This week you’ll find our hungry journalists seeking out good grub in rural Greenland and beyond, and trying their hand at our Swiss chef’s simple, fresh-tasting bruschetta. We also hear how Argentinian scribbler Claudia Piñeiro spends her Sundays and check in to an overnight option in Cape Town, plus more besides. But first up, Tyler Brûlé is back in town.
Previously in The Faster Lane, I had just touched down in Tokyo (last Saturday, 09.30 local time, to be exact) and was trying to get my bearings after a 26-month absence. With the help of a few friends and colleagues, a dinner at a favourite Italian joint in Daikanyama and an impromptu high-speed train trip, things started to feel (almost) familiar.
What’s missing? At first glance, Tokyo looks pretty much the same: some buildings have come down, new towers have gone up and there are plenty of cranes swinging around Shibuya and Roppongi. Masks are still the order of the day in Japan and while the odd person chooses not to wear one outside (more on this shortly), it makes the place feel as though it’s still in the grip of the pandemic. By day the streets are busy, trains packed. But something odd happens at about 21.00: the streets empty out and Tokyo pulls on its pyjamas. While there is no official guidance around closing hours, the city is far from getting its round-the-clock rhythm back. For sure, there are plenty of bars and restaurants open late but I missed the late-night energy that’s such a defining feature of my favourite city.
What’s missing? Part two. Japan has not been ruled by heavy lockdowns or draconian emergency laws to keep society in check. Most measures have been based on government guidance and this has worked well in a conformist country. The downside is that it doesn’t come with an “all clear, let’s bin the masks and Plexiglas” moment. On Wednesday the government said that masks were no longer required outdoors so long as a “safe” distance could be maintained between other pedestrians. On Thursday morning there was no evidence that Tokyoites had read this statement as everyone was still masked up walking to work or pedalling through the park. Meetings with ministries and agencies across the week suggested that Japan will, as ever, take a slowly-slowly approach to reopening and dropping measures despite the prime minister saying that it’s time to follow the rest of the G7 and get to a level playing field. While China remains locked down, Japan should take the opportunity to be Asia’s most open nation, win back business and reboot its tempo. To make this happen, Japan Inc. needs to be more vocal and apply more pressure; visas for business and 90-minute entry times are not a way forward. There’s a real danger that, without a proper jolt, the country could just shuffle along and lose further momentum.
I reckon you have till the end of the year to experience a Japan that feels more like it did in the early 1990s
There is good news, though. On the positive side, the fact that Japan is somewhat closed means that you have the place to yourself. No Chinese tour groups, no annoying influencers in stupid trainers and silly outfits, and no groups of American college students wandering around in saggy sweatshirts slurping Frappuccinos. This moment of calm won’t last forever, so get a business visa while you can and savour the moment. I reckon you have till the end of the year to experience a Japan that feels more like it did in the early 1990s.
How quickly one forgets. It took me a couple of hours after landing to conclude that I needed a proper reset to get back into my Japan groove. With only a week on the ground, I needed to snap into it – and fast. But how? After a short sleep, I woke up last Sunday morning, grabbed the 07.24 Shinkansen up to Karuizawa and caught a return a few hours later. As lovely as it was to see the sakura in late bloom in the higher altitude, it was more about the journey itself – getting a coffee and cheese toastie at Doutor, listening to the polite announcements, observing other passengers, marvelling at all the pointy-nose trains and savouring the silence. After more than two years out of Japan, the digital decency is striking; the complete absence of ringing phones on trains, an annoying conference call in the seat next to you and the sharing of video clips is a reminder of how Japan can make the rest of the world feel deeply uncivilised. And what a joy to just listen to the hum of steel on steel hurtling along at a clip of 200km/h.
Back soon? At the start of the week I was telling friends and colleagues that I’d probably be back at the end of the year. By Tuesday this had become October. On Thursday it was a trip in August. And now, as I head back to Zürich, I’m thinking that there might even be a trip as early as June. Japan needs to remind the world that it has much to offer. But before that it needs to fold away the pyjamas and dare to stay up late, get back out in the world and fire-up its genki side.
On a recent visit to western Greenland, chef Poul Andrias Ziska stocked up on regional produce, sampling everything from narwhal meat to Arctic crabs (writes Gabriele Dellisanti). The founder of Koks on the Faroe Islands, an archipelago 440km north of Scotland, is now testing the menu of his restaurant’s forthcoming Greenland outpost.
“What people have on their plate should reflect their surroundings,” he says. The new restaurant opens in June in Ilimanaq, a remote village with a population of just 53, surrounded by towering icebergs. Ziska knows that setting up a business in such an isolated location is risky but he’s ready to take the plunge.
For more food scoops, tasty observations and hospitality finds, pick up a copy of our out-now May issue.
Novelist and screenwriter Claudia Piñeiro is best known for her crime fiction, which has taken her native Argentina by storm (writes Annabel Martin). Hailed by some as the Hitchcock of the River Plate, she is the third most translated Argentinian author, after Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar. Her novel Elena Knows is shortlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize. Here, she talks theatre, lunch plans and her weekend itinerary.
Where will we find you this weekend?
I will be spending part of the weekend at the Buenos Aires Book Fair and part of it at home in the outskirts of the city, feeling the grass under my feet and eating under the sun.
What’s your ideal start to a Sunday?
Reading a particularly good article in the newspaper.
What’s for breakfast?
Black coffee and fruit, and sometimes a few walnuts.
Lunch in or out?
Definitely in. My sons are generally in charge of preparing a barbecue. I make the salad and nibbles.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
No dog but I walk for at least an hour before lunch. If I still have energy, I go for a bike ride and take another walk in the afternoon.
A Sunday soundtrack?
Anything by Nina Simone.
Sunday culture must?
Going to the theatre. The shows usually start a bit earlier than in the rest of the week.
News or not?
I have a number of newspapers delivered every weekend.
Sunday evening routine?
We tend to play cards.
This mix of broad beans, mint and creamy ricotta is a surefire crowd-pleaser. “I can’t wait to present this to my guests on Capri in the spring and early summer,” says chef Ralph Schelling. “Even though I have to peel kilos of these little shells, I love to do it – it’s a kind of meditation.” Optional extras include lightly toasted chilli flakes or a little honey on top. Enjoy.
200g broad beans, shelled
4 tbsps olive oil, plus a little more for the bread
1 lemon for its zest, plus the juice of half
4 mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
4 slices bread
1 clove garlic
5 tbsps buffalo ricotta
Blanche the broad beans in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes and rinse in cold water. Dry and peel.
Place in a bowl and season with the olive oil, zest, lemon juice, mint, salt and pepper.
Toast the bread or grill it briefly. Cut the garlic clove and rub the bread a few times with the cut side so it takes on the flavour. Drizzle the slices with olive oil.
Spread the ricotta on the bread and garnish with the broad beans and mint. Simple, eh?
When Netherlands-based Sarina and Gerald van Engelen (pictured) stumbled upon a Victorian building in Cape Town’s Tamboerskloof neighbourhood, they snapped it up and moved to the city in 2021. “We’ve combined Victorian charm with modern touches, keeping things elegant,” says Sarina. “What’s most important is the energy and vibe. Guests should feel at home the moment that they walk in.”
The 10-key hotel, which opened in December, is all neutral tones with white-panelled walls, marble desks and Malawian wicker chairs. Its café is open only to guests for most of the week; it serves rich South African coffee and a menu that includes homemade granola and French toast with homemade brioche.
Last month, Italy’s wine industry gathered in Verona for Vinitaly, the world’s premier expo of its tipples. The main event was held in a vast campus that felt like a Hollywood set, dominated by a series of pavilions representing the country’s wine regions: Piedmont, Tuscany, Sicily, Alto Adige and more. After the disruptions of the pandemic one of the key buzzwords was, unsurprisingly, “relaunch”.
Giovanni Mantovani, CEO of Veronafiere, the organisation behind Vinitaly, was keen to tell Monocle that 2022 is “a good vintage”. Despite complications, namely China’s limited attendance due to coronavirus and Russia’s ban, there were about 88,000 attendees and more than 4,000 wineries uncorking bottles at stands. The area for Alto Adige/Südtirol was the busiest that we witnessed; in the Sicilian pavilion, meanwhile, there was almost a stampede around the Donnafugata stand. Despite the competitive nature of an event like this, there was also a festive spirit – aided, of course, by alcohol.
“Wineries are enthusiastic about being back in person,” says Mantovani. “So much information is exchanged.” The chance to swill, sniff and sip in good company feels like more of an elixir than ever. Perhaps 2022 is a rather good vintage after all.
Three Italian bottles to buy, selected by wine writer Chandra Kurt:
1. Soave Classico 2019, La Rocca, Pieropan
This blend is full of energy, elegance and surprise.
2. Casalferro 2018, Castello di Brolio, IGT Toscana
A deeply structured and expressive merlot.
3. RosaMati 2021, Fattoria Le Pupille, IGT Toscana Rosato
This syrah rosé is pure pleasure on the palate.
For the full report, plus an exclusive round table with the region’s best producers on the bottles to buy, cellars to size up and the next moves for the industry, subscribe so you don’t miss out on the June issue. It’s on newsstands next week.
A big-screen TV might offer the pleasures of a near-cinematic picture at home but it comes with a downside: when it’s switched off, its black rectangle can dominate the room (writes David Phelan). The solution? Weighing less than 1kg, Samsung’s Freestyle projector is almost preposterously compact but it can display an image of more than 2.5 metres. You’ll need a flat surface, wall or ceiling, and ideally it’ll be white (paisley wallpaper won’t help).
But the Freestyle can optimise the tone to compensate for a coloured wall. It’s clever enough to adjust the picture so you’ll always get a straight, right-angled image that focuses automatically, even if you position the device wonkily. If there’s a drawback, it’s that the Freestyle projects a standard HD rather than a 4K image; it can also struggle in brighter rooms. However, the scale and simplicity are enough to make it all worthwhile. Its built-in speakers deliver decent, multidirectional sound too. For ultimate portability, you can connect it to an external battery pack for an evening of alfresco viewing. We’ll see you on the terrace. Have a super Sunday.