The 1660s in London was a decade that most who lived through would most probably like to forget; the Great Plague, the Second Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London were all just some of the catastrophes that befell the Capital in quick succession. It is hard to imagine what life would have been like in the days where Fleet Street was still a river, raw sewage was poured out onto the street, and one of the biggest tourist attractions of the day was the head of Oliver Cromwell displayed on a spike above the Palace of Westminster. Luckily for us the diaries of Samuel Pepys – written between 1660-1669 – provide us with a wonderful contemporary account of these turbulent years, interspersed with anecdotes of this “man about town.” Just imagine what these diaries could have contained had he used KOMPAS…
“And in the evening Sir W. Pen and I did dig together another [hole], and put our wine in it; and I, my Parmazan cheese…”
Seeing the rapid spread of the Great Fire inching ever closer to his home, Pepys famously dug a hole in his back garden in which to bury his most important papers, his wine, and a large wheel of Parmesan cheese. Ever since the Mediaeval period this pungent and tangy treat from Italy was held in great esteem in high society; in 1511 the Pope even gifted 100 Parmesan cheeses to Henry VIII, while the cheese was continuously used for diplomatic gifts. With such great value attributed to the cheese, it is little wonder Pepys didn’t want to lose it to the fire! If he used KOMPAS, however, he would have known straightaway where to buy some more…
PAXTON & WHITFIELD
Nearest Station: St. James’s
With roots in Aldwych market dating to 1742, Paxton & Whitfield was officially founded in 1797, making it one of the oldest cheesemongers in England. In 1850 the shop obtained its first Royal warrant when they were appointed cheesemonger to HM Queen Victoria. Selling cheeses from all over the world, and every accessory you could ever hope for, Paxton & Whitfield-labelled Parmesan would not have seemed amiss on one of Pepys’ shelves. Aside from their wonderfully vintage packaging and historic ambience, Paxton & Whitfield also have an Academy of Cheese where you can learn all about the 25 key cheeses, how they’re matured, how to select and present a selection. If that’s not enough, they also have a Cheese Society subscription service where a selection of different cheeses are sent to your door every month! Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned their Cheese Celebration cakes. Sweet dreams truly are made of cheese.
“Off the Exchange with Sir J. Cutler and Mr. Grant to the Royall Oake Taverne in Lombard-street… And here drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most perticular taste that I never met with.”
Wine is one of the most mentioned topics in Pepys’ diaries, and it wasn’t just his cheese that Pepys saved from the fire, but a few decent bottles of plonk also. Well, you can’t have cheese without wine can you?!
Nearest Tube: Bond Street
Good old Democritus. The ancient Greek philosopher was one of the first to cogitate over the meaning of life and come to the conclusion that one should live in a constant state of pursuing pleasure, pleasure being the only intrinsic good. It is almost as if Democritus was behind the launch of Hedonism Wines. The whole space is a visual treat; a large installation of upturned wine glasses act as a feature chandelier upon entering, while descend the ornate iron stairway into the subterranean room where vines and trees come out of the walls, intertwining with wine bottles in an eerie Pan’s Labyrinth-esque manner. The shop stocks around 6,500 wines (and over 3,000 spirits), with every member of staff an expert in their field (many have backgrounds as Sommeliers in Michelin starred restaurants.) Their state-of-the-art Enomatic machines allow you to sample over 50 wines, while they also host regular wine tasting evenings. If Pepys were to choose anywhere to wait for the flames of the Great Fire to die down, it would probably have been here.
Without stationery there would be no Diaries of Samuel Pepys. Although good tools do not maketh the man, a decent pen and paper certainly helps. As a lifelong bibliophile Pepys amassed a collection of rare books, manuscripts, and prints from all over the world, including the almanac of Sir Francis Drake.
PRESENT AND CORRECT
Nearest Station: Angel
What a visual treat Present & Correct is. Named after the age-old phrase usually uttered with disdain at morning registration, there is a certain school aesthetic to the place. Starting as a we-only store, Graphic Designer Neal Whittington and business partner Mark Smith curated a collection of their own designs, interspersed with stationary found all over the world. Since opening bricks and mortar in 2012, they continue to travel annually, sourcing beautiful items globally. The visual vocabulary of the shop is a true representation of both their tastes; subtle geometry mixed with pastels, vintage items interspersed with items fresh off the production line, there is certainly things to suit everyone’s tastes. Influenced by school-chic, the Post Office, and office stationary, Neal also brings to this aesthetic masterpiece a style once executed during his branding days, along with many graphic design elements. If Pepys also had Instagram, there’s no doubt he would have taken a few #stationaryporn shots.
When Western traders first reached China in the 1600s, Britain was opened up to a whole new world of flavour, spice, and Oriental wonder. By 1658 tea was being sold in England, the first at a coffee house in the City of London. And who was the first to record this? Our good friend Pepys; “I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink) of which I never drank before.”
If you’re after a classic builder’s brew, Postcard Teas is not your shop. 20 years of exploration across Asia, delving into the tea traditions of Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, Timothy D’Offay has brought his fascination with small tea growers to London, first with East Teas in Borough Market, and now Postcard. He also brought home his wife, Asako, of the Shizuoka tea farming dynasty, whose grandfather produced teas for the Emperor of Japan as well as making one of the country’s first black teas. They were the first in the world to exclusively specialise in selling teas from small farms – that is, farms with less than 15 acres – and were also the first company in the world to list the maker’s name and location on all 60 of their teas including all the blends. Notoriously underpaid, Postcard Teas ensures money goes straight to the farmers above Fairtrade minimum, and in return, rare, exotic, and intensely flavoursome teas are on offer in their shop, with Saturday morning tasting sessions incredibly popular.