In a city as ubiquitous as London, depicted countless times in TV, film and literature, it’s hard to imagine there’s anywhere left to explore.
Yet nestled between the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and Regent’s Park, the quiet streets of Marylebone are teeming with things to discover.
My base for this exploration was The Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, where one could feasibly spend an entire weekend without stepping outside and not get bored.
An unassuming building on the outside belies the marble-paradise within with floor to ceiling mirrors and flower arrangements to match. If you’re looking for opulence, look no further.
My room looks out over Portman Square and its private garden, complete with running track and tennis court, to which hotel guests have access.
There is luxury in abundance at the Churchill, and personalised touches at every turn - a whisky tasting experience awaits me in my room, a scotch with accompanying sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami tastes designed to engage all the senses, as well as a gold-leaf encrusted fruit plate.
The bed is enormous, wider than it is deep, and comfortable in that way that only hotel beds can be, a mattress to sink into like an inviting warm bath with marshmallow-like duvet to envelope you.
There are many restaurants in London to eat good food, and two of them are found inside The Churchill.
The first evening I dined at The Montagu Kitchen for the chef’s table experience, from which you can look straight into the kitchen and see head chef Carlo Martino and his team work to create feasts for the eyes and taste buds...
The restaurant is inspired by the year-round gardens at Chartwell, Sir Winston Churchill’s former private residence in Kent.
Everything from the menu to the chairs’ upholstery reflects the garden theme, a flower-covered bicycle greets guests at the restaurants entrance.
Carlo talks the table through the dishes, whilst the sommelier Michal explains the wine he’s chosen to pair with each course.
I’m vegan, which often makes fine dining off limits, but there are no such restrictions here, every plate is carefully thought out and filled with surprising morsels.
A starter of beetroot cooked in different ways plays with texture and a tangy, citrus dressing offsets the natural sweetness of the main ingredient perfectly.
My favourite course is an unctuous, creamy, squash risotto topped with crispy sage leaves and cubes of squash.
This is food so delicious the desire to demolish each plate in record time is only just beaten by wanting to savour every mouthful.
The rest of the table’s food, not vegan, is also rapturously received.
Churchill looms large in the hotel, as you might expect, a large painting of him looks down from the wall in the Montagu kitchen, the hotel's bar offers cigars and the refined decor in the rooms has been designed to reflect his tastes.
Lunch the following day is at Locanda Locatelli, located in the hotel, one of the capital’s first Michelin star restaurants. It is Italian food at its very best.
Chef patron Giorgio Locatelli designed the restaurant as much around the food as the experience of sharing it with others, as indicated by groaning platters of fresh bread that arrive prior to the starters.
The sleek interior is somewhat at odds with the convivial, relaxed atmosphere, but the food is second to none.
Fresh ingredients are transformed into dishes steeped in Italian tradition yet brought to life in such a way the flavours feel entirely modern and surprising.
The surrounding streets of Marylebone harbour a haven of culture ready to be unearthed.
It’s worth noting that also within walking distance are Hyde Park, Oxford Street and Soho, perfect for a festive break.
My group spends an hour with a Blue Badge tour guide wandering the Marylebone streets, which have the feel of a sleepy village despite it being Saturday morning in one of the world’s major cities.
Mark, our guide, talks us through the history of the area, from Michael Faraday and William Pitt to Sherlock Holmes and The Beatles, before leaving us to explore The Wallace Collection.
Alongside the traditional 18th and 19th century works of art on display at The Wallace Collection and classical concerts at Wigmore Hall (one of which I watched on the Saturday evening and would thoroughly recommend), there are contemporary, independent boutiques.
It’s the perfect spot to while away a few relaxed hours away from the frenetic pace of central London.
Back at the hotel, I had two dining experiences still to discover - craft cocktails and sharing plates at The Churchill Bar and Terrace, and champagne brunch at The Montagu Kitchen on Sunday.
The hotel’s namesake is never more present than in the bar. Photographs and love letters between him and his wife Clementine adorn the walls and the cocktail menu is created with him in mind.
Alongside a year-round menu of favourites - from which I try a fig old-fashioned that I’ve been thinking of ever since - there is a rotating seasonal selection of cocktails.
This winter, the Shades of Winston Churchill menu has been created to show the lesser-known aspects of the former Prime Minister’s character.
I try The Aristocrat, based on buttered toast, Churchill’s favourite breakfast, and The Traveller, an ode to the ultimate in comfort food, the baked potato and beans.
Both are complex in flavour, though I can’t quite shake the strangeness of beans infused into a drink and much prefer the former.
The subtle, toasted, charred notes of the infused Havana rum, mixed with a fortified buttery syrup and champagne makes for a simultaneously rich and light drink.
In an embarrassment of riches, my favourite experience at The Churchill came on the final day of my stay, the Sunday Garden brunch.
I usually count brunch as some avocado on toast or American pancakes, the array of food on offer here is almost unnerving.
It is part brunch, part buffet and part afternoon tea.
As well as a wide selection of hot and cold food, pastries and breads, diners can order eggs from the menu and then a main meal.
I choose a cauliflower steak with toasted almonds and a beetroot purée, my friend opts for the 21-day aged beef after we both show considerable restraint at the buffet station.
It is a through the looking glass experience, our champagne flutes are never left to dip below the halfway mark, more and more food keeps appearing.
When a wooden box piled with desserts arrives I have to check I haven’t fallen into some sort of food-induced delirium.
It is decadent, over the top, verging on a bit silly, and utterly brilliant.
Winston Churchill once said, “I am easily satisfied with the very best”. He wouldn’t have been disappointed here.
The Molton Brown Christmas suite
For Christmas, the hotel has collaborated with beauty brand Molton Brown to create an experience in the premium balcony suite.
Launching on Winston Churchill’s birthday - November 30 - the suite will be available until the January 5.
Guests will be welcomed by a Christmas tree covered in festive Molton Brown baubles containing miniature products for guests to use.
There will also be a hamper waiting in the room, which will include an assortment of carefully selected gifts and an invite to any Molton Brown store for a complimentary fragrance profiling to discover their signature scent.