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#67 Fortnum and Mason

January 6, 2012

Exotic Victorian hooker models above the Premium Ginger Biscuits? What would the Queen say? Apart from "Mmm, biscuits, yum yum," obviously. She loves a biscuit, that one.

If Liberty is London’s dotty and glamorous bohemian aunt, then Fortnum and Mason is its eccentric epicure uncle; hidebound and hopelessly unhip, but smartly turned out and with a real twinkle in its eye. No wonder it got do confusticated when those young people occupied it that one time, and called the police. Old Fortnum and Mason doesn’t understand kids these days (Disrespecting her majesty?! Chaps kissing chaps?! The Radio-gram?!), but put a woman of a certain age in front of it, and it can still turn on the charm.

Fortnum and Mason is like an American TV show’s idea of a British Tesco’s. Ground floor is all sugary gifty treats, the basement is a serious foodie filling station, and the further you go upstairs, the odder the collection of ridiculously expensive knick-knacks gets. Globes. Models of yachts. Far too many dressing-gowns, for some reason. It’s like someone rewound time on an antique shop, and given the provenance, quality and expense of this oddball lot, some of them will doubtless end up as heirlooms of a sort.

When we went last month, Fortnum and Mason had embarked on an ill-advised ‘Parisian brothel’ theme for Christmas. Far more appropriate were the brass band players outside, knocking off some Christmas carols. Because we don’t want to see Fortnum and Mason trying to be cool or clever or sexy. It’s like watching the aforementioned eccentric uncle drink too much Tallisker and try and touch your bum: NOT EVEN AT CHRISTMAS, UNCLE.


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