23 August 2015

Fortnum & Mason

Image from Fortnum & Mason

If Tiffany & Co. was a department store, Fortnum and Mason would be it! For starters, their mint green colour resembles the luxurious atmosphere of Tiffany. It is not all shiny and bright like the Selfridges, nor old school glamorous like the Harrods. What it offers, is a special characteristic of classical Britishness. They supply traditional British products since 1707. It is perhaps the oldest department store in the UK!
(Harrods was founded in 1834 and Selfridges in 1908.)

Image from Blogs de Voyage

First floor consists of teas, biscuits, and sweets. A supermarket is in the basement with premier dairy and produce. Higher floors carry high end clothing, jewelry, and beauty products. You might wonder, it sounds like any generic luxurious shops, what sets it apart from the others? The answer is its home and pottery section! Fortnum and Mason has a range of its own home/kitchenware and picnic hampers. If you are not familiar with picnic hampers, well it is exactly as it sounds! A picnic basket with food, drinks, and sometimes glasses, mugs, plates, and flatware. 

If you don't know why picnic hampers have such a huge significance in the British life, take a look at The Crown by Netflix season 2 episode 9. In the series, little Charles was visited by his Uncle Dickie (Lord Mountbatten) with a Fortnum and Mason hamper while he was away in Scotland for school. I think we can all agree that nothing is more British then the British royal family. It is a brand acknowledge by the royalty and fellow Britons. There is a even a reference by Charles Dickens: 

"Look where I will.... I see Fortnum & Mason. All the hampers fly wide open and the green downs burst into a blossom of lobster salad!"

I'm especially fond of the decorated biscuits they have, and of course their selection of hats and fascinators. Even the gentlemen who work there up their dressing game! I was amazed when I saw one of them wearing a tail suit. You don't see people wearing those everywhere these days.

Definitely give Fortnum and Mason a visit if you want to see a classic department store established in 1707. It may not have all the "it" brands, but it sure is worth a glimpse. If you don't have time to visit the main Piccadilly shop, which provides bespoke services like afternoon tea, restaurants, private dining, and concierge, they also have smaller stores in St Pancras Station and Heathrow Terminal 5 where you can have a quick look. 

If you're interested in its history, you can find it at Fortnum's History. It has some really interesting facts that I didn't know of when I visited. Scotch eggs (hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage and fried) was apparently invented by them in 1738! Who knew! Silly me have always thought it was a traditional nibble from Scotland.