London’s Fortnum and Mason, a decadent department store with a 300 year old history
I don’t feel the least bit frivolous browsing the biscuits, jams, candies, honey, tea and assorted sundries in the grand ground floor food hall in Fortnum and Mason’s Picadilly store.
Shopping for souvenirs at Fortnum & Mason (known by locals as “Fortnum’s”) has many of the same cultural benefits of going to a museum– after all, we go to museums to learn about history and culture and to look at interesting and beautiful things. Fortnum’s has all of those things– but unlike a museum which only documents the past, at Fortnum’s history is alive in the walls of the store.
- Fortnum’s has helped buoy British morale during war-time by sending over provisions like honey, jams, spices and dried fruits.
- Fortnum’s has the illustrious distinction of having introduced the first can of baked beans to the formerly bean-deprived public.
- Fortnum’s tinned goods are found to be ideal for soldiers serving in the trenches, as they deter even the most gourmand rat.
- Fortnums has an entire department dedicated to “expeditions.” No climber in the 1922 Everest expedition dared attempt an ascent without first tucking into the 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne sent over by Fortnum’s.
What is souvenir shopping in this “living museum” like? The experience begins even before you enter the store.
Who knew this clock itself was a tourist attraction? I never realized this before, but on the hour “Messrs Fortnum and Mason themselves appear to check that standards are being upkept” by greeting each other with a bow.
Get ready for sensory overload. The candy department resembles an adult version of the Willie Wonka factory.
I’ve never cooked game before but I wouldn’t mind having this game relish in the cupboard. I can imagine as a guest comes over “Oh you’re looking for the jam? Check in the left hand cupboard behind the game relish.”
Fortnum and Mason jams come in all sort of off the wall flavors like banana and rose petal. I always buy the more traditional (but still delicious) wild blueberry.
How do I close my visit to Fortnum’s? With one of their burlap bags. There are two sizes, the large (pictured), and a smaller size that seems too small to be useful, but might make a nice gift bag to fill with Fortnum goodies. Designs change frequently, so if you’re a
hoarder collector like me, you can pick up a fresh design on every visit.
What Fortnum and Mason souvenirs did I bring home on my last visit?
And the Fortnum & Mason burlap bags that I collect on each trip?
T.S. Eliot may have measured out his life in coffee spoons, but I measure my London visits in Fortnum’s shopping bags.
All Photos Copyright 2013 by Souvenir Finder, all rights reserved, and may not be reused without express permission.
Have you been to London’s Fortnum and Mason Food Hall? Share your favorites in the comments below!