Fortnum & Mason’s First-Ever Cookbook Launches in the U.S.

by Wendy Sy Photographed by Josh Wong Photography
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New Yorkers had a little taste of London during dinner at the Redbury Hotel’s restaurant, Marta, in midtown on Monday night. The meal was served in celebration of (and with recipes from) Fortnum & Mason: The Cook Book, published by HarperCollins, which launched in the U.S. last month.

Hosted by CEO of the iconic British grocer, Fortnum & Mason, Ewan Venters and the book’s author Tom Parker Bowles, the evening started with servings of champagne and savory hors d’oeuvres that are apparently not too hard to recreate.

“Fortnum’s holds a very special place in my heart, as it does for many,” said Bowles, son of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall who is married to Prince Charles. “I must have been 5 or 6 years old and would go there with my grandmother during Christmastime. They had amazing shop windows and exotic food—it felt like the Emerald City of Oz.” 

Since then, Bowles has made a career out of writing about food. Fortnum & Mason: The Cook Book marks his fifth book and was conceived with Venters during a trip to Australia. “We found ourselves at a beach in Sidney having a few glasses of rosé and somehow, miraculously, came up with the idea almost at the same time,” said Venters. After pitching it to their literary agent, the book was released a year later in the U.K.

Over the course of its creation, Bowles worked closely with Fortnum & Mason’s in-house archivist, Dr. Andrea Tanner, or “Dr. T” as he calls her, to source recipes from the shop over the past three decades. “She has illustrations, receipts as well as letters from Dickens and Churchill. All of our heroes were Fortnum’s fans. Even fictional characters like James Bond went there,” said Bowles.

Chefs Danny Meyer and Joe Tarasco prepared the dinner, which included dressed crab with Marie Rose sauce, overnight shoulder-of-lamb shepherd’s pie with veggie sides in addition to stilton with apple chutney, walnut and raisin bread. Just as guests mentioned how full they were, out came the dessert which no one could resist: the Knickerbocker Glory, a strawberry-filled ice cream sundae that was first introduced in 1955.

“People talk about British food being bland and dreary. It has a bad reputation but a lot has changed over the years. It’s getting better and better,” said Bowles. Although Fortnum & Mason does not currently have a store in New York, products from tea to wicker picnic baskets, also known as hampers, can be purchased through its website. “Everything in the book can also be made with American ingredients and taste just as good,” said Bowles.

“Most importantly,” Venters adds, “you can learn how to make a perfect sandwich. This is not a coffee table book and is meant to live in kitchens and be used. I love to see when the pages are folded back with a bit of flour dust on it. It’s about luxury and making everyday special.”


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