Business trip: London
At the brand new 45 Park Lane hotel, spawn of the stately Dorchester hotel across the street, guests check in at a sumptuous red leather front desk, a homage to the hotel’s illustrious past as the location of London’s Playboy Club. All of the hotel’s 45 rooms overlook Hyde Park and Wolfgang Puck’s CUT restaurant in the lobby is the celebrity chef’s first foray in Europe. (In case you are wondering, a new, modern version of the Playboy Club recently opened just around the corner.)
London’s hip and popular Firmdale Hotels embody a colourful and eclectic English style that is anything but stuffy. Currently, there are six across central London; the seventh, the Dorset Square Hotel in Marylebone, is expected to open later this year.
Since 2008, local restaurateur and food columnist Mark Hix has made deep inroads into the London dining scene with five eponymous establishments serving modern British fare in upscale, business-friendly surroundings. His fresh, locavore menus are stocked with fish and oysters from the coast, and bone-in steaks and chops from nearby pastures.
Lunch at the Goring Hotel Dining Room near Buckingham Palace is a quintessentially British experience that is sure to impress colleagues and provide a glimpse of the capital’s aristocratic set. Viscount David Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret, designed the light-filled, cream-coloured, see-and-be-seen room. Enjoy a glass of claret poured by waiters from crystal decanters, and ask for the Castle of Mey roast beef, carved and served from a silver cart at your table. Keep an eye out for the dashing owner, Jeremy Goring, who regularly makes rounds at lunchtime welcoming royals, stars and business titans.
At Langan’s Brasserie just off Piccadilly, you will feel like you are dining in a comfortably posh, English home. A smart casual crowd of celebs, execs and socialites wine and dine on grilled meats, fish and cheeses from a handwritten menu that changes daily. The Wolseley has a similar crowd, menu and surroundings — stake out a table on an upper level for great people watching, especially during its popular power-breakfast hours. As the weather warms up, join the tailored suit set sipping on Negronis or nibbling on Italian-inspired, locally sourced dishes on the outdoor patio at Amaranto in the Four Seasons Park Lane. You will also impress clients if you (or your concierge) can swing reservations at the perennially unavailable Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (at the Mandarin Oriental hotel) or Pollen Street Social (near Oxford Circus).
Off the clock
If you are near Paddington Station in west London, find your way to the Grand Union Canal and stroll along its refurbished old towpath to Little Venice. Once there, pop in for drink or a meal at one of many outdoor cafes such as The Summerhouse (which is open year round).
If you have time for a proper walk and would prefer to meet up with a group and a guide, check out London Walks — it has tours all over the city.
On the South Bank, let your tastebuds guide you through Borough Market, where you can browse, nibble and buy the UK’s finest and freshest produce, alongside a crowd of local foodies, chefs and restaurateurs. If you do not plan to cook, have a meal in Roast, located inside the market — which may serve the best breakfast in Britain.
Don’t do this!
During spring and summer, when tourists, business travellers and locals fill the city, do not depend on the ability of its aging transportation infrastructure to get you to your meetings on time. Black cabs creep slowly through the traffic of central London. The London Underground, or Tube, is notoriously unreliable and susceptible to delays, forcing users onto lengthy alternate routes. To avoid being late in a city that appreciates promptness, always schedule your meetings with a very large cushion of time in between.