It was the era of corporate spending and big budgets, finance sharks and business lunches. It seemed as though there was every reason to haul out the black card and indulge. Whether it was wooing a client, signing a deal, or celebrating the signing of aforementioned deal, come lunchtime and many a restaurant would be bustling with businesspeople.
These restaurants could rely on the lunch trade as a viable part of their business. And then, suddenly, it stopped. While lockdown is to blame for many closures and losses, it was just the proverbial nail in the coffin for the corporate lunch, which had been on life support long before the pandemic. As our economy tanked in the recession of the 2010s, corporates cut back on their spending and revoked those company cards.
The way we communicate changed too, and with our ever-growing dependency on technology it just made more sense to eat at one’s desk. Matched with the spike in health-conscious living, it shouldn’t be surprising that the power lunch was on its last legs before Covid could strike that fatal blow.
Now, restaurants are seeing a rise in team lunches, where co-workers — many of whom are still working from home — touch base. Breakfast too is on the up, with morning meetings seemingly more convenient than popping out at midday. These mealtimes are now used to forge connections in a way that just isn’t possible online. And rather than long, boozy lunches, it’s now all about shorter time frames, healthier meals, and accessibility.
THE SHORTMARKET CLUB | Joburg
Award-winning chef Luke Dale Roberts opened The Shortmarket Club, his first permanent restaurant in Joburg, in September last year. Situated in the bustling foodie-meets-corporate Oxford Parks precinct, the sophisticated eatery, inspired by European brasseries and infused with the chef ’s love of Asian flavours, offers diners the choice of both a tasting menu and à la carte. This means it’s as suitable for a meal to impress a client over the course of an afternoon (the tasting menu runs five courses long and is available with a wine, cocktail, or non-alcoholic pairing) as it is for a quick lunch catching up with a colleague over the famed fillet with café-au-lait sauce and a stellar glass of Bordeaux red.
1 Oxford Parks, 199 Oxford Road, Rosebank
HOW BAO NOW | Cape Town
Woodstock’s hole-in the-wall bao bar is not only one of the hottest new places in town but also a great option for a quick, efficient, and delicious lunch. The space, co-owned and run by young chefs Carla Schulze and Matt van den Berg, began as a market stall before opening its doors at The Old Biscuit Mill, where it serves up a small selection of the Taiwanese steamed buns, including pork belly and BBQ jackfruit, in addition to an ever-changing “bun of the day”. Each bun is packed with a choice of main filling together with an assortment of pickles, fresh herbs, sesame emulsion, togarashi spice, crispy onion, and Asian-style dressing.
The Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town
SHOOTS & LEAVES | Umhlanga Ridge
This local eatery is all about quick, nourishing dishes and caters for both breakfast and lunch. Pop into the stylish and minimalist space for breakfast bowls, smashed avo, and a host of exciting build-your-own options, together with its signature and much-loved coffee — the blend ethically sourced and roasted by Bluebird Coffee Roastery in Howick. Lunch consists of bountiful and ever-changing harvest tables that always include a protein option and four vegetarian options — expect the likes of slow-braised beef with cumin roast-pumpkin puree, Cajun roasted-butternut salads, couscous bowls, basil baked-pasta salads, and a hearty soup in colder months. Several breakfast and lunch options are also available to go.
The Boulevard, 19 Park Lane, Umhlanga Ridge
• From the June edition of Wanted, 2022.