I’m really bad at mornings and I hate breakfast meetings, but one exception is breakfast at The Lanesborough hotel. Enrique Bañuelos and I go there because we like to walk around Hyde Park and talk, and The Lanesborough is just across the road. On one significant occasion, after coffee and a croissant, he committed to invest €25m in Formula E.
But it was over meals at C London [pictured] that Formula E really got going – my office used to be in the restaurant, literally. I’d go into the kitchen through the wine cellar and there was a door to the office I shared with Giuseppe Cipriani, the owner of the restaurant, Flavio Briatore, who I used to be partners with at Queens Park Rangers, and Francesco Costa, now a Formula E investor. It’s a cool place, but for me it’s like home – I know all the waiters by name and order mostly the same thing: veal farfalle with lemon.
Now our office is in Hammersmith, and if we’re entertaining partners or investors we go to The River Café, which I call ‘the office canteen’. I always have the spaghetti alla bottarga – pasta with fish eggs. It’s not always on the menu, so I’ll look into the kitchen to see if the owner, Ruth Rogers, is there, because she has to give the OK.
At the beginning, no one believed Formula E was going to happen, so I had to do a lot of convincing and much of this happened in restaurants. In New York, one place was a modern, buzzy fish and lobster restaurant called North End Grill, where I had dinner with Leo DiCaprio in 2012 to persuade him to join Formula E – he’s now chairman of our sustainability committee. We ate sole and drank vodka. It was great and informal – I only do relaxed. I don’t go to any fancy formal restaurants because I never wear suits.
In Hong Kong, The China Club is fantastic – with all the old teak furniture and paintings, you feel like you are in colonial times. The crispy duck and the pork and shrimp dim sum are incredible. In season you also get hairy crab. We did the deal for the Hong Kong race here with Lawrence Yu, president of the Hong Kong Automobile Association.
In Buenos Aires, to impress the team of mayor Mauricio Macri – now president of Argentina – we met at a superb restaurant called El Mirasol, in the arches under a main road. It serves huge steaks with fries, or Caesar salad – and Argentinian wine. It also has a cigar terrace and post-meeting I celebrated with a Cohiba Siglo VI.
Sydney’s next in my sights and when I’m there I go to Hemmesphere, a club that’s part penthouse, part restaurant and part lounge – very trendy, very fashion – where the food is Asian fusion. I always stay at the Park Hyatt, which has a beautiful view of the Opera House, so I often have meetings here too, as the restaurant overlooks the harbour.
Before Formula E, when I was secretary general of the European People’s Party, I used to go to Trattoria al Moro in Rome, next to the Fontana di Trevi, for all my political meetings. It serves incredible Roman artichokes and a spicy pasta carbonara – the best carbonara in the world. A lot of politicians go there because it is very close to the parliament.
But my favourite place is Casa Lucio in Madrid. A friend once invited me there for dinner with President Clinton. When I arrived early with my wife, I asked the maître d’ what was going on, as there were secret service people about, and he whispered conspiratorially, “We have President Lincoln coming in…” It’s an old Spanish restaurant with simple, traditional food – like fried eggs and potatoes mixed together, or little eels, called angulas, done with garlic and served on a clay plate. They look a little weird, but President Clinton seemed to like them.