Simms' city: French bankers, British bankers and flashing knickers


Our diarist Freya Simms offers her fortnightly reflections on her favourite London haunts…

The Wallace Collection and Oliver Peyton’s courtyard café

The joy of working in Marylebone is that The Wallace Collection is only a hop skip and a jump away from the office.

It is a great place to be inspired, put the Blackberry on silent, and understand what real luxury looked like when the first Marquess of Hertford, ambassador to Paris, began his love affair with France and this fascinating collection in 1760.

Four further generations of the Herford dynasty continued to assemble this hoard through to 1880, making it rival some of the world’s most famous museums.  

Highlights include Fragonard’s lady of The Swing flashing her knickers to her lover (pictured) and a fabulous late Titian, as well as countless pieces of lavish Boulle marquetry and an impressive arms and armour collection. If you have an interest in the decorative arts, or simply enjoy exquisite interiors, then The Wallace Collection is a real treasure. Oh and there’s a lovely courtyard café and brassiere managed by Oliver Peyton too. (I organized a rendezvous here with the French banker as soon as I heard that he still hadn’t been!) Many of the pieces were acquired during, and in the aftermath of, the French Revolution when the aristocrats were lost their heads and their chattels.


Fragonard’s lady of The Swing and the courtyard café

Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte

From there we went to one of our favourite spots for a bite to eat, Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte. It’s great if you’re feeling indecisive and are in a red-blooded mood as the only thing on the menu is steak, dressed with a secret and moreish sauce, and chips! For a starter you are served a walnut salad liberally tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette and there is a small but complimentary list of wines to choose from. Hits the spot every time!

The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers at Goldsmith’s Hall

Goldsmiths Hall

Goldsmith’s Hall

The annual LAPADA (the Association of Art & Antiques Dealers) conference was held this year in the stunning surroundings of the Goldsmith’s Hall which was quite a coup especially as the librarian took time out to give the delegates a potted history of the Livery Company.

As you can imagine, the place was awash with dealers sizing up the prize collection of original objects that were commissioned for the Hall 200 years ago. This year the subjects for debate centred on financing your business during a recession and how the antiques trade can compete for a share of the luxury market.

A brave banker stood up to take the flack, but an hour’s debate quickly revealed that the bank wouldn’t agree a loan unless it’s secured and they don’t view dealers stock as an asset – so no silver lining there! However, Mark Henderson (founder and chairman of Saville Row Bespoke), shared some very valuable and encouraging insight into the staggering growth of the luxury sector as the wealthy continue to seek out quality craftsmanship.

Kensington Wine Rooms

Kensington Wine Rooms

A few days later, the Kensington Wine Rooms provided the perfect venue for a catch-up with LondonlovesBusiness’s associate editor Rebecca Hobson, and fellow columnist Ian Butchoff – aka The Dealer. Billed as offering great wines by the glass, we tucked into a wonderful Riesling accompanied by some salted almonds and a lot of chat. Ian regaled us with tales from the 1970s, involving one containing a gold Rolls Royce, David Bowie, the notorious night club Tramp, and some pink platforms! Later I headed off for a late supper to The Anchor and Hope near Waterloo to meet the Tarnished Night. One of the more extraordinary choices was potatoe soup with foie gras. Naughty, unnecessary but rather delicious all the same.

Freya Simms is managing director of Gong Muse a Strategic Communications agency for the art and luxury markets and winner of PRCA Agency Campaign of the year 2011