Desirée Bollier’s dining boltholes

The chair and chief merchant of Value Retail reveals how beetroot gazpacho in Barcelona and tuna tartare in Shanghai are good for business

Desirée Bollier in The Academicians’ Room at the Royal Academy
Desirée Bollier in The Academicians’ Room at the Royal Academy | Image: Sebastian Boettcher

“Dining out is all about building a rapport. As chair and chief merchant, I am focused on cementing relationships with the brands we work with globally – something that is best achieved over a meal with a glass of wine. In London, one of my favourite places to entertain is The Academicians’ Room at the Royal Academy [pictured]. Not many people know about this nook of the museum, which features an eclectic mix of furniture, art and ornate woodwork. I’ll come here for a breakfast of granola and Greek yoghurt, or for lunch; the salads are delicious and great for sharing. And since the space is quiet and private, it’s useful for meetings with the CEOs of fashion brands from nearby Bond Street.

The Wolseley, too, is convenient for meetings with fashion people. I like the architecture of the old bank building, and I tend to order the oeufs à la coque – boiled eggs with gluten-free toast soldiers – and one of the excellent frothy cappuccinos. But the best place in London for a breakfast meeting is The Arts Club, because it’s so comfortable. I always sit on the right side of the dining room, as it’s quieter, and have the granola and berries. And in summer I like to come here at lunchtime and enjoy the quinoa salad on the fabulous terrace.

In Paris, I have built up some great business relationships at Ferdi, an amazing hole-in-the-wall that I was introduced to by the publisher Prosper Assouline. The place is decorated with children’s toys and attracts a lively fashion crowd, making it ideal for casual meetings over the seared tuna steak, served with a simple mixed green salad.

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Last year I had a great meeting in Barcelona at a restaurant called Céleri, with Elena Foguet, head of our Spanish business. Its inventive, almost molecular, cuisine – especially a beetroot gazpacho with tomatoes and grapes, and the smoky egg purée – ticked all the boxes.

I also had a particularly productive meal at La Latteria di San Marco in Milan, with Sergio Rossi president Andrea Morante. The setting is cosy and charming, and the atmosphere very Milanese: you can’t book and they don’t accept credit cards, but the home-style cooking is fantastic. I tried the spaghetti al limone, which was delicious, and I loved all of the contorni – salads and grilled endive. I try to be disciplined with what I eat, even in Italy, but the one-off meal I had in the Orti dei Tolomei park in Siena last July was a decadent exception. I was there with British Fashion Council executives Sian Westerman and Caroline Rush to watch the Palio horserace, and the renowned Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini prepared a feast of antipasti and fresh pastas, paired with fine wines.

But my most memorable meal in the past year was at Jean-Georges in Shanghai. We were hosting a dinner for emerging Chinese designers, with a group of editors and key opinion leaders. Jean-Georges Vongerichten happened to be there, and made the most amazing multicourse meal – yellowfin tuna tartare, foie gras brûlée, and beef tenderloin with tangy-spicy stewed peppers. And because he is an old friend, we were very well looked after.

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Often, however, my business meals are just exploratory. I recently met with Judy Zhang, head of Alibaba Pictures Group in Beijing, at Alan Yau’s Jing Yaa Tang, in the Opposite House hotel. We had an excellent dinner of mushroom salads, stir-fried prawns, and basa fish with vermicelli – and established a rapport that might lead to something interesting down the road. This is how I look at entertaining: I am fascinated by people, new places and hospitality in general, so every meal out gives me new ideas.”

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