Sorry for the delay people, life has taken over and reduced my time to write. But the time spent on life hasn’t been wasted; culture has broadened, standards have been raised and I’ve become quite picky on where I eat – I think it comes with age.
So my next post needs no introduction, every Brit and tea lover should know the name Fortnum and Mason; renowned and revered as the upmarket tea selling label that no-one can afford. At least that’s what I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
You see, Fortnum and Mason is SO much more than just tea, they sell everything… needed for the perfect afternoon tea, or the most laudable British picnic, or to simply become a blue-blooded brit.
Though I am right about the upmarket part, being only minutes away from the Ritz and, in a nutshell, the Queen’s local corner shop, you’d be quite right to feel a bit out of place with a hoodie, ripped jeans and a tenner in your back pocket.
But don’t let that bring you down! Because what I love about F&M is that it’s the closest thing to London’s culinary museum, and the prices are not as frightening as you think. A box of 25 teabags may cost around a fiver, but remember that this is a world renowned brand, so I say bargain to that price. The same can be said for the jams (heaven’s nectar) and other little titbits dotted around the store, which in my opinion adds to the fun of exploring along with the sheer bedazzlement and majesty of all six floors – yes six floors – selling luxuries from perfumes to men’s clothing and homeware to hampers. They even have an awesome Christmas section that doesn’t look ludicrous in October, but does a very good job of evoking the Christmas spirit. I wish the prices would fluctuate as you ascend and descend the stairs (or lift), but alas, they don’t.
The restaurant was no exception either…
That last line wasn’t the foreboding of a turd meal by the way, but I will say this with authority and patent it: prices can change the pleasure of food. The first floor holds one of Fortnum and Mason’s main restaurants: The Gallery. It’s nicely laid out in the similar fashion to a hotel’s dining room, with simple wooden furnishings, fancy lighting and an expensive yet casual ambience. After careful scrutiny of the menu, I ordered a welsh rarebit (which I’d never had before), scones with strawberry jam preserve, butter and a pot of house favourite royal blend tea. La. Di. Da.
Meanwhile, dear Miss Windsor ordered the classic Scotch egg (which was born here FYI), scones with jam and butter, and a Smoky Earl Grey.
Now I loved my Welsh rarebit, it was Britain’s answer to Japanese umami, with the bold, punchy and fuelling flavours of cheese, mustard and Worcester sauce bolstered and oozing with egg and fruity tomato on sliced toast. It was like something kept pushing a big red button on my taste buds. Then came the scones with butter and jam, neatly presented and not looking like much of a meal size-wise. Never judge a book by its cover. Because the flavour in all three components were volumes too big to hold in its tiny compartments. The butter, looking more like vanilla ice-cream had a light and creamy perception, as if it were moments away from curdling in to fresh whipped cream. The scones were thick in texture, buttery and lightly sweetened to taste. And the jam was magical, if I make noises while scoffing ‘oh my gods’ through a masticating mouth, you know the flavour is lavish. I have NEVER had jam as good as this.
Don’t forget that I’m passing through this brunch-sized food haven while enjoying one of the most beautiful British teas I’ve ever had in my life. The Royal Blend is smoky when black, before ascending to a regal taste when crowned with milk and two golden teaspoons of sugar. Both forms were truly British cups of tea at its finest.
So all is perfection… until we come to the bill: £50. Ouch. Wow… suddenly I’m feeling a bit wrong paying £7.50 for two mini scones, a dollop of butter and a spit of jam. I know it’s a world class label, but there are starving families and homeless individuals on the pavements. Obviously we saw these prices on the menu and knew what we were letting ourselves in for. But you never truly reflect on what you eat until the bill arrives (especially with service charge), you weigh it up metaphorically between your tongue and your wallet, and then all of a sudden there’s an imbalance, an uncertainty, an hmmmmm as you reluctantly tap on the contactless machine. The quality was stellar, but was it really worth that much? Bit too far if you ask me.
You may have the same opinion with everything else this place offers, and you may sound as posh as how I’m sounding in this post when you leave (I swear I’m really not!), but if you love food, culture, shopping or simply exploring, then please do visit St James’ Fortnum and Mason. I’d choose this place over the National History Museum any day of the week.