The three-martini power lunch ended about the same time as the Cold War. Today’s busy professional wants healthy ingredients carefully prepared, a sophisticated but never stuffy environment, and she wants to be served quickly without feeling rushed. At the five power lunch powerhouses highlighted below, the focus is as much on the food as it is on the art of the deal.
Hawksworth Restaurant (Vancouver)
801 West Georgia St.
Following a massive five-year renovation, Vancouver’s venerable Hotel Georgia reopened last summer along with a hotly anticipated new restaurant from star chef David Hawksworth.
See and Be Seen: Tables 31 and 32 are right in front of the wine cellar and offer views of the room and adjacent Vancouver Art Gallery lawn.
Opening Gambit: Start with the seared Qualicum Bay scallops with bacon, celery and chowder foam to show your commitment to local ingredients.
Meat of the Matter: The confit pork shoulder with braised lentils, apple and walnut is hearty and rich without making you feel gluttonous.
Closing the Deal: Kalamansi cream (a kalamansi is a sour green citrus with a sweet peel) with crème fraîche sorbet is an exotic treat.
The Players: Proximity to the Vancouver Law Courts makes Hawksworth popular with law professionals, but it’s really a who’s who of the city; music manager Bruce Allen, Telus CEO Darren Entwhistle, and artist Rodney Graham (whose work adorns the room) are all regulars.
Top Secret: The elegant and private York Room, upstairs from the main dining room, is a choice spot for board meetings or lunches that require the ultimate in confidentiality.
1446 Rue Peel
Carlos Ferreira’s eponymous café stands out for its sophisticated take on Portuguese cuisine in a city awash in classic French bistros.
See and Be Seen: Table 26, at the centre of Ferreira’s ground floor, offers great views of everyone arriving and departing. Tables 6 and 7, to the right of the entrance, are very popular and should be booked well in advance.
Opening Gambit: Start with the daily cru, yellowtail or albacore, dressed with citrus, olive oil and fleur de sel. It’s light and clean and won’t get stuck in your teeth.
Meat of the Matter: The creamy mushroom and porto risotto comes with a tender, meaty thigh of duck confit. Heartier than a soup but less messy than pasta, it’s an ideal entree.
Closing the Deal: The house-made cookies (chocolate, pistachio, lemon and almond) reveal your whimsical side while remaining seriously delicious.
The Players: Bigwigs from the worlds of law, journalism, accounting and insurance. Ladies who power lunch.
111 8th Ave. S.W.
The team of chef Andrew Richardson and restaurant director Leslie Echino have established modern bistro Blink as the place for Calgary’s business elite to get their lunch on.
See and Be Seen: Table 30, a four-seater in the front window, offers a view of the 8th Avenue pedestrian mall.
Opening Gambit: The salad of golden beets with pistachios and goat cheese subliminally hints at profits.
Meat of the Matter: This is Calgary, so there’s really only one choice: steak. Specifically, the flat iron of beef with crispy hash browns and red wine sauce.
Closing the Deal: After the steak, you’ll be expected to have the chocolate cake, so order the natural yogurt panna cotta with Okanagan poached pear instead and show them what a creative thinker you are.
The Players: Head honchos from the oil and gas industry as well as lawyers and bespoke-suited CFOs.
Nota Bene (Toronto)
180 Queen St. W.
There is no shortage of power restaurants in Toronto, but since opening in 2008 Nota Bene has remained head of the board.
See and Be Seen: Table 32 is smack dab in the middle of the room. You can’t be missed.
Opening Gambit: Mozzarella di Bufala with prosciutto, olive oil and basil is a serious salad that shows you’re healthy but enjoy the finer things in life.
Meat of the Matter: It’s always good to have a raw component in a business lunch, and Nota Bene’s bigeye tuna tartare with citrus soya and avocado chutney is like beef tartare for the 21st century.
Closing the Deal: The single salted caramel truffle reveals that you keep an eye on the bottom line but still know how to live.
The Players: Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer, media darlings Seamus O’Regan and Barbara Amiel, and financier Duncan Jackman have all made appearances.
Top Secret: Table 61 is hidden away in the far corner, but there’s also a private room that seats up to 34.
Play Food and Wine (Ottawa)
1 York St.
The second restaurant from Stephen Beckta and Chef Michael Moffatt (the duo also operate Beckta) is, as the name suggests, more casual and relaxed than its dinner-only fine-dining sibling.
See and Be Seen: Table 21 anchors a corner near the bar, which means you can see everyone—but to see you, some will have to crane. Let them.
Opening Gambit: Braised rabbit with cabbage and black-eyed peas.
Meat of the Matter: Barely cooked beef tataki with habanero jelly, shiitake mushrooms and sweet and sour onions is a dish fit for a master of the universe.
Closing the Deal: Go ahead and order the butterscotch pudding with bruléed pineapple—it’s what everybody wants, anyway.
The Players: Plenty of cabinet ministers and other MPs (the restaurant straddles all political lines), along with hard-charging lobbyists on expense accounts, diplomatic agents and pollsters.
(Photos: Martin Tessler; Paul McGrath; Richmond Lam; Tom Arban; Blair Gable)