This is an espresso of a city; a shot in the arm. I love parachuting into its pace and energy, seeing the diversity of faces on the Tube, travelling in black cabs and red buses, eating myself into a stupor. There’s always something old to swing by and something new to discover.
But – and there is a but – you need to leave the party early. Before you’re drained; before you get real about the haemorrhaging cash.
When London calls, a good base is essential. Ireland’s Doyle Collection has three hotels in the city: The Kensington, Bloomsbury and Marylebone. Anyone who has stayed at their Irish hotels knows what to expect: an eye for detail, smart takes on local food, intuitive service, elegant design and regular refreshes. These are confident, thought-out hotels that seduce rather than chase.
For this stay, mine was the Marylebone.
Arrival & Location
When my wheelie case hits the ramp, two doormen in dapper waistcoats take my bag, ask my name, and lead me to reception (where I’m handed a refresher towel). The Wellbeck Street entrance and small, low-ceilinged lobby, laid out around a mosaic-tiled column, are not the hotel’s strongest points, but glimpses of the classy bar and lounge, and its punchy artworks, soon thread you through into a surprisingly deep building.
Carry on through to the Marylebone Lane end, and you’ll find a slightly clubbier feel, with bar and brasserie facing right into the neighbourhood. In summer, or shoulder season under the heaters, a streetside table is a treat.
Set between Hyde and Regent’s parks, Marylebone itself is chic, residential and eclectic – one moment you’ll catch the whiff of a Lebanese takeaway; the next wonder at a Bentley paused outside a boutique. The hotel is a short, five-minute walk from Oxford Circus and Bond Street stations – perfect for big hits and little trysts. 8/10
Service & Style
Design is a Doyle Collection strong point, and the devil is in the detail, particularly in the nooks of The Marylebone’s cocktail bar. Nestling in here, a mix of private-club and compact London luxury is broken up by pops of colour in the cushions or soft, tactile fabrics like mohair and crushed velvet – it’s a jewel-box space to sink (or slink) into.
I order a boulevardier cocktail (£15) for the heck of it, and the bearded hipster barman is instantly into it – suggesting a little Cognac and rye whiskey for balance. It arrives in a chilled glass with no ice (“It will grow too diluted in three or four minutes”), with a black cherry on skewer. I leave feeling squiffy, but also having learned something.
A big surprise is The Marylebone’s Third Space gym and pool, laid out over several floors. If fitness is a thing when you travel, this is a far cry from afterthoughts boxed away in the basement – with a spa, fitness centre, classes, and 18m pool all to hand. Pack the togs. 8.5/10
250 rooms start with 16sq m ‘Cosy’ spaces that feel tiny – suitable for singles on business, perhaps. ‘Classic’ is a step up – elegant and compact, though don’t plan on taking a long bath – and ‘Deluxe’ is more generously sized. The hotel is refurbing rooms throughout 2020, so ask for one that’s been freshly revamped, you’ll thank yourself when your toes sink into the new carpets.
Muted, natural tones are the order of the day, marble bathrooms stock Malin+Goetz products and Irish touches might include Butlers Chocolates at turndown, or a Yeats quote on the Do Not Disturb sign (“Tread softly…”). Suites are worth a splash, especially those with corner bay windows; you’ll enjoy bigger bathrooms and bijou lounging areas. 7.5/10
The best Deluxe rooms overlook Marylebone Lane; they catch a lovely blast of sunlight in the evening. A small, residents-only lift zips you down to ground floor and health area, but ask for a room that isn’t directly opposite, as it pings a little loudly on arrival.
Food & Drink
The 108 Brasserie serves “modern global” cuisine in an urbane, Marylebone Lane room where red leather chairs add blushes of colour – though a mix of chatter and the DJ next door makes it a loud-ish space.
I started with summer asparagus (£8.50), cooked with perfect bite and give, before splurging on a pillowy half-lobster (£29) with Béarnaise, though its accompanying cos and cucumber salad was a little salty for my taste.
There’s an Irish nod in a lovely, hand-churned Abernethy butter from Co Down (available again at breakfast, along with Clonakilty pudding), service is confident and unstuffy, and I finish with a super-creamy vanilla crème brûlée sweetly blowtorched in a skillet.
Costs add up, but… London, baby. 8/10
Skip Madame Tussauds for the smaller pleasure of the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street (sherlock-holmes.co.uk) or a bibliophile’s dream at Daunt Books.
The bottom line
Downsides? Some of The Marylebone’s bedroom corridors feel uncomfortably dark and narrow to me, and I’d love to see creative alternatives to single-use plastic in products like mini-toiletries or slipper wrappings.
The Marylebone lacks a standout space like The Bloomsbury’s Coral Room, but it has one of the city’s best hotel gyms, a peachy location and Bernie Gallagher’s design nous makes a large hotel feel like your London living-room.
Perfect for your annual layover – just remember to leave before the party ends.
‘Cosy’ rooms start from £306 B&B; ‘Deluxe’ from £366 and suites from £486 per night. Contact +44 20 7486 6600 or doylecollection.com.
Pól was a guest of the Doyle Collection.