Patrick McPartlin finds this boutique hotel the perfect base for a weekend break in London
Despite a love of travel and a passion for exploring new places, London had never featured highly on my list of must-see places. The brief flirtations I’d had with the city in the past – a day of work experience; a visit to the old Wembley Stadium in the late 1990s – had barely scratched the surface.
For the most part, the London I knew was the London from television, or the pages of a book.
So when I got the chance to spend a weekend there, curiosity got the better of me and, along with my partner I travelled down to the “Big Smoke”.
Our base was the No. Ten Manchester Street Hotel, a boutique bolthole in the heart of Marylebone. Despite Oxford Street being a short walk away, the road was quiet. This felt like a Londoner’s London; a far cry from the hordes of visitors gawping at Selfridges just five minutes away.
Housed in a grand Edwardian building, the stylish hotel is a stone’s throw away from No 39, where David Bowie stayed in the late 1960s.
After a warm welcome, we are shown to our room – a junior suite on the fifth floor. There are 44 bedrooms tucked away in Ten, as it’s known in local parlance, but our room still feels spacious and airy – no mean feat in central London. Each room was individually designed by Christopher Guy, who can count Caesar’s Palace and Ritz-Carlton among his clients.
The bespoke design adds a personality to the room so often lacking in some hotel chains, and the white and light beige theme in the room complements the early spring sunshine streaming through the window.
The ensuite bathroom comes with a bath, a rain shower and luxury toiletries from T London.
With just over 36 hours in the city, we’d planned a whistle-stop tour of the sights including Hyde Park, Abbey Road, The Shard, Tower Bridge and Little Venice. Although the hotel’s location is a mere five minute walk from Baker Street tube station, we do as much walking as time allows in order to experience more of the city.
Walking across Westminster Bridge a week after the terror attack might have felt uncomfortable, disrespectful even. Instead, it feels like an appropriately defiant tribute as we cross the bridge with hundreds of Londoners and other tourists.
Back at the hotel, we have a chance to try out the Dieci restaurant and, although it’s a Friday night, there aren’t many other diners. It’s standard Italian fare, but the rice arancini and Gragnano penne with bolognese hit the spot, as do the chicken skewers and risotto.
Every now and then, a puff of cigar smoke wafts past the table and, despite not being a smoker, curiosity nags away at me and the following evening we head for the humidor and the cigar lounge.
My cigar knowledge is negligible; I’ve heard of Havanas and Bolivars and I’ve seen that Hamlet advert with Gregor Fisher in the photobooth.
I have no idea what to choose, or what I should be considering. Maurizio makes a comparison with Scotch whisky in terms of the types of cigar, there are lighter cigars offering a relatively short smoke and others with a strong flavour that last for longer – and several in between. Eventually, I go for a Montecristo No 4 – Che Guevara’s preferred cigar – which is a relatively middle-of-the-road smoke. Portraits of Al Capone, Mark Twain and Pavarotti watch us through the smoke. The low lighting creates a relaxed, laid back ambience, and it’s clear to see why a number of Marylebone residents pop in on their way back from the pub for a cigar and a chat with their friends.
Breakfast is a relaxed affair despite the compactness of the dining room. Understandably, for a boutique hotel, the selection is limited but the food that’s there is nice enough.
Throughout our stay, every member of staff made us feel welcome and was happy to give advice on restaurants, or sights in the area. As boutique hotels go, Ten is up there with the best. What it lacks in space, it makes up for with character and warmth.
Its location in a quiet residential street, away from the attractions, ensures a good night’s sleep but at the same time its proximity to public transport makes it the perfect place to stay.
The staff at Ten seem genuinely sad that we’re leaving – and the feeling’s mutual. As we leave, there are repeated wishes of “thank you for staying with us” and “come back any time!” Given how enjoyable our stay was, there’s every chance we will.
Fact box: No. Ten Manchester Street Hotel, Marylebone, London W1U 4DG, tenmanchesterstreethotel.com. Prices start from £164 a night, or £220 a night including breakfast.