“Many of our clients are collectors I’ve known for a long time – they are friends – and so I tend to choose places for entertaining that are very relaxed. This is much more important to me than Michelin stars. I prefer restaurants with wholesome, good food – no foamy stuff, charred this or that, or multi-course menus.
I rarely do breakfast meetings unless I’m travelling – it just isn’t very Asian – and find my clients prefer lunches and dinners that are less hurried. One of my favourite spots for meetings is the Luk Yu Tea House, which has a very 1930s, nostalgic Hong Kong charm. The space is decorated with beautiful wood furniture and the location is perfect for meetings with lawyers and local antiques dealers. I’ll often bring colleagues from New York and London here for the steamed dim sum and the best Chinese black teas, which have a wonderfully bitter aftertaste.
Another place I like to take western visitors in Hong Kong is Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant. It’s like a huge imperial palace, all lit up, and adorned with dragons and gold. You pick your fish out of the aquariums, and people seem to love the pure theatre.
In Shanghai one of my go-to places is Old Jesse, an institution in the French Concession. It’s a bit noisy and if you’re two minutes late they give your table away, but the baked opium fish head with scallions is worth it – and, since everything including the crabmeat and roe marinated in local yellow wine is shared, it creates a feeling of trust. In Taipei some of the best restaurants are Japanese, and Sushi Nanami is a favourite for the delicious omakase prepared by chef Masa Ishibashi. It is a tiny place – just 12 seats and a little garden. The service is quick and it’s perfect for quiet conversation.
My work occasionally takes me to Tokyo, and I recently met with our head of Japan at Botan, a small, discreet spot that serves the best chicken sukiyaki. It was opened in the Meiji period and the food is still served in boiling pots heated over charcoal. The only downside is that you eat kneeling on tatami mats, so it can get tiring.
I’m teetotal, but I’ll often entertain over drinks at the bar at the Hong Kong Club in Central. The clients I take here are ones I know very well because it’s still a gentlemen’s club, so no documents or work-related materials are allowed. I love the old-world colonial atmosphere. If I need to review photos or papers, I’ll head to the Ladies’ Recreation Club, which is now open to men. It’s halfway up the Peak and very casual – lots of outside space by the pool – and I find that gallerists and younger people from the contemporary art world like it here. It also has the most beautiful tennis courts in Hong Kong, so I’ll bring clients for a Sunday morning game and lunch at one of its restaurants.
I’m frequently in London and, having gone to school in the UK in the 1970s, I have a deep love of Indian food. Gymkhana in Mayfair has a calm atmosphere and is a great spot for meetings with dealers in imperial ceramics and Chinese scholarly objects, as their shops are nearby.
There is a Chinese saying that roughly translates as “To the people, food is heaven”. A love of food is ingrained in our culture, and whenever we greet colleagues or clients we’ll say, “I’ll call you to eat,” and we always do.”