Everyone knows that the business meetings that really matter are the ones conducted over a good bottle of wine amidst the buzz of a well-chosen restaurant. There’s something about breaking bread with a potential new client or business partner that engenders an intimacy you just can’t replicate in the office — and everyone is more inclined to play fair once they’ve enjoyed a hearty lunch.
With all this in mind, the importance of selecting the right venue for that crucial tête-à-tête cannot be overstated. Too loud, and you’ll be awkwardly cupping your ears and craning your neck — too quiet and you’ll find yourself whispering self-consciously. And, of course, the menu must be reliably impressive. So, if you’re looking to secure the perfect spot for that all-important meeting in the capital, read on for our round-up of suitably sophisticated London restaurants.
Best in Chinatown: Xu Teahouse and Restaurant
From the team that brought you the much-loved Bao restaurant comes Xu, an opulent 1930s-style Taiwanese dining room reminiscent of the Taipei social clubs of yesteryear. Xu is the name of co-founder and chef Erchen Chang’s late grandfather, who, the menu proclaims, was a great lover of tea and poetry.
Perfect for impressing any dining companion who’s travelled from out of town, booking this restaurant will prove you know all of London’s worst kept secrets — and you can rest assured that the food is bound to impress. Handily, the interiors here seem to have been designed with discreet business deals in mind, thanks to Xu’s narrow interior carved up into a bundle of mini-spots spread across two floors. And, if you find yourself stuck for an ice-breaker before you get down to discussing business — why not reserve one of the Mahjong Club rooms and ‘let’ your opponent win.
Best in Mayfair: The Wolseley
If you’re a gentleman who believes in luck, then you might rely on the hallowed marble halls of The Wolseley to provide a seriously good omen for your all-important meeting. This Piccadilly pearl carries the hefty historical weight of innumerable fortune-changing conversations – and provides an achingly elegant backdrop to boot.
Lunch and dinner are bustling, brasserie-like affairs boasting an eclectic mix of dishes from oysters to caviar, schnitzel to snails; as well as a variety of steak, fish and game — making it the perfect choice if you’re unsure of your dining companion’s tastes or dietary requirements.
Best in Marylebone: Chiltern Firehouse
Five years ago, you’d have struggled to reserve a spot at this lauded establishment, even with weeks of advance notice, but today the hype has happily settled and Marylebone’s former fire station has remained a reliably chic and discreet location to discuss matters of work and play.
The best seats are at the kitchen counter, where you can watch the chefs at work in their lavishly appointed huge open kitchen (although this might not be the best place to position yourself to talk shop). Nuno Mendes – formerly of Viajante – is in residence, creating a menu that reflects current trends in top international restaurants. Perfect for satisfying any visitors who’ve travelled from further afield.
Best in Notting Hill: The Ledbury
If you’re setting out to seriously impress, then this Michelin-starred Notting Hill haunt is sure to fit the (extortionately expensive) bill. A superbly understated restaurant, the quietly confident staff certainly won’t interrupt any important discussions you might be having. Perhaps this is because they know you’ll be wanting for nothing. British ingredients, including Hampshire buffalo milk curd and Cumbrian lamb, line up alongside Tokyo turnips, Bresse chicken and black truffle — but it’s chef Brett Graham’s clever contemporary treatment of them that sets the place apart.
Alongside this extraordinary menu, the wine list here is truly epic, and there’s a great selection of British beers. For the best value, go for the set lunch or commit to the spectacular £140 set menu (wine included).
Best in Shoreditch: Leroy
Opened shortly after Ellory closed in March 2018, Leroy wasted no time in making an impression, and was awarded a star in the 2019 Michelin guide. This EC2 reboot of the short-lived (but fondly remembered) Hackney star is a more relaxed reincarnation which far out-performs its predecessor. The idea of grazing on Euro-style small plates with terrific wines by the glass is just made for modern business lunches.
Best in Victoria: Lorne
Time Out put it best with the description of this Pimlico neighbourhood restaurant: “elegant enough for its mature Sloanes, stylish enough for the yuppies”. In other words, this venue should fit the bill if you’re looking to keep things smart casual, and stick to a conveniently central location.
The kitchen is smart and simple — with a menu boasting skilfully cooked modern European food in a chic, understated dining room. The set lunch brings three courses for a reasonable-for-Pimlico-price, and the wine list is a carefully chosen triumph.
Now you’ve booked the place, it’s time you learned the art of business drinking…