I moved to New York seven years ago, to the global headquarters of Ogilvy & Mather, and have lunch and dinner meetings less than I used to because people here are so very busy. Before New York I was in Hong Kong, and eating out was the norm – but if you want to fix a lunch date with someone in the US, and they are reasonably successful at their job, it won’t be easy. To develop trust you have to break bread. It’s always been that way, always will be – it adds a dimension you simply can’t achieve by sitting around a table in a meeting room. And sometimes it’s also an important way of just saying thank you.
I like breakfast meetings and often use them as an opportunity to interview candidates. Even at 8am someone is less likely to have their defences up than in an office. The quiet and genteel Lowell Hotel is a regular choice; I’m looked after extremely well and they have excellent oatmeal. I sit at the same corner table and arrive 10 minutes before my guest so I can catch up on The New York Times. In London I’ll have breakfast meetings at the Dean Street Townhouse, which is where I stay when I am in town. They serve the best bacon and eggs ever.
I admit I find New York’s gastronomic capabilities overrated; I often can’t think of where to go. 44 & X in Hell’s Kitchen is my staple for lunch. I’ve taken a lot of senior clients there. No one would describe it as haute cuisine, but it serves the most delicious macaroni cheese in the world. The wheat for the pasta is from Manitoba and the cheese is from Vermont. It’s perfection, and just a nine-minute walk from my desk.
I like Le Bernardin for when I need to take a client somewhere high end. The food is light and you can talk easily, as diners aren’t packed in like sardines. I also rate Daniel Boulud’s restaurants – his flagship, Daniel, is at the top end of the spectrum and I take clients there for special evenings, while Boulud Sud has the advantage of being close to the Lincoln Center. You can have an early supper and walk across to the opera; the menu has a refreshing Mediterranean feel and I always order the chicken tagine.
When I’m abroad I like places that feel authentic. In Hong Kong that’s The Hong Kong Club; the traditional dim sum is marvellous. In Paris I like lesser-known places like Le Taxi Jaune. I have taken staff there to thank them for winning us business or for jobs well done. The guy who owns it is charming, and the dishes, like lapin à la moutarde, are simple and classic. In London I love Royal China in Harrow, which serves proper Cantonese food. It reminds me that I’m yet to find a single good Chinese restaurant in New York.
I love this type of cuisine. We made an important acquisition – an agency called Yindu – in Nanjing and most of the deal took place at the Jinling Hotel. We got to know each by talking about food and I developed a love for the salted duck. I also love much-maligned German food. Allianz is a new client and they wanted to take us to dinner in Munich. We had a very jolly bonding session over fantastic pork knuckle and beer at Haxnbauer.
I can be sentimental about restaurants. It was at Andaaz in Lahore that I convinced my creative partner, Tham Khai Meng, to join me in New York. We were visiting our agency in Pakistan and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go unless he came with me. We had a long dinner, with the minarets of the Badshahi Mosque glinting beneath us, and by the end of the meal, he’d agreed. He was my creative director in Asia and I wanted him by my side. One day we’ll get back there, to celebrate and share war stories.