The newest of London’s food halls, Selfridges does not disappoint. This American-owned store is full of approachable and knowledgeable staff – not surprising, when founder Harry Gordon Selfridge is thought to have coined the phrase, ‘The customer is always right’.
Most will find themselves drifting towards the treasure chest of sweet treats, drawn by gourmet doughnuts, tiny jewel-coloured meringues and gilded macaroons. There’s an eye-catching display from Anges de Sucre, whose cakes feature bright icing bases built up high with sparkling embellishments in the form of shimmering macaroons and gold-covered biscuits.
Best for: stocking up for the festive period
Several popular restaurants from around London have takeaway counters here. Lovers of Middle-Eastern food can pick up good-to-go shawarma or full-flavoured magloubeh from Arabica, from the company behind Borough Market’s Arabica Kitchen.
For those needing a break from seasonal indulgence, Daylesford Organic has a selection of virtuous-looking bagged soups and stews. Their organic super-greens broth is deep, grass-green and packed with seaweed, spirulina and ginger to atone for festive drinking sins.
Places to eat
The Brass Rail’s salt beef is legendary. Go for the Bialy roll: a plump bun piled with inches of salt beef, sauerkraut, pickles, mustard and cheese. If you can fight your way through the flow of visitors, there’s an oyster bar and a Tonkotsu counter tucked amongst the cold counters.
Since opening, Harrods has become synonymous with extravagance and luxury.
If Selfridges is a treasure chest, Harrods is the whole trove. The vast warren of baroque-style chambers is almost as eye-catching as the displays, and most visitors will spend as much time ogling the ceilings as the food counters.
If you can tear your eyes away, the cold counters stock gourmet trimmings. We liked the look of the offerings from Tom Kerridge. Scruff them up a little and you may be able to pass them off as your own…
Best for: impressive gifts
The chocolate room is spectacular, with pyramids of truffles and stacked ingots of gianduiotto everywhere you look. Counters are overflowing with treats from the world’s most prestigious chocolatiers, and are worth buying for the box alone. This is the place to find something impressive for hard-to-buy-for relatives, with Charbonnel et Walker’s Rose and Violet Creams in particular making a very fine gift.
Places to eat
Shoppers can perch at a bar for meals from Belgravia establishments Mango Tree and Pan Chai. The newly opened truffle lounge from Milan’s Tartufi & Friends is hidden away in the wine cellar.
Fortnum & Mason
Founded in 1707, Fortnum & Mason is quite possibly the oldest department store in the world. Renowned for vintage glamour, the displays are famously opulent and this year they feature a pyramid of jewelled exotic birds and golden puddings.
There is no more indulgent gift for a foodie than one of Fortnum’s famous festive hampers. They start from £60 for the Taster Hamper and go all the way to an eye-watering £5,000 for the Imperial Hamper, which includes a 1970 vintage port and 100-year-old balsamic vinegar.
Best for: tea connoisseurs
Having specialised in tea for the last 300 years, Fortnum’s staff know a thing or two about the stuff. This is the place to shop for the tea-lover in your life. We liked this selection of rare teas.
And if you really want to spoil them, afternoon tea in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is an extravagant treat.
Places to eat
The Gallery offers ‘a taste of the food halls’ that can be enjoyed whilst overlooking the store. The menu does not, however, include a scotch egg, so make sure to pick one up on the way out. Fortnum & Mason invented these in 1738.
Though founded in the same decade as Harrods, Harvey Nichols’ interior is slick and modern. It also happens to be the only London food hall occupying the top floor of a building, so shoppers and diners can look out over the London skyline.
Harvey Nicks specialises in everyday food trends as well as slick gifts, with bubble tea and cold-pressed juices offered alongside the glossy tins of espresso. Though not unique to this food hall, the chunky marshmallows are exceptional, with the blueberry and gin flavours impressing us the most.
Best for: socialites
With a compact food hall, the majority of the 5th floor is given over to social space. The bar is out in the open and buzzes with well-heeled shoppers. Cocktail masterclasses run here at weekends, and include breakfast and lunch.
Places to eat
There are no counters to perch at and eat something quickly. Each restaurant is given its own space so diners can relax away from crowds, creating the same ambience that you’d expect dining in a restaurant. Options include Korubuta (Japanese tapas from ex-Nobu chef Scott Hallsworth) and Burger & Lobster.
Written by Sarah Hogg
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