The Luxury Photo Journey is an occasional series here at Dandelion Chandelier. Sometimes we find ourselves in a place so stunningly beautiful that words fail us. So we let the images do most of the talking. This is our photo journey to the new food hall at Harrods in London. Get a first look at the new Fresh Food Market and the other new renovations. Who knew that shopping for edibles could be so much fun?
The last time we were in London, on a rainy day we decided to visit one of our favorite places. If it’s one of yours, too, or if you’re just curious to see what it’s like, join us on a photo journey to the food hall at Harrods. It’s a great place to visit (especially on a rainy day) – to learn, to sample, to find the perfect gift, to pick up the items that will make your next dinner party sing.
the history of Harrods is inextricably linked to food
One of the world’s iconic retailers, Harrods can trace its history to 1849, when a grocer called Charles Henry Harrod opened a store with two assistants selling tea, coffee, biscuits and other goods from a single counter.
Since then, Harrods can point to a storied history as a retail innovator. For example, the retailer installed the U.K.’s first escalator—then called a “revolving staircase”—in 1898. Food has remained a core part of the brand’s DNA: the iconic Food Halls at Harrods first opened in 1902. These magnificent Art Deco food halls have for generations offered everything from mustard to rare Champagnes. But they were beginning to fade in importance and grandeur, remaining unchanged for over 30 years until recently.
Today, the retailer’s Knightsbridge store, still housed in a Baroque building that ranks among the city’s most historic, is home to a freshly-renovated food offering that is second to none in the world of luxury retail.
There are four halls, and as part of a strategy called The Taste Revolution, over the course of a few years, each is being given a make-over. The refresh of the first of the four halls—the Roastery and Bake Hall—was unveiled just before Christmas 2017. And in November 2018, two more were completed.
For each, London-based David Collins Studio re-designed the interiors and restored original features like the marble floor and paneled ceilings. The design firm combined those elements with a modern aesthetic. The result? A re-imagined approach to what luxury consumers should expect from a world-class department store, filled with experiences they can’t get online. In the case of food, that means the chance to see, smell and decide on a purchase after consulting a group of accessible and service-oriented in-house experts.
the butcher shop
We began our walk through the sprawling food market with a peek at the new butcher shop. The staff there is nattily attired, with straw boaters and crisp black and white uniforms – the better to draw your eye to the incredible array of choices.
If you have the financial resources, you’re in the right place. We spied racks of wagyu and Kobe beef (‘Our customers tend to specify A5,’ says one of Harrod’s buyers in an interview). There’s also Scotch beef dry-aged from 38 to 100 days.
seafood on ice
One of the objectives of the Taste Revolutions strategy at Harrods is to entice more local Londoners into the store. The fishmonger’s stations are core to that effort. Food reviewers rave about the exclusive and rare smoked-salmon from the Faroe Islands.
Harrods says that its seafood buyers purchase whole fish only. The seafood rests photogenically on ice, ready to be prepared and filleted by expert fishmongers on request.
The merchandising is exceptional, and the displays are compelling visual narratives all on their own. And yes, there are a lot of choices. Native or Canadian lobster? Fresh or already cooked? They have it all.
Caviar connoisseurs will be extremely happy when they visit: the market offers Petrossian and Exmoor exclusives along with a new range of Harrods Caviar. The house brand encompasses eight different varieties, including Almas and Beluga.
On any given day, you’ll find eight or nine different types of oysters, from a rotating menu of 20. Harrods says that’s the largest selection in all of London. We had never seen this gorgeous shade of blue cockles before. So. Pretty.
There are also several choices of already-prepared shellfish that would be perfect for a special meal or dinner party.
Part of the renovation of the Harrods Food Hall included the introduction of a new range of grab-and-go offerings for time-pressed consumers. For example,Karma – the Hall’s Indian counter – offers a rich palette of Indian classics.
The secret behind the prepared foods is Harrods’ “bank of 150 chefs.” In the past, they were hidden away in kitchens in the basement. Now these professionals have an increased presence on the floor. They’re manning the rotisserie, connecting with shoppers, and sharing their expertise and enthusiasm for their offerings.
A show-stopper in the new Fresh Market Hall can be found in the produce section. A wall-length vegetable and fruit selection is set against a backdrop of green, gold and white tiles with a feather motif.
A first for Harrods, there’s now a Vegetable Butchery. There, consumers will find the “vegetable butcher,” a new role that combines the knowledge of an old-fashioned greengrocer with the knife skills of a sushi chef. The store proclaims that whether you’re in need of someone to help “spiralise, slice or chop; chiffonade, julienne or brunoise,” you’re in good hands. All of that can be done to order. And the vegetable selection, as with the rest of the hall’s offerings, will change according to the season.
Even if you don’t love mushrooms, you’ll love seeing the imaginative displays here. Harrods proclaims that it’s offering “the freshest range of truffles [in London], including white, black, summer and bianchetti varieties, all sourced directly from Urbani Tartufi in Italy.”
We particularly loved looking at the truffle selection, where the products are displayed under glass like rare jewels. The selections sit on dainty cushions (which is probably appropriate, given their prices).
We’ve traveled the world, and still – at Harrods we saw some varieties of fruit that we’re pretty sure we’ve never seen before.
Or perhaps it was just the abundance, and the pristine merchandising of the hundreds of types of fruit.
Whatever the reason, like kids in a candy shop, we wanted one of everything.
We’ll stipulate up front that if we had to survive on one type of food for an indefinite period of time, we’d pick fresh bread. Every time. Meaning that the bakery section was far more difficult for us to part from when it was time to go than even the Bergdorf’s shoe department.
Master Baker Lance Gardner, who has worked with several top chefs in Michelin-starred kitchens, helms the ovens. There are 15 varieties of bread in total, including seasonally-changing specials. All are baked on-site throughout the day.
You can even get a personalized loaf of white sourdough bread! Up to three initials can be inscribed on the top of a loaf, which is baked in front of you in about 30 minutes. So you can take it home while it’s still warm. If you make it that far – we’re reasonably sure we’d just eat it right there. They’ve got butter, right?
coffee, tea and honey
There’s a truly spectacular selection of honeys. They range from aromatic nectar from Cotswold bees to a dark and rich, almost treacle-like organic honey harvested from hives placed high in the tree tops of Zambia.
World-class barista Bartosz Ciepaj is in charge of the roasted coffee. He’s deeply expert in the different coffee-growing regions, varieties and roasting methods. And he’s happy to talk about all of it with interested shoppers.
Nearby, Tea Tailor Angelo Tantillo can develop your own proprietary tea blend, which you can re-order at any time.
There are dramatic displays of prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit, in the charcuterie section. The attention-grabbers are the 20 giant legs of Cincos Jotas jambons suspended from hooks and the huge wheels of cheese framed in various display cases.
There are still areas of the Food Hall that have not yet been renovated. But they contain some of our favorite items, and we strongly urge you to visit them anyway. Starting with the confections.
Truffles, anyone? There are quite a few from which to choose here.
Charbonnel & Walker is the chocoliatier to the Queen and holder of a Royal Warrant.
We had never sampled their pink champagne truffles. At the urging of our companion, we did. And now we’re hooked. Trust us – if you have the opportunity, treat yourself to one of these.
There’s an in-house florist tucked in a corner next to the confections. It’s tough to compete with all the other lovely vignettes in this space, but these blooms give it their all.
It seems fitting to end our journey with cupcakes. Because, why not? Back to the bakery!
In addition to cupcakes, there are adorable “Cake Towers.” We dare you choose just one of these to tuck into your bag as a treat for later in the day.
Harrods’ Taste Revolution will continue throughout this year, with the redevelopment of the Dining Hall and the Chocolate Room. Watch this space for future updates. Get your forks ready! And nope, we’re not sharing a crumb of our personalized sourdough loaf – sorry.
But enough about us. What area tempts you the most here? Which of these is your dream destination?
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