London: land of concrete
and choking exhaust fumes. But a bee’s eye view gives a greener vision of the
city. London now has some 4000 hives and much delicious honey to discover. The eleven Royal Parks alone have 150,000 trees that provide nectar
and pollen for the bees, quite apart from all the gardens and park flowers of
That’s why I’m heading to the London Honey Show, held each October at the Lancaster London. The hotel has hives on its own roof so bees can forage in the 350 acres of neighbouring Hyde Park and make honey for the kitchen and guests’ breakfasts. The show has categories such as Best Rooftop Honey and a North vs South derby to determine which side of the river produces the best nectar. I'm giving a talk about how to explore honey in the kitchen. And I can’t wait to try a sample at the stall of the new London urban honey beer, Hiver.
I now spot hives all over the city. Bees are buzzing in the centre as well as the suburbs. There’s a colony in the garden at the Natural History Museum that even has its own ‘beecam’. Just yards from the busy Cromwell Road you find yourself in a different world, full of flowers and the gentle flow of honey. And Lambeth’s Roots and Shoots charity has a beautiful hidden garden that is the venue for events such as October’s Apple Day.
My favourite specialist place for buying honey in London is the Hive Honey Shop in Clapham, a sweet paradise full of different types to try, including a new borage and truffle honey for drizzling over savoury dishes. Beekeeper and shop-owner James Hamill is currently selling glorious apples from his Surrey orchard, as well as home-made honey and apple chutney using 30 of the old-fashioned varieties, and orchard blossom honey. Fortnum & Mason always has a good selection, including some London honey, and last year they had a display of postcode honeys for sale from all over town, such as those from their Piccadilly rooftop hives. To get a French angle, go to La Fromagerie in Marylebone and Highbury, where Patricia Michelson gathers in great artisanal honeys to pair with her fabulous cheeses and also sells the delectable honey sea-salt caramels from B Chocolates in Suffolk.
As for your own neighbourhood, at this time of year look out for freshly-harvested urban honey in local shops that have made links with beekeepers, as well as on stalls in farmers’ and producers’ markets. The nectar of some two million flowers goes into a single 1lb jar of honey. Knowing this sheds a whole new light on the nature in the city, as well as the honeypot on your table.
Hattie's latest book, Spoonfuls of Honey, a guide to the delights of honey with 80 recipes, was published by Pavilion in September and is on sale now.
We've got a chuck load of copies of Spoonfuls of Honey to give away. To get your copy, all you need to do is leave a user review on your favourite Cool Place between now and Thursday 19th October.