Update: This store has closed
Tea lovers should head over to the deliciously bohemian Bellocq on the King’s Road. Set up by three New Yorkers (two of whom are ex-Martha Stewart staffers), this atmospheric tea shop with natural dark-wood floors, antique fixtures and rows of yellow canisters with full-leaf teas is steeped in charm. The owner were tired of lugging delicious teas from Paris’ Mariage Frères back home, so two partners are running the on-line business from New York, while the third, Michael Shannon, has set up shop here. Bellocq sells ethically-sourced organic teas with evocative names like ‘Noble Savage’, ‘The White Duke’ and ‘Golden Monkey’. They make lovely gifts and the shop is a nice place for a relaxing cup.
Berry Bros. & Rudd
London’s oldest wine, Berry Bros & Rudd claims a Royal Warrant and to be the oldest wine shop in the city. It opened in its current location just across from St. James Palace in 1698 and contains such historical artifacts as 200 year old wine bottles, a centuries old coffee mill and one of the city’s earliest scales along with the recorded weights of many legendary figures. The wine bottles sitting out for purchase range from inexpensive New World whites bearing the Berry Bros. label for less than 10 pounds a bottle to Sancerres for more than 3,000 pounds. The greatest treasures, of course, are in the cellars, which extend two floors below the main shop. Private dinners with tutored tastings or walking tastings can be arranged in the 300-year-old cellars, and there are monthly wine tasting lunches and dinners for wine lovers and connoisseurs. Since the shop delivers within London, it is also a good source of last-minute gifts. Closed Sundays.
Alice in Wonderland would feel right at home in this bijoux of a shop, located just north of Hyde Park, whose three owners have worked in the fashion industry. The freshly made chocolates are served on mismatched porcelain cake platters, and a giant, hand-painted mural serves as a warm backdrop for the casual café. A casual long rustic wood table is the centerpiece where regulars gather for tea, treats and some morning gossip. A glass cabinet to the rear of the shop sells pretty antique china. Best are the chocolates, which come in such innovative flavor combinations as coconut and cinnamon, mixed spice, caramelized apple, organic cornflake and praline, coffee and cardamom, and chili strawberry. Lulu Guinness and Marni have commissioned Cocomaya chocolates for various fashion events; and rumor has it that Manolo Blahnik may be next.
Note: The more central location is at 186 Pavilion Road (44-0207-730-8395).
Fortnum and Mason
Fortnum and Mason, a landmark in Piccadilly for over 300 years, offers a taste of old world England. Its food department is filled with traditional English delicacies and famous for its hampers—perfect for summer season jaunts to the races and picnics at Glyndebourne.
L’Artisan Du Chocolat
If chocolate is your poison, there’s no better place to satisfy that sweet tooth than the new L’Artisan Du Chocolat shop on Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill. I went with my ten-year-old daughter, Julia, who called me a weakling when I cried mercy after trying such rich treats as a chocolate Margarita, assorted chocolate platter and creamy hot chocolate. Julia, whose stamina would impress Willie Wonka, viewed me with slight disdain. She then asked for some homemade ice cream, and went back to watching the mod shop’s video showing how a nondescript Brazilian cocoa bean metamorphoses into this gooey joy. So divine are these chocolates that an astronaut recently asked to bring them to space. Luckily for us, Nottinghill is a lot closer.
Neal’s Yard Dairy
On summer afternoons, the prettiest picnic in the park starts at Neal’s Yard Dairy, a proper fromagerie sourcing premium farmstead cheeses from all over Britain and Ireland. When it was founded in 1979, the dairy’s current director, Randolph Hodgson, was one of its first cheesemakers. Today the shop’s cheesemongers offer regular pairing classes that focus on wine, beer and even salami.
Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates
Discriminating chocolate fiends flock to Paul A. Young for his award-winning sea-salted caramels, but on chilly afternoons, there is an even better reason to visit the maverick chocolatier’s Soho flagship: the DIY hot cocoa bar. The luxurious 70% dark chocolate, ladled into paper to-go cups from a simmering copper saucepan, can be seasoned to taste with nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. A kick of cayenne pairs well with wintry weather, or better yet, a whiskey bonbon dissolved in luscious boozy ribbons.
Haute chocolatier Cocomaya makes tea-flavored chocolates for Postcard Teas, another gem of a shop, located on Dering Street just north of New Bond Street. Postcard Teas specializes in wonderful teas from the Far East. Owner Timothy d’Offay travels regularly to India, Sri Lanka, Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan to work with top small-scale producers. D’Offay’s teas are served in quirky yet lovely packaging, based on vintage pre-WWI postcards collected by Timothy’s father Anthony, the legendary contemporary art dealer. A great presents is to send these unique teas as a “postcard,” so that that the lucky recipient receives a package of exotic teas attached to a beautiful postcard from a historic era.
Read a member’s postcard on Postcard Teas.
A chocolate heaven of fancy flavors from traditional violet creams to passion fruit truffles.
This shop seems to stock every herb and spice known to man. All are natural, additive free and freshly ground.
Verde & Co.
A favorite of Nathalie Hambro.
“In a lively part of town, the delightful Verde & Co., a gourmet food shop owned by author Jeanette Winterson and run by chef Harvey Cabaniss, doubles as a restaurant every other Friday (with room for about 12 people).”
Editors’ notes: For those who not familiar with the British author’s books and not afraid of literary adventurism, consider reading Oranges Are not the Only Fruit or Sexing the Cherry before your visit to more fully appreciate her sensual and gourmet perspective.