Fortnum & Mason is a department store in London. It’s been around since Queen Victoria was knee high to an Indian fakir and hasn’t changed much. It sells a wonderfully bonkers assortment of teas on the ground floor. It’s clientele seems to consist of Japanese tourists. Apparently if you grew up in London your granny brought you here for tea and cakes. I wouldn’t know; I’ve lived here for 20 years and have yet to meet anyone who grew up in London. I have had the tea and cakes here. The food and drink is faultless but unexceptional and the whole place smells vaguely of old people. Down the road on Jermyn street they have an outpost that serves more of the same – except one also runs into kindly old grandpas taking their young Russian nieces out for an English.
45 Jermyn Street has been sympathetically updated and is rather good. I was the guest of the art dealer and his wife. I try not to drink at breakfast, although I am told that an early morning shot of gin helps with the shakes. However, the art dealer’s wife was grumpily nursing a broken arm and keeping her gently and continuously soused seemed like a good idea – and we couldn’t possibly let her drink alone.
It’s a pretty straightforward menu – steaks, roast chicken, Eggs Benedict for brunch. It’s all reassuringly expensive. The starter of Lobster Benedict was mouth wateringly good and chock full of fresh lobster meat. The steaks were sublimely marbled and could have provided enough cholesterol for a family of five.
The large room is modern with a hint of throwback, smoked mirrors, a touch of gilt, soft furnishings, sympathetic lighting and a fabulous long bar. The cocktails are creative and rather good.
St James’s remains a masculine corner of London, replete with men’s tailors and shoe stores, rifle makers, cigar merchants and the odd yacht dealer. London’s pre-eminent men’s clubs are all located here (although most allow women in these days as long as they wear a jacket and tie). The men who work in the area run hedge funds and have been forced to return to London by their wives who find Switzerland untaxing but boring.
The restaurant scene in St James’s is a bit like Switzerland, efficient but unimaginative. 45 Jermyn is a welcome departure from the norm – it’s made my list of top brunch venues in London.