It was forty-five minutes past the witching hour and all was tranquil. The torrential rain that had marred our otherwise scenic drive had gladly ceased leaving Marylebone Lane awash with the glow from the ornate street lamps. Spirits were high, bolstered by the recent nuptials at the Powell Burke wedding in North London that very evening. By this point in the proceedings, I had imbibed enough to play Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong in some sort of homage to My Fair Lady. Which incidentally was actually shot on neighbouring Wimpole Street. I abhor anyone playing music on their mobile phone in public. Unless it’s the First Lady of Song and Satchmo and it’s me playing it dressed in patent shoes. Suffice to say, The Marylebone hotel certainly has an enviable location. After all, naming an establishment after its place of residence is a sure sign that you intend to embody the general style and ethos of the locale.
Let’s step backwards though, you’re not in full possession of the facts yet reader.
Firstly a little didactic influence regarding The Manor of Tyburn. Originally valued at 52 shillings in the doomsday book or roughly £5200 adjusted for inflation, the good people of the village of Tyburn built a church in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Given it’s proximity to a brook called the Tyburn and with almost a thousand years under our belts, the name went from St Mary-la-Bourne to Marylebone.
The Marylebone sits rather proudly on Marylebone lane which used to follow the course of the River Tyburn before it was culverted like many of the capitals other tributaries of the Thames. The first thing that struck me was the area’s village mentality. As someone that visits London either for meetings or celebration, my main concern is categorically how to get from point A to point B in the least time possible whilst encountering as few tourists or international prime central London property owners as is feasible. So it is arguably rare that I get to fully explore a region of London for abject pleasure and with time on my hands. In addition to the lane of the same name, The Marylebone straddles Bulstrode Street and has its main entrance on Welbeck Street. You’ll find the 108 Brasserie on the West side of the building, the 108 Pantry on the South, the entrance to the Cocktail Bar to the East and the Third Space Health Club that partners with The Marylebone to the North. I would call it an urban sanctuary in the city but the property’s enviable location and surrounding area is a prime location regardless.
Now unless I am driving something fast and nimble, or too large for other road users to avoid giving way to, I tend to avoid driving into central London. It all stems from a regrettable incident with a London bus and a Rolls Royce Phantom I was driving. Thankfully it was at a time before social media cruelly documented every fibre of our being. So rather than cruise into West London in an opulent leviathan, I now take the tube. It’s less Sex and the City and more Flashing in Kings Cross but it saves time and stress. Walking North from Bond Street Station in what remained of the drizzle on a Friday evening, we passed countless eateries along with the obligatory fall out from Oxford street until the urban chaos began to fall away. As we crossed Wigmore street accompanied by a cacophony of Rimowa luggage wheels, the profusion of passers-by became a dearth. It’s like that moment when you discover you’ve taken a wrong turning and stepped onto the lot of a large scale film production. They’ve thinned out the masses of people and replaced them with pastel shade wearing extras with poodles and pugs who’ve got better blow-dries than you.
We eventually found ourselves opposite The Marylebone browsing hats at VV Rouleaux, they would probably want us to point out they also purvey Ribbons and Braids along with ‘Trimmings’. No, I am not sure either but there must be demand.
On Welbeck Street The Marylebone’s entrance is understated. Or least as demure as one can be when flanked by well suited and Bowler hatted doormen. Its polite frontage stands as a tip of the cap to the neighbouring Georgian four-storey townhouses that are both slender and elegant. I think it pertinent to mention that number 32 used to be the Russian Embassy and behind its cast-iron balcony and shiny door lies a Russian Orthodox chapel, complete with Russo-Byzantine dome. It reminds me that you can traverse London in a moment underground without knowing the vastness of the history that surrounds you.
The lobby is a minimalist affair with a central gold and honeycomb theme that runs throughout the property adding to its sultry aesthetic. There is no queue and check-in as about as brief an experience, (without lacking the obligatory social courtesies), as I have ever experienced. Alistair even shows us to our suite on the first floor along the corridors lined with an immensely tactile dark suede-style fabric. I cannot help but think of Aldous Snow telling me to Stroke the Furry Wall.
The Marylebone occupies an impressive space with over 250 rooms in six categories and 44 suites. Ours featured a separate living room and dining area along with an obligatory desk and wet bar. With my evening attire unfurled and hung in the bedroom and toiletries unpacked and assembled in the Arabascato Marble styled bathroom, I made myself a Marylebone Gin and Tonic and chrome cast a recent film to the sizeable TV. If we hadn’t made prior arrangements that evening, I could have seen myself reclining for some time before leisurely making my way to one of the four restaurant and bar options.
Once our small group had assembled in the suite a few hours later, I realised that the replenishment of our facilities was in order. As I was connected to room service to place said order, a butler arrived at the door with a bottle of Perrier Jouet in a rather fetching art deco ice bucket. This was of course probably coincidence but nice timing all the same. The suite was certainly a space made for entertaining and not wanting to upset the status quo, we ensured we did just that. The suites neutral mint and cream tones were offset by marble and geometric print finishes alongside some striking artwork making it rather a hospitable place to reside. This meant that our group didn’t manage to make our exit until probably an hour later than was planned. When attending an evening reception though, I always feel the expectation is that people will arrive in dribs and drabs and that should the entire invite list arrive at once, the couple are likely to be mobbed. It should be mentioned that The Marylebone has an impressive selection of private function spaces for corporate affairs and special occasions. If you are considering an event, ensure you view the courtyard, a 73sqm terrace with a retractable roof, open fire and encased in a lit garden wall. My personal design leanings lead me towards Number Six, a sophisticated event space on the ground floor with an incredibly ornate private bar.
Sometime later the following morning we returned to The Marylebone’s cobbled streets with a gullet of Champagne and an insatiable hunger as one does. After the briefest of attempts at finding somewhere healthy to dine at almost 1 am, we decided that the morning should be kept in a similar style to the evening. We returned to our suite, to find solace in a room service menu that appeared to have retained an interest in feeding it’s guests rather well. I shan’t go into details regarding the eating habits of the liberally champagne charged diner, other than to say we ate, drank and we’re certainly and respectfully, merry.
The following morning I awoke with the best of intentions. I would visit the Third Space health club and attempt to sweat out some of the Champagne imbibed the previous evening. My guest would simply continue to sleep as “one of us should”, I was told. However having realised that breakfast would shortly be coming to a close, it was agreed that an effort to mobilise should be made. With tired eyes and sobering minds on the matter at hand, we seated ourselves in the 108 Brasserie before realising that guests were seated in the 108 Pantry around the corner in a more quiet and calming surrounding. The Pantry is a classic affair Ox Blood red chairs with immaculate stud work sit side by side with a dark Cotswold Green and marble aesthetic. Even sat next to the breakfast buffet with its fresh pastries and preserves, the mood was incredibly calm. Now whether you subscribe to the idea that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day or you intermittent fast, the à la carte menu at 108 Pantry was outstanding. Usually, I have no trouble choosing a dish, no matter how stiff the competition. Pea Smash on sourdough toast with crumbled feta and tomatoes, Toasted Banana bread with ricotta and pecans, Waffles, the choice led us to make a pressure decision as time was ticking away. No one wants to be that guest, “oh high, yes is there still 30 seconds left till the buffet closes, great, we’re here for brunch”.
With no hint of urgency from the waiter at all, I opted for the Sweetcorn fritter with avocado, grilled halloumi, baby spinach and harissa. It was sublime, a true coming of Jesus moment. The spice of the harissa mixed with the fritter and the rather glutenous side of black pudding was superb. The Pantry is certainly worth visiting for a breakfast meeting or with the family on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
With all the nutrition needed for an intense workout aboard, I gingerly made my way down to the Third Space. Set across three floors, and filled with people just getting on with it, this is the sort of place I could see myself coming to. No posing, no running the treadmill for 45 minutes to take a picture of ‘your workout’, a weight room to lift tin, a constant spin class, a huge stretching area and enough machines and workout tools to keep even the most ADD users interested. Sadly I never made it into the steam room or to the pool downstairs which I was told was a sight to behold. I had made lunch reservations at 108 Brasserie and needed to check out in a timely fashion for fear I might not leave.
Now I am sure that a great deal of hard work and commitment went into the Alexander Waterworth Interior. The red leather, parquet floor and dark oak bar are indeed beautifully done. However given the luminous weather that occurs in London once every four hundred and twenty years, we decided to dine on the terrace with its foliage and sizeable awnings. People watching still remains unrecognised by the Olympic committee but we all know it deserves its spot. Especially in Marylebone whose dwellers could be described as eclectic despite shopping at the same stores. The local boutiques and restaurants actually appear to have managed to avoid Central London’s gluttony for chains which is incredibly refreshing. Visit Penton’s to see what life was like before B&Q when the local hardware store would offer advice as well as purvey a selection of tools. David Penton & Son have been on the lane for over 167 years! I don’t care what you buy if you don’t own a tool kit, you should. Further north on the lane you’ll find Marylebone’s Paul Rothe & Son who’ve been in business since the 1900s and are on the verge of being the fourth generation.
As I began to drift off into my Rosé, our sample menu selection arrived. Having eaten breakfast rather late and not worked out quite enough of an appetite in the gym, we decided to see what light summery inspired bites were being purveyed. Sea bass ceviche with sweet potato, avocado, plantain, lime & chilli. Tostadas with crab and avocado and steak tartare. We even managed to make significant enough room for Salted caramel fondant with crème fraîche and a Chocolate & coconut panna cotta with honeycomb. As is so easily done when the food and service are beyond reproach, brunch becomes a two hour plus affair and we entirely lose track of time. I could certainly see myself losing track of time in 108 Brasserie of an evening, stiff red in hand and guests dressed to impress.
The Marylebone is somewhat of an enigma. First-class amenities and service matched with a village-style location in the heart of the city are not easy to come by. The property remains a bit of a secret kept amongst those who dwell in one of London’s most fashionable areas. I invite you all to visit and explore The Marylebone and its wonderful surroundings. Just so long as you don’t tell too many people and I can still make a reservation at the drop of a hat. Tempus Magazine