Reservations about the business lunch



HKK, offering classic Chinese cuisine in the City

HKK, offering classic Chinese cuisine in the City

As Commercial Director of our wholesale arm, Fields, Morris & Verdin, Damian Carrington knows only too well the importance of the working lunch – so why is it increasingly disappearing from the menu?

I’m not sure if I have a ‘readership’ as such but I do picture in my mind’s eye what you might be like, not to mention your views on everything from wine (Bordeaux vs Burgundy; Grower vs Grande Marque Champagne) to restaurants (Michelin-star finery or busy brasserie; Chiltern Firehouse or Noma), and all things in between. I have, for instance, been recently imagining your views on lunch and whether you think it is a good thing or not. Have we progressed from the infamous days of Gordon Gekko and his maxim that ‘lunch is for wimps’?

I am increasingly of the view that this is by far the most important meal of the day and that, furthermore, the business lunch has sadly become something of a lost art. In a world dominated by electronic communication, where relationships online are considered to be deep and meaningful, spending time face to face (rather than Facebook to Facebook) with clients, colleagues and peers is often dismissed as an inefficient use of time. I couldn’t disagree more with this line of thinking.

Now I accept we can’t always be away from our desks, nor make a habit of indulging in a four-course lunchtime extravaganza. However I can’t help feeling a pang of guilt every time I succumb to a sandwich at my computer. Like it or not (and I understand the new-ish bribery laws have a role to play here), business is still conducted by individuals; isn’t it vitally important that you know a bit about the person you are transacting with?

For those of you keen to revive the lost art of lunch, here are your starters for ten: still one of the best value lunches around is the set business lunch menu offered by Le Gavroche, which serves up three courses of two-Michelin-star food, a half-bottle each of wine and mineral water, coffee and petits fours – a repast I would consider sufficient to impress any client. For something a little less Gallic there is HKK, which comes from the same stable as Hakkasan, and offers classic Chinese food and wonderful service close to Liverpool Street.

Also in the Chinese vein is Hunan – famous for having no menu – where you are all but guaranteed a wonderful experience and an impressive wine list too. Another suitable spot for its wine in particular is the Whistler restaurant at Tate Britain, whose wine list is compiled by Hamish Anderson; this is one of the few places that still buys its wine en primeur, only offering it at service when ready to drink. There are some real bargains here – and the food is pretty decent too. Finally, for a quick catch up with a colleague or client over the Christmas season it is hard to beat the bar at Le Caprice, for its superlative atmosphere, service and cuisine. It is, come to think of it, the perfect spot for a working lunch.

Read Damian’s last post on what sets the mighty apart from the mediocre in the world of restaurants.