Christmas Shopping Trip to Marylebone Village and Soho
Snuggled in amongst charming and inviting independent stores on Marylebone High Street is Daunt Book Store, an icon for booklovers and the perfect spot to start our shopping trip in London. Who better to help me navigate the shelves then Nicole, my shopaholic daughter? Our base at the Marylebone Hotel is part of The Doyle Collection and backs onto Marylebone Lane and the inviting 108 Brasserie where guests are served breakfast in the mornings.
The inviting view from our suite is of a haberdashery with colourful braids and ribbons filling the windows, a jewelers and The Golden Eagle pub on the corner. We may be only a 10 minute walk from Oxford Street but we are in a different world.
The first quirky store we meander into is a film poster shop showing the evolution of great movie through the decades of the 20th century. From Bond classics to Steve McQueen thrillers this store is more reminiscent of an art gallery with leather couch to sit on and file through the pages of catalogues. But there’s much to explore and we drop into The Cavendish for a Sunday Roast. The beef is juicy and served with a giant Yorkshire Pudding and glazed carrots, exactly the way it’s meant to be.
Marylebone High Street is bedecked with ornate fairy lights set in art nouveau leaf designs and the last yellow leaves of autumn create a spectacular contrast to the red telephone boxes. There’s no hustle or bustle here like that found outside Selfridges and John Lewis, instead Nicole stumbles upon a bargain in the Oxfam Shop – a Ralph Lauren ski suit for a bargain €60. Passing charming pubs that have upgraded to bars we dash back to the Marylebone Hotel to change for dinner. The hotel has a fine gym and three lane swimming pool with sauna and steam room so we take a dip and luxuriate in our suite in preparation for the evening.
Dinner is a highlight as we go Greek at Opso on Paddington Street. Head chef Dimitri, from Rhodes, greets us and excitedly tells us about his menu. It’s just as well Nicole is a culinary student as she points out the subtle nuances of each course. Yellowfin tuna infused with oregano followed by chicken Glouvetsi filled with feta is paired with wine from Santorini scented by the minerals that make it unique. We are in food heaven and wander across the road to see Kimso a sister restaurant where meat and fish hang on display for patrons to choose from. Dimitri insists we try the tiramisu profiteroles, which are magnificent and we barely avert a food coma.
After a cosy nights sleep we have an appointment in hair heaven. Celebrating 50 years in business Atherton Cox is an institution in Marylebone with 45 hair stylists and a training academy. I spoke to Paul Cox as Pietro worked magic on my locks. The salon was buzzing for the British Hairdresser of the Year Awards that evening in Grosvenor House Hotel as they had a stylist nominated in the men’s category. Having the hair to go with the location was only part of the day’s activity as we next made our way to Soho and So Shell, a beauty salon around the corner from Carnaby Street. They boast that you can have brows and nails on hands and feet manicured in ninety minutes. Dangerously relaxed after our Ukranian manicures, Nicole and I wander out to Carnaby Street with luscious shop windows invitingly beckon.
Above our heads the 1991 mural on the side of Broadwick Street is a must see. Look out for the clock that lights up at night and when it strikes on the hour, see opera singer Teresa Cornely’s wink at her former lover Casanova, who blows her a kiss. The history of Soho as a hub for creative writers, artists and musicians is recorded next to symbols of its industry with workshops and nod to the fashion industry. Close by, Pixie is a beauty store that has essentials for all ages. The mini face masks for under eyes and super soft lipsticks were some of the delights that found their way into our bags.
Time for lunch and we stopped at Bar Kroketa on Beak Street. We find a cosy corner to sample a true taste of Spanish bar culture. The Gypsey Kings play as we mull over the menu with too many delicious tapas croquets to choose from so we just ordered one of everything washed down with a nice bottle of Rioja. This spot is a gem for a quick or leisurely lunch with a unique understanding and respect for Spanish cooking. Nicole gave it the thumbs up too.
With a compelling history and birthplace of swinging 60s London, Carnaby Street is the go to spot for global and unique fashion experiences. Rixo, Ganni and House of Sunny are some of the shops that embrace the modern trends. Feeling on trend ourselves with our hair coiffed and appetites sated we finish the afternoon than with a photo shoot. For the first time on the British high-street, RankinLIVE has come to London’s West End exclusively for Christmas 2023!
Rankin has photographed most icons of the music, acting and political realm and most famously captured a picture of Queen Elizabeth 11 smiling. His assistants Alex and Harrison prepare us for a speedy but highly professional shoot that leaves us more than pleased with the results. Two photos are printed to take home with us and the option to buy more digital copies. My photogenic daughter is a bit overwhelmed but flattered by the attention.
We check into the Ham Yard Hotel for our second night and are literally bowled over by this arty establishment. With stunning artwork in the foyer and even the lift we explored the luxurious spa and quirky bowling alley downstairs. The distinguished design of Kit Kemp is sprinkled everywhere and during breakfast next morning we are entranced not just by the mouthwatering eggs benedict but the décor on every detail from the saucers to the windows. The Ham Yard Hotel has an allure that makes us want to stay for longer.
Kingly Court is a food emporium and restaurant hub to sample cuisine of the world in a cool environment. We dined at Imad’s Syrian Kitchen on our second night and were wooed by the menu and wines. The vibe is cool as you’d expect with an open kitchen to draw on the exotic aromas. Around the corner at Bar Crispin we enjoyed a nightcap at the surprisingly lively wine bar for a Monday night. Our trip was perfect and we covered so much in two nights. London is a vast metropolis but the communities that have evolved withing the city make an eclectic mix of cultures blended to create an enviable village-scape. I’ll be back and Nicole insists she’s coming too!
Michelle stayed at https://www.firmdalehotels.com/hotels/london/ham-yard-hotel/
Fly with AerLingus.com to London Heathrow daily.
RankinLIVE is at 47 Carnaby Street until January 7th 2024 for a one-of-a-kind experience.