London Ledger: A Modern Jane Austen Heroine Fends Off Temptation in Marylebone
Depending on my mood I either think the fine independent shops of Marylebone have been hand-selected to tempt or torment me – let’s face it, the state of my mood is closely related to the state of my bank balance. I may be pretty well paid in my role at the high-end property firm where I work but I’m not immune to temptation.
In fact, there’s only a little egomania involved on my part. The boutiques, cafes and bars have, indeed, been hand-selected, one of the quirks of working – and shopping – in one of the largest privately owned estates in London.
Way, way back at the start of the eighteenth century, John Holles paid a mere £17,500 for the manor of Tyburn, the deer park and farmland we now know as Marylebone. Nowadays that princely sum would maybe get you a half-percent share in a small studio apartment in the area – dream big, huh?
Follow the street names to discover how ownership of the land was passed down through the family. Visit one of the exclusive (and expensive) private doctors on Harley Street and you might be reminded of Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, who married John Holles’ daughter, Lady Henrietta Cavendish – why hello Cavendish Square. In fairness to the power couple, they did commission the streets of grand housing, built in a then-new-fangled grid system, so naming a few of the roads and squares after themselves seems fair cop, I suppose.
Most of the area is now owned by the Howard de Walden Estate and they’re the evil geniuses behind the daily coaxing of money from my purse.
From some of my favourite purveyors of French fashion – Agnes B, Maje, and Claudie Pierlot among them – to inspiring interiors haunts like Modernist design temple Skandium, these guys are the cream of commercial landlords. I swear they’ve got my tastes covered better than any Amazon algorithm.
Holiday planning doesn’t get better than browsing the gorgeous Daunt Books’ extensive travel section, which spans two floors in the Edwardian wood-lined premises. And I never knew it was possible to be a ribbon fanatic unless you’re the heroine of a Jane Austen novel until I visited trimmings emporium VV Rouleaux.
Perhaps my favourite specialist outlet of all is La Fromagerie, which sells, as anyone with a passing understanding of Francais will guess, CHEESE, in all its regional varieties. Ultra-knowledgeable staff are on hand to advise on the best variety for a cheese toastie, say, or a dinner party, or, you know, lunch. There’s also all sorts of other gourmet treats on offer in store, and a café. Heaven.
For eating out, those good de Walden folk have laid on a veritable smorgasbord for my dining pleasure. You can make your own culinary world tour within the space of just a few streets in Marylebone, hitting Italy at Caffe Caldesi, France at L’Entrecote, Austria at Fischer’s, and South India at Trishna. The Providores and Tapa Room was one of the first places to introduce Londoners to the Pacific Rim, and still surprises 18 years on. The pounds come off – in a physical and financial sense – at the local Barrecore or Third Space gym. The independent vibe even extends to boutique fitness joints round here. In short, I thank you Mr. Holles, even if my bank manager does not.