‘Let’s do lunch.’ How many international deals, ancient alliances and clandestine negotiations have been prefaced by that little injunction? Because while the boardroom’s a fine place to lay the groundwork, the collective wisdom of the past century says that the dining room’s the only place to seal the deal.
And while the Three Martini Lunch has had its three strikes, and the afternoon snooze behind the plant pot has gone to seed, and the bottomless midday magnums have run dry, the business lunch is still a considerable cornerstone of modern professional life.
But where to book next time you need to break bread? Here are the top four restaurants in London at which to hold a business lunch. Enjoy them responsibly.
Wiltons, Jermyn Street
Wiltons is the CEO, President, Chairman and teaboy of Business Lunch Inc. With an atmosphere hushed by linen-draped tables and secretive, velveteen banquette booths, this Jermyn Street institution has played host to some of the most significant (and shadowy) business deals of the last two centuries. Michael Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister and co-founder of the publishing house Haymarket, said Wiltons was almost like the company’s “work canteen”, such was the volume of deals conducted behind its doors.
Lord Jacob Rothschild described one visit shortly after he and Mark Weinburg had bought Hambros Bank’s interest in Hambro Life for a multi-million pound sum. Spotting their counterparty across the dining room, the pair decided to order big and order well. When the bill arrived, instead of settling up themselves, the pair simply wrote: ‘Payable by Rupert Hambro, in receipt of £123 million.’
There’s something in the air at XU, the new-ish Taiwanese restaurant down on Rupert Street. This small-but-perfectly formed dining room has a cocoon like, conspiratorial atmosphere – on certain evenings, under the dimmed-spot lights, you can imagine any number of secret trysts and covert pacts being arranged at its dark wood tables.
The menu is a sprightly, east-meets-west arrangement that merges things like Iberican pork with Taiwanese eel and encourages sharing. In other words, it’s a neat reflection of modern business: global, open, meaty, and prone to hidden depths.
Kitty Fishers, Mayfair
A London institution despite its relative youth, Kitty Fishers is a place to wow the palette before striking a deal. The dazzling-yet-understated menu centres around British classics with a Spanish twist, while the low-key, Georgian-era-tinged decor gives a sense of both grandeur and privacy.
A grill-house at its heart, there’s also something pleasingly substantial about the char-flecked food here – it is the stuff of red-blooded mergers and frank discussions.
45 Jermyn Street
Sat fifty yards from the statue of Beau Brummell – the father of tailoring – 45 Jermyn Street is a place of sharp lapels and sharper tongues. The exquisite dining room takes its inspiration from a golden, mid-century era of glamour – a time when the deals were big and the lunches were long. Any pact inked here, one feels, ought to be signed off with an emerald-topped Mont Blanc, and torn from a gilt-edged cheque book.
Simon Thompson, the Hospitality Director over at number 45, tells me how the restaurant has come to be a natural choke-point in the ebb and flow of Mayfair’s great and good. “It’s reassuringly private and impressively stylish, with attentive service that’s never intrusive.” he says. “And should the meeting go particularly well, there’s always the cocktail menu to celebrate…”