Guy Hands’ dining boltholes

Formerly at Goldman Sachs and Nomura, the British financier in 2002 founded Terra Firma Capital Partners, one of the most prolific private equity firms in Europe, with €1bn in capital to spend on assets

Guy Hands at Le Petit Bistro, Guernsey
Guy Hands at Le Petit Bistro, Guernsey | Image: Sebastian Boettcher

“When I started in finance in the 1980s, entertaining people from other companies was a very important part of building relationships. Today it is less so: most of our investors can’t accept any form of entertainment, some not even a cup of coffee. Instead, I largely use dining out as a way of spending time with people I work with in an informal environment.

I’m not a breakfast person and try to avoid breakfast meetings. I usually only have them in New York, as in America it’s all about squeezing in one more meeting. I like the Four Seasons Hotel. The spacing between the tables is good and they have a broad selection of newspapers; their carrot and ginger juice kickstarts my day. Quality Meats, an industrial space just south of Central Park, is great for an informal lunch meeting. It’s loud, so doesn’t work for group meals, but the steaks are superb.

I haven’t had a lunch meeting in London for years but I do meet representatives of state-owned enterprises in Beijing. There’s a restaurant I like called Da Dong where the Peking duck is delicious. Over lunch in China you don’t talk about politics, religion or sex; we won’t discuss family either. Football comes up over dinner with colleagues in Asia. We also talk about what we are doing as a business, the culture of finance and how we train and incentivise people. The questions are very searching, but it’s enjoyable.

If I am meeting investors overseas, we’ll go out for dinner afterwards and reflect on the day. I always try to find a restaurant that offers something unusual. I like Inakaya, a robatayaki restaurant in Tokyo, which is noisy and lively. You sit at a counter with two men sitting opposite you, cross-legged, with huge paddles. You choose what you want to eat from the ice in front of you and they scoop it up with their paddles and cook it on a grill next to them. Afterwards we’ll go to Magic Tokyo, a bar that puts on amazing magic shows.

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Once a year we have an investor dinner in Paris. We go to Taillevent, which is outstanding; it’s about as formal as you can get. I made the mistake of taking my family there once, and my daughter said everything was too expensive so she only wanted to order bread and butter.

My most memorable meal recently was at Naranj in Kuwait. I love Lebanese food, but hadn’t tried Syrian before. It was absolutely superb: the chopped salads and the breads, but particularly the grilled pigeons in a cherry sauce.

Marbella is a great place to go for a team dinner. It’s reasonably easy to get to and there are lots of good golf courses to help work up an appetite. I particularly like Santiago, a traditional restaurant right on the seafront with tanks of fresh seafood. They do great red prawns, squid, tuna and razor clams. They can also put together an excellent tasting menu, and I get them to pair the dishes with sherry, the most underrated wine in the world.

I live in Guernsey – as it’s 30 miles from France, we get a lot of excellent French food. Le Petit Bistro does a good seafood platter and côte de boeuf. It looks like a Parisian bistro but the food is better. Then there is China Red, a superlative restaurant run by a family from Hong Kong. There’s also a private room with karaoke, where you’re scored as you sing. It’s great fun; people get very competitive. We had a business dinner there one night with an investment bank that wanted us to hire them; it was the same evening that Manchester United were playing a match. I’m a supporter and they didn’t win, so we didn’t hire the bank. It seemed like a bad omen.”

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