Last week I celebrated my birthday in London. I was meant to be traveling home on my actual birthday so the festivities started a day early with afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason. I was looking for something special, whimsical and still quintessentially British. Fortnum’s fit the bill perfectly– a London classic since 1707 and one of the oldest stores in Piccadilly.
I like to think of Fortnum’s as the most upscale little department store, specializing in mostly food. The bottom floor food halls are filled with exquisitely wrapped gastronomic delights, endless supplies of tea and beautifully filled hampers. While Fortnum’s is famed for its food, other floors are stocked with a range of well curated accessories, perfumes, homeware, and other bits and bobs. The top floor, my most favorite, houses the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
After Harry and I did a bit of snooping downstairs, we joined Sylvia and Harry’s sister Rose (The Londoner) on the top floor for an afternoon of decadence. We indulged on a variety of dainty tea sandwiches, desserts, champagne, and well of course tea!
I clearly couldn’t hide my excitement when the plates of food arrived! We began nibbling on the first round of tea sandwiches: cucumber with cream cheese, coronation chicken (curry chicken), rare roast beef with gherkin and caper dressing, Fortnum’s smoked salmon with lemon dill butter, and rare breed hen egg with mustard cress.
After lots of bubbly, our tea arrived. Russian Caravan, Darjeeling, Lapsang and Orange Valley were poured and we passed our tea cups around the table, sampling each one. The tea selection was overwhelming, with its own special menu the size of a small book, neatly organized and quite comprehensive. Being the indecisive person that I am known to be when ordering, decision making proved quite difficult.
The most thoughtful of pressies were opened and food coma commenced.
Try as we might, we couldn’t finish the scones and cake, so in true American fashion I asked for doggy bags to go. Birthday cake for breakfast, what could be better?
Our doggy bags were fancy shamncy and ceremoniously arrived in a Fortnum’s bag, stamped with approval by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and H.R.H. Prince of Wales. While I like to think the Queen approved of our doggy bags, the royal coat of arms on the bag is actually a royal warrants of appointment which has been issued for centuries to tradespeople who supply goods or services to a royal court. The royal warrant enables the supplier, in this case Fortnum & Mason, to advertise the fact that they supply to the issuer of the royal warrant, giving the supplier prestige. Warrants granted by members of the British royal family usually state “By Appointment to…” followed by the title and name of the royal customer, and then what goods are provided.
With Fortnum & Mason still the purveyor of food and wine to the Royal Family, it isn’t surprising you feel as though Cinderella would shop here!
I would highly recommend giving F&M afternoon tea a go for a special occasion or your next trip to London.
To make reservations for Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, book here. Even if you’re not a foodie type or afternoon tea lover, Fortnum is still worth a visit just to marvel at the decor, marble pillars, chandeliers and impressive packaging. A perfect place to pick up delicacies to bring back home with you… although you may just never want to open the beautiful packaging!