High property prices in the UK city of Canterbury have forced out many independent businesses. But The Goods Shed farmers’ market, based in a former Victorian warehouse since 2001, has long been a podium for regional produce and has helped to nurture the county’s farm-to-table culture. Visitors can find bottles of crisp ortega from the nearby Westwell winery, seasonal asparagus from Faversham and hearty Kentish cheese – all of which is served at the in-house restaurant and bar. “The space is vital if the consumer is to have any choice,” says owner Susanna Sait. “It’s a creative hub and a community too.”
A 15-minute walk from leafy Hampstead Heath in north London, Kentish Town Stores is a café and homeware shop with a co-working space on the first floor. Its owner, Luci Noel, had the goal of opening a business that would serve the neighbourhood. “I always wanted to own a general store,” she says. “One that’s a hub of the community, catering to all and selling a diverse range of products.” Drop in for Allpress coffee and a cinnamon bun from Bread by Bike, and pick up a few ceramics from premier UK potters while you’re at it. “I’m a big fan of Lily Pearmain,” says Noel. “Her Bellied Doughnut vases are incredibly tactile.” Noel has plans to host hands-on workshops with her favourite potters and launch a seasonal supper club in the future.
Jen Agg’s nose-to-tail restaurant, The Black Hoof, closed in 2018 but occupying its place since the autumn has been Bar Vendetta. Agg’s wine and pasta place serves muffuletta (sesame bread) sandwiches on sourdough focaccia in the afternoon and pasta in the evening, all by chef James Santon. The best part? Bar Vendetta is open seven days a week.
Diners at this shophouse can expect to sit on small stools, share a table and strike up spicy conversations with strangers. Charmgang makes Thai curries for Thai tastes – so visitors to Bangkok should expect to sweat. The restaurant’s trio of young chefs, Jai, Aew and Mew, all cooked under Aussie David Thompson at the city’s award-winning Nahm before opening Charmgang in 2019 with some friends from the creative industries. “We’re focused on curry without compromise,” says co-owner Shelley Kwok, whose interior design uses plastic picnic mats as wallpaper. “It was a chance to design a place without any influence from clients.”
14 Nakhon Kasem, Soi 5, Talad Noi, Bangkok
Though gin is mostly produced in the UK, it enjoyed its first wave of popularity in Austria during the postwar reconstruction of the 1960s, when the country’s economy began to recover and Austrians could afford imported drinks again. But it could never beat traditional schnapps, let alone beer and wine, which account for most of the country’s alcohol consumption. (Beer and wine are cheap to buy here because they carry almost no alcohol tax.) However, that hasn’t dissuaded a crop of modern distillers from helping Austria to play its part in Europe’s gin renaissance.
Among the first in that new wave of Austrian distillers was Hans Reisetbauer, who started selling his Blue Gin in 2006. It was when visiting a New York bar a few years earlier – where he was served “the best Martin Miller gin with a tonic” –that it struck him there was an untapped market back home. Reisetbauer, who studied mechanical engineering at university, claims that his distillery in Upper Austria is the best equipped in the country. It’s also one of Austria’s largest: spread over an area of more than 100 hectares, the facility includes an organic-certified farm where more than 70 per cent of the its products’ ingredients are grown, including apples, pears, plums, barley and wheat.
Further south in Styria, Wolfgang Thomann and his family run the Aeijst distillery, one of more than 20 gin producers to have popped up in the province, most of which have launched in the past five years. Thomann says that nostalgia for 1960s cocktails, such as the gin fizz, played its part in fuelling the gin boom and changing the image of a drink that was once seen as being the preserve of the elderly. “Tastes have changed, even though gin was late in arriving in Austria compared with the UK or the US,” says Thomann. Aeijst’s spirits are made from juniper (gin’s core ingredient) combined with other botanicals such as lavender, ginger, coriander and citrus zest, and can be found in the country’s best bars and specialist shops.
Freihof distillery in Austria’s westernmost province of Vorarlberg also positions itself as a premium distillery, although gin isn’t its main business. In the past few years it’s been investing in vodka (marketed as edelweiss) and its own vermouth. “It’s a generational thing,” says Johann Drexel, Freihof’s ceo. “Spirits are on the rise in cities, where younger drinkers are more enthusiastic about mixed drinks, be they shots or cocktails.” Drexel says that the traditional Austrian drinking routine – beer or wine followed by schnapps – is becoming a thing of the past.
Although all three distilleries are benefiting from the changing habits of Austrian drinkers, they also have their sights set on the international market. Arguably, the rest of the world is more up to speed on the latest trends so Reisetbauer believes that it will be global sales that dictate the companies’ success; he exports about 50 per cent of his spirits. “To sell in Austria alone isn’t a reliable criterion of quality,” he says. It seems that only those whose products sell overseas can wear that “Made in Austria” badge with confidence.
reisetbauer.at; aeijst.at; freihof.com
Swiss national railways (sbb) is aiming to provide a smoother onboard journey by testing a train bar on the route between Brig and Romanshorn. In the lower deck of the dining car, this modified version of the existing bistro has a prominent new centrepiece: a trained bartender who looks after guests and selects the music. Of course, sbb knows that merely throwing in a handsome barman won’t improve its amenities on its own. Instead, it’s about investing in service and adding human interaction and a sense of fun back to rail travel. For this we applaud the Swiss. And though we would suggest rethinking the new bar’s faux-brick-wall décor, the cocktails are good and the Swiss wine better.