Sunday 17 December 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 17/12/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

In the groove

As Christmas creeps closer, we’ve got ideas on everything from the right wines to serve to a Japanese take on roast beef. We also have plans for a cosy weekend in Bavaria, visit a smart new restaurant in Lithuania and go on a Parisian retail safari. First up, Tyler Brûlé talks about a few bright sparks from his travels.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Lighting the way

Last week ended with a jolt when I boarded an SAS flight from Heathrow bound for Stockholm. I have not flown with SAS for a while as the airline has been on a rapid descent from a semi-respectable, European legacy carrier to a confused, largely low-cost operator that has little to do with service and innovation, and even less to do with Scandinavia. While most of the flight was packed with big Swedes squeezed into slimline seats, the Irish and South African crew would have had trouble mustering up “tack så mycket” between them. From the moment that I took my seat, I kept wondering what Nordic taxpayers must be thinking about a carrier that they’ve long supported, occasionally felt proud of and now see as a hollow brand with nothing in the way of national roots and a new ownership structure in the works. By spring 2024, SAS will leave Star Alliance and join Skyteam. With Air France-KLM taking a stake in the Scandinavian operator, it might well be good news as SAS will have to fall into line with the French and Dutch flag carriers. One thing that Air France and KLM do well is celebrate their respective national identities – you’re never in doubt that your crew will hail from Paris, Toulouse, Rotterdam or Hilversum, or speak French, Dutch or many other languages. Whoever says that national identity no longer matters for a brand or that it might be seen as out of fashion and too tethered to right-wing politics is talking naïve nonsense. In this era of blurred borders, diluted language and elasticated guidelines, having a flag, customs and culture that you can be proud of and that are uniquely yours is something to be protected. They’re something to be marketed and not watered down with measures that are little more than cost-cuts or politically correct theatrics.

The Jul (Christmas season) is alive and well in Sweden. A blanket of snow and temperatures just below zero made for a good few days of shopping excursions and merriment in favourite establishments across town. As this is also the season of short days, long nights and Nobel Prizes, I was thinking that the Swedes should give themselves an award for collectively understanding the power of good lighting to create an atmosphere that not only mitigates against days without sunlight but also sets the tone for the Christmas season. Where it’s quite easy to go wrong with metres of Christmas lights in DIY shops around the world, there’s no danger of this in Sweden. Only golden amber will work on a tree or in windows and it’s unlikely that shops in Stockholm even stock blue, cold-white or red sets of lights. And thank goodness! On my return to Zürich, despite the Weihnacht markets and roasting chestnuts, the city felt a bit flat and very poorly lit – and even a bit garish at times. A Swedish friend informed me that it’s becoming harder to find welcoming warm light but said that she’s putting up the good fight to keep bad LEDs at bay.

One place in Switzerland that does get Christmas right is Gstaad. There is most definitely a firm set of outdoor-lighting guidelines in place – and probably not just for Christmas. When the sun dipped on Friday afternoon, the place took on a Santa’s toy-town charm, especially when viewed from a gondola making its ascent up the slope. From the terrace of the Club de Luge, the Gstaad Palace hotel below looked as though it had been concocted in the kitchen of a konditorei down the valley, while indoors, the first wave of regulars had gathered for the opening of a seasonal Chanel shop in a gently transformed chalet. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Alps, a merry group of Monocle elves were making their way up to St Moritz for the opening of our very own seasonal shop in the heart of the village. From 21 December to the start of April, we’ll be back with books, magazines, cosy blankets, coffee and drinks. If you’re around the Engadine between Christmas and the New Year, keep an eye on your inbox as we’ll be hosting a little cocktail to mark the season. We look forward to clinking glasses with you.

New opening / Red Brick, Ukmerge, Lithuania

Natural selection

For Icelandic chef Arnór Bjarkason, heading up Red Brick, which opened this autumn, is a dream job (writes Sonia Zhuravlyova). His six and seven-course tasting menus, which are still somewhat of a novelty in Lithuania – and more so in rural Ukmerge – only use produce when it is in season. “We also preserve ingredients in numerous ways so we can use them during the frostier winter months when nothing grows,” says Bjarkason in Red Brick’s bare-brick open-plan kitchen, while his Lithuanian-born wife, Lina Marija Balciunaite, works front of house and their dog, Blues, watches over the proceedings.

Image: Tadas Kazakevičius
Image: Tadas Kazakevičius

He is prepping for tonight’s guests, who will be sampling everything from regional deer to dishes of duck, red cabbage and sea buckthorn. Bjarkason, who has grounded his menu in Baltic ingredients, with influences from the Nordics and Japan, is delighted to be part of a new culinary movement, with a fresh appreciation of what Lithuania’s rich soils and food culture has to offer. “It’s every chef’s wish to run this kind of restaurant, where I have freedom but also access to the best ingredients,” he says, with unexpected severity. “A carrot is never just a carrot.”

Image: Olivia Tran

Top of the shops / Paris

French fancy

For many, Parisian days always start with a coffee and croissant en terrace (writes Annick Weber). The two outposts of Tapisserie, a patisserie run by the founders of the Michelin-starred Septime, are the perfect place to fuel up for the shopping trip ahead. While you’re there, you can pre-order a bûche de Noël for your Christmas Eve dessert and pick up a jar or two of vanilla-poached pears to give to a friend. Then, head to Le Marais, a neighbourhood known for its independent boutiques, including Isaac Reina for raw leather bags and La Botte Gardiane for Camargue-crafted boots.

The area is also home to dozens of museums and art galleries, among which Yvon Lambert is particularly worth visiting. The renowned gallery on rue des Filles du Calvaire also stocks art and photography books, as well as limited-edition prints. At Landline, east of République, Caroline Morrison (pictured) sells made-in-Europe kitchen utensils, sheep’s-wool slippers and wooden toys with a vintage feel. For more presents for little ones, Centre Commercial Kids is just a short stroll away along Canal Saint-Martin. There, you’ll find ethical children’s clothes, hand-selected by the team behind sneaker brand Veja. On the Rive Gauche, Beige Habilleur has you covered for menswear and accessories by both established and lesser-known labels such as Paraboot, Arpenteur and Heimat. Nearby, the Saint-Germain-des-Près branch of perfumer Officine Universelle Buly 1803 is ideal for rounding off your day in an old-world Parisian shop. Its wood-panelled interior incorporates elements taken from the original building.

Image: Marcelno

Sunday roast / London

Setting the stage

Anna Rose O’Sullivan is a principal dancer at The Royal Ballet, which she joined in 2012 (writes Liv Kessler). This festive season, she played the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the screening of The Nutcracker ballet by the Royal Opera House in London, which will be shown in UK cinemas on 17 December. Here, she tells us about life away from the stage, brunch on a Sunday in Notting Hill and her penchant for candles.

Where will we find you this weekend?
On Sunday you’ll find me resting with my family or friends and probably having a roast dinner.

Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or a jolt?
After training during the week, it’s a day for rest. It’s vital that I listen to my body and give it what it needs.

What’s for breakfast?
I like to wait for brunch with friends – eggs on toast with avocado and maybe a smoothie and a coffee. Electric House in Notting Hill is my favourite brunch spot.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
My family recently got a dog, so any opportunity to walk her is the best form of recovery. She’s part terrier, part long-haired chihuahua. She’s the best dog ever.

Sunday soundtrack?
“A Sunday Kind of Love” by Etta James. It’s the type of music that makes you melt when you listen to it.

Sunday culture must?
I recently went to see Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends at the Gielgud Theatre. It was an amazing night filled with leading ladies from Broadway and the West End.

What’s on the menu?
Roast beef with lots of vegetables. Plus, plenty of laughter and a glass of red wine.

Sunday-evening routine?
I always sew a pair of pointe shoes for the coming week. You’ll probably find me doing it in front of the TV. I’m currently watching The Crown. I also usually have a bath and light some candles – always Aesop – for a bit of self-care.

Will you lay out an outfit for Monday?
I’m quite spontaneous with my dress sense. It depends on my mood. But there’s always a bit of colour in the outfit somewhere.

Three books you’ll be buying for others this Christmas?
Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, which is about divine female power. If I were buying for a child, then it would be the Harry Potter series. It’s what I grew up reading with my mum.

Illustration: Xiha

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Japanese-style roast beef with yuzu soy sauce

Monocle’s recipe writer Aya Nishimura shares a Japanese take on the traditional Christmas roast beef, served with a citrussy yuzu soy sauce. Enjoy.

Serves 6

For the roast beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1.3kg roasting joint of beef
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper
1 medium-size onion, sliced horizontally into quarters

For the yuzu soy sauce
7 tbsps light soy sauce
3½ tbsps mirin
2 tbsps rice vinegar
1 tbsp yuzu juice (available in Asian supermarkets and online)
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsps agave syrup (or honey)
1 garlic clove, crushed


Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan). Pour the olive oil over the beef and massage the crushed garlic, salt and pepper into the meat. If it is still cold from the fridge, leave it to sit at room temperature for at least an hour.

Heat an ovenproof pot that’s large enough to fit the whole joint. Sear and brown all the sides of the beef – give it 5 minutes per side. Remove the joint and place the onion slices in the pot. Rest the joint on top of them. Pour 3 tablespoons of water into the pan and place the lid on top to keep the steam in. Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. While waiting, combine all of the sauce ingredients.

Take the pot out of the oven and remove the beef. Cover the beef with a sheet of foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. Remove half of the onion, chop finely in a food processor, then add it to the yuzu soy sauce.

Slice the beef thinly and serve with the sauce and the rest of the trimmings. It’s also perfect for leftover sandwiches or served over a leafy salad.

Weekend plans? / Rosewood, Munich

Key to the city

Munich is chic, cosmopolitan and wealthy but it doesn’t change fast (writes Sahar Khan). This is why the city was excited by the debut of the Rosewood Munich, the first luxury hotel to open in the Bavarian capital in 16 years. It is also the first hotel in Germany for Hong Kong-based Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. The brand is creating something of a tourism trinity with its new Vienna site, Munich and a resort due to open on Lake Fuschl, near Salzburg, in 2024.

Rosewood’s hallmark is repurposing existing buildings. Berlin-based architects Hilmer Sattler Architekten Ahlers Albrecht transformed the former headquarters of Bavaria’s State Bank, built in 1894, and an adjacent 18th-century residence in Munich’s Old Town to create the new hotel. Soaring timber panels, marble moulding and oversized fireplaces in Rosewood’s signature suites and houses reinterpret the historic buildings’ baroque proportions.

“The people are so warm and chic in Munich and we wove that feeling into this property,” says Tara Bernerd, whose London-based design studio oversaw the interiors. All 132 rooms and suites have dedicated entrance halls and marble bathrooms with soaking tubs. Bernerd used Munich’s surrounding countryside to inspire the interiors, creating dark wood furnishings, as well as textured velvets and tweeds in sapphire blue and emerald green. The latter hue is inspired by the traditional Bavarian Tracht.

Image: Davide Lovatti

The hotel’s Bar Montez is already proving popular with locals. The moody jazz lounge is named after King Ludwig I’s mistress, Lola Montez. The band’s backdrop is a cubist-style stained-glass window that highlights Munich’s thriving jazz scene in the 1920s. The well-rounded menu at Brasserie Cuvilliés focuses on Bavarian and Alpine dishes, including hearty pumpkin dumplings with pecorino and ox cheek with chestnuts, Ofenschlupfer (bread pudding) and Jerusalem artichokes.

Munich weekend itinerary

Marienplatz is the city’s central square and its glockenspiel clock presents scenes from Munich’s history. The Englischer Garten, a large inner-city park, has a lively beer garden under the landmark Chinese Tower.

Viktualienmarkt, on the site of an early 19th-century farmers’ market, is a pleasant maze of food stalls. Visit Spatenhaus, which serves crispy schnitzel in a wood-panelled dining hall.

The 18th-century Amalienburg hunting lodge at the Nymphenburg Palace is a rococo masterpiece created by François de Cuvilliés.

Illustration: Holly Wales

Bottles to buy / Top cellars

Real corkers

Every week, Monocle’s resident wine expert Chandra Kurt selects the top bottles to enjoy over the festive season or store for the year ahead. For her full listing, buy a copy of The Forecast, our read on 2024 and beyond, which is on newsstands now.

Château La Mascaronne 2022, Grande Réserve
Provence, France
This pale, delicate but structured rosé from entrepreneur Michel Reybier is a superb blend of grenache and mourvèdre grapes, pressed and vinified separately in small vats.

Domaine Alexandre Bonnet Blanc Les Riceys 2020
Champagne, France
This blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and blanc vrai is clean with notes of lime – more like a creamy, fatty oyster than a chablis. Its freshness gives way to reveal a touch of oregano.

Fürst Spätburgunder Bürgstadter Berg Erste Lage 2021
Franconia, Germany
Climate change has been rocky for winemakers but it’s helped the German pinot noirs ripen sooner than ever. Rudolf Fürst is a magician of finesse and this is a perfect red for poultry.

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