Sunday 30 August 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 30/8/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Spend and snap

I think I know how you’re feeling. You’re generally testy after a topsy-turvy summer, you have no idea what the autumn is going to look like, you’re in need of a wardrobe update (you can’t stay in shorts till Christmas) and you’re craving a city that’s perkier than where you’re currently sitting. You want somewhere with some snap, a place that’s a bit flirty and fizzy, that understands hospitality and has some grand hotels open. And guess what? I’ve got just the place, dear reader. You need to get to Vienna. And no, this is not meant to be a tease if you’re reading this in the UK – I didn’t set the quarantine rules! You can read more from me on this today in The Sunday Times.

My week started in another grand European capital – Paris. I arrived at Gare de Lyon the morning after parts of the city had been trashed by PSG fans following their defeat by the Bavarians. While many residents were still away on holiday, Paris was definitely waking up from its summer slumber with offices filling up, autumn collections in shop windows and plenty of lunchtime diners spilling out onto the pavement. Nevertheless, it felt a little off. And I don’t mean the kind of “off” that hangs over most major cities at the moment. There was a different quality to this funk. What was it?

It took the ride to the hotel and then a visit to a few neighbourhoods to pinpoint what was nagging me. Paris was covered in a fine layer of dust and grime. It felt parched and a little worn out. Wilted. There was no sparkle. It was in need of some kind of emergency beauty intervention. As I headed back to the hotel (La Réserve is one of the few grand properties open) my colleague Andrew and his Kärcher high-pressure water cannon came to mind. Perhaps he could re-route his flight to Greece and offer his services to Mayor Hidalgo? Perhaps he could lead a small battalion of fellow Kärcher-lovers and give Paris a big old hose down? And maybe while blasting facades along rue de Rivoli he could also take out some reckless idiots on electric scooters.

My week ended in Vienna. How different it felt from Paris. I landed from Zürich bright and early at 08.30 Thursday morning and was happy to sit in traffic on the way to breakfast at Café Prückel. People had places to go, there seemed to be a sense of purpose and industry. And unlike Paris, the grand hotels in Vienna were open – revolving doors spinning, bellboys hopping, guests coming and going. At Prückel regulars were easing back into city life and catching up with friends and colleagues. Visitors from Switzerland, Italy and Germany were also dotted around the terrace, thrilled to be ignored by the waiters. Shortly after I wandered about Neubau district and was delighted to see trees being planted, paving slabs arranged and the area being gently transformed. Inside Mühlbauer (one of the best milliners in Europe) locals and visitors from elsewhere in Austria were trying on bright caps and woolly Tiroler hats from the winter line-up. Not far away the Saint Charles Apothecary shops were packed with customers loading up items to look fresh and twinkly for their autumn return to the office.

A new acquaintance took me to Pfarrwirt for a tasty schnitzel lunch and we enjoyed the fine weather under soaring trees accompanied by a few glasses of locally grown Gemischter Satz. We talked politics, the performance of Chancellor Kurz, the erosion of confident media and plans for retail expansion. I was adoring this fine day in the Austrian capital. Back in the city centre, the apéro scene started a bit earlier than usual and pavements were packed with handsome men and tanned women enjoying their spritzes and foamy Zipfers. I stopped to peer in a window of a tiny shop specialising in chic turbans. “Only in Vienna does this still exist,” I whispered to myself. Next door I paused for a perfectly chilled glass of Sekt at Zum Schwarzen Kameel while they filled up a box with open sandwiches to take back to Zürich. Did I really have to leave? Could I have made an excuse to linger and enjoy dinner with my friend Christoph and DJ Wolfram? In the end I opted to fly back home but three days later I’m still buzzing. Vienna felt awake, sharp, original and quirkily normal. Go.


Down-under orders

It’s hard to overestimate how much Bill Granger has influenced the way that we eat. The restaurateur and food writer’s simple, fuss-free philosophy on cookery is the inspiration behind many an Aussie-inflected café, which has improved the fortunes of brunch menus from San Francisco to Singapore and beyond. The self-taught chef’s restaurant empire started in a smallish café in Sydney back in 1993, and Bills in Darlinghurst is still the best place to try Granger’s ricotta hotcakes, which sell like their proverbial namesakes. He has gone on to open a further 19 establishments from London to Seoul, Sydney and beyond.

So, what can the easy-going maestro add to the mix with Australian Food, his 12th book? Rather a lot, as it turns out. Published by Murdoch Books in October, this is a sunny affair with jaunty illustrations by London’s Studio Frith and a feast of fail-safe recipes and crowd pleasers. Asian influences from Granger’s eight restaurants in Japan find their way into the book in the form of chilli miso salmon with hot and sour aubergine, as do cross-continental favourites such as a chocolatey banana bread. More delicate creations, for those in mind of something lighter, include the green herb risotto with a raw summer salad.


Plate expectations

A 40-minute drive from Stockholm’s Arlanda airport brings you to a small clearing lapped by the Baltic with views out to the Swedish archipelago (writes Josh Fehnert). The relative quiet of Stockholm’s Djurgården Island – a former royal hunting ground now freckled with colourful houses and the odd deer – is shattered by the hammering of builders applying the final touches to a wooden veranda around Aira, Stockholm’s newest and most hotly anticipated new restaurant. The weather is fresh but the atmosphere inside is starting to simmer. This visit, which took place earlier in the year, coincided with chef Tommy Myllymäki’s first lunch service.

Unlike many successful Nordic chefs, Myllymäki doesn’t shut out international influences or default to fussiness or stiff service. Instead he learnt how to make a restaurant experience special as head creative director at Svenska Brasserier (the group behind Stockholm classics Taverna Brillo, Sturehof, Riche and others). Picking out high points of Aira’s menu from this visit is tough but the charcoal-grilled king-crab leg, herbs (cooked on an open fire) and crispy chicken skin show the young chef’s dexterousness with ingredients as well as the ambition of his plates. The same can be said of the oysters and mussels with citrus. Then there’s the halibut with kohlrabi, cured Peruvian-style with acidic fruit juice but this time with Swedish gooseberries taking the place of limes. This is eating but maybe not the place for a quick, informal meal. Dishes are available à la carte, with the more languid option of a 10-plus-course tasting menu.

The setting is as sumptuous as the food. The southern entrance leads to a double-height anteroom with a wood-panelled ceiling, illuminated by a vast skylight, all designed by architect Jonas Bohlin. A beautiful brass, marble and cherry-wood service station splits the main space into two 24-cover dining rooms and a private dining room overlooking it. The room branches out into an open kitchen where what seem to be battalions of chefs are chopping, plating and styling the small dishes dreamt up by Myllymäki.

The more time that you spend in Aira, the more that you realise how little has been left to chance. There’s the theatre of the flames and precise plating in the open kitchen and even the way that the gauzy curtains by the entrance hint at the look of trawlers’ nets or tangled seaweed. Then there’s the subtle soundtrack – a bespoke experimental composition by Swedish producer Rudolf “Mr Tophat” Nordström.

Claiming that Myllymäki himself enjoyed the restaurant’s first lunch service would be stretching the truth but saying that his guests had enjoyed it? Now that would be an understatement. 9 Biskopsvägen, Stockholm, 115 21

For the full scoop, subscribe and receive our out-now September issue.


Chicken cacciatore

Our London recipe writer has whipped up an Italian classic. Cacciatore literally means “hunter” but cookery-wise it hints at the inclusion of a tomato sauce with olive and a good glug of wine. The Italians also enjoy it with rabbit. Happy hunting.

Serves 2 to 3


6 medium-sized chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
75ml red wine
2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
125g fennel, finely chopped
½ tsp chilli flakes
3 anchovies (the briny, tinned type), roughly chopped
2 peppers, seeds removed, cut into 2.5cm chunks,
150g white mushrooms, sliced into 5mm pieces
2 tins of chopped tomato
½ tsp oregano
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 large handful of basil, including stems, roughly chopped, plus some extra for the garnish
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp capers
80g black olives, pitted

Rice or spaghetti to serve (follow packet instructions)


  1. Place the chicken skin-side down in a cold pan and turn the heat on low. The chicken fat will slowly render. When the skin becomes golden and crispy, after 5 to 8 minutes, turn the chicken and cook for 3 minutes to seal the other side.
  2. When the skin is golden, the juices run clear and the meat is white, remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate. Add the red wine to the warm pan and scrape off the cooking juice and burnt bits with a wooden spoon. Pour into a jug and set aside.
  3. Dry the pan and add the olive oil and garlic and set over a medium heat. Cook until the garlic turns golden, then add chopped onion and fennel. Cook until it turns translucent, then add chilli flakes, anchovies, peppers and mushrooms and fry for a further 2 minutes. Now is a good time to pop on the pasta and rice.
  4. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and the wine from the jug, and add oregano, tomato paste, chopped basil and sugar. Bring it to a boil and add the cooked chicken on top. Cover with a lid and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Check the chicken – the meat should flake off the bone. Add the capers and olives and cook for another 10 minutes on a low heat.
  5. Turn off the heat and serve with rice or spaghetti. Sprinkle with extra basil for garnish.


Staying power

When he was five years old, Sharan Pasricha sold sandwiches to his schoolmates in Mumbai (writes Louis Harnett O’Meara). Pasricha’s entrepreneurial streak has since taken him far from his hometown to London where he now oversees his hospitality and property group Ennismore. It has 12 hotels – 10 under the Hoxton brand – and 20 food and beverage setups across five countries. Here he holds forth on his children’s breakfast choices, a bottle of Basque wine and a house filled with magazines.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks at Gleneagles [an Ennismore hotel] in Scotland. The children love it and it’s somewhere that we go to spend time as a family. This time we’ve also got friends up from London, so we’ve been outdoors a lot, taking walks and having picnics.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or with a jolt?
Sundays are pretty gentle, though the children tend to determine this. They pretty much walk us to Eggbreak in Notting Hill for pancakes, so we’ll sit there for a little while then maybe take a stroll through Hyde Park. Weekends have definitely taken on a slower pace recently. Without all the travel that I usually do in the week, they’re much more leisurely.

What’s for breakfast?
I try to keep things on the healthy side. Usually it’s a green juice and a macchiato.

What news source do you wake up to?
I’m that person who reaches for their phone before they’ve even opened their eyes. It’s habit, I guess. I’ve got a multitude of different news apps but I always start with the Financial Times to find out what’s going on in the world. Then I check for the latest updates from the team at work.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
The dog walks me. We have a six-month-old labradoodle. And a recent retreat to Morocco had me U-turn my thoughts on yoga. It can do great things for the mind. One day I’ll definitely try to make time for it…

Any other exercise to get the blood pumping?
I have a personal trainer who puts me though my paces. I like the discipline as I’d never work myself that hard physically by choice. The Versaclimber [machine] is my go-to piece of kit at the moment.

Do you have lunch in or out?
Lunch out would usually be a meeting, often held in one of our restaurants. Rondo, our new spot in Holborn, is great for a light lunch. The griddled grey mullet is delicious.

Any larder essentials that you can’t do without?
Does coffee count? I’m often on the go so I make sure that I’ve got some nuts and fruit with me to keep my energy up.

Do you have a cultural essential?
There are always quite a few magazines in our house – a mishmash of mine, [my wife] Eiesha’s and the children’s – but on any given weekend you’ll find Monocle, Courier, Condé Nast Traveller and Wallpaper*. I love to keep on top of what’s new in the world of design and travel. It’s my business to know.

A glass of anything you’d recommend?
Try a bottle of the Txakolina at Seabird [the rooftop restaurant at the Hoxton in Southwark]. It’s a summery but traditional Basque wine by Bengoetxe. You can thank me later.

What’s your ideal dinner menu?
Anything Italian always goes down well in my book. Though, for a real feast, I do love an evening at Tandoor Chophouse. The Amritsari lamb chops and that black dal... delicious.

Who would be joining?
A rare quiet night with my wife, without my phone, is always very much appreciated. Having hotels in four different time zones doesn’t bode well for switching off.

Do you have a Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I love the idea of it but I don’t have one. It’s more like looking at my diary for Monday morning and thinking that I need an early night. Some Sundays I will intermittently fast through to Monday evening to give my body a reset. I’m keen to do it more regularly.

Do you lay out your look for Monday on a Sunday evening?
I like to think that I’m organised but... trust me, there have been several occasions when I’ve turned up to the office in a hoodie and trainers only to realise that I’ve got the bankers coming in the afternoon. Maybe laying out my look the night before is the way forward.


Creative outlet

The owners of Koveskal’s Kali Art Inn, Julia Molnar and Robert Hejja, consider themselves part and parcel of Hungary’s rich artistic tradition. That’s why there’s a small contemporary gallery attached to their property, while parts of the inn were once a magnet for painters (one of its 15 rooms is a former art studio). Guests at this well-appointed space that’s midway down the northern shore of Lake Balaton can also take a painting class or enjoy the occasional theatrical performance. Add to that the tasteful design and the homely atmosphere, and you’ll understand why the hotel is often fully booked in advance.


Bumper crop

Cutbacks tend to be the dominion of cash-stripped businesses or governments rather than gardeners. But if you’re in the northern hemisphere then a late-summer prune could help to keep certain plants flowering into autumn and prepare others for cooler weather (writes Josh Fehnert). First peruse the perimeter for flowers that need dead-heading – removing past-it petals will help to encourage new growth. You can also pare back the lavender, wisteria and any climbing shrubs after flowering; roses too if their moment has passed (gloves are advised). You could also give the hedges a final clip; as the mercury dips their growth will slow anyway and the trim will ensure that they stay shapely for the foreseeable. Last up, remember to keep things watered. The plants will thank you for a decent soak if the rain holds off where you are. Oh, and maybe have a drink yourself too – you’ve earned it. Have a good Sunday.


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