Michelle DuMontier takes a stroll down Marylebone High Street and discovers a wealth of cafés, boutique shops and gastronomical delights – all in a peaceful village-like setting
1. Daunt Books
No matter how many times you visit a city there is always a district remaining to be explored. Marylebone High Street is such a place, if only for the recent influx of high-end boutiques that have seemingly strayed from the affluent and fashionable neighbouring streets. First stop should be Daunt Books, which specialises in travel literature and is reminiscent of a stately home’s library. Natural light spills in from the glass atrium ceiling, illuminating a room packed with travel books displayed on dark wooden shelves and accented by ornate lamps with green shades. It looks small from the outside, but don’t be fooled: there are actually three floors, and the first floor is a mezzanine. 83 Marylebone High Street.Open 9am-7.30pm, Sun 11am-6pm. Tel +44 (0)20 7224 2295, dauntbooks.co.uk.
2. L’artisan Parfumeur
As with most perfume boutiques, the aroma hits you as soon as you step over the threshold of L’Artisan Parfumeur, on the High Street. The circular table in the centre of the shop allows you to sample all 36 fragrances, while rows of bottles – in three sizes, all filled with colourful, scented liquids – line the dark shelves to the left. You can even create your own scent if you book an appointment in advance with one of the staff, who will help you choose the best blends for your skin. The perfume is then made in France and shipped over. The pink-silhouetted cashier counter also displays a small selection of interesting jewellery. Tel +44 (0)20 7486 3435, artisanparfumeur.com.
3. La Fromagerie
If you’re a fan of good cheese, this is one for you. Sharp, creamy or pungent, La Fromagerie on Moxon Street will stock it. This shop has a delicious range of cheeses, and specialises in farmhouse varieties. The shop has a market atmosphere, with fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables displayed in stacked wooden crates. Home-made seasonal jams and chutneys, and freshly baked bread draw you further inside. All very tempting, but nothing will capture your attention like the cheese room, which is temperature and humidity controlled. Only one or two people are allowed in at any one time to make sure the cheese stays at the right temperature. Take a seat at the well-worn wooden tables and order a seasonal cheese plate and a glass of wine. Tel +44 (0) 20 7935 0341, lafromagerie.co.uk.
4. Cox & Power
Back on the High Street, at Cox & Power (number 35c) every piece of jewellery found in this striking boutique is hand-crafted at the Cox & Power Bloomsbury studio. Influenced by the urban and natural environment, master goldsmith Anthony Power heads a design team creating original pieces as well as revamping old ones. In the bubble-themed boutique, customers view rings and delicate bracelets through glass bubbles that seem to be floating in the walls of the circular room. Prices range from a few hundred to thousands of pounds. To commission a custom piece you can set up an appointment with Anthony Power, contact Cox & Power on +44 (0)20 7935 3530. Open Mon to Sat 10am-6pm, and Thurs 11am-7pm, coxandpower.com.
You can find a good place to catch a bite to eat by walking south along the High Street to Fishworks. Fresh fish is delivered here every morning, and the menu changes daily according to the catch. There is a traditional fish-market counter for those keen on cooking seafood for themselves, and an ocean-blue restaurant at the back. Large, black slate chalkboards displaying the menu decorate the walls and flat-screen TVs show Fishworks’ trawlers chasing the next day’s menu. It is advisable to book a table. 89 Marylebone High Street, tel +44 (0)20 7935 9796. Open Tues to Fri 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm, and weekends 12pm-10.30pm. There are several other Fishworks across London, fishworks.co.uk.
6. Wallace Collection
Hertford House, on Manchester Square, houses the impressive Wallace Collection – donated by Lady Wallace in 1897. Both a national museum and a display of one family’s private collection, the museum houses 775 paintings from the 14th to the 19th century, and includes works by one of the family’s artists, British painter Richard Parkes Bonington. It also has one of the world’s best collections of French 18th-century porcelain, furniture and paintings (including Frans Hals’ The Laughing Cavalier, whose smile throws up similar questions to the Mona Lisa’s). Visitors can wander through three gallery floors and have a coffee at Café Bagatelle in the glass-covered courtyard. Tours take place at 1am on weekdays. Open 10am-5pm, wallacecollection.org