Table talk: The best restaurants for a business lunch
‘Wimps’ might not stop for lunch, but busy business people do. So where do they like to eat?
Twenty years on since she opened her buisness nearby, The Merrion is still top of designer Louise Kennedy’s lunch list. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Breakfast or lunch, fast or formal? Busy business people on where they meet to eat.
Fashion designer and businesswoman
Favourite meeting place: The Merrion has remained at the top of my list since it opened its doors 20 years ago. It’s walkable from our headquarters on Merrion Square and if we are entertaining foreign press or clients we know we are guaranteed phenomenal but unobtrusive service. The hotel had been open a year when we started the work on our headquarters – I would say they could have charged me rent, because every meeting happened at The Merrion!
On the menu: I have regular meetings with my accountant early in the morning. I love my breakfast and often choose the poached egg with soda bread and avocado. The investment the team has made in their food is very apparent. Top of my list at lunchtime is smoked salmon and soda bread, and I love their crab salads. We always recommend the bacon and cabbage for our overseas visitors.
A lunch no-no: Somebody interrupting me, constantly asking me if everything is ok. I’m not shy about putting my hand up if there are any issues with service. I don’t like when it’s too noisy either, particularly for a work meeting, and I don’t like when tables are too close to each other.
Downside to lunch: I like breakfast meetings because I’m an early riser and breakfast usually lasts an hour. It’s harder to find the time for lunch – it rarely takes less than 90 minutes.
At my desk: I travel so much that when I’m back in Ireland, I often have lunch at my desk. However, I know the speed at which I can get in and out of the Cellar Bar at The Merrion and sometimes it’s good to get out and clear your head. If somebody from the office needs to have one-on-one time with me, it is good to take the time. We do frequently eat at our desks because there are great places in our area where we can pick up lunch, or have it delivered. I’m certainly not out for lunch five days a week!
A drink at lunch? : I’m a champagne drinker and my favourite champagne is Ruinart. If we were hosting something and if the guest wanted a glass I’d certainly join them, but more often than not drinking with lunch is pretty rare.
Managing director, Jaguar Land Rover Ireland
Favourite place: I like to drop into Avoca, near Rathcoole. It’s informal but the food is good and you can always fi nd a nice quiet corner if you’re there for a business meeting. They serve good coffee too.
On the menu: I usually go for something like a Caesar salad. I think they do it very well there. In this role you tend to have a lot of meetings where you’re eating, so during the day I tend to choose a salad, or something reasonably light.
The guests: I rarely meet clients for lunch. I meet my business partners, the various dealers in the retail side, management teams etc. Clients would usually be an evening entertaining thing rather than a lunchtime thing.
The dealbreaker: There are two things I look for: ease of access and good parking. That rules out town to a degree. I would rarely be in there and if I am it’s a bit of a chore to get around, to be honest.
A lunch no-no: I don’t like going somewhere where it’s loud and noisy. I’m usually sitting talking to people so I like to fi nd a quiet corner. Loud music would be an absolute no-no for me, and bad coffee.
At my desk: I’m happy enough to have lunch at the desk but it is nice to eat out and it’s certainly, from a business point of view, a very nice relaxed way to do business. The business I’m in, I do quite a bit of driving, so it’s nice to be able to pull in somewhere and have a nice quiet bite.
General manager of Ashford Castle
Favourite place: Most of my business lunches happen at the castle but, when I do have the occasion to entertain international journalists or international agents, we often travel around the area and showcase the best of the west of Ireland. Certainly, in Galway city, there’s no shortage of great restaurants, where we bring them to experience a little bit of the west. The seafood bar Kirwan’s Lane is my go-to place. Michael O’Grady, the owner, does a brilliant job and his team are absolutely fantastic.
On the menu: The restaurant is based on the fresh seafood that Galway Bay is famous for, so, it’s all to do with the freshness and simplicity of the food. Kirwan’s has everything from Galway oysters to mussels to a great Catch of the Day – it could be anything from turbot to John Dory – all done very simply and with the freshest of ingredients, exactly what the people I have a business lunch with would be looking for. I’m usuallydriving but my guests often like a pint of Guinness. I encourage the people I’m with to have some Guinness, or maybe sometimes a nice Chablis, with their lunch.
The essentials: What you need is a very good experience. It can’t be an overlyfussy, long drawn-out process, while giving the kitchen the time to produce some simple but fresh and well-prepared food.
A lunch no-no: Too much pomp and ceremony doesn’t do it for me. I can do that for a dinner experience because you’re much more relaxed, you have more time but, for me, too much fuss at lunch is a no-no.
Eat out or stay in: Eating in is always my preference. We have our staff canteen, everybody gets fed here for breakfast, lunch and dinner and most of the time I’ll take from the canteen food. Sometimes, if I want to check a new dish from a menu I’ll order that or we have fi ve different dining options on the property, so I won’t go hungry.
Head of corporate banking, Barclays Bank Ireland
Favourite place: Dax on Pembroke Street, Dublin 2. I go there a couple of times a month. There’s good food for good value, and very good efficient service. For me, it’s reasonably handy because my offi ce is on Hatch Street. If I’m meeting a client for lunch I always try and let them pick and if they revert to me, I suggest Dax.
On the menu: What I like about Dax is that they have a set menu and an à la carte, so you’re not spending hours choosing from a large menu. I would mostlychoose a fi sh dish for lunch, like hake for example. I have three or four lunches a week with clients so I have to be careful in terms of what I choose. I very rarely have a drink at lunch. I worked in London for years and I was very surprised when I came back to Dublin that nobody drinks at lunch. I leave it up to the client and follow their lead, but I’d never have more than one.
The essentials: I like atmosphere in a restaurant. I don’t want to bring a client somewhere dead but at the same time I want to hear what they’re saying, so it’s important the restaurant has a quiet corner – there’s a section like that in Dax. I don’t like overly stuffy restaurants or one where the waiters are coming over every ten minutes but Olivier [Meisonnave], the patron [in Dax] willalways come over at the end which is nice.
The deal breaker: I like a wide-ranging menu. I certainly wouldn’t be taking clients to Thai restaurants or anything like that.
A lunch no-no: I don’t like expensive, fussy, clicking-yourheels type places.
Downside to lunch: The fact that it’s in the middle of the day and you have to break out of what you’re doing. Breakfast meetings are becoming more regular in the country, but for my clients coming from the country or flying in, breakfast wouldn’t work.
At my desk: I like going out with clients - it’s a wee bit more casual having lunch in the offi ce. If I’m not meeting clients, lunch is just a sandwich at the desk.
Chief financial officer, FBD Insurance
Favourite place: We go to Avoca in Rathcoole if we want to eat locally, but in town I go somewhere like the Cellar Bar in The Merrion, a place where you can have a confidential conversation. If there’s a group, elsewhere would be better, for example, places like CHQ or Ely Wine Bar. I don’t have a particular haunt.
On the menu: I’m a light eater at lunchtime. I like a Caesar salad or duck salad, something nutritious and healthy. I try to stay away from steak and chips. It would be unusual to have a drink at lunchtime. I think the culture in business is very much to stay away from it now, compared to a number of years ago.
The essentials: Service is important, particularly when you’re on a tight schedule on a work day. To get in and out reasonably efficiently is important. If the service isn’t good, it’s not going to work. Location is important – it takes me half an hour to get into town, half an hour to get out, so it’s quite a large chunk of the day. Minimising that travel time is important to me.
The guests: Our guests are people we do business with, those who are providing services to us, or customers. I wouldn’t normally have lunch with colleagues from the company unless someone was leaving. If we’re bringing a customer out, we pay the bill.
A lunch no-no: In terms of food, I don’t like Japanese. In terms of service, rudeness and not being treated well as a customer really turns me off.