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They may be geographical neighbours but Marylebone and Fitzrovia have their own very distinct personalities. Suzanne Archer finds this reflected in the venue offerings.
Londoners are a capricious bunch. Turn the clock back 10 years and you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who would even have considered going out in Fitzrovia, let alone holding an event there. Ditto
Marylebone, where visitors were most likely to be tourists en route to Madame Tussauds.
‘Marylebone felt like a bit of a ghost town in the late 1990s,’ recalls Alex Cheatle, CEO of Fitzrovia-based concierge company Ten.
Then three key openings – The Orrery, The Sanderson and Hakkasan – turned the fortunes of the two areas around. Suddenly the hipsters who had been dining in Mayfair or Soho decamped and began to venture north. Now Fitzrovia is virtually unrecognisable, with Charlotte Street forming the centre of a media hub that has been christened (somewhat pretentiously, you may argue) ‘NoHo’ (north of Soho); while Marylebone has reinvented itself as a ‘village’, with smart boutiques and cafés.
Though they sit cheek by jowl, the two neighbourhoods couldn’t be more different in character. ‘Marylebone has a “grown-up” feel, whereas Fitzrovia has much more of a buzz about it,’ says Cheatle.
It’s a spirit that’s reflected in the history of the areas. Marylebone, once a small medieval village, was developed in the 18th century by aristocratic landowners, who built the grand Georgian houses that line the streets today. Meanwhile, Fitzrovia didn’t exist until the early 20th century, when it was colonised by artists and writers such as Dylan Thomas and George Orwell, who hung out at the Fitzroy Tavern in the 30s and named the area after it.
‘Marylebone works well for traditional happenings, such as conferences,’ says Lyndsey Fair, event director for Colman Getty, which regularly uses RIBA for events. Round the corner, members’ club No 5 recently hosted a charity lunch for Desmond Tutu, and it’s this sort of event that works in the area.
Marylebone has its quirkier side too, though. Kate Moss shot a saucy Agent Provocateur video in a mansion on Portland Place recently; you can host a cheese party at La Fromagerie; or mingle with the stars at Madame Tussauds. L’Atelier des Chefs, a funky cookery school, recently opened in Wigmore Street, and according to manager Jérôme Fourest, a Marylebone headquarters was key because of its ‘foodie’ atmosphere.
While Marylebone is established, Fitzrovia still has a little way to go, with parts remaining a tad downtrodden. The upshot is that venue hire costs are low compared with its neighbour. ‘The smaller venues are still incredibly cheap but have a real charm,’ says Fair, whose company, based just off Charlotte Street, along with many other media agencies have helped give the area its fashionable edge. Private dining and louche bars are the main draw in Fitzrovia, with restaurants such as Bam-Bou possessing an eclectic selection of private rooms, and the likes of Crazy Bear proving perfect for modish drinks receptions.
Get in while you can though: the King’s Cross ripple effect is bound to smarten up the grubbier north end soon, not to mention NoHo Square. This £1bn development is still a few years from completion but is set to house luxury apartments, along with 33,000sq ft of commercial space. It’s even rumoured that Soho House may be opening a (wait for it) NoHo House there too. Dylan Thomas will be turning in his grave…
28 Portland Place
WHAT: There’s a real feel of stepping back in time in this grandiose 18th-century building, chock full of period features
BEST FOR: Grand banquets and receptions
TOP TIP: Hold drinks or a BBQ in the secluded courtyard garden
28 Portland Place, W1, tel: 0870 780 9638, squaremeal.co.uk/28pp
FR:6 M:90 D:104 R:110 OA:40
33 Portland Place
WHAT: Kate Moss cavorted in her undies here; Johnny Depp has filmed here. Channel that celeb vibe in this
privately owned 18th-century mansion
BEST FOR: Drinks receptions and
TOP TIP: Forget booking a hotel and take over the whole place for the night: it has 24 bedrooms, not to mention its own nightclub, billiard room and Jacuzzi
33 Portland Place, W1, tel: 020 7636 0900
FR:11 M:60 D:120 R:500 OA:-
Cavendish Conference Venues
WHAT: Three out of the five well-equipped conference centres in this Green Mark-accredited group are in Marylebone and Fitzrovia; the Hallam reopened earlier this year following extensive renovation
BEST FOR: Meetings and AGMs
TOP TIP: Make like 007 in the boardroom at the ICO, referred to as the ‘James Bond’ room because the oval table, retro chairs and spotlights make it look like SPECTRE should be meeting in there!
Cavendish Conference Centre, 22 Duchess Mews, W1, tel: 020 7323 4555; Hallam Conference Centre, Hallam Street, W1,
tel: 020 7323 4555, squaremeal.co.uk/hallam; ICO Conference Centre, 22 Berners Street, W1,
tel: 020 7706 7700
FR:19 M:284 D:210 R:300 OA:-
De Vere Venues West One
WHAT: Reopened last year following a complete refurb, West One is clean-cut and modern, with 35,000sq ft of meeting space. Should you need more, De Vere Portland Place is just over the road
BEST FOR: Conferences and training
TOP TIP: In-house restaurant Steam, Bake & Grill is a cut above the usual conference fodder fare and runs cookery teambuilding
9-10 Portland Place, W1, tel: 0870 609 1583; squaremeal.co.uk/west-one
FR:29 M:250 D:120 R:300 OA: -
WHAT: A cultural centre for the Greek community, founded as a charity in 1994, doubles up as a conference centre with unexpectedly stylish rooms
BEST FOR: Parties and product launches
TOP TIP: The soaring Great Hall is a blank-canvas space and ripe for styling, so get busy with creative design ideas
16-18 Paddington Street, W1,
tel: 020 7487 5060
FR:8 M:190 D:160 R:250 OA:-
WHAT: 2008 saw private members’ club Home House buy up the building next door and turn it into House 21, with beautiful private rooms and an ultra-cool bar space
BEST FOR: Trendy parties and meetings
TOP TIP: Seriously impress clients with parties in the space-age Bar Lounge, designed by the ubiquitous Zaha Hadid
21 Portman Square, W1, tel: 020 7670 2000, squaremeal.co.uk/home-h
FR:12 M:80 D:80 R:200 OA:-
WHAT: Famous ‘cheeserie’ – by day a busy shop with tasting café, by night a candle-lit private dining or tasting room
BEST FOR: Private dining, tastings
TOP TIP: Use the shop for breakfast meetings from 8.30am, in a private room seating 12, serving coffee, tea, freshly squeezed juice and pastries
2-6 Moxon Street, W1, tel: 020 7935 0341
FR:1 M:8 D:20 R:100 OA:-
WHAT: The headquarters of health think tank the King’s Fund has a new 200-seater theatre and numerous smaller rooms
BEST FOR: Conferences and banqueting
TOP TIP: Surprise your delegates by holding drinks in the unexpectedly light and airy Conservatory, which also makes for a reviving breakout space
11 Cavendish Square, W1, tel: 020 7307 2474
FR:22 M:200 D:100 R:200 OA:-
WHAT: Five imaginatively designed and interactive themed areas make for one of the most original party venues in the capital
BEST FOR: Quirky parties and dinners
TOP TIP: Take your camera – the waxworks are now so lifelike, no one will ever know you weren’t hobnobbing with the real deal
Marylebone Road, NW1, tel: 0870 780 2871, squaremeal.co.uk/mt
FR:7 M:300 D:380 R:1,000 OA:-
The Old Laundry
WHAT: A funky little space, tucked away at the end of a narrow cobbled walkway, with two vibrantly coloured rooms covered in floor cushions and Egg Chairs
BEST FOR: Laid-back brainstorming and small informal meetings
TOP TIP: Lunch is handmade on the premises by Food is Love, who pride themselves on a very personal service, catering to your every whim
6 Grotto Passage, W1, tel: 020 7535 7330, squaremeal.co.uk/oldlaundry
FR:2 M:15 D:- R:- OA:-
One Marylebone Road
WHAT: A building with huge architectural significance as one of only three London churches designed by Sir John Soane, this venue (which opened in 2007) is a knock-out, with a 27ft main hall and a smaller, crystal-chandeliered room above
BEST FOR: Lavish receptions, product launches and banqueting
TOP TIP: The entrance may be posh but Marylebone Road at rush hour is not, so time your event carefully to avoid the fumes from one of London’s most polluted thoroughfares
1 Marylebone Road, NW1, tel: 020 7380 1663
FR:2 M:200 D:180 R:200 OA:200
WHAT: The Royal Institute of British Architects has so many desirable event spaces within its art deco walls that it’s hard to choose a favourite. The Florence Hall is an obvious contender but the Aston Webb room, lined with Indian leather, comes a close second
BEST FOR: Everything and anything, from one-to-ones to grand-scale banquets
TOP TIP: By May, the Florence Hall terrace and two balconies will have been refurbished – ideal for alfresco events
66 Portland Place, W1, tel: 020 7307 3888, squaremeal.co.uk/riba
FR:26 M:400 D:250 R:400 OA:150
One Wimpole Street
WHAT: AKA the Royal Society of Medicine, this clean-cut conference centre has a mix of modern and traditional rooms, one of which used to be a medical research laboratory and still houses rare medical texts on its shelves
BEST FOR: Hi-tech meetings and seminars
TOP TIP: Can’t afford the courtyard at the Wallace Collection? The Max Rayne Atrium is the next best thing, with a conservatory-style ceiling flooding the room with light
The Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, W1, tel: 020 7290 2951
FR:17 M:300 D:100 R:200 OA:-
The Wallace Collection
WHAT: One of the most lovely venues in town (once a private home, now an art museum), with varied opportunities for entertaining against a picturesque backdrop
BEST FOR: Parties, receptions and grand gala dinners
TOP TIP: Many are familiar with the internal courtyard as a dining space, but the Great Gallery is very special, offering 120 diners the chance to feast among Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian masterpieces
Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1, tel: 020 7563 9545, squaremeal.co.uk/wallace
FR: 5 M: - D: 160 R: 400 OA: -
Charlotte Street Hotel
WHAT: One of five hotels in the dependably stylish Firmdale group, right at the heart of the Charlotte Street scene
BEST FOR: Seminars and executive lunches
TOP TIP: Book the private screening room with its smart leather seats for presentations
15-17 Charlotte Street, W1,
tel: 020 7907 4000
FR:5 M:67 D:32 R:67 OA:-
WHAT: The basement in this Marble Arch four-star holds a mighty suite of 26 colour-themed conference rooms
BEST FOR: Workshops and AGMs
TOP TIP: Reserve a table at Gary Rhodes’ excellent restaurant upstairs, Rhodes W1
Great Cumberland Place, W1,
tel: 0871 376 9014
FR:26 M:320 D:180 R:- OA:-
WHAT: One of the last privately owned hotels in London and one of the oldest, dating back to the 18th century
BEST FOR: Boardroom meetings
TOP TIP: Perfect for housing guests after an event at the Wallace Collection just over the road – ask about special rates
George Street, W1, tel: 020 7935 8131
FR:5 M:50 D:50 R:80 OA:-
London - The Churchill
WHAT: Swanky five-star on Portman Square, which had a multi-million-pound refurbishment in 2007
BEST FOR: AGMs and conferences
TOP TIP: Locanda Locatelli lies within the hotel but doesn’t have a chef’s table; however, traditional in-house restaurant The Montagu does and it seats nine
30 Portman Square, W1, tel: 020 7486 5800, squaremeal.co.uk/hyatt-churchill
FR:12 M:250 D:240 R:350 OA:-
The Marylebone Hotel
WHAT: Formerly Jurys Clifton Ford, the hotel relaunched in February with a more appealing moniker and six conference rooms
BEST FOR: Small daytime meetings
TOP TIP: Drop in to the hotel’s brasserie 108 Marylebone Lane, which uses local suppliers such as La Fromagerie and The Ginger Pig
47 Welbeck Street, W1, tel: 020 7486 6600, squaremeal.co.uk/marylebone-h
FR:11 M:70 D:48 R:- OA:-
WHAT: Round the corner from Marylebone station, this historic hotel has just opened The Harewood & Music Room, which can hold a cocktail reception for up to 1,000 or dinner for 500
BEST FOR: Banquets and receptions
TOP TIP: Break out for afternoon tea in the wonderful Winter Garden
222 Marylebone Road, NW1, tel: 0870 780 8151, squaremeal.co.uk/landmark
FR:11 M:310 D:500 R:1,000 OA:-
WHAT: The mighty £80m refurbishment project is almost complete at the luxurious Langham, with all function rooms and the magnificent Victorian Ballroom restored and reinvigorated, plus a new stand-alone function space Langham House.
BEST FOR: Banqueting and small meetings
TOP TIP: Dinner for 16 at in-house restaurant The Landau’s sumptuous private dining room, Postillion, is a must
1c Portland Place, Regent Street, W1, tel: 020 7636 1000, squaremeal.co.uk/langham
FR:19 M:300 D:280 R:375 OA:-
WHAT: The epitome of a boutique hotel, perfectly placed to explore Marylebone ‘village’. As befits a smaller hotel though, meeting space is sparse
BEST FOR: Small seminars and meetings
TOP TIP: Exclusive hire of the DeVille restaurant makes a stylish setting for up to 40
Mandeville Place, W1, tel: 020 7935 5599
FR:2 M:35 D:40 R:50 OA:-
Melia White House Hotel
WHAT: A comprehensive self-contained conference centre sits within this 1930s Spanish-owned four-star next to Regents Park
BEST FOR: Seminars, conferences and boardroom meetings
TOP TIP: The hotel’s award-winning Spanish restaurant, L’Albufera, is a well-kept secret; even more so its formal private dining room, Overture, holding up to 12
Albany Street, Regents Park, NW1,
tel: 020 7391 3000
FR:9 M:150 D:130 R:200 OA:-
No.5 Cavendish Square
WHAT: Once the Spanish Embassy, a relaxed Mediterranean vibe still lingers in this bijoux hotel and private members’ club thanks to sunny-coloured walls in parts of the building.
BEST FOR: Summer parties on the 50-capacity roof terrace
TOP TIP: Check out the refurbished night club in the basement – great for parties of up to 150.
5 Cavendish Square, W1, tel: 0870 780 8164, squaremeal.co.uk/numberfive
FR:5 M:60 D:100 R:250 OA:50
WHAT: One of the original ‘style’ hotels, Ian Schrager’s hip Fitzrovia hangout is still on the style-setting map
BEST FOR: Drinks receptions, private dining and parties
TOP TIP: Book Cocktail Heaven, a new mixology teambuilding concept, in the Purple Bar for up to 30
50 Berners Street, W1, tel: 020 7300 5542
FR:4 M:50 D:100 R:550 OA:180
Seared crocodile fillet anyone? Archipelago’s daring menu won’t be to everyone’s taste, but discussing the merits of zebra meat over kangaroo makes for easy small talk if you private-hire the whole restaurant for up to 40, on a minimum spend basis.
110 Whitfield Street, W1, tel: 020 7383 3346
All windy staircases and cosy, dark rooms, you still get a sense of how this tall townhouse building would have looked as The Eiffel Tower restaurant, a popular hang-out for Fitzrovian bohemians in the 1920s and 30s. Bam-Bou effortlessly maintains the ‘boho’ feel throughout its five private rooms, holding up to 60 for a reception but more suited to an intimate dinner for 20.
1 Percy Street, W1, tel: 020 7323 9130
Bourne and Hollingsworth
Named after a former department store on Oxford Street, small is beautiful (and we’re talking very small) at this retro bar, designed along the lines of a 1920s’ living room. Perfect for an offbeat company drinks party for up to 80 at a squeeze, where you can enjoy a Gin Fizz and a macaroon or two. Check out new Marylebone sister pub The Swan & Edgar (see p. 127).
28 Rathbone Place, W1, tel: 020 7636 8228
A real favourite when it first opened in 2005, the Bear still impresses, particularly the basement with its sexy surrounds, hidden alcoves and sunken bar. Available for drinks receptions for up to 70 on quieter mid-week nights, though the Thai restaurant above remains open to the public.
26-28 Whitfield Street, W1, tel: 020 7631 0088
The list of Hollywood old- and new-timers who have visited Elena’s is long and illustrious. Indeed, the largest private room (Oscar, seating 40) is named after a dinner held there in 1998 for the British winners of an Academy Award, and has its own bar and reception area. Three other rooms make up a delightful private dining quartet.
30 Charlotte Street, W1, tel: 020 7636 7189
Surprisingly, there are no private rooms in Sam and Eddie Hart’s ever-popular fine dining tapas restaurant just off Charlotte Street. Newly refurbished following a flood last year, you can hire the whole place exclusively for 85, or host a drinks reception with meaty canapés for 150.
33 Charlotte Street, W1, tel: 020 7813 8010
Galvin Bistrot de Luxe
Fans of Galvin’s fine French cooking will be delighted to learn about adjoining Le Bar – sometime pre-lunch or dinner drinking destination for restaurant diners, sometime private hire space seating 22 or accommodating 30 for canapés.
66 Baker Street, W1, tel: 020 7935 4007
La Porte des Indes
If you fancy holding a meeting or dinner against an exotic Raj-era backdrop that borders on the right side of kitsch, then book this Marble Arch-based restaurant. It has a 40ft waterfall, palm trees and tropical plants, all providing a great sense of fun for meetings and private dining for up to 100.
32 Bryanston Street, W1, tel: 020 7224 0055
Winner of the BMW Square Meal award for Best New Restaurant Spring 2008, Pied à Terre’s less formal but equally tasty Marylebone sibling has a cosy private dining room for up to 16, which can be left open to the restaurant or sealed off for total privacy.
5-7 Blandford Street, W1, tel: 020 7486 9696
Belly dancing is a nightly occurrence at this popular Lebanese basement restaurant, but if you hire the private dining room for 12 you’ll also get the chance to have your cards read or have a henna tattoo, while dining on shared mezze platters. Alternatively, hire out the restaurant and bar for exclusive use for 240.
Jason Court, 76 Wigmore Street, W1, tel: 0870 780 8173
Touted as ‘London’s first Scandinavian bar and restaurant’, Nordic can be hired exclusively for 160, with food based around smorgasbords and Aquavit. Expect kitsch decor and fun coloured lighting.
25 Newman Street, W1, tel: 020 7631 3174
Now owned by D&D London, one of Conran’s biggest success stories is housed in a former stable block at the Regent’s
Park end of Marylebone High Street. French cuisine is on offer in the 12-seater semi-private dining room, or book the herb garden on the roof terrace for drinks for 60.
55 Marylebone High Street, W1,
tel: 020 7616 8000
Occo Bar & Kitchen
While the venue’s boast that it is ‘Momo’s only real competitor in London’ falls rather wide of the mark, Occo does a good job of serving up authentic Moroccan cuisine in four different spaces. Sultry candlelit den Mim in the basement holds up to 50 and has its own private entrance and bar.
58 Crawford Street, W1, tel: 020 7724 4991
Locals’ fishy favourite Pescatori is family run, with sophisticated, consistent Italian cooking in unfussy surroundings. The restaurant can accommodate up to 90 for exclusive use, or 50 in its private Blue Room.
57 Charlotte Street, W1, tel: 020 7580 3289
Pied à Terre
Probably some of the finest fine dining you’ll experience in Fitzrovia under the experienced hands of two Michelin-starred chef Shane Osborn. It’s a must for anyone you want to seriously impress, with a luxurious private dining room seating 12.
34 Charlotte Street, W1, tel: 020 7636 1178
With nearby Fino’s lack of private dining, Salt Yard is your best bet for delectable tapas in Fitzrovia. Ambience is laid back, service is friendly and the downstairs restaurant makes an ideal private hire space, seating 40.
54 Goodge Street, W1, tel: 020 7637 0657
Sports Bar & Grill Marylebone
A classy sports-themed joint that makes a good meeting place prior to events at Lord’s. All sorts of spaces are available for private hire, including a Pool Lounge with five American tables and the Scarlet Room with its own bar and screens.
Marylebone Station, Melcome Place, NW1,
tel: 020 7723 8890, squaremeal.co.uk/sportsbar
The Swan & Edgar
From the team behind Bourne & Hollingsworth comes this new Marylebone pub, with a bar made entirely out of second-hand books, adding a bookish bent to the downstairs space. Upstairs a private room holds 25-35 for dining.
43 Linhope Street, NW1, tel: 020 7636 8228
Half restaurant, half Champagne bar,
Texture is a very classy spot at the Marble Arch end of Marylebone, opened last year by a chef and a sommelier who met while working at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. To celebrate its first birthday, a much-needed 16-seater private dining room, Tolli, opened in September 2008.
34 Portman Street, W1, tel: 020 7224 0028
Contemporary and delicious Indian cuisine served up against a minimalist backdrop of exposed brick and grey marble: leave your preconceptions of an Indian restaurant at the door and enjoy private dining for 12 in this new restaurant’s private room, which shares its space with the wine cellar.
15-17 Blandford Street, W1,
tel: 020 7935 5624
Make sure you don’t spill your drink at this chic private members’ club, restaurant and bar – all the stylish furnishings, from the chairs to the beaded curtains, are white, though coloured lighting adds interest. Book a drinks reception here, for up 150; you can also hire the restaurant for 40.
131 Great Titchfield Street, W1, tel: 020 3008 7763, squaremeal.co.uk/vanilla
Since its smart refurb in 2007, Villandry has widened its appeal by offering something for everyone, whether it’s uncomplicated French dining in the restaurant, casual bites in the bar or gourmet food purchases in the deli. There are numerous ways to private dine, from 12 to 100 people, with the Charcuterie Bar making an unusual reception area.
170 Great Portland Street, W1, tel: 020 7631 3131, squaremeal.co.uk/villandry
There’s nothing sophisticated about cavernous basement bar Wax, but then that’s not why you’d book it if you were looking to hold a fun party bang smack in the middle of town for up to 575 people, all of whom want to party until 3am.
4 Winsley Street, W1, tel: 020 7436 4650
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine in Spring 2009