Long live the power lunch. These days the land of the long lunch is somewhat endangered, but there's still no better place to wheel and deal than over a few courses in a buzzing restaurant.
Compiled by the Good Food Guide 2017 team, these are the best places in Melbourne and Sydney to do a deal over a dish.
Cafe Di Stasio
Relationships are forged over approachable Italian food in this sultry and sophisticated southside den. On weekdays there's a $39.99 two-course seasonal lunch with a glass of wine and coffee, but no one says you can't seal the deal with vintage champagne.
31 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, 03 9525 3999, distasio.com.au
Cecconi's Flinders Lane
Service is the key at Cecconi's. When you sit down to lunch you know you're going to be looked after and out on time, having been served reliably good Italian food at this family-run Flinders Lane basement restaurant.
61 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 8663 0500, cecconis.com
For bankers and corporate types working south of Spencer Street, the sharp fitout and approachable Italian food makes Chiara the pick of the Docklands bunch. There's even a private cellar room with audio-visual capabilities and space for 18 seated or 30 standing guests.
705a Collins Street, Docklands, 03 9252 7909, chiara.net.au
The flexible menu at this ever-buzzy basement restaurant keeps everyone happy, from dyed-in- the-wool Europhiles to Asian adventure-seekers. The tables are set close, making delicate negotiations a little tricky, but its share-friendly dishes and engaging by-the-glass wine selection will impress.
Basement, 141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9650 3155, codarestaurant.com.au
Among the business community, Melbourne's leading Cantonese restaurant is known as the place for the grand lunchtime occasion. What's less well known is that it offers keenly priced lunch specials during the week: two courses for $45, three for $60, and four for $75.
17 Market Lane, Melbourne 03 9662 3655 flowerdrum.melbourne
A long-standing favourite among business people, freshly renovated Kenzan keeps the mood calm and professional, and its compact lunch menu covers all the sushi-tempura-teriyaki bases. The two bento boxes will give you a little of everything.
Collins Place, 56 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9654 8933, kenzan.com.au
For southside business lunches, O'Connell's ticks plenty of boxes for ease of parking, convivial atmosphere and straight-shooting gastropub menu, with a solid line in oysters, steaks with triple-cooked chips and house-made beef and Guinness pie.
407 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, 03 9810 0086, oconnells.com.au
Rockpool Bar & Grill
Still the power lunch destination, Rockpool's consistency, gravitas and crowd-pleasing steakhouse format make it a reliable choice for corporate lunching. It's also a place where leading lawyers, accountants and bankers like to be seen – something to keep in mind if you're trying to keep things on the down-low.
Crown Complex, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, 03 8648 1900, rockpool.com
Buzzy, bustling, takes bookings. Those are the key messages at Andrew McConnell's modern mid-city Chinese-Japanese-Korean canteen. Phone ahead to book a booth table, or the private room downstairs. Karaoke is optional. The New England lobster rolls are not.
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9650 8688, supernormal.net.au
The Town Mouse
Friday business lunches don't come much better than at this northside hotspot. With an unpretentious atmosphere, solid service and excellent contemporary food, the only challenge is the stool seating. But the all-weather courtyard is an option – particularly the semi-private back table for six.
312 Drummond Street, Carlton, 03 9347 3312, thetownmouse.com.au
It's magnetic in every sense here at chef/restaurateur Matt Moran's flagship restaurant. Sommeliers Matt Dunne and Paul Beaton know how to read a table flawlessly, and will pitch it perfectly. From glass to plate, the kings of plush continue to pad Sydney's well-and-aspirationally-heeled with the sort of comfort only 17 years of solid service can provide.
1 Macquarie Street, Sydney, 02 9240 2255, ariarestaurant.com
Bentley Restaurant and Bar
It was an inspired move by the Bentley team. First there's the location at the Radisson Hotel in the financial business heartland. The eye-catching fit-out imitating construction site scaffolding is pure Sydney CBD. Then there's chef/owner Brent Savage's inventive, exciting menu, where the portions are made-to-measure for the time-poor Hermes tie brigade, in bar snack size and regular.
Corner of Hunter and Pitt streets, Sydney, 02 8214 0505, thebentley.com.au
The Bridge Room
Ross Lusted has an extraordinary ability for harmonising flavours in a confident, considered, thoughtful way where if you're not paying attention you might miss how highly engineered the cogs are in the kitchen. Same for the black-clad service team, who panther around the Nordic-chic room placing Lusted's creations on custom made felt mats.
Ground Level, 44 Bridge Street, Sydney, 02 9247 7000, thebridgeroom.com.a
Peter Gilmore and head chef Robert Cockerill are serving up brand new flavours in a room that remains as luxe as ever, with tweaks. Say bye to the starched tablecloths but hi to a piece of Murray cod, the protein just set, on an umami-rich ginger-fragrant congee. Slow cooked quail is soft - almost silken - the richness lifted with the tartness of Davidson plum jam.
Bennelong Point, Sydney Opera House, Sydney, 02 9240 8000, bennelong.com.au
Dear Jeremy Strode, for many years, we've appreciated your pared back menu with its roots firmly planted in traditional French technique with sturdy British sensibilities. Take note when it comes to that juicy Mayfield Farm pork chop, served very slightly pink with perfect lardons (double pig!) or the tried-and-true corned beef with throat searing English mustard.
1/52 King Street, Sydney, 02 9240 3000, merivale.com.au/bistrodecbd
The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay
Chef Colin Barker's menu is ever-changing, from translucent fingers of alfonsino ceviche dotted with smoked buffalo milk, to a fleshy, crisp-skinned fillet of bass groper robustly paired with cabbage, ham hock and lentils. Only the signature snapper pie is firmly anchored to the menu. All the better to enjoy looking out over the working harbour.
123 Ferry Road, Glebe, 02 9518 9011, boathouse.net.au
This is the home of the famous waiter 'swoop' where dishes for the table appear at once as if by witchcraft (or, at least, a lot of hands). In fact, if you were to pinpoint some of the most en pointe service in the city, all signs would point to Est: the Champagne trolley, the impressive wine service, that swooping.
Level 1, Establishment, 252 George Street, 02 9240 3000, merivale.com.au/est
"You're so money baby and you don't even know it." So goes the quote from the '90s indie comedy Swingers. Glass Brasserie is the opposite. They're money. And they know it. Planted up in the Sydney Hilton overlooking the Queen Victoria building, the ceilings are cavernous. The walls are literally made of wine bottles and when night falls, the sexy lighting is set firmly to "make out" mode.
Level 2, 488 George Street, Sydney, glassbrasserie.com.au
It starts with the stairs. Down they go, lined with nearly 4000 miniature liquor bottles, spiralling around and around until they tip you out into post-war Europe. The Swillhouse Group's wood-panelled basement dining room, small bars and cellars are an homage to all that we love about restaurants.
15 Bligh Street, Sydney, restauranthubert.com
Rockpool Bar & Grill
If Bruce Wayne was dating Alfred the butler this is where they'd dine, in all its moody, Gothamite splendour. The building is an Art-Deco landmark, and Neil Perry's old-school steakhouse, heading into its eighth year now, a fine fit. A delicately breaded Kinkawoonka king prawn cutlet in the clubby adjoining bar requires the use of a martini and then it's to the Batcave.
66 Hunter Street, Sydney, 02 8078 1900, rockpool.com
The Good Food Guide 2017 is on sale now in newsagents and bookstores, with all book purchases receiving free access to the new Good Food app.