Olly Does: Harrods

 In London

I’ll admit: the last few times I’ve been to Harrods have been solely to use their toilets. I never have loose change for the public loos at Hyde Park, and, I mean, why pay for those when I can take a brisk walk up the road and have a piss in opulence at Harrods? It’s a fantastic alternative.

But sometimes I’ll actually take the time to look around one of London’s most famous retail institutions too — and this weekend, I stopped by to refresh my memory. I won’t talk about the shopping part since I can barely afford anything from there right now, and I definitely don’t want to be that person who buys the ghastly Harrods tat — the teddy bears, the waxed green bags etc — else I might as well go full tourist and book myself on a London bus tour and buy a Union Jack thong. So let’s talk about the experience of Harrods, and a few things in particular:

THE EGYPTIAN ESCALATOR & THE EGYPTIAN ROOM

This entire concept is damn hideous to me. A dark, dimly lit place where they’ve tried to cram EVERYTHING about Ancient Egypt into a few floors. When I first entered The Egyptian Room, I thought it was something put together when Harrods first opened which they’d kept in there as a nostalgic look back to Harrods’ past. But no, it turns out it was built in the 90s. It was hideous even at the time it was created. Researching this blog also led to me discovering that the previous owner of Harrods, Mohammed Al Fayed, had popped a few busts of himself in this room too. Subtle.

THE DODI AND DIANA MEMORIAL

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I’m sorry to bring up a tough part of Britain’s history. But I have to talk about this. So when you get to the very base of this series of escalators, you encounter something which, I’m sorry to say, is as equally stomach-churning. A bronze statue of Princess Diana and Al Fayed’s son, Dodi, stood together on a beach, smiling at each other and holding an albatross (?). Oh, and Dodi’s shirt is wide open to reveal his abs. Because that was obviously necessary when his father was in charge of creating the tribute.

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Behind that statue is a shrine devoted to the pair, which many people on TripAdvisor have described as ‘tacky’. And they’re not wrong — it’s adorned with flowers, a falling water feature (into which people have thrown coins), and best of all, fake candles. Glitzy. There’s also a ‘Condolence Book’ just to the side, so visitors can write their own tribute to the pair. Or, as I noticed when I took a quick flick through, a place to write about how you’re ‘loving our trip to London!!’. It’s truly touching.

No wonder the Queen reportedly refuses to shop there.
No wonder the Queen reportedly refuses to shop there.

THE PIZZA BAR

I went to the pizza bar in Harrods soon after I moved to London – I was less realistic about money at the time, and I guess it was one of those “…so I can say I’ve done it” sort of things. The pizza was alright – as you’d probably expect from a £15 pizza at Harrods – a nice base, woodfired, tasty cheese etc.

But here’s the thing.

And it’s a big one. Positively the WORST thing about the pizza bar at Harrods:

The chef SINGS.

Like, he actually walks around the bar spinning pizza dough and warbling O Cara Mia or something. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. The hackles immediately rose when I first heard the backing track begin playing over the bar’s PA system; it was like one of those shitty instrumentals you hear on pub karaoke machines or those bad MIDI files that usually come preset on Yamaha keyboards.

Yet, here we are, sat in one of London’s most historic and opulent stores, with the pizza chef pacing the floor just trying to make the best of it. I mean, he sang well — it just felt like Harrods were trying so hard to make it feel Italian that it became laughably awkward. It was probably the sort of thing Audrey-Hepburn-esque, cigarette-holder-weilding types would have found entertaining in the 60’s. Not 2016. If you’re looking for authentic Italian cuisine, this isn’t it: it really felt closer to a Dolmio Day than an escape to Milan.

See the rest of the photos from my trip below.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE SHOWER CAPS
BUCKINGHAM PALACE SHOWER CAPS
CAT OUTFITTERS
CAT OUTFITTERS
A WAFFLE MAKER WITH A <b>NO-MESS MOAT.</b>
A WAFFLE MAKER WITH A NO-MESS MOAT.
THE BAGS HAVE GONE META
THE BAGS HAVE GONE META
Olly Browning
Olly Browning is a freelance writer and designer based in London, founder of the creative agency Mighty Oak. Send your thoughts, hate mail, commissions, or any other business to olly@yourolly.com, or tweet him @yourolly.
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