We trade video calls for the dining room in a hungry homage to the joys of the business lunch. Great that the company’s paying, of course, but more than that there’s no better place to get to know a business partner or scope out a new one. Deal? We’ll drink to that.
Lunch? Perfect. The business lunch will endure because it’s the second-best bit of doing business and lunch happily serves purposes oh-so-far beyond sating the belly. The restaurant is the boardroom for grown-ups and lunch is the real meeting. In fact, lunch is where you find out just who you’re doing business with. Lunch tells. What does he order? How does she treat the staff? How’s the chat? Are their eyes attentive or intent on something behind you, someone maybe, bending over to pick up a fork?
Lunch isn’t a date or a hand of poker but it reveals character, candour, sense and sensibility, humour and humility. But somehow, easily. Pick a place where buzz beats clamour and the laughter belongs to both sexes alike. Suits sweating over steaks is the pits. Share a bottle, raise a toast, prepare to treat or be treated. Take a chance and shake on it over a lazy susan and a nice Meursault.
There’s a certain deal-clinching confidence in naming your restaurant after yourself. I mean, just imagine the welcome you get from Tony when you’re a bit of a regular at Tony’s and Tony himself is in the house. There’s a lot of “you look great” and “what are we celebrating?” In a good way. Tony Vallone has served quality northern Italian and Mediterranean classics for decades, tweaking them just a little for a Texan appetite. You’ll still look great after three courses, though, whatever you’re celebrating. Oh, and the thick carpet helps muffle the inflated figures you’re talking about.
In a winding lane off Piazza di Spagna, La Matricianella has been serving classic Roman cuisine since 1957, alongside a biblically long wine list. Its umbrella-sheltered street-side tables have become the city’s open-air dining room for deal-sealing businessfolk and post-work get-togethers for the neighbourhood’s smartly dressed denizens to enjoy forkfuls of pecorino-rich cacio e pepe and guanciale-flecked spaghetti carbonara. The hallmarks of this genre of Italian restaurant are everywhere from the red-chequered tablecloths to the jovial bow-tied waitstaff. It also doles out the best pasta in town despite the city’s stiff competition in that area. Italy’s had a tough time but business in the Bel Paese is still customarily sealed over the dining table with a glass of red in hand.
Well, for some stupid reason that we won’t mention, Frankfurt’s few-and- far-between power-lunch spots are about to get just as uproarously busy as those in the City of London are going to get quiet. Your best bet by the Main is this charming old stager, well-loved for ferrying French-ish classics to small-ish tables of diners for whom time is literally money. Expect speedy service, good Gewürtzraminer and to wonder if you’ve accidentally gone to St Moritz – the wood-panelling is intense. The tables are a little close together for spilling secrets but who knows who else’s you’ll hear?
Chef Eduardo Garcia of Maximo Bistrot has opened this second restaurant with the chops to become a classic in the same Roma Norte neighbourhood. The new space is a lot grander than the original, with soaring brick walls, an arched ceiling and wooden booths – more for quieter meetings. The addition of chequered lampshades and wicker couches in the lounge area ensure that the homey feel (for which the original restaurant is known) wins out. The food, naturally, remains superb, with familiar dishes including octopus ceviche and a highly recommended mushroom risotto.
Roberto – named for the senior Carugati who started small before inviting most of the family to join the venture – is a lesson in serving exquisite Italian in an elegant room. Roberto’s grandson is now head chef, sending out saltimbocca, osso buco and ravioli di manzo to an intriguing crowd of classy folk: ladies lunching, deals toasted with nodded congratulations, long- lunchers reminiscing over grappa. In a courtly land of chandeliers, well-spaced tables and the sort of starched napkins that put most freshly-pressed suits to shame, few things can go wrong.
Rue Pierre Fatio 10
L’Abreuvoir takes the title as the oldest French restaurant in Athens rather seriously. After working as a chef in France, Marseille-raised Alexis Kotsis decided to return to his hometown and open a restaurant of his own in Kolonaki, downtown Athens. “We’re a short walk from many embassies and offices, so we [still] get reservations for business lunches and dinners,” says Kotsis, explaining that many diplomats and shipowners often dine here. With its smart white tablecloths and formal silverware, the space has remained virtually unchanged since opening in 1965. “The majority of our ingredients and wine list are sourced from France and there’s never been a time when coq au vin or steak tartare have been missing from the menu,” says Kotsis, who is now passing the baton to his son and daughter, the former of which trained as a chef in Lyon under late chef Paul Bocuse. Don’t miss the leafy garden, which is open year- round but best enjoyed in the summer.
Xenokratous 51, Kolonaki
Under the trellises and vines and amid the white-painted walls at Mandolin, oh – squint and you’re in Santorini for a sweet second! This “Aegean” restaurant hedges its geopolitical bets by serving both Greek and Turkish food beautifully and quickly – but then allowing you to take your time over that second bottle you didn’t know you wanted.
This was the first great restaurant in Miami’s Design District and remains the best. Unless you happen to be an octopus, in which case, you should be heavily disguised or very afraid.
4132 NE 2nd Ave
Bangkok’s Japanese bars and restaurants cater first and foremost to Japanese business travellers and trade in providing old-country excellence with a nod to the exotic. The best izakaya-style food in town is at Jua, Charoen Krung’s most poised take on yakitori-and-more. The blurring of Japanese food and drink (you’ll have Suntory highballs coming out of your ears) and Thai service is beguiling. And blurry. Jua is next to the River Chao Praya, so be careful how you go, Joe.
672/49 Charoen Krung 28