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  • Nick Lander
Written by
  • Nick Lander
21 Jan 2002

Next Saturday the full details of the first-ever transatlantic restaurant promotion will be unveiled in the Weekend Section and on ft.com.

The names, addresses and phone numbers of over 300 UK restaurants offering a two course FT lunch for either £8, £10 or £15 will be accompanied by the full details of over 150 New York restaurants offering their equivalent - lunch for US$20.02 and dinner for US$30.02.

And, as in previous years, there are no hidden costs - no coupons or vouchers to be cut out and presented to the restaurant for example. Lunch with the FT could not be simpler. Just choose your restaurant, make your reservation stipulating that you want to book Lunch with the FT and enjoy your meal.

In keeping with the ethos of Lunch with the FT this transatlantic event has been created on an impressively small budget.

Its origins began over an inexpensive lunch in early October in the FT's staff canteen with Peter Lewis and Emma Simkiss from the marketing department (the total bill for the lunch was less than £12). As we discussed ways of making 2002 distinctive we were joined by Andrew Gowers, the FT's editor, who in true editorial fashion encouraged us to think big. With the events of 11 September uppermost in our thoughts, we began to discuss ways in which the FT could use its international position to help New York's restaurants in particular and consequently boost the hospitality industries on both sides of the Atlantic.

These thoughts struck a particular chord with me. I have never concealed the fact that Lunch with the FT had its origins in the New York restaurant promotion of August 1992 when in anticipation of a quiet month's trading 100 restaurateurs launched Lunch for US$19.92. The fact that so many British restaurant goers and restaurateurs had over the years benefited from this example of commercial inspiration seemed another reason for trying to help the beleaguered city.

The pieces finally fell into place over another inexpensive meeting, this time a cup of coffee with Cristyne Nicholas, NYC's energetic CEO, when she was in London for World Travel Mart. Nicholas was extremely enthusiastic about the prospect of the FT's involvement and the serendipity of the transatlantic promotion, but warmed to the concept for a much more altruistic reason.

'New York has obviously met with extraordinary sympathy and support over the past couple of months,' she explained, ' but there is a concern that we may be hogging too much of the limelight. The tourist industry has suffered worldwide and I am being asked by journalists what New York will do for other countries when they have encouraged their readers to travel to New York to eat, shop and visit Broadway. Working with the FT will enable us to provide Americans with the details of some of the best restaurants around the UK and give them another reason to travel. I hope it is the beginning of a beautiful partnership.'

A partnership that hopefully may not be confined to the US and the UK in the future and will certainly not be confined to this particular fortnight. There are currently plans afoot to bring over a delegation of New York chefs, restaurateurs and food writers to London in May to coincide with the visit of former mayor, Rudolph Guiliani, to Buckingham Palace in May to receive his honorary knighthood and a reciprocal delegation to New York later in the year.

And as well as the lists of participating restaurants which will be revealed in next Saturday's Weekend FT and on ft.com, the FT would also like to encourage readers to report back on their visits to participating restaurants on either side of the Atlantic by putting up for grabs six bottles of pink champagne.

These will be awarded to readers who visit a participating restaurant in the UK and New York any time before 15 March 2002 and report back on the comparative merits of the two.

It is entirely free-form. The report can take the form of a studied review; a drawing; a poem or even an acrostic verse incorporating the initial letters of the restaurants - anything that reveals that a visit to at least two restaurants, one on either side of the Atlantic, has taken place. And please note, the visits do not have to take place within the FT fortnight but rather, to enable readers to take full advantage of the lists, by Friday 15 March 2002. Closing date for entries is 29 March and the lucky recipients will be notified by 26 April.

I am the sole judge and arbiter and entries should be sent to me by email (nlander@cix.co.uk) or if they are works of art (drawings on paper napkins, for example) by post to Number One, Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HL. Enjoy those meals!