London boasts more than its fair share of historic department stores, real city stalwarts which have been serving the varying needs of London shoppers for centuries. From decadent riches at Fortnum & Mason and posh silks at Liberty, to the mod cons of Sel
Under the spotlight: Fortnum & Mason.
FAVOURED BY THE ENTIRE ROYAL FAMILY - especially HRH The Queen - and celebrating over 300 years business in London, Fortnum and Mason is one of the most special and unique department stores in the capital. With its distinctive eau de nil woodwork and its enviable location on Piccadilly, it has always been an emblem of good taste and beautiful things - if you are ever gifted a food hamper, replete with a wicker basket and the iconic F&M letters emblazoned in black on the front, you’ll know you have arrived.
Fortnum & Mason stands for British quality, and has done since it opened its doors in 1707. Started by Hugh Mason, who had a small store in St James Market, and William Fortnum, a high-class builder, whose family was responsible for reinvigorating Mayfair in the wake of the Great Fire, the store has celebrated its royal connections since its inception. Fortnum, a footman in Queen Anne’s household, had the idea of selling Queen Anne’s half-used candle wax at a profit in Mason’s store, an enterprising idea which paved the way for the beginning of a long-standing and respectable business. In the three centuries that followed Fortnum’s has been known for such landmark moments as inventing the Scotch Egg (designed to be a handy snack for travellers leaving London); becoming a post-office, a service which ran in-store from 1794 to 1839, when the General Post Office was founded; becoming regular suppliers to both royalty and soldiers, including during the Crimean War and WW1; installing plate glass windows, lit by gas in 1840, one of the first buildings in the country to do this; introducing Heinz Baked Beans to Britain in 1886; sending hampers to some of the suffragettes imprisoned
for breaking its windows in 1911; providing the provisions for the first ever British Everest expedition in 1922; and adding its now striking clock, with bells from the same foundry as Big Ben, to its red-brick frontage in 1964.
Today, highlights of the store’s pioneering approach include its rooftop beehives, painted in Fortnum’s distinctive eau de nil, almost twice the height of a normal beehive, each with a distinct triumphal arch entrance and copper-clad pagoda roofs, and situated on the top of the shop, as well at St Pancras Station and Somerset House. Honey produced by the bees in the hives is harvested and sold in an annual honey auction. In 2012, Fortnum’s unveiled its Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, opened by Her Majesty, The Queen in honour of her incredible 60 years on the throne. Elegant and refined, this beautiful space hosts the store’s renowned afternoon tea, a British treat not to be missed. In March, the store launched a brand new range of Infusions, 12 different flavours which take their inspiration from Fortnum’s famous flavours such as Rose & Violet, a nod to the beloved handmade chocolates, and Camomile and Bee Pollen, paying homage to those bees. Fortnum’s picnic hampers, which have been a celebrated staple of store for over a century, are a hero product for every summer season. The iconic wickers contain all the items you need for luxury al-fresco dining - bone china plates and mugs, stainless steel cutlery, wine glasses, flasks, salt and pepper mills and, of course, a bottle opener. Picnic rugs, napkins and even a tablecloth are also included. For the feast itself, each summer sees a new range of fresh items from lobster and smoked salmon to pork pies cold salads and fruity desserts.
Don’t miss a chance to purchase Fortnum’s Cook Book, obviously famed for its innovation in food and drink, three centuries of Fortnum’s most-delicious secrets are available for all to try. The book, written by self-confessed Fortnum’s devotee, Tom ParkerB-owles, includes recipes for classics such as Welsh Rarebit and Victoria Sponge, as well as new favourites such as avocado with toasted sourdough bread and Bloody Mary sauce.
For Fortnum’s, creating a sense of pleasure in the everyday is key – and this runs through everything the store does, from elevating a cup of tea with a delicious blend, to creating special hampers for travellers, sold from their special Terminal 5 concession at Heathrow. But it is the Piccadilly store where you really get the best sense of history and quality. There are only two main entrances to the store - the Piccadilly entrance tends to be the busier, as visitors congregate to take pictures of the famous windows before entering the store, so head for the quieter Duke Street entrance, which has a friendly doorman on duty to welcome shoppers throughout the day. There are lifts located next to this entrance too, enabling you to access the higher floors easily. To make sure you don’t miss anything, start at the bottom, and work upwards. As you would expect from a store that specialises in food and luxury dining items, each floor has a focus on food and a unique eatery option too. The Lower Ground Floor Food Hall offers everything from caviar to those famous Scotch eggs, and even simple day-to-day items, such as pints of milk and loaves of bread. Don’t miss the intimate Wine Bar, nestled within the Food Hall too, a quiet and exclusive place for a glass of something cold. Upstairs, the Ground Floor houses a huge selection of teas - 168 varieties to be exact - with rare and classic blends available to taste before purchase using Steampunks – the most modern technology available in tea-tasting. Up again, and The Parlour on the first floor is a truly decadent ice cream experience, with artisan coffee, sandwiches and much-loved ice cream classics and innovative, and exclusive, new flavours. Further up, and on the third floor you’ll find Fortnum & Mason’s Gentlemen’s Floor - now home to The 3’6, an intimate and stylish cocktail bar, where guests can enjoy exceptional food and a memorable cocktail menu. Taking its name from the cost in old money, per head, of having Fortnum’s deliver a cocktail party in your home – and situated in the same 3rd floor location where customers once placed such requests – the 3’6 Bar combines the iconic Piccadilly store’s signature style with a relaxed and refined home-from-home atmosphere. The Gentlemen’s Floor is also home to a dedicated in-house barber. Finish your visit by heading to their homewares department, and indulging in their expertly curated selection of tea sets – complete with vintage teapots and silverware, as well as their branded items and Burleigh collaborations. A perfect way to create the Fortnum’s particular brand of style and aplomb at home.
Pictured left page: Fortnum & Mason Piccadilly. This page top-bottom: Queen Elizabeth II, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge visit Fortnum and Mason, Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon and Fortnum & Mason hampers and food display.
Pictured above: Historic Boardroom above the shop. Below left-right; Fortnum & Mason Piccadilly crest and their ground floor interiors.