I discovered Fortnum & Mason quite quickly after I arrived in London. First attracted by the fancy windows, it’s the delicate biscuits, jams & tea selection I then was in awe of (and their branding!).
But since I’ve started to appreciate the beautiful English tradition of afternoon teas, I couldn’t wait any longer to have such an experience at Fortnum & Mason, which seems to be the reference on the matter. It was on a great occasion: my husband’s birthday and we were in the perfect festive mood to enjoy such a treat!
Today, DOYOUSPEAKLONDON takes you to the quintessential British afternoon tea in London!
Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly London
For those who don’t know Fortnum & Mason yet, it is an 18th-century department store located on Piccadilly avenue and renowned for its gourmet groceries including teas, biscuits, chocolates, and posh preserves.
It’s definitely the place I love at Christmas to help me find the last presents’ ideas. Who wouldn’t like delicious items wrapped up in beautiful packaging? Fortnum’s also offers a wide range of alcohols and spirits at the lower level if you fancy specific drinks.
There are several bars and restaurants available at Fortnum & Mason so that you always have the opportunity to relax with a drink and a good meal, before or after your shopping:
The Field (re-opening 1st February) is on the Ground Floor Mezzanine;
The Parlour (for an ice-cream or a sweet treat) on the 1st Floor;
The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the Fourth Floor;
45 Jermyn St. a few steps away from Fortnum & Mason department store.
That day, we had a booking made for a special occasion in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon…
The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, Fortnum & Mason
Each place has a story. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon has one that spans over 314 years! First, it was an “apartment for the Fortnum family, then became an interior decorating department in the 1920s and 1930s, and later an antique department, and finally a restaurant known as St. James’s”.
Since 2012, the Tea Salon has been dedicated to the timeless tradition of Afternoon Tea.
The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon was “named in honour of Her Majesty’s visit in 2012, when she formally opened the room, in the company of their Royal Highnesses the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge”.
What I really appreciated in this Tea Salon is the light. It is not always that you can enjoy an afternoon tea in a room full of light like this one. I could look at every detail and take pictures in the confidence they would reflect the place very well…
Fortnum & Mason’s iconic Afternoon Tea
In addition to being a bright room, The Tea Salon is the perfect retreat from Piccadilly’s hustle and bustle, while you can still enjoy a panoramic view from it.
One step out of the lift, and you’re instantly immersed in a calm atmosphere with a piano playing in the central hall.
We were warmly welcomed by the staff and could choose our table in the center of the room, which allowed me to take photographs with a 360-degree view of the Tea Salon.
The room filled up quickly after our arrival, which caused us to wait a bit before we could order. The waitress dedicated to us was very friendly and attentive, and made her best to catch up with the delay though.
Soon after the tea arrived, we were served our treats. Among the variety of afternoon tea menus to choose from*, I opted for the Afternoon Tea, and my husband picked the High Afternoon Tea.
I enjoyed my sandwiches, which did not disappoint in taste as I found them particularly fresh and flavoursome, but they did not show any originality. I know Fortnum’s praises traditional afternoon tea, but I was hoping for a few surprises in the ingredients selection and the design of these sandwiches. As“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”
On the other hand, my husband started with a top-notch dish: the Lobster Omelette Victoria with Truffle. That was a memorable one! (yes, I was blessed he shared it with me :-)). The truffle had an intense flavour and the omelette was rich and succulent…definitely a must-try!
We continued with the plain and fruit scones, served with jams (Fortnum’s Strawberry & Wild Blueberry Preserves) and Somerset Clotted Cream.
Again, knowing the large choice of delicious jams Fortnum & Mason proposes in their stores (their Strawberry & champagne, or Strawberry & Rose Petal, and cherry preserves are divinely scrumptious, the lemon curd is amazing..!) They have so much to share that I would have appreciated some originality here… Am I the only one to think so?
Nevertheless, let’s speak of the scones. I found them okay overall, but maybe just a bit too sweet for me and not enough soft inside. I still have a great memory of the perfect scones I had at the Rosewood London…
Shall I mention here that scones are not my favorite treat? This is why I am certainly more fussy than any one on the subject!
Desserts were all beautiful and tempting. My favorite though are definitely the tarts: coffee-chocolate and lemon. I loved their textures and pronounced flavours.
At this point, let’s face it, there was hardly any space left in our bellies… We tried a bit of the desserts of my husband’s menu, but were not particularly thrilled by them honestly. In comparison to the Truffle Omelette’s amazing standard, these desserts were surprisingly bland with no character. Definitely not my cup of tea, but everyone has different tastes, right?
The waitress didn’t know what to think of the fact that we had left a few desserts on our plates and offered us to bring the leftovers back home…as well as some sandwiches, if we wanted. We only chose a few sandwiches because she insisted, but we didn’t want to overload the take-away bag (more a choice not to over-consume rather than a practical problem, but you got me :-)).
As we were about to leave with our doggy-bag, the waitress realised it was my husband’s birthday and asked us to wait a bit before she came back … with a birthday cake!
Although we acknowledged to think it was a lovely and thoughtful attention, we were completely unable to eat this umpteenth cake! If I may say -and I hope Fortnum & Mason will see these words- celebrating a client’s birthday is a great way to make a difference in the customisation of his or her experience at Fortnum’s.
But adding a cake to the long list of already eaten items might not be the best option. Why not think of a glass of Fortnum’s champagne? Undoubtedly the best way of celebrating and the assurance that the clients will have tasted Fortnum’s champagne in the best condition and might buy it later in confidence, remembering the occasion. Or, if we go into the marketing more deeply, why not create specific small products that would be seen as gifts/samples and would be distributed on birthdays occasions, like these small delicious preserves the brand has the secret of? Or small boxes of the brand’s renowned biscuits? All these gifts being designed specifically and brought back home with a special note… Clients need to feel special. Fortnum’s is definitely special. I think the Afternoon Tea experience must be special too, particularly when clients are celebrating at Fortnum’s.
All in all, we enjoyed this experience at Fortnum’s as the setting was nice, the staff very friendly, and a few dishes were truly delicious (mmmhhh that omelette!).
But -as well as I am looking for truthful advice from other bloggers, I want to be very sincere with my readers too- I would only advise you to go there if you are looking for a traditional, authentic approach to the Afternoon Tea in London. Especially if you don’t already know Fortnum & Mason products yet, because it’s the best way to get to know the place, the brand and its emblematic products at the same time as you discover this -so pleasant- tradition of Afternoon Tea.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found inspiration here. If you are about to book an afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason soon, please share your experience and opinion on DOYOUSPEAKLONDON’s blog!
To go further:
Fortnum & Mason: 181 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1A 1ER
*Afternoon Tea, Savoury Afternoon Tea, High Tea, Vegetarian Afternoon Tea, Made Without Gluten Afternoon Tea