Whatever happened to the three martini lunch?


Have we let naked ambition put cordial working relationships on a strict diet? Of course I blame purple braces, red Porsches and Gordon Gekko. The first casualty from Big Bang in the 1980’s was the three martini lunch. If lunch was for wimps, then count me in (if that’s no too much trouble)! I remember my early days in the City working in Lloyd’s Insurance market on Kidnap and Ransom insurance. Twice a year I would have lunch in the Directors boardroom at Fenchurch Street Brokers with an underwriter who got deeply offended if after cocktails then wine, we did not finish off a bottle of port. Of course we were fried as owls and no work was done that afternoon, but we never had a row, always got our man back if someone was kidnapped and the world shone brightly through the gimlet of the bi-annual assault on our livers. Could this Underwriter have been a touch richer, more ruthless and generate more moohlah for his company? Possibly? But then I probably would not have wanted to spend time with him or give him my business. In 1980 everything suddenly got serious. Fun was out as the new slave drivers assured us no one could possibly get rich being a bit silly. I suppose that’s one reason why shortly after Big Bang I left the City and ended up working for a man who had made millions sticking his hand up a Frog’s bottom. Jim Henson and The Muppets were back then an Entertainment behemoth... and not that we ever overindulged in anything to the detriment of that wonderful company, but indulge we all did. And it all (like Kermit) went along swimmingly. Chalk one up to the silly people.

...and another thing

Even outside of work no one seems to want to have a long lunch anymore. The ones in summer when food is irrelevant but not how many vats of Whispering Angel Rose can you down or winter when it’s claret, roast Grouse a pavement size slab of Stilton and a 1963 port. Yes it’s followed by a snooze and a feeling similar to jet lag when you wake at 7PM with a mild hangover. But it’s a perfect day. Now, if I can even find anyone to have lunch it’s sushi, a Diet Coke and heartburn.

...and another thing

Amongst all this doom and gloom about the loss of a dear pass time, the people who miss it most are restaurant owners. And in a valiant attempt to get us off feeling superior by chewing on a carrot and sipping Rooibos tea, and back into eating a proper lunch, even three star Michelin watering holes now offer eye-popping cheap lunches. So if all your mates are too eager to grapple up the corporate ladder do your soul some good and grab someone less fortunate and go out and give lunch a real good thrashing. It’ll cost you a quarter for the same meal at night… and if you take an elderly neighbour or relative at least you will have a lunch companion who regularly overindulged at lunch, long before the work messiahs guilted everyone into having nothing more potent than wine gums.

And my favourite Martini story

Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini.

The barman says, “Olive or Twist?”

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  1. Bette Anne says:

    Love, love, love this blog. I AM a lunch wimp!….I can only handle two martinis….not three. But I’ll give it the old college try next time you’re looking for a lunch partner.

  2. Christopher Wicker says:

    T’was the Yanks that did us in when they arrived in 1985. I too was in the City at the time and indeed, morning was for working, lunch-tea time was to prepare business deals/shmooze new clients helped by our erstwhile friend Al Cohol, back in the office after a port filled tea time to sign a few letters (yes in those halcyion days even junior staff had assistants and we were allowed to use the perfectly correct term Secretary). Finnish off for a quick pint or something a mite more sophisticated at the pub with other professional friends and get home with another possible property deal to follow up the next day. And my did it work!!

  3. Peter says:

    I do so agree !! I remember a very famous extremely successful publisher who sadly had been diagnosed with a terminal illness remarking to an advisor who had suggested they have a sandwich lunch with Perrier water saying ” I have not so many lunches left to enjoy that I’m prepared to waste them on sandwiches “

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