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Line up the cappuccinos: London’s corporate crowd is waking up to discover it’s possible to save both time and money by moving meetings from lunch to breakfast. All over town, deals are being brokered over bowls of granola, while the mini ‘full English’, made with quail’s eggs, cocktail sausages and cherry tomatoes, is climbing up the hottest canapé charts. Whether it’s a catch-up with a single key client or a showcase event for hundreds of guests, the new time to meet is in the AM.
‘Breakfast meetings are such an efficient use of time,’ says Stephen Waddington, managing director of communications agency Speed. ‘They’re perfect for busy people, they help you cram as much as possible into the working day and, because you’re getting things out of the way before the day really begins, people are much more focused.’
While lunches can easily commandeer an entire afternoon, not least as you have to get both there and back, breakfast events are considered a far more efficient option: something you can pop into on the way to the office. As organisers are now finding out, this convenience often translates into higher turnouts. ‘It’s a real benefit,’ says events administrator Paul Baxter, who organises the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’s popular Breakfast Briefing sessions. ‘Our members always say they find it easy to make time if they just need to go along for an hour, and so we get more people there than we would if we were asking them to give up half their day.’
The absence of alcohol, bar the odd flute of Buck’s Fizz, is key to the appeal of the business breakfast, both for organisers, in terms of cost, and guests, in terms of clear-headedness. But not being able to placate attendees with a glass of wine means you do need to put more emphasis on the food, so forget about limp pastries and get some decent cooking in, whether that means getting something nice delivered or making reservations in a restaurant or venue.
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME
Great breakfast venues are certainly not thin on the ground in London. On the contrary, there’s something to suit pretty much any taste. Top of the media crowd’s wish list are Mayfair hotspots Cecconi’s (tel: 020 7434 1500) and The Wolseley (tel: 020 7499 6996), while Westminster’s political set prefer chowing down on kedgeree in the grand surrounds of The Cinnamon Club (tel: 0845 166 4259, squaremeal.co.uk/cinnamon), which also has an EC2 outpost, The Cinnamon Kitchen (tel: 020 7626 5000, squaremeal.co.uk/kitchen).
Elsewhere in the City, the brasserie at 1 Lombard Street (tel: 020 7929 6611, squaremeal.co.uk/lombard) has long been a breakfast favourite. However, we reckon suits will soon be rubbing shoulders with Shoreditch creatives as Pizza East (tel: 020 7729 1888, squaremeal.co.uk/p-east) flings open its doors for early morning ‘rollies’, a pizza-style wrap with fillings such as sausage, pancetta, mozzarella and egg.
Some of the best breakfast tables in town are in hotels. This, of course, makes sense as hotel kitchens open early anyway (someone has to serve breakfast to all those overnight guests) but there are also other reasons to go for this type of venue. There is often a wide choice of settings, be it a restaurant table for two or banquetting space for larger groups, and staff, at least in five-star properties, will be used to dealing with demanding guests; requests for quiet tables or privacy should not be too hard to accommodate. Hotels usually also have a business centre, handy for last-minute printouts, and there are almost always taxis outside, ensuring a quick getaway.
Our website is a great place to find breakfast venues. Just click on ‘London Hotels’ under ‘Square Meal Selections’ in the left-hand column of the V&E homepage (squaremeal.co.uk/venues/news) or check out the restaurant team’s early morning selections under ‘Brunch & Lunch’ in the same space on squaremeal.co.uk. A final option worth considering is calling in caterers for a slap-up meal in your own boardroom.
The timing of your breakfast meeting is the next thing to consider. The majority of hotels and earlybird restaurants start serving at around 7am (some, such as the Wyndham Grand in Chelsea Harbour, even open at 6.30am), but the consensus seems to be that 8.30am is the earliest that you can expect your guests to drag themselves out of bed and along to your meeting so don’t book too early.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD FOOD
So that’s the venue sorted, but what should you eat? A full English or Continental breakfast are the obvious options, but they’re far from the only ones on offer. The American-style ‘brunch’ – think pancakes, bagels and french toast – has many fans, as does Eggs Benedict or Florentine, while more daring options include oysters (we hear they’re are flying out the kitchen in the Dean Street Townhouse) and various types of spiced eggs. Mexican-style huevos rancheros always go down a treat.
As for drinks, most early risers will head straight for a caffeine injection, so make sure your venue covers all the standard coffee types, as well as a good selection of teas. Exotic fruit juices such as mango, lychee or papaya will appeal to the health-conscious but you’re much better off investing in a single type of good-quality juice – freshly squeezed orange or a cloudy apple variety like Copella – than trying to cover all bases.
Cocktails can have a place at morning events (we find it particularly hard to turn down a good espresso martini), but the early hour does call for moderation so consider drinks like a Bellini or Buck’s Fizz, based on sparkling wine rather than spirits. Alcohol-free cocktails like the Virgin Mary are also popular and, just like smoothies and juices, they can be served in shot glasses to help the budget stretch further.
If your morning event will be followed by meetings, heed the advice of dietitian Jane Freeman and order a breakfast that will kickstart guests’ bodies and optimise their performance for the whole day. ‘You should be thinking about having whole grains, such as porridge and muesli, for slow release energy,’ she says. ‘Brown bread is better than white, and if you’re doing a fry-up, fill plates with mushrooms and tomatoes and go for poached rather than fried eggs.’
Whatever you decide to go for in the end, the one person that should be left completely satisfied is your financial director. Compared to lunch, which can very often cost at least £50 a head, breakfast is quite the bargain. A typical four-person breakfast platter from Office Diner (tel: 0845 130 8088, squaremeal.co.uk/officediner) costs just £18 and even upmarket restaurants offer set morning menus from £15 upwards. Now, that’s worth getting out of bed for.
OUT & ABOUT
SPOTTED! Sir Philip Green talking (Top)shop in The Grill at The Dorchester (tel: 020 7629 8888, squaremeal.co.uk/dorchester), where he’s regularly seen at breakfast. We reckon the fashion mogul is a fan of the large tables: plenty of room to spread out those designs.
SPOTTED! Victoria Beckham rising early to promote her Emporio Armani lingerie range at The Metropolitan (tel: 020 7447 1064, squaremeal.co.uk/metevents), where other A-list breakfast spots include Clint Eastwood, Matt Damon and Lady Gaga, who could hardly be seen through her large entourage.
SPOTTED! Simon Cowell joining the media crowd that now does deals at dawn over grilled kippers with butter in the Dean Street Townhouse (tel: 020 7434 1775, squaremeal.co.uk/dst).
SPOTTED! Amy Winehouse sharing a morning meal with her manager in Landau at The Langham (tel: 020 7636 1000, squaremeal.co.uk/langham). Could they have been discussing the troubled star’s comeback?
SPOTTED! Piers Morgan holding breakfast meetings over coffee and croissants at The Lanesborough (tel: 020 7259 5599), where other recent breakfast guests have included Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban and George Clooney.
SPOTTED! Roman Abramovich planning the day ahead over breakfast with his PA at The Botanist on Sloane Square (tel: 020 7730 0077).