Last November on a visit to London, I attended the Taste of London and happily discovered so many great food and drink vendors in the U.K., that this year, I decided to check out The Spirit of Christmas fair in association with House & Garden, held the first week of November at the Olympia London center in Kensington. Just like the Taste of London, this event also has a few other iterations during the year so you can discover and shop year round.
With 750 independent, boutique like vendors spread over the two floors of this massive conference center, I tried my best to sample as much as I could to compile a great representations of #MadeinBritain items that you should check out for a gift to yourself, family and friends. Don’t worry if you don’t live in the UK, many vendors will ship to you or you can add to your “when I’m next in the UK list and ship to your hotel”. I’m hard to impress so I was looking for fabulous stories, well made luxury items and basically things that made me stop to learn more. I was pretty happy that day with my discoveries, most of which were new to the fair. Here is my 2016 list of Made in Britain Food, Fashion and Fun Finds at The Spirit of Christmas.
Made in Britain – Food and Drink
Mon Dessert Macaron Kit
Located in a shared booth for her first year, Mon Dessert sells a Macron Making Kit, which is a do it yourself macaron baking tin. It includes all of the ingredients measured out and ready for you to add the butter and cream. I was instantly hooked on this great idea and loved the packaging. I bought one tin of chocolate noir with gold dust to give to my nieces (normally £39.95 but there was a special fair price). Each tin contains ingredients to make 24 macarons and once done you can order refill kits. My nieces loved the gift and made them for Thanksgiving (the whole family was surprised by photo of them getting along to make these). Our tin was missing instructions but my nieces went to the YouTube video and followed along. The edible glitter made it on the macarons but also all over my niece who loved it. So upgrade your cookies to these indulgent dessert treats.
Avlaki Olive Oil
It was in Spain on the Devour Barcelona food tour that I experienced an olive oil tasting. At first I thought “don’t they all taste the same” (note don’t say this to a foodie or chef, it’s like saying all wine taste the same). So after that tasting, I recognized subtle differences in the olive oils so when I happened upon Avlaki Olive Oil I was intrigued to sample. The owners have a fascinating background in broadcasting and painting. I met Natalie, the owner formerly in broadcasting, at the booth and she treated me to the story of how she and her friend happened upon olive oil as a fluke when they were buying property. They inherited olive trees and decided to harvest by hand the organic olives – it’s now a passion that has won their olive oils many awards. Since I couldn’t carry the olive oil on the plane in my carryon, I had to taste at the booth only but I did my best to attract others walking by to taste. We tried three of the more popular flavors. This is a great gift for the foodie in your life.
Ross & Ross Fine Foods
I only needed to see “BACON” in the sign to stop at this booth and look around. Ross & Ross are a Cotswold based event caterer who also specialize in British food gifts such as at home curing kits for bacon or salmon, food oils and salts and a variety of spice rubs. Since I could easily carry home the jars of salts and spices, I focused on what to choose from a list of combinations (Chili & Garlic, Smoked BBQ with garlic and charcoal, Tandoori, Cajun, and Moroccan to name just a few temptations). Since a highlight of Reykjavik was my volcano salt, I decided to buy a few to bring home. Unlike Reykjavik, I’m in London frequently so can easily restock and try more.
I love their gift boxes – the Man box includes cider or lager, crackling, chutney and a meat like salami or chorizo (can we say yum! and point out that women also would like this too), the Curing box for Bacon or Salmon with prepacked instructions and ingredients and so much more!
Damson Tree Vodka
Damson Tree is a family owned business is based in Heresforshire and their damsons (similar to a plum – i had to look it up) are grown and hand picked on their orchard to create this unique vodka. Vodka has exploded in flavors in the past few years and it’s an interesting sweet fruit taste to make vodka to – drink as is or add it to your favorite lemonade in summer.
Made In Britain – Fashion/Lifestyle
Norse Luxury Shaving for Men
Men’s shaving accessories are always fascinating to me. I’ve met men who don’t really care about it and others who are all about the luxury of it all. When I saw the shiny accessories and luxury tins, I had to stop to learn more about this company. Like others entrepreneurs at the fair who started out in different industries, the owner of Norse started out in Finance in the City (enough said! I always say “to find your passion start in finance and you’ll quickly find your passion in life outside of Finance). The products are handmade and just scream “luxury”. With a line of shavers, brushes, soaps as well as oils and balms (for beards), the man in your life should really be proud to own these shaving accessories. The other cool thing about Norse is that they offer free shipping around the world (based on purchase amount) because it’s the right thing to do (how many of us have abandoned online carts once you got to the shipping costs screen?!)
Bhoid Scarves & Accessories
Success in fashion is not an easy thing to achieve but this British Millennial is breaking rules by starting her own fashion line, Bhoid, of British countryside inspired scarves and partnering with local British vendors to accessorize other products such as umbrellas and belts. Growing up on a farm in England inspired the designer, Stephanie, to feature nature scenes on her luxury scarves (scarves starting at £159, skinny version at £62). The umbrella line is quite posh as are the leather belts.
Here in Philly, I belonged to a Flower CSA program and each week, I would go pick up my bucket of flowers thoughout the summer. In London, you won’t have to go pick up your bucket to make your arrangement as Freddy does that for you. Freddie’s Flowers is a subscription service that delivers flowers to your home or office on a routine schedule starting at £20. He supplies the flowers, you supply the vase. Freddie was manning the booth and spoke with such passion about flowers, I wanted to sign up on the spot but alas, I don’t live in his delivery zone. With a weekly flower and/or arrangement delivered to all customers, you won’t get bored as the flowers change each week. This is a little luxury to brighten up your London winter as you dream of sunny spring days.
Luxury Travel Inspired Notecards
These are my mystery vendor – I’m still trying to find the information on these and will update once I do – I remember the vendor was out of business cards and didn’t have a website. She was so new that she was taking orders via Facebook and email. She was excited to be accepted to the show and I loved her travel inspired notecards and posters. The travel quotes were classic fun with fashionable ladies on the front “we only travel to steal the tiny bottles from hotels”, “prosecco and Prada” and “do I look like I fly Economy”
Made In Britain Teddy Bears and Candy
Merrythought Teddy Bears
I’m a sucker for a plush teddy bear so when I saw a booth full of teddy bears manned by the massive teddy bear, I was going to stop. Merrythought is a family owned British Toy Company, now in its fourth generation, has been touching hearts throughout the UK since 1930 and is the last manufacturer in the UK of teddy bears. These hand crafted plush toys made with mohair and alpaca have moving parts so that type of craftsmanship will cost a bit more. They offer bears in a variety of collections, can personalize your bear and have a line of furry friends (love the hedgehog!). The teddy bear is a bit different than those sold in the U.S. (it’s funny to see how different cultures interpret the same thing for their customers). Merry Thought Teddy Bears celebrate all that is English heritage and it’s wonderful to see that type of skill and love in the craft.
Ask Mummy & Daddy Confectionery
A candy store delight with a great name is Ask Mummy & Daddy. The old time confectionery gets a posh makeover as it seeks to celebrate British candy in the variety of packaged treats. For Christmas who can resist the candy canes and the gingerbread men and houses. With a sense of wonder, I was transported back to my childhood but was seeing all the treats made in England. With so many candy bars out there at the market, this candy store and UK confectionary line of candy is a wonderful throwback to childhood for adults and for the kids just another reason to Ask Mummy & Daddy if they can have some fun. The concept started in 2012 in the owner’s spare room of his house. Now their treats are available in Selfridges and other boutiques in the UK. Thankfully as adults we don’t need to ask anyone permission to have a stroll down candy lane at their Notting Hill store. Now if someone can explain a few of the candies to me…
I love these types of shows in London but I never allocate enough time to visit. I hope to visit more in the future to support new entrepreneurs and small businesses. So these are my top finds at the Spirit of Christmas show featuring independent Made in Britain goods. Definitely add this shopping fair to your calendar for 2017 to discover your own Made in Britain food, fashion and fun items.
Are these new to you or are you already a fan? Would you consider trying any of the above items? If you do, let me know if you liked them.