Is it mar-li-bone or mar-li-bun? Or maybe Mary-lee-bone?
No one really knows how to pronounce this district of central London, named after the old parish church of St Mary and the ‘bourne’ (stream) that flowed alongside it.
What is universally accepted is that these days Marylebone is as desirable a residential area as it gets, with a laid-back, village-like feel, and home to some of the best shopping and dining in the capital.
Close enough, of course, if you want to dive into Europe’s busiest shopping street, Oxford Street, but also a refuge from its hubbub.
The Marylebone Hotel on Welbeck Street would be our comfortable base for exploring the region’s cultural and gastronomic offerings.
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It is, in simple figures, a large hotel with more than 250 rooms including 44 suites.
But it nevertheless succeeds admirably in creating the atmosphere of an intimate boutique hotel, full of character, very contemporary.
You know you are in the right place when the front desk staff are so welcoming and friendly.
We had a suite on the fifth floor with excellent views of the neighboring streets – one of which, Rue Bentinck, has a particularly fascinating history.
It was home to Edward Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), Charles Dickens in his first incarnation as a court reporter, and those spies and traitors Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, who shared an apartment at No.5.
Our suite was light and airy, in soft, neutral colors, and had a beautiful king-size bed to sink into after an afternoon strolling the streets.
The sleek arabascato marble bathroom contained possibly the most beautiful walk-in shower ever – simple to use, with the most energizing cascading waterfall you can imagine.
Unlike the soothing light greens and creams in our bedrooms, downstairs in the main bustling gathering areas, more vibrant colors abound.
Comfortable sofas and rich velvet sofas fill the spacious bar, lounge and library space, while on the walls there are original works of art and striking photographs.
We chose to eat at 108 Brasserie restaurant at The Marylebone – al fresco, as the night was quite warm.
The terrace opens directly onto Marylebone Lane and thus attracts many outside shops in addition to hotel guests.
It was a Friday night, the Covid chains were off and the adjacent restaurants were also packed with diners outside, creating a lively atmosphere and good people watching as we ate.
108 has a British menu but with lots of European / global twists.
On this occasion we went for the latter, starting with crispy baked corn tostados with chicken and a spicy satay sauce, followed by Thai green curry and jasmine rice – all drizzled with a bottle of Pinot. Grigio.
Delicious but very filling, so you had to wander the streets Sherlock Holmes frequented before going to bed.
After breakfast on Saturday morning, we took a five minute walk to Manchester Square and the elegant Georgian Hertford House, home to the Wallace Collection, one of the most magnificent collections of Western classical art in the world. .
It’s one of our favorites, and we go back every few years or so, drawn to the intimacy of the setting as much as the glorious paintings.
During our visit, a special exhibition was held to bring together two famous paintings by the great 17th century Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.
Perhaps best known for his portraits and classic mythological scenes – not to mention the naked, plump women in many of them – Rubens was able to develop his landscaping skills when he retired to his country estate Het Steen. in his later years.
An Early Morning View of Het Steen and The Rainbow Landscape, stunning detailed and panoramic depictions of the panorama of his estate and working life, were clearly painted as accompanying pieces but have been separated over time. centuries – despite John Constable’s insistence at the Royal Academy in 1833 that they be reunited.
Finally, the National Gallery (which owns the first one) and the Wallace Collection collaborated to bring them together, and it was a joy to see, face to face on either side of the gallery.
From the Georgian and Victorian splendor of Hertford House, we took a short stroll to another of our usual Marylebone haunts, the Edwardian magnificence of Daunts on Marylebone High Street.
Dating from 1910, Daunts is the oldest specialist bookstore still in operation in the UK.
In the sunlight, we strolled to Regents Park where we made our way to the famous Queen Mary’s (Rose) Garden, admiring the sea of colors (there are 12,000 of them) and the delicious scents.
We were amazed at the number of wandering nuptials that afternoon, of all faiths and colors, which brought an extra touch of joy 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 from Bentinck Street to Welbeck Street, passing a furiously driven two-horse truck, it circled around and fell on me like lightning,” Holmes told Watson. “I jumped onto the trail and ran away in a split second.”
We arrived at Welbeck Passage that night luckily without incident.
Our stay at the Marylebone had sparked the imagination and stimulated the senses, and we will be returning soon.
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For more information, visit doylecollection.com