Sunday. 14/11/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

THE FASTER LANE / TYLER BRÛLÉ

Off-road incident

This morning I’m going to tell you a little story about perfect customer service, why you need to ensure that all members of your family get plenty of exercise and that there are still passionate, dedicated people working in the service and support industry who love their customers and their jobs. So remember to be nice. And to tip generously!

Last week we decided to get ahead of the Christmas season by going up to the mountains to put our apartment there in order, stock up on basics and ensure that everything would be in tip-top shape for our arrival on 19 December. Part of the plan involved booking a table in the dining car for the train journey up to St Moritz and making sure that our Alpine wheels were ready for the season.

To be clear, our little Suzuki Jimny has a very good gig. Little did he know when he rolled out of the factory in Japan and onto the freighter that he’d be living the good life up in the Engadine. There’s every chance that he could have been confined to a rental pen on a Turkish holiday island and abused by badly behaved boys on package tours, or found himself rolling around Pakistan with seven children stuffed inside and a trailer full of goats pulling up the rear. But instead Mr Jimny has a gentle life with easy, winding drives and long naps. Or maybe too long?

I was all set to take him for his pre-season tune-up at the garage down the valley and was looking forward to a sunny outing in the crisp morning air but when I turned the corner out of the lift and clicked the unlock button on the fob, there was silence. No release of locks, no flash of lights, just the dull hum of the extractor-fan system in the garage. As the Jimny was parked slightly hidden from view, I thought he might have been stolen so I quickened my pace. But when he came into view, it was clear what was wrong. The poor dear was in a coma. I then remembered that he hadn’t been driven since July, so it was no surprise that he was in a too-deep slumber.

In drove a red rescue vehicle from local firm Auto Beltracchi and out strode the very energetic Stefano

This being low season, there were few residents in our building so a jolt via jumper cables from a friendly neighbour was out of the question. We’d need to call Suzuki. Given that we were on a tight schedule, I saw the whole day crumble as appointments would have to move, calls be rescheduled and all our precision planning imploded. As I tried to reshuffle the agenda, I heard my partner Mats chatting to the Suzuki support centre and, before I could ask how long we’d have to wait, his phone was ringing and it seemed as though help was on the way. “They’ll be here in 15 minutes,” he said. I didn’t quite buy it and thought about going up to the apartment to tackle other tasks when the phone rang again and the Suzuki support man said he was already outside our building. How was this even possible? Mats opened the garage door; in drove a red rescue vehicle from local firm Auto Beltracchi and out strode the very energetic Stefano, who was all firm handshakes, smiles and perfect manners. Within a minute the little Jimny was brought back to life and Stefano suggested we drive convoy-style to the garage to ensure that the Jimny made it to his appointment swiftly and without incident.

At the garage, Stefano bolted ahead of me and explained the problem to his friends working at the service desk. I’m quite sure he was very polite and factual about the state of the vehicle as he was met with nods and shuffling of papers. Had it been me wearing the overalls and in charge of the rescue, I might have said, “This pair of muppets can’t be bothered to take their car out for regular exercise, don’t even keep it on basic life support when they’re away from the mountains and back in the big city, and are generally bad parents.” I thanked Stefano for his speed and care with a handshake and a crisp Swiss franc note of a generous denomination. Later that day we returned to pick up the Jimny, who was frisky and back on form, all set for the Christmas season.

And the moral of the story, dear reader (aside from taking the Jimny out for more regular spins)? The world needs more Stefanos and this can only happen if the market recognises the value of good service and skilled trade professionals – and is ready to pay for them.

Eating out / Rita’s, London

Home at last

Image: Benjamin McMahon

The storied streets of London’s Soho have welcomed a smart new restaurant to its ranks (writes Thomas Reynolds). The Rita’s story starts in 2012 and its modern take on classic American fare has won a following after stints in Hackney and King’s Cross and pop-ups from Dalston to the Frieze art fair. But after almost three years of planning and wrangling, the new spot on Lexington Street is open. Owners Gabriel Pryce and Missy Flynn (pictured) took inspiration from their travels across the Americas for the creations on the menu as well as for the charming interior, with its white tablecloths and chartreuse-green and cacao-brown tiled bar. Menu-wise, we’d suggest trying the house-milled grits with honey-and-thyme butter topped with a barbecued quail. The tear-and-share garlic bread is a crowd-pleaser (though sharing is optional), the clams are tasty and the celery sauce must be mopped up with the fried Idaho scones. Homemade key lime pie to finish proceedings hits the right note. After its various openings and incarnations, this Soho site feels like the right recipe for Rita’s.
ritasdining.com

Sunday Roast / Victor Lugger

Dining in

Famous for their tasty take on Italian food served in riotously fun surroundings, Victor Lugger’s Big Mamma restaurants can be summed up in a word: abbondanza (excess). Whether it’s wine, chatter, the hue of the walls or the flavour of the pizzas and pastas everything is amped up – not least the queues. Lugger opened the first restaurant in 2015 with co-founder, Tigrane Seydoux and the pair now own 15 sites across France, Spain and the UK, with plans for more in the works. Here, Lugger (pictured, on left, with Seydoux) tells us about cold-water swimming, Vivaldi and wines from France’s Jura region.

Where do we find you this weekend?
On Osea Island, one of the UK’s best kept secrets. The plan is treasure hunting, s’mores and fishing with the family. Then, partying at night with friends.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday, gentle start or a jolt?
Jolt. I go for a morning swim in the pond in Hampstead Heath. During the winter months, it can get really cold. Sometimes the water temperature is 4C.

News or no news?
On Saturday, the FT Weekend. On Sunday, no news. Sundays are for connecting with the people in the room.

What are your larder essentials?
White pepper from Épices Roellinger in Paris and tea from La Maison des Trois Thés. Rare pepper is the most affordable luxury!

A Sunday culture must?
Fenton House, one of the oldest houses in Hampstead. It’s a 17th-century National Trust property, which has one of the biggest collections of harpsichords in Europe.

Ideal dinner venue?
Home. During the summer, it’s mozzarella, fresh basil and tomatoes. But in the winter months, I love to cook chicken by injecting it with vin jaune from France’s Jura region. My mother is a doctor and when I visit her I steal a few syringes to use for this recipe.

Who’s joining you?
My whole family gets together for lunch on a Sunday. If we’re lucky some friends and another family will join us too.

A glass of something you would recommend?
I am a huge fan of Jura wines. They remind me of my family because my grandfather comes from the region. They are amazing oxidised wines, which will keep for up to 100 years. I’ve bought one for each of my three children’s birth years, and I am keeping them for their 50th birthdays.

Any Sunday evening routine?
I visit one of our restaurants. When we launched our first location six years ago, Tigrane, my business partner, always said that we needed to set up something that felt like an “antidepressant” on a Sunday evening; a place to beat the Sunday blues.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Spinach and ricotta ‘gnudi’

Swiss chef Ralph Schelling had his favourite ever gnudi (gnocchi-like dumplings made with ricotta) at Trattoria Torre di Pisa in Milan. Here he recreates the flavour with brown butter, spinach and parmesan. You can also try the recipe below by adding sage leaves to the butter. Enjoy.

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 4 as a main

Ingredients

250g spinach, wilted and drained or defrosted and slightly drained
1 tsp of olive oil
170g semolina (durum flour)
250g ricotta
50g grated parmesan
Zest of an organic lemon
Quarter of a nutmeg seed
salt
30g butter
Parmesan cheese to serve

Method

  1. If using fresh spinach, wilt it in a medium pan with a teaspoon of oil. Drain and leave to cool a little.
  2. In a large bowl mix the spinach with the semolina, ricotta, parmesan, lemon zest and grated nutmeg.
  3. Leave the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. When set, roll out the mixture by hand into a 3cm thick sheet and cut into 3cm squares pieces with a sharp knife. Roll each briefly by hand.
  5. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook gnudi for about 5 minutes in lightly simmering water.
  6. In the meantime, heat the butter in a frying pan on medium heat until it bubbles and browns, releasing a nutty aroma. Then turn off the heat.
  7. Remove the gnudi from water with a slotted spoon, drain and toss in butter for 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Arrange equal portions on warmed plates and top with a drizzle of butter and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

ralphschelling.com

Weekend plans? / Oceanside, California

Escape to the beach

A duo of new hotels in Oceanside, California, is prompting many Los Angeles residents to consider a seaside getaway different from the well-trodden path to Santa Monica or Malibu. Located about an hour and a half south of LA in suburban San Diego County, the quiet beach town is a favourite with surfers, who prize the consistency of the waves. Now, with the 161-room Mission Pacific Hotel and larger Seabird Resort making their debuts, the coastline is beckoning Angelenos, who can drive or hop on the southbound train after work and check in for an 20.00 dinner.

Image: Adam Amengaul
Image: Adam Amengaul

With slatted wooden exteriors reminiscent of California’s Craftsman-style homes, both newly opened hotels offer a laid-back, residential feel on a rather grander scale. Of course, there are variations between the neighbouring properties: highlights include the third-floor pool deck with cabanas at the more family-focused Seabird Resort and the buzzier all-day café at the Mission Pacific, where you can sip a macchiato (or something stronger).

Oceanside was once home to a string of grand seaside hotels and was billed as “a paradise for people with overworked brains or nerves”. In the 1920s the town buzzed with miniature-golf sites and sea bass fishing off the pier. One remnant of Oceanside’s heyday is a sky-blue Victorian cottage, known as Graves House, which was built in 1887 and featured in the movie Top Gun. Today the fully restored bungalow brightens the Mission Pacific Hotel’s front lawn (in November, it opens as an upmarket dessert bar), offering a bridge to the resort town’s colourful past and a taste of what’s to come. Wish you were here?

Oceanside address book:
Eat
Craft Coast Beer & Tacos
Craft beer pairs perfectly with authentic Baja-style tacos and other Mexican fare at this relaxed brewpub.
275 Mission Avenue

Parlor Doughnuts
Oceanside residents swear by the layered, croissant-like doughnuts at this all-day bakery; the breakfast tacos are also a must.
331 North Cleveland Street

Valle
Chef Roberto Alcocer’s specialties from Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley take centre stage at this charmingly upscale hotel restaurant.
222 North Pacific Street

Drink
Pacific Coast Spirits
This upbeat distillery highlights organic, small-batch spirits such as whiskey and brandy, with G&Ts on tap.
404 South Coast Highway

See
Oceanside Museum of Art
A 1929 municipal building houses exhibitions by contemporary artists from Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana.
704 Pier View Way

Food scoop / ‘Currywurst’, Berlin

Prepare for the wurst

In Monocle’s November issue, which is out now, we’ve saved room for some morsels of culinary history. Here Berlin-based writer Kati Krause holds forth on the German capital’s down-to-earth snack of choice.

The first thing to note about Currywurst – sausage in spicy ketchup, often flanked by chips – is its utter lack of pretention. In this sense, it’s a fitting emblem for Berlin, the city where it is said to have originated and in which its preparation has become an art. Most German cities are proud of their sausages. They award them prizes and jealously protect their recipes; and they present their own varieties as the best, serving them up as essential parts of their history and culture. But Berliners know that the Currywurst is something far less refined. All you’ll get for pointing this out to them is a shrug – if you’re lucky.

Image: Felix Brüggemann
Image: Felix Brüggemann

Currywurst, however, has an interesting history of its own. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, Herta Heuwer, a former vendor at the Kadewe department store, opened a snack bar in Charlottenburg. Despite struggling with a lack of supplies, she began to sell a curry bratwurst doused in a spicy sauce, which she patented in 1958. Heuwer is remembered today as the inventor of the Currywurst but the story is likely bigger than one woman. Condiments such as ketchup were hard to come by in postwar Germany, so fast-food vendors experimented with all manner of spices, hoping to turn their sausages into something tasty and moreish. These spiced sausages became popular in their own right and the stands proliferated around the city.

Tellingly, attempts to elevate the Currywurst from a late-night indulgence to something more haute have fallen flat. Some vendors in the city’s more touristy stretches do offer organic or vegan versions but these are for the sort of people who might order an organic or vegan kebab at 02.00.

Today the Currywurst remains the unpolished fare of the people: famished labourers, boozy partygoers and those who simply skipped a meal. And a word to the wise, whoever you are, it should never set you back much more than €2. It needs to be slathered in a sweet-and-spicy tomato sauce. Don’t ask questions about the sausage itself except, perhaps, whether it comes with intestine or without. This and the toppings are the only things you’re allowed to quibble over. That said, it tastes pretty much the same whatever option you go for. And remember: if you don’t like it, don’t complain. And don’t expect Berliners to be fussed about what you think.

For more to chew on plus recipes, recommendations and reportage pick up a copy of our November issue, or subscribe today.

Parting shot / ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’

Business plans

To celebrate the launch of The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs, we’ve selected a smattering of inspiring start-ups and smart business folk to spotlight. This week: Ben Lewin, co-founder of watch brand Farer, with his tips for getting business ticking.

Just because a market is crowded doesn’t mean there isn’t a gap. There’s always space to disrupt, you may just need to play a bolder hand to do it. I co-founded British watch brand Farer with Stuart Finlayson, Jono Holt and Paul Sweetenham in 2015. Back then, the established global watch market was going through a rough patch but the second-hand vintage market was booming. Similar to the growth of the classic car market, consumers were looking to the past for unique designs. And they were getting direct access through the digital world. That was our gap. We saw an opportunity to make watches that were inspired by the past yet built for the future. Combining bold design with the very best craftsmanship – and delivering them through our own direct-to-consumer digital channels. There are a few things we got right. The first one was our relentless focus on creating the Farer design DNA (which drives everything we do). Other things – like the pain of back-end stock systems – we have had to learn the hard way. Looking back now, there are three things that helped us find our gap.

1. Trends don’t last
You need more than just a point of view going into your market. You need a great product and every detail across the customer journey has to be an improvement on what your competitors offer. The days where marketing hype succeeds over product quality are long gone. True product-first brands that are ultimately delivering something different and better are winning hands down.

2. Go where your audience is
It’s easy to go where the other established brands are and to assume that people will come to you. Instead, we looked a little harder and found a big group of consumers who were being ignored and who wanted a more personal experience with watch brands. So we turned up and talked to them, in person and digitally. It’s impactful when you make that sort of effort.

3. Build a community
You can’t do it alone. Breaking into an established market takes time and money but building a band of believers is a powerful thing. Your most-trusted early converts might be only 10 per cent of your customers but they’ll help you find the other 90 per cent. We launched the Farer Club to give our highest-level customers the chance to be part of our journey; as members, they can get their hands on exclusive products and direct access to what we’re doing next before anyone else. In return, they tell friends, family and work colleagues about us in a way we could never replicate on our own terms.

For more inspiring start-ups, tips, advice and provocations about making your passion your vocation, pick up a copy of The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs. Have a super Sunday.

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