“I like Saturday to start slowly. My day begins at 4.30am at least twice a week because I go to the flower market at New Covent Garden, so to stay in bed until 8.30, eat breakfast of seasonal fruit – and a croissant, perhaps – and then take our dog Bindi for a walk on Wormwood Scrubs is the biggest treat.
When we’re in London, my wife Candida and I live in a Victorian flat above a picture framers, close to Portobello Road. When I first arrived from Northern Ireland, I went there each week to buy vases and plant containers and still like to walk along it on Saturday mornings. We wander without purpose, perhaps dropping into Chloe Alberry to look at the amazing doorknobs, and Warris Vianni, round the corner on Golborne Road, where the fabrics and rugs are a real taste of India. We never buy flowers; there are always leftovers in the studio, and I prefer potted plants to cut blooms when I’m in the city – our real home is in Worcestershire, so in London I like to put my fingers in the soil to remind myself of the countryside.
We will stop for lunch at Portobello Garden Caffe, an Italian delicatessen tucked in an alley off one of Portobello’s little arcades, where you sit amid the bread and cooked meats. I like low-key places like this at the weekend – I get plenty of glamour with my work – and the bruschettona here is really good.
I am obsessed with auction previews, dating back to the days I spent in Donegal junk shops as a child with my mother. Browsing the previews is my adult version of that, so after lunch I’ll head to Bonhams or Christie’s. My passion is for really old things, and my most exciting purchase to date is a 16th-century Belgian tapestry of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
A perfect Saturday evening would be spent at the Jermyn Street Theatre. It used to be a waiters’ changing room and only has 70 seats. Small theatres allow you to see new talent in its raw state; it’s a joy to watch the effort of the people involved.
Candida and I met through music and it’s a thread that runs through our time in London, so on Sunday mornings we go to the coffee concert at Wigmore Hall. It’s a charming venue and, as the performances are short, we are often prepared to take a risk on something different.
We will then wander through the back streets of Soho to Andrew Edmunds for lunch with friends. It’s one of our favourite restaurants in autumn because it is small and intimate; it still looks exactly as it did when we first started going there in the 1980s. I’ll have a seasonal starter, followed by the lamb: meat is important on Sunday.
Lunch can stretch long into the afternoon, but afterwards Candida and I will probably visit a museum. I like places with a distinctive character; the Garden Museum in Lambeth is perhaps London’s best example of that. It has an extraordinary quirkiness – it feels like being in a dusty village hall, which is rare for a museum these days. The permanent collection contains an incredibly moving book of dried flowers a soldier sent to his fiancée during the first world war.
We like to eat somewhere local on Sunday evening so that we can walk home afterwards. We’ve recently discovered an Austrian restaurant called Kipferl that does tapas-style dishes such as Heurigen Snacks – a mix of Tyrolean ham, landjäger, cheese, walnuts, roasted pumpkin seeds and rye bread – served with Austrian wine. It’s surprisingly lovely and the food feels clean and simple.
Monday is a flower market day, but nonetheless I am rarely in bed before midnight – and even then, I’ll read. I’m just about to start House of Names by Colm Tóibín. He and Sebastian Barry capture what it is to be Irish like no one else since Joyce.”