Business is Served. Where ballers eat n drink over business deals.
There was a time when three-martini lunches prevailed in our town, the bleary-eyed denizens of Hy’s Encore stumbling onto Howe Street into the setting sun, penny-stock boosts agreed to. In the ’70s, the action was also at The Dev Seafood House, where prawn cocktails accompanied much stronger ones. Over at the Hotel Vancouver, The Timber Club saw entire forests bought and sold—the beef steaks were served up on wooden charger plates etched with the names of leading forestry executives. On Hastings Street, the hallowed walls of the stately Vancouver Club back-dropped arbitrage and acquisition, even if club rules explicitly stated that talk of business was forbidden. Quite often, booze-fuelled lunches moved back to Bar Three, the aerie on the third floor adjoining the city’s best pool hall.
Power dining changed mightily in the early ’80s. Thank the advent of women in decision-making positions and the arrival of lighter, even nouvelle cuisine. Both of the era’s iconic power restaurants—especially at lunch—were located in the Four Seasons, first at the witheringly expensive Le Pavilion, where the sophisticated French cooking of Michel Clavelin underwrote more sophisticated financings, some that would soon be gutted by dramatically spiking interest rates. The hostess at the time was the inimitable Moira Fitzpatrick; her uncanny radar ensured that sworn business enemies went to opposite corners and that gentlemen entertaining their “nieces” were discreetly ushered to back banquettes.
Here, the power lunch had three constituent parts: the first half hour a general foray into matters of sport and other personal exploration; the second half hour consumed by ordering, eating, and outlining the deal at hand; and finally, over coffee, closing it. After lunch, a trolley of vintage ports and a wheel of Stilton was pushed around Le Pavilion by the recently arrived John Blakeley, who now owns Bistro Pastis. “My eyes were as big as saucers,” Blakely recalls, “from the sheer amount of money being spent.” Blakely’s naiveté was soon banished by chef Clavelin’s propensity to continuously drain a coffee mug of vin rouge; it was often Blakely who was charged with frog-marching Clavelin back to his office to sleep it off before dinner service began.
Le Pavilion was eventually shuttered, but soon Chartwell—Vancouver’s paramount downtown power lunch riposte—rose in its place. It was decorated in a Ralph Lauren take on Sir Winston’s country seat (a painting of which was positioned over the fireplace); the kitchens turned out delicious daily roast specials and lighter plates of fish, prepared by a brigade of young chefs, many of whom—such as Michael Noble, Rodney Butters, and Bernard Casavant—would go on to even greater glories elsewhere. Susan Minchin was the gatekeeper and her Christmas gratuities were legendary, often denominated in generous Holt Renfrew gift certificates. But times had changed, and with them the emollients of luncheon: in lieu of noontime martinis and highballs, Chartwell was notable—egads!—for its wine list and miniatures of Perrier, still a novelty. Joe Segal, the businessman-philanthropist, famously had his assistant call the restaurant only when he didn’t require his usual corner mezzanine table. From his perch, he would turn up his state-of-the-art hearing aids (“the same ones that Ronald Reagan wears,” he once told me), to better eavesdrop on adjoining conversations. At one lunch he popped one out and stuck it in my ear; I tuned in to an exciting, real time stock swindle five tables away.
We knew power lunching was over when Chartwell shuttered its lunchtime service a few years ago, its staff disbanded across the town. It was replaced by power breakfasts (birthplace of the lamentable egg-white omelette), deskbound sandwiches, and even noon-hour jogging; we lost a collective hinge in our day, the face time that lubricated relationships.
But power dining, and especially the power lunch, is back, say some—whether it be a reaction to impersonal electronic communication, or simply the excess cash swamping the city. At the strategically located Metro, chef-proprietor Brian Fowke says his average lunch cheque is just ten dollars off dinner. If Hy’s Encore is the oldest survivor (it is still peppered with the larger-than-life), newcomer Italian Kitchen attracts a stylish power crowd most days. The newly minted Boneta is the place du jour for restaurant industry types—especially on Monday evenings—and its Fuck Off Friday luncheons encourage a salubrious entry into the weekend. On the West Side, The Smoking Dog attracts the likes of Bruce McDonald, Larry Campbell, Gordon Gibson, Peter Wall, and Rick Doman to its patio. Provence on West 10th is for ladies who lunch, drawing on Shaughnessy and UBC-types. Peter Brown’s Bentley is often seen parked outside Il Giardino—he uses Umberto Menghi’s spot as a private salon to arrange and celebrate financings. And at Yaletown’s Glowbal, younger, tech-savvy types trade gossip and Electronic Arts shares on the buy now, play later plan.
Power dining is extant no matter the time of day, or night. Fuelled by aspiration, emulation, or merely excess cash flow, power diners pick their venues carefully. Herewith, a handy guide to where to go to watch the deals get done.—Jamie Maw
DIVA AT THE METSurprisingly, the most sought-after seat in this elegantly tiered dining room is the one right next to the kitchen. Tucked behind a large pillar, the coveted Chef’s Table faces the open Waldorf kitchen—and it’s the only spot millionaire Futura Corp CEO Amar Doman will sit. Friday afternoons frequently find Canaccord Executive Vice President Paul Chalmers and various associates munching truffle popcorn (made exclusively for him) while waiting for a bottle of Mommessin Grand Cru Burgundy ($320). When Face the World president Jacqui Cohen was entertaining novelist Jackie Collins in May, they sat front and centre at a see-and-be-seen table in the lounge, while powerful diamond magnate Catherine McLeod-Seltzer preferred a quiet spot in the secluded upper tier for a celebratory lunch over imported caviar. On her wedding day, rocker Bif Naked took Chef Dino Renaerts’ fare to the Metropolitan’s private penthouse suite for post-nuptial canoodling with new husband Ian Walker. On October 25, Diva catered a $20,000 per plate Endowment Dinner for the Vancouver Ballet, netting a cool $3-million. That ought to keep them on their toes for a while.
CIOPPINO'S MEDITERRANEAN GRILL On any given night you’ll find Canuck Trevor Linden dining on rotisserie chicken (his wife Cristina’s boutique is just a few doors down). Mining and movie mogul Frank Giustra met Bill Clinton (who enjoyed the Dover sole Meuniére) here for a business engagement, and recently a group of real estate big wigs, including Bob Rennie, Arthur Erickson, and Simon Lim, discussed development deals over a six-litre bottle of 1976 Château Margaux (price tag: $13,000). Offering seclusion from the prying eyes and ears of the main dining room is the Dépositaire O’Enoteque Dom Pérignon. With available vintages dating back as far as 1959, the Dom Room is where Seattle billionaire John McCaw frequently entertained Francesco Aquilini during the Vancouver Canucks sale back in October 2004—Pino Posteraro’s wild sockeye salmon with soy ponzu tomato vinaigrette was a McCaw favourite. Al Pacino has spent many a working dinner here as well, using the room to run lines with co-stars when filming in Vancouver. Entrance to this prestigious hideaway will cost you a bottle of Dom Pérignon (starting at $450)—it also helps to be a close personal friend of chef/owner Posteraro.
IMPERIAL CHINESE RESTAURANT
When it comes to the ultimate power lunch, it’s all about dim sum— there’s something about the camaraderie of sharing that takes a fledgling business relationship to the next level. And when it’s time to sign on the dotted line, the suits head to Imperial, in the historic Marine Building, where well-spaced tables offer comfortable anonymity to talk shop over authentic Chinese dishes served fast and furious. Billionaire land developers like Li Ka-shing, the Kwok brothers Walter, Thomas, and Raymond (estimated worth: $6.6 billion), and Henderson Land’s Lee Shau Kee have spent many an afternoon expanding their vast empires over shark’s fin soup and braised abalone, while Expo 86 mastermind Stanley Kwok (President of Husky Energy, formerly of Concord Pacific) can be found with wife Eva entertaining associates over fresh geoduck and Alaskan King crab with black bean sauce. Nearby Canada Place supplies a slew of Hong Kong businessmen with ample appetites (and ample wallets), plus visiting dignitaries like Madeleine Albright (secretary of state in the Clinton administration), Tian Chunyan (China’s consul general in Vancouver) and Chinese democracy advocates Anson Chan (former head of Hong Kong’s civil service) and Sir Donald Tsang (Hong Kong’s chief executive). The spacious, almost cavernous, room provides a safe haven for visiting celebrities like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and John Woo to discuss future projects.
Wealthy shipping mogul Kyle Washington is a big fan of this room—he once held a series of 12 dinners here, each a step toward a $600 million deal. The private Enoteca (wine library) housed Concord Pacific CEO Terry Hui while he negotiated the CBC building deal—it also provided the setting for Premier Gordon Campbell during his contentious sale of BC Rail. Federal Liberal leadership contender Bob Rae booked the secluded Terrazza room for a $5,000 a plate fundraiser for exclusive VIPs. Why all the action? Not only is the food excellent (Washington favours the beef carpaccio and the strozzapretti Bolognese with a bottle of vintage Masseto), but owner Iqbal Grewal is extremely well connected, particularly in the Indo-Canadian community. On any given night you’ll find heavyweights like millionaire realtor Gurdev Sandhu or Colliers Executive Vice President Avtar Bains (responsible for $7.2 billion in commercial land sales) pressing the flesh at the corner table by the fireplace (Table 6) or politicos Herb Dhaliwal, Ujjal Dosanjh, or Attorney General Wally Oppal hosting fundraisers in one of the private rooms. It was here that multi-millionaire Peter Dhillon celebrated his 40th birthday (the cranberry king has a white cran-tini named after him, the Petertini), flying in comedian Russell Peters for a private show (approximate cost: $100,000 for the evening).
BACCHUS AT THE WEDGEWOOD HOTEL
Cocktail hour in the Bacchus lounge is a veritable who’s who of Vancouver’s major movers and shakers—particularly on Thursdays and Fridays. Jimmy Pattison has been known to settle into a comfy wingback chair over Tanqueray and tonic with hotel owner Eleni Skalbania, not far from where Canaccord CEO Peter Brown sips Stoli on the rocks from his usual seat at the bar. Don De Cotiis is a regular visitor, while steak tycoon David Aisenstat (Hy’s, Gotham, Shore Club) likes to kibitz with associates over pizza at the corner table near the fireplace. B.C. senator and CedarCreek winery owner Ross Fitzpatrick prefers his power meetings in the morning, dining with legal eagles from the nearby law courts. In the private library, behind elegant French doors, Premier Gordon Campbell dines on Chef Lee Parsons’ veal tenderloin with oxtail and fresh chanterelles, and Telus CEO Darren Entwistle and CFO Robert McFarlane host wine-soaked executive soirées over E & E Black Pepper Shiraz.
THE BEACH HOUSE AT DUNDARAVE PIER
Spectacular views and Chef Julio Gonzalez-Perini’s convincing fare offer two compelling reasons for West Vancouverites to conduct business in their own backyard. Macluan Capital CEO Harald Ludwig can be found entertaining guests as powerful as the Super Tuscans they sip in the lounge while carving into thick veal ribeyes with sautéed pine mushrooms. Uniglobe Travel CEO Gary Charlwood is easy to spot in his striking red blazer, dining with clients over 1994 Château L’Evanagile from Pomerol ($260) at a table near the fireplace, but he often prefers a private room for executive meetings with top brass. Realtor Malcolm Hasman favours a booth for hobnobbing over Cobb salads and dark rum and Coke, while Jason Soprovich has been known to nibble on wok-fried calamari and pop a bottle of Veuve Clicquot after a particularly good day. Speaking of good days, Stanley Cup winner (and B.C. native) Rob Niedermayer married local girl Jessica Bentall on the Beach House patio this past July at an elaborate ceremony that also featured a private performance by Blue Rodeo.
LA PIAZZA DARIO
Chef Claudio Ranallo’s rustic trattoria at the Italian Cultural Centre has seen more deals than the $5 tables at Caesar’s Palace, drawing a steady stream of Italian suits, firm handshakes, and guys whose last names end in vowels. Ferrari fanatic Ezio Bortolussi of Newway Concrete prefers to hold court in the middle of the room (Table 9), where tense negotiations are often greased with a supple Barbaresco, prosciutto di Parma, and thick slabs of salty parmesan. Conversation stops, however, when AC Milan is playing (Bortolussi once famously interrupted a $50 million deal when alerted that striker Filippo Inzaghi scored a key goal). Business mogul, positive thinker, and Canada Wide Media president Peter Legge can often be found power lunching over fresh snapper at the round table in the corner (Table 21), while the News Hour’s Tony Parsons opts for linguine al pesto with an oversized glass of Nippozano Rufina. “The usual” for big-league developer Nat Bosa, who often holds court here, means a seat at nearby Table 8, a bottle of Chianti Ducale, and fresh buffalo bocconcini with aged balsamic. If he’s sticking with San Pellegrino, he means business—an important contract is likely on the line.—Chris Gonzalez
Great article. A little too much info into the food some of the patrons eat but other than that "stalkerish" bit it was very well written and interesting.
The first bit about how old school business deals were made and the recent loss of the power lunch was pretty interesting to me, maybe it wasn't to you but that's part of human nature.
Originally Posted by 2xBlown
I used to sit and watch companies being bought and sold at the cigar club a couple years ago, it was great fun watching it happen, but my lungs just couldn't take it anymore.
I like to get the #5 with Sprite and talk about the latest movie I've seen on my lunch break. I have to eat fast so I can get back in 30minutes.