Fortnum & Mason – “The Queen’s Grocer” – is a quintessentially British store situated at 181 Piccadilly, between Piccadilly Circus and Green Park underground stations, opposite the Royal Academy and slightly east of ‘The Ritz’.
The store, which is often shortened to just “Fortnum’s” was founded by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason in 1707 (when Queen Anne was queen) and is the holder of several ‘Royal Warrants’.
In 2007, to celebrate three hundred years of trading the store was extensively refurbished, and while there are traditionalists who criticise the new store with its central atrium and sweeping staircase, it has retained much of its quiet ‘genteel’ air, unique amongst London’s large department stores. There are four restaurants and a wine bar within the store.
Whilst considerably smaller than either Harrods or Selfridges, ‘”Fortnum’s” has a more genteel air than most department stores, and its food hall is as interesting as any of the other major stores, it’s worth visiting just to see the ranges of tea, mustard and honey on offer. They even have their own bee hives on the stores roof, to allow their bees to explore the Royal Parks and the gardens of London’s Mayfair.
A distinctive clock (seen above) was erected in 1964, where miniatures of Mr Fortnum and Mr Mason come out each hour to ring the hours.
Fortnums are also credited with the invention of the Scotch Egg – in 1851 – and while they still sell Scotch Eggs – made with Duck Goose, Quail or Hen’s eggs, they also sell more exotic eggs – including Emu, Ostrich and Rhea eggs – to boil an Ostrich egg will take about an hour.
They also introduced Avocados, Nutmeg and Heinz Baked Beans to London.
Their gift hampers (originally using baskets that the store received deliveries of Madeira wine) range in price from £50 to £500 and have been a feature of London Christmasses for two hundred years.
And they’re even licensed to host civil weddings and civil partnership ceremonies, not the sort of thing you’d expect a store to offer.