I once met a couple from Jerusalem in their late fifties who had a novel approach to the staycation. Rather than go on holiday somewhere in Israel, they’d simply take one week off work and stay at home in their apartment.
I’ve lived in London all my life but I’ve never taken a day off in the week to wander about doing nothing. Taking the advice of the Israeli couple, but not willing to stay in my own apartment, I booked into The Marylebone Hotel for my birthday.
Marylebone isn’t really anything like Central London. Unlike Fitzrovia or Soho or Mayfair, there’s a distinctly residential feel to those beautiful Victorian, redbrick mansions. It gives the impression that, cocooned away from the sprawling metropolis, there is a quiet community minding its own business, almost as if in a separate time zone.
The hotel shares that residential feel. Although it’s just round the corner from Oxford Street, Selfridges and John Lewis, the atmosphere is calm and relaxed. The staff are casual and friendly.
We checked into one of the junior suites. A recent refurbishment has rendered the hotel in an art deco style. It’s light and airy, with creams and muted greys. The suite is large, and while my companion is refreshing herself in the bathroom I take a seat by the window and look down onto the street below. A group of colleagues have taken the afternoon off and are drinking outside the pub on the corner. I can’t hear what they’re saying through the windows. It’s an odd sensation. From this vantage point, in the midst of the the Victorian redbrick buildings, and the silence in my room, it appears as a vignette of authentic Englishness.
I visit Selfridges and buy myself some creams from Kiehl’s. What a great store it is on a late weekday afternoon! An entirely different beast from the weekend and evening monster to which I’m accustomed. Yes, there are still tourists, but they can’t walk as fast as me. And in the absence of any other genuine Londoners I am cock-a-hoop as I glide past the Mediterranean and Arab tourists plodding alongside me not quite knowing where to go.
My little spot of retail therapy done. I descend upon the pool and gym to refresh myself before my customary evening of much drink and good food. Sadly, I was rather dismayed when I got down there.
The gym at the Marylebone, you see, is not for the whole, exclusive use of the guests, and as such one must share the pool and fitness studio with paying members of the public. Why should that be a problem? Well, there is a great difference between the touristic user of a hotel gym and pool and the over-worked, determined, urban fitness enthusiast. For example, there were classes in the pool when I simply wanted to paddle about. Similarly, the gym was ram-packed at 6pm, and the sauna (which was on the small side) had a steady flow of sweaty men coming in and out every five seconds.
Of course, I can well understand that this is the nature of a health spa in the city. After all, I am usually one of the weekday, gritted-teeth, gym nutters, simply surviving the mental and physical onslaught of the 21st Century metropolis through extreme, self-induced physical pain. But should one really be confronted with the depressing realities of their own existence on a staycation? In hindsight perhaps I should have left off the gym. It was after all my birthday.
Anyway, I need not gripe any longer, for the rest of my stay was a delight.
At 8 we descended to the hotel’s brasserie. It’s a stylish space with elegant chairs, light cream walls, smatterings of dark reds and high ceilings. It feels like a confident restaurant; not trying to be anything too fancy, but similarly assured that the food it serves is timeless, and of good quality.
My companion has the Marylebone’s signature cocktail, a mix of vodka, champagne, elderflower and cassis. I order a Negroni.
As The Marylebone is owned by the Doyle Collection, and the Irish heritage of its owner appears tucked away in a few corners of the menu. One of those manifestations of Irishness is the Guinness bread. Deep, rich, and sweet, with a slab of soft, almost melting, hand-churned butter. It was superb so I ordered more.
The menu is very popular with my companion. Often, she remarks, there aren’t enough good options at the places I take her. I typically retort she clearly has cheap tastes. She argues she has classic tastes, and likes these classic tastes to be served well. Fortunately this menu caters for both of us with starters including crab on toast, and venison carpaccio, the mains including burgers, steaks, but also a beautiful John Dory dish (which I plumped for). It is indeed a crowd pleaser.
What’s more the populist offering has substance to back it up. Her steak with blue cheese sauce is undeniably excellent, while the aforementioned John Dory was light and delicate.
After plenty of Viognier, and a remarkable dram of 21-year old Bushmill’s whiskey, we head satiated to bed. After a well-turned out plate of eggs royale, I’m off into work. It only takes me 15 minutes. What a wonderful idea this staycation malarkey is; I might just take up residence in The Marylebone forever.
The Marylebone Hotel is part of the Doyle Collection. For more information about the hotel, including details of offers and special occasions, as well as information about the collection’s other properties, visit www.doylecollection.com.