Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Royal Epicurean

Fortnum and Mason Plc
181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 8040,
Fax: +44 (0)20 7437 3278
During my time as chef onboard M/Y Lady Moura, I had to double up as a personal chef for the lady boss when the entourage travels around Europe and US during the autumn and winter seasons. This would also be the time when she shops for hospitality items for the yacht for the next cruising season in various epicurean powerhouses like Harrods, Fortnum and Maisons, Caviar House, Lenotre, Rougie etc. These gave me opportunities to check out the various epicurean establishments and their specialty gourmet wares in classically decorated food halls. Among them, Fortnum and Maisons @ Piccadilly Circus, London, stood out for their fine chocolates, rare tea selections, confectionary and most distinctively, very well dressed shop windows. By itself, it's a British Royal Household Warranted gourmet lifestyle loving powerhouse with a few specialty dinning outlets set to rival with Harrods but on much smaller scale. One of its highlights is the fourth floor St James Restaurant offering mainly traditional British fare for breakfast, lunch and tea. The English afternoon tea is the most popular choice among the three and those who adore gourmet living should make it a point to experience the haute couture of having it in the most English of all English ways possible when in London.
So during our last winter trip to Europe, I made it a point to take my wife N, who happens to be a quarter British in her heritage, here in Fortnum and Maisons to indulge in a bit of luxury by enjoying a typical English afternoon tea session. I am not so much a fan of afternoon teas but since we are in the land where the culture of it comes from, might as well. N ordered the Champagne set while I preferred the regular rare tea selection. Both menus come with an offering of savoury bites and sweet pastries and most important of all are the freshly baked scones with clotted cream and home made fruit preserve which is one of the main highlights of having afternoon tea. N’s tea set started off with a glass of Brut Reserve Theophile Roderer Champagne as a palate refresher. For teas, I choose an Earl Grey blend that was scented with oil of Bergamot while she opted for Darjeeling Broken Orange Pekoe, a medium leaf Darjeeling tea with a light Muscatel Flavour.
N got a Welsh rarebit for her set which is the British version of a Croque Monsieur. It consists of a thick slice of toast and drizzled with melted cheddar cheese cooked with beer and Worcestershire sauce topped with griled back bacon. It's a very classic dish for British foods and is a hot favourite for tea snacks. It also reminded me of the Swiss fondue where white wine is added instead of beer.
For the savouries, I had a selection of traditional English finger sandwiches with selections like Cucumber and Cream Cheese, Free Range Egg Mayo, Ham and English Mustard and and Poached Loch Duart Salmon with Mayonnaise. All ingredients used were top notch especially the Loch Duart Salmon which is premium Scottish salmon coming from the pristine waters of Sunderland in Scotland.
Once you are done with the savouries, its time to move on to the delicious piping hot scones. Served with clotted cream, which is like a cross between whipped cream and butter. Break open the fluffy scones and watching the spread butter melt into a salivating ooze, have a small dollop of strawberry preserve on the scone and bite into a mouthful of delicious buttery fragrance and fruity jam sweetness. Two pieces was not enough for me…..
The mini pastries selection were also very good, its finesse matching those of French Patisserie standards. The range includes classic fruit tarts, opera, ├ęclairs and chocolate fudge cakes, Paris Brest, etc.






After indulging in tea, its always good to spent time walking around the store or just simply going through the artistic thematic window displays of their gourmet larder and lifestyle products. It makes looking at our local window displays more of a drag than pleasure. For the first time I could browse at my own pace without having to audit the long list of orders that Madame always placeswith them as I had to in the past…..

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