Ever since grocer William Fortnum joined forces with his entrepreneurial tenant Hugh Mason in 1707, Fortnum & Mason has been a fixture in the heart of Piccadilly.
Beginning with the half-used candle from Queen Anne’s household – collected and re-sold by Hugh Mason, who worked as a footman in the royal house – Fortnum’s has become famous for delivering the very finest things in life to London locals and far-flung associates alike.
And more often than not, the chosen method of transit for all that food, tea, champagne and other gifts, has been the company’s iconic wicker hamper.
Each recipient of the hamper is taken on an all-encompassing tour of the delights you will find in Fortnum’s food halls, from the world’s most prestigious and recognised producers. Handmade chocolates and biscuits, jams and preserves, smoked salmon and caviar, artisan meats and cheeses, champagne and world-renowned, regally approved tea all jostle for position beneath each wicker lid. Monogrammed with the company’s famous initials, the hampers were originally devised as travelling baskets for carriage rides, and have supplied a little taste of home to lovers of fine food everywhere since they were first dispatched in the 1730s. Queen Victoria sent Fortnum & Mason hampers to soldiers in the Crimean War and the 1922 expedition to Everest was luxuriously fuelled by 60 tins of quail in foie gras and four dozen bottles of champagne.
But Fortnum’s is about so much more than just its hampers. Jewellery, fine china, menswear, perfumes and even bespoke hats (made by an in-house milliner) can be found across the floors at 181 Piccadilly, with plentiful stops for indulging your taste buds. And nowhere is a little enjoyment more readily encouraged than inside Fortnum’s beautiful Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. Opened by Her Majesty the Queen and decorated with paintings commissioned from Royal Academician David Remfry, the salon is home to Fortnum’s iconic afternoon tea. Here, 2,000 scones are freshly baked on the premises each morning and countless pots of Royal Blend tea are poured into cups detailed in gold and eau de nil, Fortnum’s signature colour.
Elsewhere inside Fortnum & Mason, there is The Parlour, serving works of ice cream wonder; The Wine Bar, offering superb wines in stunning surroundings; and the stylish Gallery Restaurant, celebrating the freshest seasonal food. Another one of Fortnum’s dining ventures, 45 Jermyn Street, has quickly established itself as one of the capital’s most chic venues, thanks to an arresting combination of old-style glamour and contemporary London cool.
Innovators since day one, Fortnum’s long history of discovery and invention – the Scotch Egg was made here first – has also seen the unveiling of new locations and services at home and abroad. New stores have been opened at St Pancras, Dubai and Heathrow’s Terminal 5 – where customers can grab a pre-flight cocktail at the Fortnum’s bar – and new services launched at Piccadilly, like the return of a master barber to the Gentlemen’s floor for the first time in more than 50 years.
Exciting products have launched too, like celebration-ready Champagne Ice Pops (made using genuine Fortnum’s champers) and a debut Fortnum’s cookbook revealing more than 300 years of delicious secrets. What’s more, Fortnum’s award-winning website delivers a little Fortnum’s in an uncomplicated manner, to customers in any location, at any time of the day.
So whether you are shopping, dining or ideally both, an afternoon in the company of Fortnum & Mason is a real delight.
FORTNUM & MASON 181 PICCADILLY, LONDON W1A 1ER +44 (0)20 7734 8040