Moray MacLennan’s dining boltholes

The Worldwide CEO of M&C Saatchi settles down with clients over moussaka in Primrose Hill, jellyfish heads in Shanghai and crispy ribeye tacos with guacamole in Mexico City

Moray MacLennan at The Wolseley
Moray MacLennan at The Wolseley | Image: Trent McMinn

“When I first started in advertising in the 1980s, lunches began at 12.30pm and people just didn’t come back to the office. And while some of that wildness is now gone, and meals are slightly less glamorous than Mad Men might lead you to believe, getting to know potential clients and colleagues in a relaxed setting is always a good idea.

Much of my time is spent on the road, and Sydney is one of the cities I frequent throughout the year. I meet with clients such as Commonwealth Bank, and the food in this city is the best in terms of freshness and simplicity. I never pass up a meal at Rockpool Bar & Grill – a beautiful 1930s art-deco building where the John Dory prepared in a charcoal oven and wood-fired fillet steaks are excellent. 

Asia is a major market for us, and one of our offices is in Shanghai. I’m always game to go off the beaten path food-wise here, but I do love Mercato for delicious Italian food. In the French Concession is Old Jesse – an authentic Shanghai-style restaurant where they serve all sorts of jellyfish heads and such. I was brought here by colleagues and was initially squeamish, but I’ve come around and now relish the crab fried rice and pork belly.

Another important place for us is Mexico City where we opened an office last year. I was in my colleagues’ hands for two recent dinners and while they were both excellent, they were very different. The first was at Quintonil and included a 10-course tasting menu that featured everything from cactus to grasshopper to ant eggs. While El Califa is a taqueria extraordinaire: the crispy ribeye tacos with guacamole, spicy salsas, and Mexican beer are the best in town.

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If I’m in London and meeting early with a client, invariably it will be at The Wolseley where there is a sense of theatricality, but also a homey feel. I tend to do the opposite of the “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” idea, and so it’s usually just multiple espressos for me. At The Wolseley, however, I’ll go for the healthy option, so that’s either yoghurt with granola or avocado on toast.

But lunches and dinners are my preferred meals for entertaining and I always go to places I trust. Le Caprice is a restaurant for all occasions and it’s my go-to for meals with senior clients and politicians. I opt for fish and fish: mixed sashimi followed by Thai baked seabass, accompanied by a Virgin Mary. It helps me avoid falling asleep mid-afternoon.

Other London settings that I like are Lemonia in Primrose Hill – a Greek restaurant that’s fashionable, but not trying to be, and where the halloumi and moussaka are excellent. If I’m discussing sensitive matters, I’ll choose one of the members’ clubs. I’ll often take guests to The Arts Club for discreet conversation over linguine with clams in the garden, or to The Groucho Club or Soho House for a slightly more creative, young vibe. 

For ultimate entertaining-over-food experiences, however, my favourite place is Milan. I’ll often meet here with Carlo Noseda, the CEO of our office there. He introduced me to Giacomo Arengario, near the Duomo, where the beef with porcini mushrooms is outstanding. I’ve enjoyed meetings here with executives from Sky and BMW, and the service never disappoints.”

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