One thing London is really great for (besides it’s burgeoning food scene) is their luxury shopping. It’s no secret that London has been doing the high-end shopping for centuries. Literally.
A brief history about the legendary store: Harrod’s was founded by Charles Henry Harrod, first established his business in 1824, as a draper, at 228 Borough High Street in Southwark, London. By 1834 Harrod founds a wholesale grocery in Stepney, East London and by 1849, Harrods moveds to the current address in Knightsbridge area. In May 2010, the store was sold to Qatar Holdings, the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar.
It isn’t surprising to see when you walk around the surrounding blocks of Harrod’s, of flashy British luxury cars like Bentleys and Aston Martins, and a sprinkling of German cars like Mercedes Benz and Audis being rolled up to the entrances of this store. Even people on foot, I have seen multiple groups of young women garbed in hijabs toting luxury “It” bags from brands like Céline and Valentino. It’s a spectacle in many ways.
When you walk and maybe gawk) by the beautiful accessories, jewelry and clothing) finally walk to this grand Food Hall. You’ll encounter sections of seafood and cooked items that you may dine at its own restaurant as well as various in-store restaurants. There are plenty of high end chocolate and tea brands when you keep walking in further like La Maison du Chocolate, Neuhaus, and even TWG Tea. There’s also a huge Harrod’s in-house bakery and pastry section where you would see beautiful displays like these individual sized cakes you see on the above photo.
And since the fashionable and people watchers like to be at Harrod’s, it seems apt to have a full service Ladurée at the back at the store.
On a few other days, I have shopped at another iconic, luxurious department store, Fortnum & Mason. This store started in 1707 by royal footman William Fortnum set up shop in St. James’s Market and his landlord, Hugh Mason.
The Royal Family has purchased their goods since they opened, starting with candles. Fortnum’s reputation was built on supplying quality food, and saw rapid growth throughout the Victorian era. Though Fortnum’s developed into a department store, it continues to focus on stocking a variety of exotic, specialty and also “basic” goods.
Various confections and cakes for sale at Fortnum & Mason
When you walk in this flagship, you cannot but help to be in awe of this grand space. The prime space is on the ground floor when you past through the delectable beautiful cakes, chocolates, and stunning chocolate display pieces, and find yourself on their famous teas department.
Their tea department isn’t like any other tea shop I’ve ever been to. Many teawares and accessories for sale as a special gift or for your cupboards. Two long rows of transparent tea pots containing specific teas to smell. Two walls lined with large tins full of various teas (black, green or white, and most are blends) for the tea lovers to sniff and purchase by weight or there are many shelves stocked with teas that are prepacked in tins.
Since London isn’t too far from Paris, Pierre Hermé set up a boutique in Belgravia section of London. While walking in Belgravia, you’re surrounded by diplomats’ homes. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with this site, I worship Pierre Hermé. He stole my heart about his beautiful, inventively flavored pastries and cakes that few pastry chefs could ever come close to his unique and genius combinations.)
When you finally find the slightly understated storefront and walk into the streamlined, primarily dark shop that has rainbow tiles that lined the top of the shop’s walls. The bold pops of colors are essentially from Hermé’s incredible pastries and accessories like large leather varied colored tote bags that echoed his shopping bag that has small curled leaves punched out and various chocolate bars wrapped in vibrant colors.
The unfortunate thing is, this shop is limited to the macarons, chocolates (bars and bonbons) and a few loaf cakes in limited quantities for the latter. It’s not the full fleshed pâtisserie I was hoping and dreaming of, so I could relive those amazing moments when I was in Paris.
(Pierre Hermé does have a macaron shop in another high-end department store, Selfridges. If you’re ever at Selfridges, you should ogle at the Chocolate Library, if you are a chocoholic like I am.)
After all of that walking, eating, and seeing, I did manage to bring a few food items back home to NYC. During early spring, the Ispahan was around (my absolute favorite flavor and Hermé’s signature) and I bought that loaf cake. It’s a moist, fine crumbed cake, dotted with raspberries with a hint of rose flavor, glazed in a pink-red raspberry glaze. It was divine! I was surprised I exercised restraint from not eating that entire loaf the day I bought it.
I also bought a few tins of Fortnum & Mason’s teas, two types of Earl Greys and fruit teas, as it really does strike me as a very London souvenir. I also bought a tin of TWG Tea’s Grand Wedding Tea because, it’s rare to find it in the U.S.
To view more photos of these visits, please CLICK HERE or view the gallery below:[alpine-phototile-for-flickr src=”set” uid=”26389565@N00″ sid=”72157644379350739″ imgl=”flickr” shuffle=”1″ style=”gallery” row=”4″ grwidth=”1200″ grheight=”800″ size=”640″ num=”30″ shadow=”1″ border=”1″ align=”center” max=”100″]
87-135 Brompton Road
London, SW1X 7XL
Telephone: +44 20 7730 1234
Fortnum & Mason
London, W1A 1ER
13 Lowndes Street
London SW1X 9EX
Phone:+44 20 7245 0317