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CHRISTMAS AND MUSSELS AT FORTNUM & MASON by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted in FOOD + DRINK By Maggie O'Sullivan

Niamh, Travelwrap's founder and director, and I are planning to combine lunch with a spot of last-minute Christmas shopping. ‘Why don’t we save time and go to one of the big store restaurants?” suggests Niamh. So we make our way up Regent Street and into Liberty. We both love Liberty, and agree you could probably do all of your Christmas shopping here. It even smells like Christmas. Surprisingly, it only has one restaurant, which we eventually find hidden away on the second floor. It looks full but a friendly waiter quickly finds us a table for two. But something is not quite right: Café Liberty reminds us of a works canteen. “Fenwick?” I suggest.Fenwick, on Bond Street, has two restaurants: Carluccio’s on the lower ground floor, and Bond & Brook (above) on the second floor. Bond & Brook is my favourite of the two: with a ‘library’ of fashion books lining one wall, it offers a selection of delicious small plates and ‘couture’ all-day breakfast as well as a seasonal set menu. The staff are slick and professional. Not quite so welcoming today, alas – Bond & Brook is full. “Selfridges or Fortnum & Mason? “ says Niamh. I’m dying to try Selfridges’ new winter rooftop restaurant, designed to look like an Alpine chalet. But it’s only open for après-shopping and, anyway, Fortnum & Mason is fractionally nearer. So we plunge back into Bond Street, swimming against a tide of Christmas shoppers all heading for Oxford Street.Fortnum & Mason has five restaurants and cafés, including the famous Fountain restaurant on the ground floor. but instead of The Fountain, we head for The Wine Bar, down the stairs, right at the Food Hall Christmas tree, and there it is, behind the wine section. It’s a bit of a hidden gem and to our delight, has several free tables. It's calm and cosy, with wood panelled walls and a funky bar. There is an extensive wine list which changes every month; for a £10 corkage fee, you can also drink wine bought in the wine department. But on the waiter’s suggestion, Niamh and I choose a ‘discover’ flight of white wines (£23), comprising a Bucchus Dry, Camel Valley 2013, a Muscadet Les Pierres Blanches, Luneau-Papin 2012, and a Nossa Calcario Branco, Filipa Pato 2013 .The flights are presented on a gleaming chrome stand, and the waiter tells us which order to drink the wines in. We promptly forget which is which. “Is this the Camel Valley or the Filipa Pato?” asks Niamh, tilting a glass towards the light. We solve the problem by sipping them in turn. Each goes pretty well with my large bowl of steamed mussels with vermouth (£14) and Niamh’s plate of Iberico ham (19). The couple on the next table, we notice, are tucking into freshly shucked oysters, a Wine Bar speciality. They disappear shortly afterwards.All too soon it’s time to finish our cheese (£9 for one, £13 for three or £17 for five) and head back out into the fray to finish our shopping. The ground floor of Fortnum & Mason is heaving with frazzled shoppers. Most look as if they could do with a discovery flight and a bowl of mussels in vermouth... But no, this is our secret. And now, of course, it's yours too. 

Further information, Fortnum and Mason

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