Travel: A London break at the Marylebone Hotel

The glamorous entrance to the Marylebone Hotel

The glamorous entrance to the Marylebone Hotel - Credit: Marylebone Hotel

Is it mar-li-bone or mar-li-bun? Or perhaps mary-lee-bone?

No-one seems quite sure how to pronounce this Central London district, named after the old parish church of St Mary’s and the ‘bourne’ (stream) that used to flow alongside it.

What is universally accepted is that these days Marylebone is as desirable a residential area as they come, with a laidback, village feel, and home to some of the best shops and eateries in the capital.

Close enough, sure, if you wish to dip into Europe’s busiest shopping street, Oxford Street, but a refuge from its hubbub too.

The Marylebone Hotel on Welbeck Street would be our comfortable base from which to explore the area’s cultural and gastronomic offerings.

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It is, in simple statistics, a large hotel with over 250 rooms including 44 suites.

But nonetheless it succeeds admirably in creating the atmosphere of an intimate, characterful, very contemporary boutique hotel.

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You know you’re in a good place when the reception staff are so welcoming and personable.

One of the Studio Suites at the Marylebone Hotel

One of the Studio Suites at the Marylebone Hotel - Credit: Marylebone Hotel

We had a suite on the fifth floor with excellent views out over the neighbouring streets – one of which, Bentinck Street, has a particularly fascinating history.

It was home to Edward Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), Charles Dickens in his early incarnation as a court reporter, and to those spies and traitors Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, who shared a flat at No 5.

Our suite was light and airy, in soft, neutral colours, and possessed a wonderful king-sized bed to sink into after an afternoon padding the streets.

One of the Studio Suite bathrooms at the Marylebone Hotel

One of the Studio Suite bathrooms at the Marylebone Hotel - Credit: Marylebone Hotel

The stylish arabascato marble bathroom contained quite possibly the finest walk-in shower ever encountered – simple to work, with the most cascading, energising waterfall you could imagine.

In contrast to the calming light greens and creams of our rooms, downstairs in the lively main gathering areas more vibrant colours abound.

Comfortable sofas and rich velvet couches fill the spacious stretch of bar, drawing room and library, while on the walls there is striking original artwork and photography.

Dining al fresco at the Marylebone Hotel

Dining al fresco at the Marylebone Hotel - Credit: Marylebone Hotel

We elected to eat at The Marylebone’s 108 Brasserie restaurant – al fresco, as it was a warm enough night.

The terrace faces directly on to Marylebone Lane, and so attracts plenty of outside trade in addition to the hotel guests.

It was a Friday night, the Covid shackles were off, and adjoining restaurants were packed with outside diners too, making for a lively atmosphere and good people-watching while we ate.

108 offers a British-based menu but with plenty of European/world twists.

On this occasion we opted for the latter, starting with crisp baked corn tostados with chicken and a spicy satay sauce, followed by Thai green curry and jasmine rice – all washed down with a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

Looking out over London at the Marylebone Hotel

Looking out over London at the Marylebone Hotel - Credit: Marylebone Hotel

Delicious but very filling, so a walk around the streets that Sherlock Holmes used to frequent was necessary before bedtime.

After breakfast on Saturday morning we took the five-minute walk across to Manchester Square and the elegant Georgian Hertford House – home to the Wallace Collection, one of the most magnificent assembly of Western classical art anywhere in the world.

It’s one of our favourites, and every few years or so we return, attracted to the intimacy of the setting as much as the glorious paintings.

When we visited a special exhibition was taking place to reunite two famous paintings by the great 17th century Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.

Perhaps best known for his portraits and his classical, mythological scenes – not to mention the naked, fleshy women in quite a few of them – Rubens was able to develop his landscape skills when he retreated to his country estate Het Steen in his later years.

A View of Het Steen in the Early Morning and The Rainbow Landscape, superb, detailed, sweeping depictions of the panorama of his estate and the working life on it, were clearly painted as companion pieces but have been separated over the centuries – despite the urging by John Constable at the Royal Academy in 1833 for them to be reunited.

Finally The National Gallery (which owns the former) and the Wallace Collection collaborated to bring them together, and they were a joy to behold, facing each other on either side of the gallery.

From the Georgian and Victorian splendour of Hertford House, we took a short walk to another of our regular Marylebone haunts, the Edwardian magnificence of Daunts on Marylebone High Street.

Dating back to 1910, Daunts is the oldest purpose-built bookshop still in use in the United Kingdom.

Out into the bright sunlight, we strolled over to Regents Park where we made a beeline for the famous Queen Mary’s (Rose) Garden, admiring the sea of colours (there are 12,000) and the delightful fragrances.

We were surprised by the number of wedding parties wandering around that afternoon, of all creeds and colours, which brought an added joyful air to the atmosphere.

In The Final Problem, Marylebone’s most famous (fictional) resident narrowly escapes death at the hands of the 'Napoleon of Crime’, Professor Moriarty.

‘As I passed the corner which leads from Bentinck Street on to the Welbeck Street crossing a two-horse van furiously driven whizzed round and was on me like a flash’, Holmes tells Watson. ‘I sprang for the footpath and saved myself by the fraction of a second’.

We arrived at the Welbeck crossing that night thankfully without incident.

Our stay at The Marylebone had provoked the imagination and stimulated the senses, and we will return again soon.

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