What magic can Harvey Nichols work this Christmas?

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I’m not really a typical Harvey Nichols customer, as there are really only two floors for me in the Knightsbridge store. Well, one and a half really. I can do the beauty hall at a bit of a canter for my day job (though I can get waylaid if By Kilian have a new fragrance, it’s my non-food weakness). And then there’s the fourth floor.

Come back in a couple of hours and I could still be there. You can keep the handbags, I’ll be at the deli counter.

If you were looking at a gift for an inventive cook, then you could try this Alchemic Larder from Easy Tasty Magic, which the team at HN sent me to try. Oh my word, I don’t know where to start, as each ingredient conjures up so many possibilities. And some leave me in definite need of a sprinkling of magic! Saffron, cacao nibs, Persian rose: no problem. Grains of paradise, white mischief and a very interestingly named chilli? Not a clue off the top of my head! Lovely to look at, nice problems to have!

Of course you could go full on hamper, and there are some lovely choices. I mean, Snowed In has to be my favourite emergency kit with red and white wine, some fizz and some port. Who’d notice the snow?

 

On Your Marks

 

I really like the redesign of their own label products, and it’s certainly different given the shift from retro black and white vintage photography to really vivid colours. The On Your Marks hamper is certainly impactful, and some lovely indulgences in jam, tea, spices and biscuits. Also nice to see the Compleat lunchbag that I featured recently.

There are plenty of indulgences, at every kind of level of spend. Some are well outside what I think most of us would spend, but always interesting to look. And then choose something within budget! Unless you are buying into their whole “spirit of Christmas” campaign, in which case, do your worst!

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The Friday Five – the cookbook of the store

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I appreciate that it’s pretty much like an hour long advert, but I’m rather enjoying Mr Selfridge. I love a good browse around Selfridges (although I can skip the Trafford Centre one), particularly the Food Hall in Birmingham or London. So for this week I’ve picked the cook books from some of the great shops of the world.

 

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The Good Wife’s Cook Book by Selfridges – I’m a little surprised to find that with the renaissance of Selfridges, and with the importance of its food hall, that it doesn’t have a more up to date cook book. This book was written in 1911, so interesting as a piece of culinary history, rather than something you might want to cook a Wednesday night dinner from. But you never know!

 

Harrods Book of Traditional English Cookery

 

Harrods Book of Traditional English Cookery – ah 1987, when Harrods was not long under Al Fayed ownership, and still feeling quite traditional. I can remember seeing this for sale at the time, but as a 19 year old office junior it wasn’t where I would spend my money. There again, looks like it might not have been a bad investment. Lovely old school approach to British cooking, though not quite as old as the Selfridges one!

 

The Fifth Floor Cookbook

 

Harvey Nichols – The Fifth Floor Cookbook – completing the triumvirate of London stores, and the most up to date of the three. This is a translation of their best dishes into dishes for home. My memories of eating on the Fifth Floor are just of lovely fresh flavours, and beautiful presentation. Perhaps I need to go back and see if it’s still the same.

 

Dean & Deluca Cookbook

 

Dean & Deluca Cookbook – one of my favourite stores in NYC, and probably not much of a surprise that they have a cookbook. It’s great for unusual recipes for different ingredients, I like the writing style, and it brings happy memories back of the hours I’ve spent in there whenever I cook from it.

 

Avoca Cafe Cookbook

 

Avoca Cafe Cookbook Book 2 – again, another shop I’ve enjoyed wandering around. The seven floors of Suffolk Street are an Aladdin’s cave and the cafe is the perfect refuelling stop. I think this is about modern, fresh, seasonal cooking, but real comfort food that you could make at home, and would want to cook. It’s not their only book, so could be spoilt for chocie, but I think it’s one I would definitely consider.

I’m sure there are other great stores around the world that have produced their own cookbooks, and I think I would be keeping an eye out for these and others. Maybe it could be the more sensible offset to my obsession with kitschness in cookbooks!

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A fabulous foodie treat of an afternoon tea

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Laura Mercier Perfume Tea

 

Buying gifts for foodies doesn’t just have to be things. In many ways, experiences will last longer than many physical things you can buy. And if your foodie fancies a bit of a treat, then I love this new afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols.

The Laura Mercier Perfume Tea is a fabulous combination of tea, cakes and fragrance, so ticks lots of boxes. Inspired by Laura Mercier’s Vanilla Gourmande fragrance, Fifth Floor executive chef Jonas Karlsson has designed the most wonderful tea, that is just a bit different to your average afternoon tea. The store’s in-house tea blenders were commissioned to create a new infusion, creating a bespoke blend of jasmine, vanilla, rose and green tea to complement the vanilla orchid, liqueur, bourbon, musk, heliotrope, daylily, sandalwood and amber notes of Vanille Gourmande.

Once you’ve got a cup of tea poured, then you can choose from a whole range of themed delicacies including smoked salmon and horseradish, cheese and pickle and egg mayonnaise finger sandwiches; scones with kumquat and vanilla marmalade and clotted cream; a vanilla and lemon-infused cupcake; a chocolate praline mousse cake; a raspberry éclair with rose and raspberry cream and chocolate, pistachio and peach macaroons. I know, I could eat all of that right now.

Whilst not cheap compared to a cup of tea and a slice of cake at Starbucks, it’s hardly comparable and so the £19.95 per person could be money very well spent. You can upgrade in various ways with champagne and gift wrapped bottles of the perfume, it depends on your budget!

I have to admit to loving this idea, and it’s one I’ve used myself. I was thrilled to be involved in the relaunch of Girard fragrances last year, with a launch at The Dorchester. The team there created canapes and cocktails that matched with the key ingredients of the 5 fragrances. I can’t take credit for it being an original idea, I was inspired by the amazing sounding dinners that Chandler Burr, the fragrance critic for the New York Times, created. I wish I’d been at a few of those too!

If you fancy the food but not the bill, then I found a recipe for Kumquat Vanilla marmalade on Lick My Spoon, which would make a great treat and change to the usual raspberry or strawberry. And if you want the fragrance then you can order it from Harvey Nichols but their delivery charges are quite steep. Stop by your nearest Space NK, they’ll have it but they don’t stock it online.

I’m off to see if I can recreate those macaroons!

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