Building’s meeting with MPG Shreeves has an inauspicious start
After cycling up and down the streets of Mayfair I arrive half an hour late, out of breath, to find the three partners already well into their pints.
The Iron Duke is one of those rare finds, a small, friendly pub well off the beaten track in one of the world’s most expensive tracts of real estate. It’s Shreeves’ local, I learn, a fact that’s reaffirmed when Michael whips a loyalty card out of his wallet that shows he’s bought 63 pints since last Tuesday. I fear for my liver.
The trick, I’m advised by Graham, is to get served by the barmaid who gives it a stamp for every drink - not the round. Clutching the loyalty card I head to the bar to get a round of drinks in. Success!
Michael whips a pub loyalty card out of his wallet that shows he’s bought 63 pints since last tuesday
Which brings me on to my first question: how does a relatively recent start-up firm of cost consultants have offices in swanky Grosvenor Street? Graham explains it was partly down to luck. “When we decided to set up I phoned up a developer I knew who had a vacant space in an office they were due to redevelop, so here we are”. This is on top of offices in other exotic locations including Abu Dhabi, Dubai and, er, Watford.
Conveniently skipping over the latter, Michael turns to the Middle East market, which he has been cultivating over the years. I ascertain that the way of doing business is a bit different to the UK. “The first meeting I went to in Abu Dhabi I ended up waiting five hours for the client to turn up,” he recalls. “But when he did, the first thing he asked was if I could start on Sunday. That was for a job on the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It was five hours well spent.” The company now has a dozen staff out there.
Talk naturally turns to football. I detect there’s not exactly overwhelming support for the England team around the table. In fact, no one seems to rate their chances. “I’ve got Italian blood in me so I’m backing Italy,” says Michael, which is bizarre given he’s got a West Ham season ticket. Spain and Brazil come out as the other favourites.
This prompts further discussion on sport. It turns out that Michael and Gary share a love of horse racing, which is more than can be said of Gary’s other pastime - gardening. Among his current crop, he says with pride, are potatoes, peppers, lettuces and chillies. “That must be one hell of a window box,” jokes Graham.
“I’ve not got the time for gardening,” says Michael. “But I do have a gardener,” he says by way of an excuse. “Doesn’t everyone”?
As the evening progresses we come on to pictures adorning the wall. As you’d expect, there are numerous prints showing the Duke of Wellington wearing his namesake boots. A handy potted history explains the original boots were suitable for wearing into battle and for an evening out. Now that’s what you call a design brief.
Chosen venue: The Iron Duke, west London
Ambience: Down-to-earth and friendly pub tucked away in an exclusive part of town
Topics: Wellington boots, football and loyalty cards
Drinks drunk: 12 pints of Carling, four pints of Discovery
Graham Shreeves partner
Michael Gallucci partner
Gary Welfare partner
Stephen Kennett Building