Maureen Paley’s London

A pioneer of London’s East End art scene, the gallerist represents celebrated artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Liam Gillick and Gillian Wearing at her eponymous space

Maureen Paley at Violet Cakes
Maureen Paley at Violet Cakes | Image: Mark C O'Flaherty

“It’s lovely to stay in a hotel in central London for a weekend if there is a special occasion – or apropos of nothing at all. If I want to spend time in the West End, it means I don’t have to be spirited back to east London, where I live. Dukes is an incredibly understated hotel in Mayfair, away from the hustle and bustle. And it serves the perfect martini, in true Bond fashion. It’s like watching a performance when one’s being made for you.

On Saturday morning, I’ll have room service – eggs, oatmeal and carrot or grapefruit juice – then make a beeline for Dover Street, where I always visit Acne, John Rocha and Dover Street Market. Each has an environment that is more than just a retail space – there is a quality to the presentation. In the case of John Rocha, it’s like entering a town house where he displays objects, paintings and furniture alongside his clothes. He strikes me as an artist in the way he works.

Next I’ll head to the Wallace Collection – a secret sort of place in the heart of the capital, where Fragonard and Frans Hals are mixed with furniture and porcelain in truly eccentric combinations. Round the corner, Marylebone High Street is an area I always gravitate to, for a light lunch at La Fromagerie, followed by a browse around Daunt Books, which has a discerning, hand-picked selection of titles in a space that has the feel of a reading room or library, with lots of warm carved wood and a huge skylight.

I’m a chocoholic, so I always go to Rococo. I am particularly drawn to its Coffee & Cardamom Wafers. And I love the packaging, with vintage drawings of marine life and nature. The interior of the store is beautiful, too: it has an extraordinary sea-themed chandelier.

A perfect Saturday afternoon would involve a screening at the Curzon Mayfair. It’s a Grade II-listed 1960s building and the fixtures and fittings evoke that era – it reminds me of my time at college, going to matinées on the Upper East Side in New York. A recent film I saw was the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra by Steven Soderbergh. I also like anything by Bergman, Tarkovsky or Cassavetes.

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After a lie-down at the hotel, dinner is at Bocca di Lupo. I think it’s quite romantic to sit at the counter to dine, watching the chefs work. I adore the way the food is presented – there is a rusticity and crudeness to it, and it’s made with remarkable passion. Afterwards, as I’m as obsessed with ice cream as I am with chocolate, I’ll go across to Gelupo for an espresso milk-free gelato.  

Being able to walk back to the hotel, rather than take a taxi to east London, is the ultimate luxury. I like to stroll through Piccadilly and back towards St James’s, window-shopping in Jermyn Street.

The next morning, I’ll skip breakfast and wend my way east, drop my bag at my gallery and head to Columbia Road for brunch at Brawn. Its menu is based on what’s fresh in the market, often in unusal yet delicious combinations. Columbia Road is no longer just about the flower market; there are new shops, such as Choosing Keeping, which stocks carefully selected stationery. Even if I’m not there to buy anything, I love to look around.

Next, it’s on to Broadway Market and through London Fields to Violet Cakes – a café not to be missed in a semi-industrial building. The cakes are baked on the premises and their presentation is infused with charm. It’s the ginger and molasses loaf that I like best of all. A slice of that with a cup of hot water and lemon is my idea of paradise.

Then, after picking up my overnight bag from the gallery, it’s back home to spend my evening quietly reading the weekend papers and preparing for the week to come.”

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