As a child my parents would take my sister and I to London, for our annual London Christmas adventure. Trips on the London Underground, rides in a London black taxi and visits to the same 3 shops. Selfridges, to see Father Christmas and the Christmas windows. Hamleys because well it was Hamleys and we would finish up at Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly.
Known as the Queen’s groceries, Fortnum & Mason has been around since 1707. So unlike many stores and/or grocery supermarkets since, it is steeped in history. There is something about Fortnum & Mason that is just totally different. And it isn’t just the history.
Walking into Fortnum & Mason at Christmas
The thing that strikes you the moment you walk through old doors, off Piccadilly into the store, is the smell. It is hard to describe, but to me it is the quintessential smell of Christmas. It is a bombardment of the senses. Unlike some many other department stores, it isn’t the smell of perfumes. But the delight of various armours of food. Christmas food.
No matter where you look. There is just food. Everything you can possible want for Christmas. From, teas, to die for chocolates to Scottish shortbread to Gentlemen’s Relish to jams. And so much more. Yes, there are some great food halls but there is nothing like Fortnum & Mason.
Men in Red Coats
As a child, I will always remember Fortnum & Mason, for that Christmas smell. The fact we had to go there also on a special trip to get Gentlemen’s Relish for my grandfather, for Christmas. And that it was that shop with the men in long red coats. Almost like a start of a hunt, it was and still is a Christmas food shopping hunt.
Fortnum & Mason Hampers
‘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!’ Charles Dickens
Ask anyone who, well almost anyone who has shopped at F&M and ask them what they association F&M with. You are pretty guaranteed, that they will say hampers. They are famous for them. And I’ve always wanted one but never got round to purchasing one. Mainly because, being gluten intolerant, choice is limiting. But one of their wicker baskets would look great as an accessory in the home. Anyway if you are interested. Their food hampers range from reasonable to in the £1,000’s.
Times are a Changing
Times, have changed, since I was a child. The store underwent a massive renovation. And as great as it is, some of the old worldie charm has gone forever. But three things remain, that smell, the amazing staircase and those men in red coats. But to me, the greatest grocery store in the world, which is even more magical at Christmas, will always be Fortnum & Mason.