Sunday 29 January 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 29/1/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Get your fill

Tyler Brûlé opens proceedings this week with an idea to improve European travel before we settle down for an existing example of a night on the rails, head to the Rhine valley to discover a smart chalet stay and find out how chef Santiago Lastra spends his Sundays. Finish it all off with a sticky toffee pudding. Go on – you deserve it.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Life on the rails

London, Wednesday morning, 04.45. It’s wake-up time to catch the 07.00 Swiss flight to Geneva. The bed is comfy, the streets are silent and, before I swing my feet out from under the duvet, I’m wondering why I’m not still slumbering on an overnight train that would allow me at least another three hours of sleep before pulling into Geneva’s Cornavin station. I’m also thinking about how lovely it would have been to leave the dinner at the Turkish ambassador’s residence, hop in a waiting car, arrive at St Pancras station, show my ticket at the platform and then board a sleek SBB train for the overnight journey to Geneva.

So far there are no such announcements for sumptuous overnight rail services from London to Europe’s main business hubs but what an opportunity. As the continent starts adding more overnight services, rail or hotel operators need to be thinking about the possibilities of services from London to the likes of Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Zürich and Munich. What would I pay for the combination of a good bed, bathroom and breakfast on rails that saves on lost time and might even be good for the environment? A lot.

Lausanne, Thursday, midday. I’m touring the campus at IMD Business School for a potential little project. It is busy with MBA students and groups of executives – all gathered to sharpen their game. As they enjoy a hearty lunch and head off to lectures, I’m feeling rather envious of their whiteboard sessions, presentations and post-class social life. On this rather grey, late-January day, Lausanne might not be looking its best but I start to imagine it under sunny skies in April, with snow on the peaks beyond, a bottle of rosé shared with classmates on the lawn and meandering conversations focused on solving the business world’s most pressing problems. I’m keen to see whether there’s an executive MBA programme devoted to running a family media enterprise with even more fun and efficiency.

Zürich, Thursday, end of day. Who knew that a party with a Shanghai 1930s theme could be so fun on a weekday? Who knew that you could find a proper mandarin collar jacket in a linen-cotton mix in London’s Chinatown for a fraction of the price of Shanghai Tang? And who knew that so many blonde Swiss women could transform themselves with well-cut black wigs and good eye make-up? It wasn’t necessary to stay out until 03.00 on a school night but I knew that the rail journey up to the mountains later in the day would take the edge off.

St Moritz, Friday, evening. Ai Weiwei was in town for his exhibition and it’s quite remarkable what you can do with a lot of Lego on the walls of Vito Schnabel’s gallery. If I had a spare CHF480,000 (€480,000) jangling in my pocket, I would have bought the Year of the Monkey piece. But I don’t, so I’ll settle for the image snapped on my phone – or perhaps make my own.

St Moritz, later that evening. How is it that some people can park themselves at a dinner for several hours, talk at length about themselves and never ask a question of fellow guests? It is truly the height of bad manners and I find myself inching ever closer to calling out such bores well before dessert.

St Moritz, Saturday, morning. In case you’re still figuring out where to ski and grab some sun this winter, I’m happy to report that Monocle will be opening up a tiny kiosk outpost from 9 February at the Steffani Hotel – right in the middle of the Dorf. We’ll have a special line-up of items, good coffee and our colleague Linda will be on hand to keep you fully informed and looking fresh. We’re also finalising plans for another St Moritz Weekender (think smart talks, slopeside lunches, live radio and much more) from 24-26 March, so save the date. You can register for a spot with Hannah Grundy at We’re keeping it cosy, so spots are limited.

And, finally, the Asian grand tour is back! From Tuesday it’s on to Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. Hopefully I’ll see you somewhere along the way. If not, come and join me and the Monocle crew up in the Engadine.

New opening / Peterhof, Austria

Remote operation

In the mountainous western Austrian state of Vorarlberg is the idyllic village of Furx. Despite its handful of ski lifts, you won’t find this small, windswept resort near the top of most winter holiday-makers’ itineraries – but that might be about to change. Peterhof, a fourth-generation hospitality business, is trying something new to put the village on the proverbial map. Patrick Schmid and Sarah Nesensohn have torn down their old inn and erected a series of beautiful wooden chalets.

Image: Dirk Brunecki
Image: Dirk Brunecki
Image: Dirk Brunecki

“We sat together as a family and discussed what we could do here in Furx,” says Schmid, sitting in the restaurant in front of a window that reveals a stunning view of the steep-sided Rhine valley. “We realised that this area wasn’t yet developed for tourists. We came up with the idea of chalets relatively quickly by looking at successful projects in neighbouring Tirol.”

Lustenau-based practice Baumschlager Eberle Architekten was given the task of transforming the site into a more modern development that better reflected and drew attention to the scenery. “We took a weakness – the remoteness of Furx – and we made it our strength,” says Schmid.

For the latest hospitality finds, new hotels and top tables subscribe to Monocle today. You’ll also be able to access our exclusive travel guides as part of The Monocle Digital Editions.

Eating out / Café Savoy, Helsinki

Finnish your dinners

Icons are icons for a reason. This is the case with Helsinki’s Savoy, a restaurant designed by modernist architects Aino and Alvar Aalto. This Finnish landmark has hosted the Nordic nation’s movers and shakers since its opening in 1937. So when the owners announced plans to open a sister restaurant called Café Savoy, it raised a few eyebrows. Savoy’s chef patron, Helena Puolakka, earned her stripes working for the likes of Pierre Koffman in London and Pierre Gagnaire and Paris.

Image: Juho Kuva
Image: Juho Kuva
Image: Juho Kuva

The south of France is a reference for Café Savoy’s style. “Sometimes you just want to have a juicy steak and wash it down with an amazing red wine,” Saku Tuominen, creative director of the Financier Group, which owns the restaurant, tells Monocle. “No thrills, just simple things done really well in an environment that makes you happy.”

Sunday Roast / Santiago Lastra

Weekend special

Chef Santiago Lastra has made a lasting impression in London’s Marylebone since opening Mexican restaurant Kol in 2020. The 56-cover Seymour Street space (with its intimate chef’s table) now hosts some of the UK capital’s most inventive Mexican fare made with the finest British ingredients. But how does Lastra spend his Sundays? He tells us all.

Image: Maureen Evans

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’ll be working at the restaurant, so I’ll be busy pretty much all day but I wouldn’t mind going out for a drink afterwards, either to the Chiltern Firehouse or A Bar with Shapes for a Name. They close late and do incredible cocktails so it depends how I feel.

Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I try to keep fit, so I’ll go to the gym at White City House then go for a swim and sauna. After that, I’ll usually go to the farmers’ market in Marylebone.

What’s for breakfast?
It depends on the season. Right now it’s wild garlic quesadillas.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I’d absolutely love a dog. I hope that by the time that we speak next, I’ll have a massive one. Then we can talk about walking it on Sundays.

Sunday culture must?
I like to go to exhibitions on a Sunday, so I will always see what’s on. It’s an ideal day to get inspiration.

News or not?
You can make your own news in your own life. The only news that really matters is how your friends and family are doing and what’s going on for them. If you know this, you know how to take care of them.

Lunch in or out?
Lunch in, dinner out. I often have dinner at a wine bar on Sundays. I love places with small plates and nice natural wine. This week that might mean grilled halibut with potatoes and a very full glass of orange wine.

Do you lay out an outfit for Monday?
Yes. Casual dark trousers and, in this weather, a cosy yet cool jumper – something comfortable but warm.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Sticky toffee pudding

This delicious dessert derives most of its sweetness from the dates that it contains, rather than the toffee. You can cook it in advance and warm it before serving. If you want the mix to be more substantial, add a couple of teaspoons of powdered milk. Alternatively, for a slightly healthier option, replace the cane sugar with sugar-beet syrup. You can also soak the dates in a dark beer, such as a porter, to give them a richer flavour.

Illustration: Xihanation

Makes 1 pudding


220g dates
200ml hot water
80g soft butter
140g unrefined cane sugar
2 eggs
180g flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda

For the spice mix
½ tsp ginger powder
½ tsp clove powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp cardamom powder
½ tsp nutmeg powder
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp allspice powder
1 pinch salt

For the sauce
220g unrefined cane sugar
250g double cream
50g butter


Pit the dates and soak in the hot water. Preheat the oven to 170C.

Grease a cake pan with a little of the butter and sprinkle with the cane sugar.

Mix the remaining butter and sugar. Roughly mash the dates with a fork. Add the eggs and mix everything well.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and all of the spices and stir into the mixture. Season with the salt.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Let it cool a little.

Now, move on to the sauce. Melt the sugar in a warm pan, ensuring that it doesn’t brown or burn.

Add the double cream and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in the butter and set aside.

Remove the cake from the pan. Cut it into pieces and cover with the sauce while it’s still warm. An optional accompaniment is vanilla ice cream.

Weekend plans? / Telegraphenamt, Berlin

Staying on message

Berlin’s neo-baroque main telegraph office was under renovation for so long that many in the city assumed that it would never reopen (writes Florian Siebeck). Yet, after almost 10 years behind scaffolding, the space is now a hotel with 97 rooms and suites, a restaurant and bar, and a private members’ club. “It’s one of Berlin’s most important architectural monuments that’s still standing from the turn of the 20th century,” says Armin Fischer, who designed the hotel with restaurateur and operator Roland Mary. In this respect, they were lucky – the 1916 structure, once a key centre of the telephone network, survived the destruction of the Second World War. The hotel is still in a soft-opening phase and while the bar and the restaurant are already open, a Japanese bakery is still to come. The members’ club, which will open in April, features yoga, boxing and Crossfit areas, as well as a sauna and treatment rooms. Not a bad way to work up an appetite for dinner.

Image: Kristin

Report / Amtrak’s overnight success

Sleeper hit

Despite now being based in the US, I’ve always enjoyed Europe’s night trains (writes Christopher Cermak). Whether it’s Vienna to Zürich or even my recent reporting trip from Lviv to Kyiv, 12 hours is the ideal time for it. That leaves a couple of hours for dinner and repose, a solid sleep and coffee and breakfast in the morning before you pull up at the platform. So I was excited when I discovered US train operator Amtrak’s Vermonter, a service launched last year that runs from Washington all the way to the ski slopes in Vermont in, you guessed it, 12 hours. The rub? It leaves at 08.00 and arrives in the evening. Who wants to waste an entire day travelling?

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

Amtrak does have a few sleeper-train routes, including the California Zephyr running from San Francisco across the Rockies to Chicago, and the Capitol Limited from Chicago to Washington. But these are remnants rather than investments. So imagine my joy when Amtrak recently announced a contract for new sleeper trains on 14 routes – the first in 40 years – thanks to funds from the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in 2021.

It’s a good move. As Austrian rail operator ÖBB is showing across Europe, there’s an appetite for overnight journeys to offset the hassle of driving or flying. This method of travelling is also well suited to the US, given its size. In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming of an overnight service that can transport me to Vermont’s powdery slopes in time for a morning coffee.

For more insights, ideas and global benchmarks in affairs, business, culture and more subscribe to Monocle today. Have a super Sunday.


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