From the mid 1990’s till 2003, this was my ‘hood’. In fact, there was a time when I didn’t quite get that London didn’t begin at the Baker Street tube station and end at the Bond Street tube station. Back then, even Queensway and Tottenham Court Road were hovering at the edges of hinterland. It was less the age of innocence but more the age of ignorance, one might say. As I strolled through this neck of the woods again this fall, I was comforted by the fact that by and large, it is still a street that has maintained its charisma of bygone years. Here’s a list of my best memories.
The first bookstore that made me yearn for the world. High ceilings, skylights, bookshelves reaching for the skies and a staircase that took you deeper into its cave. Categorized into continents, I remembered descending down the stairs more than 20 years ago and picking up two books on Turkey ‘Portrait of a Turkish Family’ and ‘The Turkish Tapestry’ which gave me a glimpse of what life was like in Istanbul just after the Ottoman empire unraveled. I didn’t have an inkling then that I would one day live and work in the capital of Turkey for almost 3 years – still a time period which I consider to be my finest years. Drop by and emerge hours later with a bag of literary goodies to further teleport you elsewhere.
I didn’t know about the power of cheese until my friend introduced me to the art of sitting down, ordering a platter and just attacking it like a savage. Coming back here, I had a wistful pang of wondering what it would be like to live in this hood again, working from home and dropping by this cheese paradise at least once a week to pick up a Sunday treat that we can nibble on with friends as we hibernate over winter. I also find it a little bit worrying that I often contemplate on moving to a city based on how I feel about its food offerings.
A staple, surely for every young woman in this cosmopolitan. The stylish apothecary which introduced me to Laura Mercier’s fabulous Foundation Primer and eye brow powder. Later I graduated to all her bodycare range. Everything in Space NK (e.g. Claudalie, Darphin, Acqua di Parma) is good for your mind, body and soul.
For grown-up light food on a Friday or Saturday evening in the Tapa Room downstairs with friends. I would also choose the table right against the front window. It’s got a lovely low-key but tasteful atmosphere post dusk which makes you feel that you are treating yourself without going over the top. I’d watch the passer-bys go about their daily lives and wonder who everyone was and what were they going to that evening. Try a plate of the seared tuna, cucumber pistachio salad, tamarind roast cherry tomatoes.
There are so many dotted around the city and in fact the first one I tried was its Soho branch, but this was my local regular. It has ample space inside, and a few tables out which is perfect when the weather is good. A place for tea and delicious sweets like their pecan or mixed berry tart while catching up with good friends.
Technically not on Marylebone High Street but rather on one of her arteries – Blandford Street. Where me and my friend would rummage for second/ third hand Mulberries and Celines. Crammed with wall to wall off season clothes, handbags, shoes and jewelries. I remembered getting a Mulberry toiletry bag for 30 GBP and thought I was the bees knees. A great way to spend a Saturday.
Ahhh… I did like tucking into meaty, Middle Eastern cuisine away from the kebab shops of Edgware Road but rather in this more cozy ambiance over in Blandford Street. Music by who else but Fairuz, as I savour the simplicity of a fattoush salad and a sizzling hot shish tawouk…. and then stumble home and fall into a deep food coma. There is something wonderfully comforting about eating here when the weather gets cooler, especially with family or close friends.
Wallace Museum, Manchester Square
I admit, it’s not the paintings that I live for but rather the beautiful courtyard restaurant in the middle where you can dine on French cuisine under the stars or just clear blue skies when the weather is nice. Even if art is not your thing, it’s still worth it to have a quick sojourn before either carrying on to Selfridges if you head towards Bond Street or to Marylebone High Street itself if you are heading in the opposite direction.
St. Christopher’s Place
The epitome of a weekend for me. Awash with restaurants, juice bars, cafes and boutique shopping circling around a small ‘square’ it gives you a feeling of having stepped into a sort of Mediterranean alternate universe, especially over the summer. Back in the day, I was crazy over The Grand Bazaar for reliable Turkish food, and Crepes for yes, delicious French crepes for Sunday brunch. Sadly none of that exists anymore but a whole host of dining outlets have resurfaced. Still solid oldie but goodies are reliable go to’s like Carluccio and Ping Pong for Italian or Oriental staples respectively.
There are countless neighbourhoods in London which has so much flair and character. For super-central London that doesn’t feel like you’ve been sucked into an aggressive whirlpool of shopping tourists, then this is as cute and village-like as they come. For me, this was a strip of land that made me feel at home, and which opened the door to a world of possibilities.