Article

Two of a kind: Maria and Mike

Categories: Behind the stalls

Maria Moruzzi from Maria’s Market Cafe and local artist Mike Challenger

Interviews: Viel Richardson
Image: Christopher L Proctor

Maria on Mike
I have known Mike since my late teens, so we have been friends for a long time. I remember when I first saw him walking past the cafe and up the street. He had long hair then, so you can see things have changed a bit!

Ours is a deep friendship, one where we can be completely relaxed in each other’s company. There have been times when things have been difficult in my life, but he has always been there, ready to give support without question, looking out for me. When my parents had passed and the cafe moved to a small space next to the Southwark Tavern, Mike came up and said he would paint it for me to help with the setting up. I didn’t have to ask. There are other times when he has just said something encouraging when I have been down. We also make each other laugh a lot.

Mike knows so much about art and music, but he has a way of talking which is not overbearing or patronising. I find it very comfortable, listening to him talk about subjects that I don’t know a great deal about, but find fascinating. It is also really nice to spend time talking to someone with expertise that is completely different from food.

Sometimes we go to his place and he plays the piano, which I find very moving. The first time I heard him play, it really affected me. I was crying one minute and laughing the next. It was lovely.

My favourite painting of his is a view from Park Street. In it are my parents, standing outside our old cafe, looking towards the Market. That obviously means a great deal to me. That cafe was our home, it was where I grew up as a child. In the painting it is very much alive, and you can feel the atmosphere of the street. It is a very positive picture, full of sunshine.

Mike spends a lot of time in the Market. I think he is inspired by the buildings, the atmosphere, the people, and also the memories of people and places that were once here and have now moved on. Over the years, the pair of us have gone through a lot together and as part of the community. Those emotional attachments and shared history are still here, and they form a big part of our friendship.

Mike on Maria
When I first moved into my home next to the Market, which was a wholesale fruit and veg market in those days, I remember Maria and her sisters playing in the street right outside my front door. I remember going into her parents’ cafe and getting to know the family. The cafe was very much a key part of the community in an understated way, as all really good cafes are.

Maria is just this bubbling font of positive energy. She works incredibly hard running her cafe and setting the tone of the place. Maria’s is not just a place to eat; the customers and staff have created a community here. That is something that cannot be faked—it is a spirit that comes from being part of the history of the Market. Even though the location has changed a couple of times, what Maria is doing now is exactly what her parents achieved with the original cafe. It is unique and unlike anything else that has been in the Market over all that time. Maria brings a continuity that very few people are able to offer.

I speak to so many people for whom a visit to the cafe is as much a reason for coming to Borough Market as their favourite stall. Sitting here waiting for their meal to be called out is something they have come to love. There is no standing on ceremony here; there is an honesty about the place, which is very appealing.

My favourite dish is the egg and chips. It doesn’t sound much, but you would be surprised how many people get it wrong. And of course, there is no substitute for one of her mugs of tea.