The financial crisis had many casualties, but perhaps none greater than the business lunch. Once upon a time, the power brokers of this city would do their best work over five martinis, a half bottle of Sauternes and a three hour snooze. But with jobs, institutions and public credulity crumbling all about them, it suddenly looked a bit de trop to expense an eight course tasting menu and accompanying cigars in the middle of a quiet Tuesday.
Lunch’s loss was breakfast’s gain. Where a business lunch looks decadent and chumocratic, a business breakfast looks go-getter-esque and dynamic, inflected with all the showy, modern health-food tells of smashed avocado, green juices, Instagram-friendly shakshuka and unexpected pomegranate seeds.
Yes: “Let’s do breakfast”. That’s how all the most significant meetings in London begin these days. And it’s true for the entire buffet of industries. But where do the individual tribes, factions and blocs of this town compare their kippers and break their yokes? Here’s your field guide to the best spots for a breakfast meeting, industry by industry. See you in the AM.
The Media – Cecconis, Mayfair
Cecconis didn’t always cater for these early(ish) birds.“I’m Italian so I am not in the habit of eating breakfast” said Giacomo Maccioni, general manager at the Mayfair institution. But as the tastes and timescales of Cecconi’s media-mogul faithful began to shift, so too did the mores and mealtimes of the restaurant. Out went the lengthy, fussy menu. In came a quick, single-sided assortment that let the early risers choose quickly and get on with the business at hand.
And speed, for this exacting clientele, is all. Media types like to boast constantly about how little time they have: how long their days are, how late the party was, how over deadline the shoot is. With that in mind, Maccioni and his crew have developed a super slick, eerily punctual service system that ensures clients are in and out in 30 minutes, if they so desire.
The coffee is on the table in two to three minutes. A full English breakfast – “the most complicated dish of all with sausages, bacon, eggs and roast tomatoes” – touches down in “no more than six or seven”. Such promptness suits the gathered impresarios and media moguls, whose precisely scruffy sprezzatura blazers – paired with mid-century eyewear and many flourished kisses – leave them little time for slacking.
Advertising – Dean Street Townhouse, Soho
Advertising types are convinced that they discovered Soho. Never mind that these ropey Georgian backwaters were a sea of misspent creativity and overpriced 30-second peep shows long before anyone thought to pay a “creative” to make the same – as far as the aging ad man is concerned, this was their discovery; they were here first.
Because, for London’s advertising men, the days of seventies soho – of Paul Raymond and Peter Cook and neon signage – were also the days of their fatted calf: of long lunches thrice a week; of million pound budgets for 60 second TV spots set inexplicably in the Bahamas; of getting paid to ask page three starlets to flog cigarettes to teenagers. And though the vast majority of agencies bled out into the wider central London area as soon as all those pokey townhouses began to look a little “old media”, you can’t blame the odd Creative Director for dropping back into the motherland of a morning for some sanitised nostalgia.
Dean Street Townhouse – which, like Cecconi’s, is another savvy Nick Jones venture – is the perfect vessel for this curious blend of Selvedge jeans, faux-silver fox beards and brown leather Redwing boots. The breakfast menu is a wonderful hodgepodge of classic English fare, with Manx kippers carrying most of the burden alongside an excellent kedgeree and a punchy ham hock hash with fried duck egg. Everything comes in under the £10 mark, which is good news for the doyens of an industry that scrapes by off a couple of mawkish Christmas adverts per decade. It’s also comfort food-y enough to make your averaged ECD forget, just for a moment, that his only creative outlet these days is putting a funny animated bear in every single campaign, and hiring Robert Webb to do the voice over.
Hedge funds and brokerages – 45 Jermyn Street, St James’
St James’ has long been the receptacle for the more romantic and debonair end of the financial sector. “I work in tea”; “I’m in jet fuel, mainly”; “It’s a small, boutique fund that deals with Gulf family offices” – what fun, compared to the drudgery of Canary Wharf and Bank! And these slickers – so much less scandalous, so much richer, so much more interested in art than their City counterparts – need somewhere to compare their Anderson and Sheppard cuffs. Sat just fifty yards from the statue of Beau Brummell (the father of modern tailoring) 45 Jermyn Street is a pretty nifty option.
The decor is precise yet comforting, while the atmosphere is bristling yet clubby – a sort of chummy, old world charm infused with a sense of purpose and clandestine dealmaking. The menu, meanwhile, has a pleasingly Bertie Wooster feel about it (bacon sandwiches, crumpets with Marmite, kippers, rarebit), as if to remind the old boys and the new bloods that the good times, for them at least, never really ended. (Unless, of course, you work in oil. Or shipping, actually. Or jet fuel, come to the think of it.)
Property – Chiltern Firehouse, Marylebone
The property barons of today are the czars and stars of this town: each of them an odd combination of international glitterati, mafia don, and post-capitalist rock star. No surprise, then, that the best of them flock to slightly-past-it celebrity hot pocket the Chiltern Firehouse.
Nestled among the Londoner’s Diary writers, lesser-Delevingnes and male models of the hotel breakfast room lies a constant bounty of property developers, each mentally sequestering the remnants of Park Lane like a feudal landlord. To be fair to our overlords, there’s a great deal here to love: the menu at the Firehose is inventive, expensive and impressive, the service knowing and attentive, and the dining room awash with intrigue and sideways glances.
Finance – Hawksmoor
The Hawksmoor breakfast is wonderfully carnivorous and pleasingly wholesome and roughly charred – ideal, then, for your bullish, red-blooded finance stereotype. Located in historic Guildhall, the leather and oak chop house is awash with city types of a morning, most of them splitting the famous Hawksmoor breakfast for two: a platter of bone marrow, mixed-meat sausages, blacker-than-thou pudding, trotter-flecked baked beans, and, crucially, unlimited toast.
Deals, alliances, next job maneuvers and salary boasts a plenty take place every morning over this utterly beguiling slaughter-fest. The in-shape, spin-class-at-5am Boggi-wearers love it for the protein and the cheat day carb load, while the rest of them admire it for the sheer Nigel-Farage-in-the-mid-nineties, let’s-have-a-glass-of-port-before-10-am exuberance of it all.