Working lunch loophole: Caprice, D&D and Atherton welcome mixed households 'when the topic is business'

David Ellis
·6-min read
Paul Winch-Furness / Photographe
Paul Winch-Furness / Photographe

Three of London's largest restaurant groups are welcoming mixed households in for a meal – so long as the order of the day is business.

Chief food critic for Bloomberg, Richard Vines, tweeted a message from Caprice Holdings – who count J Sheekey, Sexy Fish and The Ivy Collection among its collection – which read: "We wish to make it clear – when the topic is business, you can still meet over a fabulous working lunch or dinner without the restriction of the 'single household rule', i.e. mixed households are permitted up to six guests."

Caprice's statement was followed by one from D&D chairman Des Gunewardena, who said: "Our restaurants are also open for business meetings – which we believe can include lunch or dinner – provided that their primary purpose is business."

D&D run Quaglino's, Coq D'Argent, Launceston Place and many others across London, with a number of sites throughout the UK, and others in Paris and New York.

Vines followed this up with a third statement from Jason Atherton, whose Social Company includes Berners Tavern, the Betterment and City Social. Atherton said: "When the government announced the new restrictions last week and put London into tier 2, we were a little concerned as to what this meant for business. However, we are pleased to hear that No10 have confirmed indoor business lunches & dinners are still permitted."

Atherton was one of many chefs who joined in this week with the HospoDemo in Parliament Square, which demanded the government role back Tier 2 measures.

The announcements come after much confusion over whether or not households would be permitted to mix indoors for the purposes of work. While a government source told the Standard this week that boozy business lunches could not carry under the guise of “essential meetings”, it was confirmed that the loophole was deliberate, albeit intended for freelancers.

Making it clear that the loophole was "not an excuse to break the rules", No 10 said: “There’s an exemption which was included in recognition of the fact there are freelancers who don’t have office space and rely on being able to see clients in hospitality.”

Caprice and D&D are interpreting the law to the letter. The relevant gov.uk webpage reads:

  • "Venues following COVID-secure guidance can host more people in total, but no one must mix indoors with anyone who they do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) unless exemptions apply."

The page clarifies that this includes pubs, restaurants, leisure and entertainment venues. However, the exemptions noted are clarified legislation.gov.uk website, which reads:

  • "Exception 3 is that the gathering is reasonably necessary— (a)for work purposes or for the provision of voluntary or charitable services."

The way Caprice and D&D have interpreted these guidance, individuals from different households may meet in a restaurant for the purposes of work.

At present, many of the capital's restaurants are running lunch deals, with a number detailed below:

  • Sexy Fish Caprice restaurant Sexy Fish, a glamorous spot on Berkeley Square, offers four courses for £36 from its daily-running Kuikku menu. Berkeley Square, Mayfair, W1J 6BR, sexyfish.com

  • Launceston Place The talented Ben Murphy plates up either two courses for £25 or three for £30 at the Kensington favourite. Much of Murphy's way of doing things delights. 1A Launceston Pl, Kensington, W8 5RL, launcestonplace-restaurant.co.uk

  • Noble Rot Soho At the new location of the wine-loving Holborn haunt, the £20, three-course menu changes daily, with recent incarnations featuring onglet steak, cep butter and lentils, and a fig leaf panna cotta with strawberries — accompanied by suggested wine pairings, of course. 2 Greek St, Soho, W1D 4NB, noblerot.co.uk

  • Hawksmoor The menu includes a 35-day aged rump steak with ­triple-cooked chips, which can be bookended with potted beef and bacon with Yorkshire puddings, and a sticky toffee sundae, for £23 all-in. WC2, EC2, SE1, thehawksmoor.com

  • Top Cuvee The neighbourhood favourite, known for its wine list, offers its entire menu, pudding and all, for £29. 177B Blackstock Rd, Highbury East, N5 2LL, topcuvee.com

  • Cornerstone​ Those who have an awful lot of business to discuss may wish to eat a little more. At Tom Brown's lauded seafood spot, a roster of seven dishes are going for £100, including the signature shrimp crumpet. 3 Prince Edward Rd, Hackney Wick, E9 5LX, cornerstonehackney.com

  • Brasserie Zedel The grand downstairs dining room offers its famously affordable set menu all day, including lunch. Two courses go for £10.95, three for £14.95. Be sure to have the steak haché with fries. 20 Sherwood St, Soho, W1F 7ED, brasseriezedel.com

  • Quality Chop House A set menu of expertly executed British classics offers one course for £24 or two for £28, but the real steal is the October offering: the #steakouttohelpout lunch menu includes Hereford bavette, confit potatoes and treacle tart for afters, all for £10. 88-94 Farringdon Rd, Farringdon, EC1R 3EA, thequalitychophouse.com

  • Elystan Street £30 for three courses is a steal at this Chelsea spot, where Phil Howard spends most of time in the kitchen. Eating here normally puts a dent in the debit card, so take advantage. 43 Elystan St, Chelsea, SW3 3NT, elystanstreet.com

  • Le Comptoir Robuchon From Wednesday to Friday, tuck into courses with two glasses of wine and a coffee for £59pp, or £39 per person if you're swerving the booze. 6 Clarges St, Mayfair, W1J 8AE, robuchonlondon.co.uk

  • Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester If the starry-thing is your vibe, Alain Ducasse’s three-starred jobbie in the Dorchester offers three courses with two glasses of wine for £65. 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K 1QA, alainducasse-dorchester.com

  • The Grill at the Dorchester Want all of the impressive surrounds with less of the price tag? Try the Grill, where young chef Tom Booton is doing a beautiful job. Two courses come in for £20 – a bargain – three for £27. Well worth trying, this one. 53 Park Ln, Mayfair, W1K 1QA, dorchestercollection.com

  • Hutong For sealing that all-important business deal, do lunch with a view. This fine-dining Chinese spot offers its experience lunch for £39. 31 St Thomas St, Borough Market, SE1 9RY, hutong.co.uk

  • Caractere Emily Roux and Diego Ferrari's Notting Hill spot is lovely but pricey. Lunch softens that, with three courses for £39. 209 Westbourne Park Rd, Notting Hill, W11 1EA, caractererestaurant.com

  • Kolamba No need to splash out, of course: this superb Sri Lankan serves its signature Ceylon chicken curry with rice, dhal, green beans and sambols for £10. 21 Kingly St, Soho, W1B 5QA, kolamba.co.uk

Read more

Let's do lunch: Where to beat the curfew and rediscover daytime dining