City honey is frequently judged to be better than country honey. This is because of the lush, varied herbaceous borders the bees can forage on, in contrast to the fields of rape or other monocultures – which are all that are available to some bees in a countryside where wildflower meadows and hedgerows have dwindled and died.
Bees with a classy address on Piccadilly are going to have access to some particularly great nectar, including the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Green Park and St James Park. Since 2008 Fortnum and Mason have kept bees in hives on the roof of their London store and the honey is then sold downstairs, offering what must be the lowest food miles on any product in W1. From February next year you’ll even be able to see the bees, and their bees’ eye view of London through ‘bee-cams’ on the roof – or visit the hives yourself, and see their bespoke elegant Georgian design with gold finials.
Thinking of these bees’ cosmopolitan feeding, I wondered what I would taste inside this elegant little pot with its trademark gold-and-eau-de-nil packaging. The honey looks great – liquid in consistency and the colour of the golden railing tips around St James’ smartest houses. The initial aroma is citrusy with bass notes of burnt wool. The taste is more strongly lemony, with a bitterness round the edges, almost like marmalade.
Perhaps the most typical way to eat this honey, in keeping with its terroir, would be over afternoon tea, to the tinkling of a light piano. Instead, I drizzled the honey over yoghurt for breakfast this morning, but it would also go well in dishes from well beyond Piccadilly that use citrus (my carob flour, honey and orange muffins, for example, or sfratti, baklava or loukoumades).
For other adventures in honey-eating and –harvesting, see my book, Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, published by Signal Books last year.