For every business meal that ends in a successful conversation about SEO and shellfish, there’s another that ends in a handshake so awkward that you start contemplating whether Mr Blobby is better at schmoozing than you. Realistically, the meeting all went downhill after you witnessed all 30 servers singing Happy Birthday to a toddler and your colleague’s old fashioned arrived in a goldfish bowl.
No, you can’t just go to any restaurant for a business meal. You need somewhere that is as impressive as it is appropriate, cool but not too laidback, sophisticated but not so blindingly expensive that the company accountant sends you an emergency Slack to see if your card’s been stolen. These are those places. Whatever industry you happen to be in, here’s where to go for a business lunch in London.
You’ve seen Mad Men. We’ve seen Mad Man. And yes, that client visiting from Somerset has seen Mad Men. That’s exactly why sometimes you need the kind of big red leather booth filled restaurant where you can picture Don Draper making deals and mildly profound comments in the corner. You know, to set the mood. The Holborn Dining Room is exactly that kind of place, and as grand as the setting is, their selection of freshly baked pies are equally as impressive.
Finally. You’ve finally got a meeting with her. She’s brilliant. She’s ruthless. People call her The Shark and the rumours are that she once made Mark Zuckerberg cry with a single glance. Oh, she’s also a vegetarian. Rovi in Fitzrovia is a big, open restaurant that looks part show home and part beautiful spaceship, and it just so happens to serve excellent middle eastern inspired sharing plates. Head here when you want plenty of top vegetable dishes, or just need somewhere cool and sophisticated that’s guaranteed to impress, smack bang in central.
We’re going to hazard a guess and say that this entirely OTT Soho brasserie has seen some pretty major deals go down. CEOs of Fortune 500 companies crying into their boeuf bourguignon. Billionaires hitting the ‘press for champagne’ buttons as they play swapsies with countries. Mark our words, if The Colonel’s heirs finally break and sell the KFC secret recipe it’ll happen here. The space itself is very grand - no seriously, it’s like the gold detailing and velvet is breeding the longer you look at it - so keep this place reserved for big spend, big impression lunches.
The show Succession has taught us three things. Always drive carefully over bridges, there’s a good reason why you never talk to your cousins, and finally, that business is really just a series of elaborate dinners in places that look like someone screamed “less talking, more spending” into the ether. That’s pretty much what you’ll find at Bob Bob Cité. It’s the £25 million sibling restaurant to Bob Bob Ricard in Soho, and this place is more shining spaceship from the future than world’s richest train carriage, but the excellent French dishes, big booths, and ‘press for champagne’ buttons remain.
We’re just going to be honest with you. After our first visit to Brigadiers we contemplated quitting our jobs and retraining in asset management just so we would have an excuse to move to the City and spend several evenings a week eating their excellent lamb chops. This mahogany-clad spot is of the ‘work hard, play hard’ school of business and whether you go for the beef shin and bone marrow biryani, or, inevitably, one too many drinks from their whisky vending machine over a game of pool, you’re pretty much guaranteed a great lunch here. Even if it ends up becoming dinner. And dinner ends up becoming 10pm nitro martinis.
You know the saying. Time is money, and money can buy you meatballs. That’s how we think it goes anyway. Casual fine dining spot Aquavit in St James’s is all about Nordic cuisine so expect plenty of fresh fish, lingonberries, and yes, meatballs. This is a great option if you’re looking for something that feels classy but never fussy. As an added bonus, their £27 lunchtime set menu means you can enjoy all that Scandinavian flavour without giving the old corporate card too much of a work out.
You don’t know this person very well. In fact, all you know is that they really enjoy using exclamation marks in emails, and haven’t quite mastered the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. Bless ’em. The point is, when you’re meeting up with a relative stranger you need somewhere inoffensive, with good food, and a decent amount of velvet thrown in for good measure. Wild Honey in St James’s is all of the above with the added bonus of some lamb that’s so tender we’re not sure whether to eat it or pet it, the option to have fresh honeycomb carved into your ice cream, and a long, long wine list you can peruse whilst trying to resist the urge to start an impromptu grammar lesson.
You’re pretty sure the CEO of your company learnt his management style from Lucifer. And now he’s asked you to book lunch for that meeting with your biggest client. Put down that brown paper bag and just book a table at City Social. This British restaurant on the 24th floor of Tower 42 is all about slick grey booths, black chairs, and gold detailing - because what else would you expect from a restaurant that serves a near £20 scallop starter? Although there are some Bill Gates level prices here, the £32 three course bar menu is entirely reasonable and we challenge anyone - including your boss - to not be impressed by the view.
“We’re not looking to sell”, they say, resolute. Yeah, tell that to the prawn cheung fun and the pork soup dumplings pal. Better yet, tell it to the gentleman who’s carving up your peking duck. Impossible. Imperial Treasure is a fancy Chinese spot in St James’s that has some of the best dim sum in all of London. Be warned, this place doesn’t have a big atmosphere. Or even a small atmosphere, to be honest. But what it lacks in feel good ambience it makes up for in slick, grown up interiors, and a £43 lunch menu that includes a two course peking duck situation.
You know that Mean Girls scene where the mum says “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom”. Yeah, replace the word mom with manager and that’s your boss. Rochelle Canteen is just the kind of lowkey, sort of secret Shoreditch spot that’s perfect for a cool work lunch. The menu of British classics is excellent, but seeing as it’s located in the canteen of an old primary school it’s more suited to lowkey business chats with media types that’ll merrily go for a vape break in the secluded garden between their roast grouse and crumble. Just be warned, booking ahead is essential.
That PR you hate wish ‘happy Friday’ to every week has reached out to ‘pick your brain’ on their new line of Jane Austen inspired cat beds. Fantastic. If you’re going to spend the next two hours talking about the synergy between 19th century literature and litter training, then you might as well get some really great dim sum out of it. And that’s exactly why you should go to Yauatcha Soho. It’s the kind of moody, sexy space where you can picture Gordon Gekko eating a venison puff in the corner whilst planning world domination, and everything from the crispy aromatic duck to the raspberry delice here is excellent. Heads up, on weekdays there’s a £28 set menu involving prawn shui mai and macarons from 12-5pm.
Imagine if Dragons’ Den was made by a group of super successful hipsters who said things like “check out the dual moving magnet stereo cartridge on that” and you’re well on your way to understanding Spiritland. This huge music-focused restaurant inside Royal Festival Hall serves everything from sweet and sour pork belly, to oysters, and a chilli squid ink pasta, and the room is that rare combination of sophisticated and 70s laid-back cool. Think velvet curtains, leather booths, a big open kitchen, their famous speakers, and a casual 110 wines on offer. It might not be the place for a business lunch involving any one with an MBE or a lifetime’s supply of black shoe polish, but it’s perfect for a chilled meal with a creative.
It’s time to pull out the big guns. And you know what that means? Yes, it’s schnitzel time. Okay, before you start thinking we attended The Arnold Schwarzenegger School Of Business, we’re talking about the business-lunch-wonder that is German Gymnasium in King’s Cross. We don’t use the word ‘stunning’ often, but that’s pretty much the only word you can use to describe this Grade II listed building. Although the food won’t make you do backflips, and the barstools are very pink, their £15 daily lunch specials are very decent and, importantly, include a glass of wine. Right next to King’s Cross station, this place is perfect if you’re meeting out of towners.
You’re meeting up with your old colleague to catch up. Read as: subtly compete for who has become the most successful since the big redundancy of ’17. Kym’s is a big Chinese restaurant in the City that has a huge cherry blossom tree below its spiral staircase and the kind of blush pink lighting that makes everyone look at least 33% less anxious than they actually are. Perfect. Go for the banquette seating by the big curved bar, order their lucky lychee martini, and oh so casually drop in that big pay rise between bites of the must-order three treasures dish.
You’re really happy in your job but that recruiter from LinkedIn just won’t quit. The other day they endorsed you for ‘excellent analytical thinking’, and everyone from your therapist to dry cleaner knows that to be a crock of shit. Enough is enough. Head for Cecconi’s in Soho. Why? Because if you’re going for a pointless lunch you might as well eat some decent pizza and have a glass of wine. This big Italian spot on Old Compton Street has enough polished wood and tan leather to keep things feeling classy but the two course £12 weekday lunch menu will keep your ‘I’m definitely not coming to work at Facebook’ guilt at bay.
Your boss has asked you to go for lunch three days after they changed the office water from Evian to Tesco’s own brand and no one in the HR team will sit with you at lunch. This spells trouble. But also, fuck it, suggest lunch at Gridiron to gain additional compensation in the form of excellent beef gripping potatoes and braised trotter mash. This Mayfair steak restaurant is inside the Como hotel and everything from the dark leather seating to the eager suited servers spell ‘perfect for impressing’, and, of course, ‘big bill’. The steak here is pretty good but the sides are what you really want to get involved in. Especially when you have a guilt loaded corporate card at your disposal.
Realistically, there aren’t that many places in Shoreditch where you can wear a tie without getting looks like you’ve just rocked up with the ghost of Maggie Thatcher, but Nobu is one of them. This big Japanese spot in the basement of the Nobu hotel is pretty expensive, and although the food can be decidedly average for such high prices, the space itself is very impressive. Expect broody lighting, a slick sushi counter, bento sets, and, just in case last night’s pitch became more of a party, Japanese Bloody Marys.
Warren Buffett once offered up the entirety of his $84 billion fortune in exchange for one more bite of Luca’s rigatoni and pork sausage ragu. Okay, we made that up. But, if you’ve ever sat at their bar, drinking a glass of orange wine with a bowl of handmade pasta by your side, you’ll probably believe it. This warm, grown-up Italian spot in Farringdon has some very good food that you could merrily eat a lot of, despite it being err, a large investment. Our game plan here is to get a shared portion of parmesan fries and their must-order pork sausage ragu pasta, but if the other person is paying, or you know, you just happen to be as baller as Buffett, then godspeed - get involved in their excellent wine list and the roast venison.