Shopping & Tea in London: A Perfect Day

Look great tip to toe at Liberty
Look great tip to toe at Liberty (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

When I go shopping on my travels, I like to visit stores that are not available to me where I live. Why bother stop in at Gucci, Prada, or Chanel? These items can be found in most major cities and even some small ones. On my recent trip to London, shopping meant stopping in at some of London’s finest: Liberty on Regent Street, Fortnum and Mason Picadilly, Laduree London and the Burlington Arcade. We decided that our third day in London, would be our day of “Shopping and Tea.” After a (second) morning jaunt to the British Museum, we set forth on a day of touring the shops. We started off at Liberty  on Regent Street, the great Tudor emporium of ironically trendy chintz.

The Liberty Maypole guides your eye to many floors of fine fashions and household items
The Liberty Maypole guides your eye to many floors of fine fashions and household items (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

The store itself is quite beautiful, with exposed timber beams, bright windows, and open balconies. I found the offerings at Liberty enticing, particularly in Haberdashery and Household sections.  The store caries a wide variety of artisan cosmetics and perfumes on the main floor. The jewelry and accessories departments offered very artsy and funky Rosantica, True Rocks and Marni items, any of which I would have loved to have worn out of the store.

For your own tea parlor, shop at Liberty
For your own tea parlor, shop at Liberty (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

I couldn’t resist a pair of potholders and some cloth napkins in this cheerful Wiltshire Liberty print to brighten up the kitchen. I also purchased a bunch of sewing notions and Liberty print sewing boxes for my friends, which you can read about here.

The men’s department was a bit lacking. LOML did not really find too many items to his liking but he enjoyed walking through this interesting old building. Perhaps the best department in all of Liberty is the Scarf Room, where you can feast your eyes on colors and prints lining the walls. I could not help but purchase one Liberty scarf, which has quickly become my personal favorite accessory.

The Scarf Room at Liberty London
The Scarf Room at Liberty London (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Regretfully leaving Liberty behind, we headed over to Picadilly to the flagship store of Fortnum & Mason. When you walk into the store, you will be on the Main floor, which offers fine foods, teas, spices, biscuit tins, and jams. Fortnum & Mason carries a Royal Warrant, which means if it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for you!

Chinoiserie and Comestibles, perfect together
Chinoiserie and Comestibles, perfect together (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Do you need Aleppo pepper? Himalayan Pink Sea Salt? Dukka? Well, then you have come to the right place.

the Spice Bazaar at F&M
the Spice Bazaar at F&M (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

But that’s not even the beginning! Fortnum’s offers many floors of home goods, fashions, and cosmetics. We toured them all in a daze because…alas…Fortnum and Mason is not air conditioned and this is likely perfectly fine 364 days out of the year, but we happened to be there on a day when it was 91 degrees. And London, my friends, is just not built for that.

Yet, we persevered. We went up to the fashion floors of Fortnum’s.

Upstairs, I was able to reach out and touch a gorgeous Philip Treacy hat. It was so beautiful, the stuff of dreams. A dove colored fascinator with teal blue feathers. For a moment, I thought it could be mine. I imagined myself wearing it with a smart L.K Bennett dress holding a clutch purse smiling at my adoring public, accepting flowers from a child in a sailor suit.

Oh wait, that’s the Duchess of Cambridge.

But then I turned over the price tag and saw that it was 5400 British Pounds Sterling, and I realized…even I could not fantasize that one into reality.

So I just admired the perfume display for a while. Take note Macy’s, you need a fragrance chandelier.

A Fragrance Chandelier at Fortnum and Mason
A Fragrance Chandelier at Fortnum and Mason (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

We also toured the Men’s floor, which LOML really liked. He tried on a few hats himself and we gazed at the beautiful Kaleidoscope display cabinet.

Styles for the Gents at Fortnum and Mason
Styles for the Gents at Fortnum and Mason (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)
A Cabinet of Kaleidoscopes at F&M
A Cabinet of Kaleidoscopes at F&M (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

By now we were sweaty. Very sweaty. In an upscale department store. And we were very early for our 3:30 PM tea reservation (easily made in advance on OpenTable). But we could not soldier on without some cool air for a moment longer. So we went up to the top floor, to the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon and begged for mercy. Actually, we quietly asked if we could be seated at 3:00 PM instead. And the wonderful staff there brought us over to a crisp white table with no questions asked. The tea salon had a little air conditioning and was about 10 degrees cooler than the other floors, so we were happy to sit…and enjoy…the tea to “end all teas.”

A Place to Relax for Afternoon Tea
A Place to Relax for Afternoon Tea (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

We decided upon the Afternoon Tea (High Tea is a rather heavy meal). The Tea salon at Fortnum and Mason is beautiful and very easy on the eyes with its signature sea-green and white color palette and garden-themed art on the walls. You can choose from a huge menu of teas.

We chose the Fortmason tea which was delicious (so much that we bought some on the way out to bring home with us). Unlike teas we have enjoyed in New York City, we were served our tea sandwiches first: shrimp salad, chicken, smoked salmon, egg, and cucumber mint. It was nice to be able to savor these.

Delightful tea sandwiches at Fortnum & Mason
Delightful tea sandwiches at Fortnum & Mason (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

When they were gone we both looked longingly at our empty plates. And then something magical happened. Something that has NEVER happened before at any tea that I’ve ever enjoyed in the United States. The waitress asked if we would like any more sandwiches. LOML and I just looked at each other and then he calmly asked for another chicken sandwich and I asked for a smoked salmon. She soon returned with a plate containing every kind of sandwich. We ate those too. It was delightful, delicious, and generous. So listen up posh New York City hotels:  don’t be so stingy with your finger sandwiches. It’s simply not the British way. Otherwise you will have to call your overpriced “Afternoon Tea” something else, like “tiny, limited afternoon sandwiches with hot beverage option.”

After the scrummy sandwiches we were presented with tiered trays of the BEST ever scones, jams, clotted cream and pretty pastries.

Delightful Tea Treats at F&M
Delightful Tea Treats at F&M (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

You must have some clotted cream on that scone, or you are not worthy of such a lavish experience!

Clotted Cream = Happiness
Clotted Cream = Happiness (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

The pastries were like little jewels. We split each one and they were so sweet and delicious: lemon meringue tart, rose eclair, chocolate praline cake, raspberry sponge, and a pistachio macaron.

The top tier of tea holds special patisserie
The top tier of tea holds special patisserie (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

After our tea we left F & M and proceeded down Piccadilly to the Burlington Arcade. An arcade in London is a covered walkway with shops on both sides. It’s the perfect place to get out of the weather and into the shops, or even stroll along window shopping. Burlington Arcade is filled with lovely places to stop, if a bit pricey.

A flowering ceiling greets you at Burlington Arcade, London
A flowering ceiling greets you at Burlington Arcade, London (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

You’ll find some name brands and specialty items here.

House of Cashmere at Burlington Arcade
House of Cashmere at Burlington Arcade (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

House of Cashmere and Penhaligon’s were having very nice sales to make it possible to snag something luxurious.

Penhaligon's fine fragrances for men and women
Penhaligon’s fine fragrances for men and women (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

I also loved the well-designed windows of the perfume store.

Artful Window Displays
Artful Window Displays (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

We stopped to admire the beautiful pens.

For old-fashioned blogging
For old-fashioned blogging purposes (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Actually the whole storefront of Penfriend captivated us.

Penfriend at Burlington Arcade
Penfriend at Burlington Arcade (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

Finally, we stopped in at Laduree, London. The Laduree store in Burlington Arcade is one of several in London. It’s very unusual in that it looks like a little gold grotto! The walls are stuccoed and painted gold, with little niches for the teas and pastries, so you get to walk into this gold cave to pick out the best macarons for your choice of pretty boxes. We made sure to pick out a selection to enjoy later that night at the hotel: Marie Antoinette (turquoise), Earl Grey (Cream with flecks of tea), Apricot (peach) and Four Fruits (raspberry).

A Golden Grotto full of Sweets at Laduree London
A Golden Grotto full of Sweets at Laduree London (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)

After Laduree, we dragged our tired feet and shopping bags back to the Chesterfield Mayfair for some well-deserved rest. Kicking back, reviewing our day, and nibbling our macarons, we decided it was indeed the perfect day of Shopping & Tea in London.

Macarons from Laduree back at the Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel
Macarons from Laduree back at the Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel (Photo: Chris DeGennaro)
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