gion of west­ern France.

Buy some or­ganic chest­nut crack­ers with your cheese choices and head to a nearby royal play­ground, St James’s Park or Green Park, for an in­dul­gent treat. Where: 93 Jermyn St, West­min­ster. Open: Mon­day-Satur­day, 9.30am-6pm; www.pax­to­nand­whit­field.co.uk.

Berry Bros & Rudd

This is Bri­tain’s old­est wine and spirit mer­chant; it set up shop out­side St James’s Palace in 1698, which is where king Ge­orge III dis­cov­ered the shop when he was in res­i­dence in 1760. To­day, the Queen and Prince Charles con­tinue the tra­di­tion.

Re­mark­ably, 10 gen­er­a­tions on, the shop is still fam­ily-owned. Step­ping into this wine em­po­rium is like en­ter­ing a mu­seum. The vaulted Ge­or­gian cel­lars hold about 20,000 bot­tles of wine, with prices from $10 to $50,000. The most pop­u­lar is the Good Or­di­nary Claret at $12 a pop.

You can also pick up a bot­tle of King’s Ginger Liqueur ($35), which was spe­cially cre­ated for Ed­ward VII.

Berry Bros & Rudd has been called the best wine shop in the world, and could quite pos­si­bly be the old­est. Where: 3 St James’s St, West­min­ster. Open: Mon­day-Fri­day, 10am-6pm, Satur­day, 10am-5pm; www.bbr.com.

Char­bon­nel et Walker

This cho­co­latier has been mak­ing de­lec­ta­ble treats by hand since 1875. The temp­ta­tions dis­played in the his­toric shopfront are too beau­ti­ful to re­sist and in­clude truf­fles, choco­late bars, coated nuts, drink­ing choco­late, sauces and more.

Vi­o­let and rose cream fon­dants are in­fused with es­sen­tial oils of rose and vi­o­let and gar­nished with crys­tallised petals; pink cham­pagne truf­fles of­fer a yummy pair­ing of wild

Posh nosh: Food fit for a queen at Fort­num & Ma­son in Pic­cadilly, main pic­ture; Pax­ton & Whit­field sup­plies the roy­als with fine Bri­tish and con­ti­nen­tal cheeses straw­ber­ries and marc de cham­pagne. Al­though the of­fer­ings are lush, the leg­end here sur­rounds the silky smooth plain choco­late made with the finest cou­ver­ture. But then there are the theatre treats, re­sem­bling lit­tle hat boxes. Avail­able in four sizes and filled to the brim with lux­ury hand­made choco­lates, this is mem­o­ra­bilia worth savour­ing.

Where: 1 The Royal Ar­cade, 28 Old Bond St, May­fair.

Open: Mon­day-Satur­day, www.char­bon­nel.co.uk.

Twin­ings

10am-6pm;

Queen Vic­to­ria be­gan the af­fair with this com­pany dur­ing the 1830s, when tea drink­ing was at the height of fash­ion. Ev­ery monarch since has con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion. Dur­ing the same pe­riod, the then Bri­tish prime min­is­ter, Earl Grey, re­ceived a dis­tinc­tively flavoured tea as a diplo­matic gift from abroad and com­mis­sioned the tea house to re-cre­ate it. Twin­ings de­liv­ered a blend in­fused with the aro­matic peel of the berg­amot orange, and so the de­li­cious Earl Grey tea was born.

The shop, with its grand en­trance, is one of the old­est in West­min­ster, in op­er­a­tion since 1717. It stocks a wide variety of teas and col­lecta­bles such as cups and teapots, and teatime ac­com­pa­ni­ments such as bis­cuits, cakes and choco­lates. A small mu­seum show­cases the his­tory and flavours of tea. Where: 216 The Strand, West­min­ster. Open: Mon­day-Fri­day, 9.30am-4.30pm; www.twin­ings.co.uk.

Car­luc­cio’s Caffe Mar­ket Place

Guess what? Prince Charles is a truf­fles man. He also has strict sus­tain­able en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies to which his of­fi­cial sup­pli­ers must ad­here. And just to prove he’s not a fud­dy­duddy, the prince has em­braced a very 21stcen­tury tra­di­tion: the celebrity chef-run food joint, namely Car­luc­cio’s.

This chain of Ital­ian food cafes and delis, owned by television food pre­sen­ter An­to­nio Car­luc­cio, serves de­li­cious au­then­tic Ital­ian cui­sine for break­fast, lunch and din­ner. The penne gi­a­r­diniera is a spiced-up dish of Pugliese penne with zuc­chini and deep-fried spinach balls, com­bined with chilli, parme­san and gar­lic.

But would the prince go for the sub­tle pun­gency of black sum­mer truf­fles or the sweet white choco­late truf­fles in a jar? Sorry, Car­luc­cio won’t re­veal. Where: 8 Mar­ket Place, West­min­ster. Open: Mon­day-Fri­day, 7.30am-11pm, Satur­day, 10am-11pm, Sun­day, 9am-10.30pm; www.car­luc­cios.com.

www.roy­al­war­rant.org

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