Last year at this time, Drew and I were in London looking for a place to live. We spent a day with a realtor touring nearly fifteen flats, driving around Islington, Notting Hill and Kensington in the process. After a tiring eight hours, we came back to our hotel where we had our first ever English tea service (complete with scones, finger sandwiches and little desserts) and decided where to live. With only five weeks until the big move, there was no time to waste.Though we now live on the other side of town, I have a soft spot for Marylebone, our first temporary neighbourhood in London. I have walked by the Dorset Square Hotel a few times, and I always have the itch to just go in, and proclaim to the front desk clerk that I was staying there when we made this life changing decision about where to live. I pass Baker Street station a couple times a week and I can just picture how I felt the first time I saw it, not realizing that it was a pretty major hub in the London tube system, or that it would quickly become the background of my daily life.Marylebone is also home to some great restaurants, shops and art which will delight and surprise you on your next trip to the area.
Dorset Square Hotel – What a gorgeous hotel. While we don’t usually spring for a hotel of this calibre, it is in a beautiful square, a stone’s throw from Regent’s Park and I would send anyone here if asked for a recommendation. We particularly swooned over the breakfast, served in the downstairs restaurant each day. I secretly want to go back for breakfast, and eat their ridiculous yogurt parfait (there must be something else in that thing – I swear, yogurt and fruit usually aren’t enough to make me freak out).
Trishna – On our first night in London, we spoiled ourselves with a visit to Trishna, a one-star Michelin Indian restaurant in the heart of Marylebone. We made it just in time to sample the Early Evening Menu, which is a great value. I remember this sea bream dish covered in a cilantro pesto that basically made me fall out of my chair. And rice pudding to die for. We have sent several people in the direction of Trishna and have heard nothing but rave reviews. It’s a no brainer.
Daunt Books – I’m a sucker for an independent bookstore. This one, on Marylebone High Street, has a great selection. The front rooms are ‘normal’ book store fare, fiction, a small non-fiction section, etc. But the back room is the amazing bit. It’s divided into geographies, and books, both fiction and non-fiction (travel guides, memoirs) on that region are grouped by location. You’re going to Spain and want a travel book and maybe a novel to get you in the mood? They are shelved next to each other. Genius.The Privodores & Tapa Room – Another find last summer is Privodores, a Spanish tapas restaurant that’s great for lunch, brunch or a leisurely dinner. The downstairs area is called the Tapa Room, which has a casual, a la carte menu. We sat here and shared four or five tapas for lunch. Upstairs is The Privodores, where set price menus are available (3 to 6 courses, with options for each). The space is warm and casual, and the flavours are authentic.The Wallace Collection – The first time I went to the Wallace Collection was for a baby shower. When I got the invite and did an online search, I saw that it is a small art museum. A baby shower in a museum? Well, turns out, behind the museum, in the back of the old manor house, is this gorgeous dining room. They serve lunch and dinner, but we went for tea. The room is particularly striking because it has a glass roof, so even though you’re walking through a marble covered foyer, down an oak-laden hallway to the restaurant, once you’re in, it’s light all around. The tea is also a great value for London (about £20 per person), is high quality and is amazing overall. I’ve now been three times for tea, and it never gets old to see the awe on people’s faces as they realize that the Wallace Collection is much more than it appears to be. (Oh, and the art is also great…I have walked through the collection a couple times…it’s also free.)
Purl – Time Out magazine is a free local magazine that lists things to do on the weekend, interviews celebrities and basically makes Tuesday tube rides a little more fun (it comes out on Tuesday). The magazine also posts longer articles to their website about the 100 Best Cheap Eats in London, or the Top Brunches in town. There is a bit of a lack of high end bars in London, but Time Out has them all compiled in one of their lists. And Purl is among them. Purl is the kind of bar where you make a reservation … days in advance. When you get there, you’re treated to amazing and inventive cocktails, at £12-£15 each. It’s not a dive bar by any stretch. But it’s buried underground and there are tables in little caves, and frankly, the cocktails are great. So just make it a night out, drink your two cocktails for £25 and go home.La Fromagerie – Basically, La Fromagerie is a fancy cheese shop and small grocery. It’s right off Marylebone High Street and you must go in for a peek. Just step in the cheese cave, take a big whiff of the stinky unpasteurized goodness, and be on your way.
The Grazing Goat – Our last Marylebone highlight is a favourite among those who live in the ‘hood. It’s not on the high street, so tourists are less likely to wander in. They do brunch, lunch, dinner. And dogs are allowed. It’s like your neighbourhood pub, but just a little bit nicer because you’re in Marylebone and that’s how you roll here. We’ve been for brunch and dinner (with friends who live around the block). The food is great and well varied, with a fun cocktail list and the best cappuccino our friend has ever had (it is tasty, I tried it recently).
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