Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly, W1
Our Rating Transportation Tube: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus Phone 020/7734-8040 Web site Fortnum & Mason
So venerable is this vendor, which began life in 1707 as the candle maker to Queen Anne, that in 1922 archaeologist Howard Carter used empty F&M boxes to tote home the treasures of King Tut’s tomb. The quintessentially British, modestly sized department store, which has a focus on gourmet foods, is renowned for its glamorous food hampers, which were first distributed in the days before World War I, when soldiers’ families were responsible for feeding their men on the field. Picnic sets now come with bone china and can cost £300, but you can also pack your own. For the full experience, which will leave your family with no inheritance, head to the first floor to peruse its famous wicker hampers, which you can then fill with goodies from the ground-floor Food Hall and have shipped. Select from a cornucopia of such tongue-teasing triumphs as jarred black truffles and fresh Blue Stilton cheese in ceramic pots. In addition to a huge selection of tea packaged in distinctive canisters (so much tea), F&M makes its own “parlour ice” (ice creams), “royal game pie” (loafs of seasonal game meats layered with cheese), and something called Rubies in the Rubble (chutney made from fruits obtained in London’s markets). Content yourself, as most do, with a wander through the carpeted upper-floor departments, which are lit by chandelier, serenaded by classical music, and illuminated by a lotuslike atrium skylight. The fragrance department smells like a rose garden. High tea can be taken in the Tea Salon, since 1926 among the city’s most sumptuous (reservations [tel] 020/7734-8040), while lunching ladies can be found in the excellent corner brasserie called 45 Jermyn St., which just replaced the Fountain Restaurant after its 6-decade run. When the clock strikes the hour over the store’s Piccadilly entrance, two modern mechanical representations of Mr. Fortnum and Mr. Mason emerge, bow to each other approvingly, and return to business inside.
Map181 Piccadilly, W1 London
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