Gunter’s Tea Shop was a famous confectioner and considered “one of the great institutions of Regency London.” The aristocracy enjoyed lounging about outside the establishment on Berkley Square, while enjoying a delicious treat or a frozen sorbet on a hot day.
The shop was originally called The Pot and Pineapple and established in 1757 by Italian pastry chef, Domenico Negri. The pineapple was a symbol of luxury and commonly used by confectioners. The shop sold English, French, and Italian wet and dry sweetmeats, which are sweet treats made from sugar or honey. The confectioner’s art of creation was like a science, as many processes of heating and cooling were used to refine sugar and produce the tasty treats. Items served consisted of creatively shaped custards, ice cream, frozen mousses, jellied fruit, candies, syrups, biscuits, and caramels. Some of the ice cream flavors include chocolate, lavender, maple, Parmesan, Gruyere cheese, and bergamot, which is a type of orange that is yellow like a lemon. The Bergamot orange is inedible, but its extracts are used to flavor treats. It is said to taste less sour than a lemon, but bitterer than a grapefruit. Mousses were often vanilla, saffron, and pineapple. For more information on sweetmeats, chocolate, and ice cream in Regency England: http://www.lahilden.com/index.php?categoryid=6&p2_articleid=145
In 1777, James Gunter became Negri’s business partner, and by 1799, Gunter was the sole proprietor. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Gunter’s was considered a fashionable light eatery in Mayfair, well known for its ices, sorbets, and confections. James Gunter garnered enough wealth from his business to purchase a fine mansion in Earl’s Court. Gunter’s son Robert studied confections in Paris and eventually took over his father’s business after his death in 1819. Robert eventually brought his cousin John in as a partner, assuring the business would remain in the family. Robert went on to write a cookbook, Gunter’s Confectioner’s Oracle, which was published in 1830. His book was said to be filled with gossip, name-dropping and a terrible dictionary of ingredients, but I’m sure there were recipes too. He began his cookbook with a dream he had of being led to a banquet by a witch. It certainly sounds interesting and unlike other cookbooks I’ve read. There were also famous apprentices who worked at the shop and went on to write their own cookbooks.
Located on the east side of Berkeley Square, Gunter’s became a trendy place for a gentleman to take the lady he was courting. According to the Encyclopedia of London, “A custom grew up that ices were eaten, not in the shop, but in the Square itself; ladies would remain in their carriages under the trees, their escorts leaning against the railings near them, while the waiters dodged across the road with their orders.” Gunter’s was the only establishment where a lady could visit with an admirer in an open carriage, without a chaperone or relative, and no harm would come to her reputation. Mayfair happened to be were the aristocracy lived and famous people like Beau Brummell lived near the shop. King George III was known to purchase his buns at Gunter’s Tea Shop. For more on Beau Brummell: http://www.lahilden.com/index.php?categoryid=6&p2_articleid=91
Gunter’s was also known for its catering business and for their wedding cakes. The bride cake for the marriage of Queen Victoria’s Granddaughter, Princess Louise of Wales, was made at Gunter’s.
Gunter’s Tea Shop is no longer located at its original location and was moved to Curzon Street in 1936. The shop closed for business in 1956, although the catering business lasted for 20 more years in Bryanston Square.
To read more about the Regency Period: http://www.lahilden.com/index.php?categoryid=6&p2_articleid=104
A special thank you to: https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/gunters-tea-shop/ and http://christianregency.com/blog/2012/07/11/gunters-tea-shop/ and Secret London by Andrew Duncan