Words by Simon Difford
When I joined the drinks industry in the early 1990s, long boozy lunches were not only commonplace but how business was done. Sadly, (or considering the health implications perhaps for the better), professionalism and responsible drinking have taken their toll on the three-Martini, a good bottle of claret and dessert wine-washed lunches. Hence my delight at being invited to a Magnum Lunch.
Why stipulate "bring a bottle" when you could say "bring a magnum". That pretty much sums up the concept of a Magnum Lunch. And being predominantly attended by folk from the drinks/restaurant industry, on the lunch I attended recently there were some pretty special magnums being passed around.
A balance between courses – champagne on arrival, white with the starter, red with the main, dessert wine and then port with pudding and cheese – is assured by invitees being tipped as to what wines are required. And at this particular lunch, the third such annual gathering, even a tasty pre-batched magnum of a cocktail made the rounds.
I was invited to my maiden Magnum Lunch by James Robson of Mews of Mayfair fame who explained how these lunches came about. "It was a simple concept that Peter Horton and I had been talking about for years. We finally got around to organising the first one at Mews of Mayfair which fell on the day of the Brexit result. There were 18 of us confirmed which dropped to five that morning as everyone was called in for various board meetings on the day. Happy to say by 1pm we'd all come to our senses, realised we could not do much about it, and we had 17 people round the table for lunch by 2pm. The following year was at Novikof and then we had 28 of us this year at Jones. So rare to have a lunch with no agenda and all likeminded as such."
I write this as something of a thank you note to James and Peter, as well as to all at The Jones Family Kitchen in Belgravia, London, who had the misfortune to host us and served delicious juicy steaks and ribs. Thank you! I'm also writing this to encourage others to hold such "no agenda" lunches. If you are so inspired, I suggest a few ground rules.
- No T-shirts, neckties or jackets.
- Bring a magnum of which you will be proud and sign the label.
- Bring £50 towards food.
- Show your gratitude generously to hosts/servers.
- To ensure conviviality, strictly no politics, business or religion.
- Don't be late to arrive (noon sharp) or to leave (7pm curfew).