18 years of ‘Lunch with the FT’

FT columnist Matthew Engel (born 1951) looks back on “Lunch with the FT” (born 1994), why the column began, and how it has changed. The essay is interesting throughout, but one passage caught my attention.

The menus were not printed until 2003, so we cannot be sure of the all-time record for the most expensive lunch. It may have been achieved when [Nigel] Spivey met the 79-year-old poet Gavin Ewart at the Café Royal in October 1995. The exact cost is lost somewhere in the bowels of the FT accounts department. But the bill was somewhat overshadowed by the aftermath.

The main item on the agenda was alcohol, not food. Ewart began with several negronis (gin, vermouth, Campari), which is not an amateur’s drink, and carried on from there. “We departed the Café Royal in a moderately straight line,” Spivey said in the article. He put Ewart on a bus home then lurched off himself. The following day he received a call from Mrs Ewart.

“There are two things you need to know,” she said. “The first is that Gavin came home yesterday happier than I have seen him in a long time. The second – and you are not to feel bad about this – is that he died this morning.”

Matthew Engel, “Let’s do lunch!“, Financial Times, 28 April 2012.

The most expensive lunch, “from start of published menus, is former Japanese prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who stung the FT for a ¥57,960 bill (worth £306 at the time) at the Rantei restaurant in Tokyo in 2003. There was not even any wine: just two whiskies and soda, and a beer.”

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