From a cosy Dublin rooftop to a natural vineyard in the hills of Hungary, we take some unexpected turns this week. Read on to find out how to make a peach tarte tatin, discover the East London haunts of chef Nuno Mendes and hear why Finnish saunas are considered to be hallowed ground. First up, Tyler Brûlé is taking off.
It’s midday Friday and Zürich airport is packed with families heading off for week two of the school break, others returning to spend the second half of the holiday at home and everyone else participating in the improving flow of global commerce. It’s been 24 hours since the Swiss federal government dropped almost all pandemic-related restrictions (what remains are masks on trains, trams and healthcare facilities; all else has been binned) and everyone and everything seems to be a little bit perkier and pacier. It’s not quite euphoria, more a sense of feeling somewhat dazed, like when you have an early evening nap on a Saturday and wake up after 40 minutes not knowing where you are, what time it is or if you’re still dreaming.
As I make way from train to check-in, small pockets of passengers are still in masks but peer into any shop and the Plexiglass has seemingly disappeared overnight and you can see smiling faces and proper customer interaction. No one must converse solely with their eyes any longer – finally the eyebrows and forehead can relax. At security it’s all warm welcomes and efficiency and in the lounge it feels more like a well-run restaurant as passengers are properly greeted and seated. Trays of champagne are being shuttled to tables and little nooks across the vast, woody space. I’m heading to Montréal – my fourth long-haul trip in four years and the start of my first proper tour of the Americas. Finally, the title of this column is going to start delivering the goods again.
Am I happy? You could say delirious. Have I missed this? So much!
On board, the aircraft isn’t quite as full as the board members of Swiss would like (50 per cent load factor) but the crew is happy that it’s “not as packed as a Bangkok, which had not one empty seat”. I’m assured that, due to the two passengers that didn’t show up in my cabin, there’ll be extra raclette as we cross the Atlantic. As I settle in and sort out my paperwork and whatever else I need close to hand, I notice that the airline’s signature basket of newspapers has survived the pandemic and has returned to regular service. (Remember paper being identified early on as a key coronavirus conduit!) In fact, it’s not really a basket, it’s more of a plastic bin, but it deserves the status of a wicker basket found in a grand hotel because it has a crisp range of international dailies all neatly folded and ready for distribution. It’s all very simple shorthand for international, quality, service and doing things properly. I make my selection, place them on the side table next to me and am about to crack open the NZZ when the captain introduces himself and explains that Storm Eunice is going to force a bit of a detour further north and that the flight’s going to be a long one. We chat for a little bit and he tells me that he’s soon heading for retirement but he’s hoping to continue training cadets on a freelance basis and is hoping that the rumours about the airline ordering A350s are true as it’s time for a fleet upgrade. A few minutes later he’s on the mic and does his announcements in German, French and English. We’re going to be 20 minutes late into Montréal but the flight should be smooth.
Ten minutes pass and we’re rolling down the runway. The Alps are gleaming, Lake Zürich is a deep blue and there are just a few clouds, which give us a slight jolt as we climb through them. Shortly after the captain announces “cabin crew released”, seatbelts are undone and the service begins. Crunchy Sprüngli flutes are served, Laurent-Perrier is poured, the seat behind is made into a bed and there’s plenty to watch on the IFE that’s not found on any streaming service. Am I happy? You could say delirious. Have I missed this? So much! Where next? After Montréal it’s on to Ottawa to witness what has become of my nation’s capital, then Toronto, Miami, Dallas and Los Angeles. There’ll be much more news from the road next week, when I’ll be making the trek back across the Atlantic. Hope to see our California readers at our event in Culver City on Thursday. Cheers.
Dublin restaurant Allta has been on the road a lot since the pandemic began (writes Sebastian Stephenson). Last summer, a team run by chefs Niall Davidson and Hugh Higgins (and their wood-fired oven) held the fort at Slane Castle, an hour’s drive north of the capital. But as the weather cooled, they relocated to the fifth floor of the Trinity Street Car Park, turning the site into a restaurant, rooftop bar and gallery.
The cosy venue is all sheepskin throws, dim lighting and warm finishes by designer Toby Hatchett. The menu’s highlights include toasted artichoke with sheep’s cheese, Skeaghanore West Cork farm duck with red cabbage and lavender honey, and ocean trout with goat’s whey and sea herbs. The team is parked here until summer, when Higgins and Davidson will seek out a more permanent space.
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Shopping can be hungry work but retailers in the South Korean capital are serving up a solution (writes Alex Briand). Watch specialist IWC Schaffhausen has its high-end coffee shop in the Euljiro area. Breitling, meanwhile, is stepping up to the plate in Hannam-dong, where its biggest flagship will include its first restaurant. Around the corner, Gucci is gearing up an osteria to cater to this timeliest of trends, set to open in spring. These are not the first luxury names to drift into hospitality – just look at Bulgari’s growing fleet of hotels. But this wave of names pairing fashion and food speaks to a refreshed desire for shoppers to make a day of it and, perhaps, of brands to take customers by the wrist and bring them back into physical shops.
So how does hunger chime with horology? Cuisine with couture? On the first floor of Breitling Hannam Townhouse, the seating areas are themed by land, air and sea in a nod to its nautical and aeronautical heritage, and a private dining room and terrace offer great spaces to seal a deal. Chef Kim Hyeong-Kyu oversees things in the kitchen and the menu has a distinctly Italian flavour. Enhancing a bricks-and-mortar experience by adding alluring food to what’s on the shelves, hanging from clothing rails or under glass is a savvy move. After all, a gourmet tease guarantees both more eyes on products and more time spent in shops. Though perhaps it would be prudent to order a size up.
iwc.com; breitling.com; gucci.com
Chef Nuno Mendes, formerly of Chiltern Firehouse and the now-closed Michelin-starred Viajante, has been a fixture of London’s dining scene for more than 10 years. His new restaurant, Lisboeta, which opens this spring, will bring his idiosyncratic Portuguese cooking to the UK capital’s Charlotte Street. Here, Mendes tells us about sauntering around Broadway Market, nodding along to Sonic Youth and the joys of his favourite trainers.
Where do we find you this weekend?
At home in London Fields, pottering around Broadway Market or skateboarding with the kids in the park.
What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I have three children so it’s usually a bit of a jolt.
Soundtrack of choice?
Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation.
News or not?
I read The Guardian online to catch up on daily news and while I wish I had more time to dedicate to more exciting reading, sadly, I don’t.
Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
I love training in the park with friend and trainer, Ronnie. Boxing lessons are great and I also love riding my bike around East London. On Sundays, I cycle to the food market in Victoria Park with the kids, if I can.
Lunch in or out?
It varies. I either have a lazy lunch out with friends or I make a big meal for the family at home.
Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Shiro dashi, togarashi, Portuguese piri-piri, chipotle, fish sauce, miso, kimchi, good-quality olive oil and Japanese rice.
Sunday culture must?
Sunday is a family day for me and we try to stay in the neighbourhood, so that means no galleries. If the kids are at a sleepover or a birthday party, I might go and do something cultural.
A glass of something you’d recommend?
Go big or go home! A good few glasses of Radikon [from Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia].
Ideal dinner venue?
My friends’ homes. They’re great cooks too.
What will you be wearing on Monday?
A nice woollen jumper, my Comme des Garçons Converse and whatever else is clean.
This week the Swiss kitchen whizz offers a peachy riff on the classic French tart, with a few sprigs of thyme. Fair warning: turning out the tarte takes a little dexterity and care, so be careful not to burn yourself on the hot caramel when you flip it. Serve warm with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Dessert for 4 (hungry) people
1 vanilla pod, cut open
1 sprig of thyme
280g shortcrust pastry
Cut peaches into halves. Remove and discard the stones and set aside.
Preheat oven to 220C. Caramelise sugar with 2 tablespoons of the water in a medium-sized pan on a medium heat. Add the remaining water and the split vanilla pod.
Simmer for about 2 minutes into a syrupy consistency, until it browns but before it burns. Add butter in cubes and melt into the caramel.
Carefully pour the liquid caramel evenly into a 25cm-diameter quiche tin (or oven-ready skillet or cake tin). Don’t use a springform one in case the caramel seeps out. Then add the thyme sprig. Place peaches cut-side down in the baking pan, being careful not to burn yourself on the caramel.
Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3cm and a size large enough to cover the baking tin.
Lift the pastry with the help of the rolling pin and cover the peaches. Press down the edges well, making sure that the tarte is sealed and removing excess pastry from around the sides. Prick the dough with a fork several times.
Bake the tart in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and let stand briefly for about 5 minutes. Cover the tray with a slightly larger plate or serving dish and carefully turn out the tart. Serve warm.
Szent György-hegy is a mountain just over two hours’ drive southwest of Budapest on the northern shore of Lake Balaton. Here, husband-and-wife team István Bencze and Klaudia Kosárkó (always accompanied by their lively Hungarian pointer, Csete) learnt the craft of wine-making. Passionate about biodynamics, they switched to producing wholly natural wine four years ago, eschewing chemical interventions in the soil or in the fermentation process. The latter takes place in terracotta amphorae rather than oak barrels.
This approach led to the loss of the majority of their Hungarian clients. “People in Hungary don’t really understand this kind of wine,” says Bencze. “But we are working on it.” What the couple gained was the favour of international buyers; some 90 per cent of their wine is exported. Bencze Birtok offers tastings, homegrown vegetables and accommodation in charming, detached cottages scattered around the main house, which is a short drive from the lake and Balaton Uplands National Park.
London-based magazine Pit started in 2017 as an homage to the world of barbecuing but it also offers an appreciation of often-overlooked aspects of the food industry. The publication’s 11th issue takes readers on an evocative tour of markets around the world but spreads its themes more than you might expect.
“In this issue there’s writing about night markets, such as London’s Smithfield and Stone Town in Zanzibar, but there is also a piece about the interplay between sex work, opium and illicit liquor production in Madhya Pradesh,” says editor Helen Graves. “That’s a transactional night-time economy, sure. But probably not one the reader expected.” All the more reason to tuck in to a copy.
To celebrate the launch of ‘The Monocle Book of the Nordics’, which is out now, we’ve looked beyond ‘hygge’ and ‘smørrebrød’ to select a few surprising lessons we learnt about the Nordic nations while putting it together. This week, Helsinki native and Monocle correspondent Petri Burtsoff outlines the unexpected history of the Finnish sauna.
“Outside the country, the concept of the Finnish sauna is often misunderstood. Images of hardy Finns beating each other with birch leaves in 100C heat and then jumping into a frozen lake can make it all seem like an extreme sport. But there’s much more to it than that.
Finland urbanised relatively late compared with other European nations and even as recently as the 1950s, most Finns lived in rural areas. For those in the countryside, the sauna served many purposes: it was a place where you could wash your laundry, cure meats or dry grains and vegetables. In a time before running water or centralised heating, the sauna provided a hygienic and clean environment in which women could give birth. Not only did many Finns come into this world in a sauna but it was also where many would end their journey as it was customary to cleanse and house a corpse there.
This background can help explain the etiquette: a sauna is not the place for a wild party – sometimes even loud chatter is frowned upon. The idea is to leave behind all earthly belongings before entering what, to Finns, is a temple of the divine heat.”
For more on design, business, food and fashion from Europe’s northernmost reaches, pick up a copy of ‘The Monocle Book of the Nordics’. You can also join our editors at launch events in Los Angeles, Zürich and London in the coming weeks.