Fortnum & Mason (often shortened to “Fortnum’s”) is an internationally recognised department store located at 181 Piccadilly, in Central London. Fortnum’s has held many Royal Warrants over the past 150 years making it an iconic British symbol. Well known for supplying high quality goods and introducing new products to the British public, from exotic to speciality. I have a fond memory of my Grandmother buying chocolate worms from the shelves of Fortnum’s, which of course we found entertainingly ghastly when we were little.
The Fountain Restaurant can be found on the Ground Floor of Fortnum & Mason department store, or directly from the corner of Jermyn & Duke Street (before 10am this is the only entry point). The ‘deluxe brasserie’ is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Presenting a menu that features well-established favourites such as Fortnum’s Welsh Rarebit (a fancy cheese toastie), HM The Queen Mother’s favourite midnight snack, Oeufs Drumkilbo (aka prawn cocktail), and the long-adored Knickerbocker Glory.
Now, one may assume that such a long history, Royal acclaim and fancy appearance means that Fortnum’s is an expensive affair. I don’t know about you, but I think £22 for a two course meal (£28 for three) is rather decent!
My housemate and I made a booking for The Fountain at 7pm on the 7th of May. That date is significant as it’s the same date the UK general election took place, which (we hope) might have been one reason why the restaurant was almost empty. Throughout the duration of our meal we were joined by 3 other tables and that was it! As you can imagine, it provided very little atmosphere but did allow us to have full attention from our waiter, which is never a bad thing.
After we’d ordered, a delightful little “Fortnum’s Hamper” was delivered to our table, full of fresh bread. It contained four slices, including white, granary, soda bread and a fruit loaf. All were truly delicious, served with F&M branded butter.
I’m able to keep the next part of this review short and sweet as my dining partner and I both chose the same main course of Loch Duart Salmon and Chocolate Fondant for dessert. The salmon arrived skin-side up in a deep plate which held a cloudy clam broth and cubed vegetables. Decorated with a green leaf garnish and an edible viola, it was beautifully presented. The taste was out of this world – it was no doubt one of the best salmon dishes I have ever had. The crispy salmon skin was delicious and the scattering of clams added another texture to the dish.
The dessert was almost as magically. Our waiter warned us that it would take 7-10 minutes to prepare, which was fine and would have been the usual wait time in a busier restaurant anyway! The chocolate fondant had a salted caramel centre and was served with pistachio ice cream and a brandy snap. I’m not great with hot and cold things on the same plate but all the elements did compliment one another well.
When it came to paying for the bill at the end of our evening, we were disappointed to find that we had been charged full price and not the expected discounted price offered in the set menu! Considering we’d specifically chosen dishes from the set menu we called the waiter up on it. He explained that the salmon and fondant weren’t part of the set menu (they definitely were), before returning to the till and recalculating the bill only to come back with the set menu price. It was very odd and a bit of an uncomfortable end to the evening. Luckily we were able to pay the price we wanted but were made the feel a bit cheap in the process!
The Loch Duart Salmon dish really made it for me at Fortnum’s. The only thing stopping me from returning for another quintessentially english meal was the lack of atmosphere. For me, a lively restaurant, full of laughing diners makes for a more enjoyable and relaxed environment.
ADDRESS: 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER
CONTACT: 020 7734 8040
OPENING HOURS: 7am to 7:45pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 7:45pm Saturdays and 8am to 4:45pm Sundays