Hungry for food and knowledge? This week’s dispatch is just the ticket. We rustle up a smoky, chargrilled salad, learn the secrets of UK chef Tom Kerridge’s weekend menu and head to Athens to meet a new generation of restaurateurs shaking up the Greek capital’s food scene. Plus: a cookbook that celebrates trading in life in the big city for the quiet of the country. But first, Tyler Brûlé sets the table…
Today’s column is being typed out at 35,000 feet, just off the west coast of South Korea. If the in-flight moving map is correct, then we’ll soon pass just south of Suwon and Wonju and before long be out over the country’s east coast. I boarded this flight in Paris almost 11 hours ago. As I settled into my seat, the captain came to say hello and apologised for the two-hour delay. He explained that Chinese airspace was particularly complicated – in fact, more complicated than usual – and that he would have to be very precise when crossing over the country. He didn’t go into much detail but I did notice that we made an awful lot of turns and climbs as we sped over the PRC, before making a slightly harder right to jet across the Korean peninsula. There’s maybe time for one or two more coffees before I slip out of my pyjamas and back into my daywear. Also, I need to remember to ask the flight attendant to return the boxes of éclairs that I left with her when I boarded. But before we start making the approach, let’s go back to the start of this journey. Can you recall the last time you had one of those flights when you just hit it off with the flight attendant from the get-go and knew it was all going to be good?
“You have your own apartment this evening.” This was her opening line as I arranged things around my seat – notebook and pen at the ready, shoes in locker, slippers on, and phone charging, before checking out the Sisley products, applying the face cream and observing the chic bits of Air France branding here and there. “There’s no one else joining you to Tokyo Haneda tonight. Lucky you.” I glanced across at the empty seats, was handed a menu and then she said, “We can pretend it’s just us on a private Falcon all the way to Japan.”
“I like your thinking,” I said and, as we chatted, the gentleman in charge of the flight came by and asked how long I’d be staying in Japan and if I would be returning with them. I explained that I was heading to Seoul and HK after Tokyo but, perhaps, if they were working the Hong Kong route next weekend, I might see them on my return to Paris CDG.
“I’m going to make your bed up for you over here so that you can dine and work, and then just roll into bed,” she said. I agreed that this was an excellent idea and said that I wouldn’t be dining as it was already past midnight and I might watch a film. “Also, I must apologise that the wifi is not working on this flight. I’m not sure why but the maintenance team wasn’t able to identify the problem before the aircraft was turned around.” C’est dommage. I had a glass or two of champagne and then crossed the aisle to tuck myself in and watch a film. I took the little paper sterilisation seal off the headphones and found the film that I wanted to watch but there was no sound. Hmmmmmppphhhh! A two-hour delay, “pas de wee-fee” and no audio would normally irk me but I put my head down, plotted the week ahead and passed out.
Just east of Ulaanbaatar, I woke up to go to the bathroom. I fumbled around to find my slippers, managed to locate and slide into them and stood up. I was going to turn on a light but couldn’t be bothered and went to pull back the curtain. At the exact same moment on the opposite side, the flight attendant did the same thing and we scared the hell out of each other. We were nose to nose, there was very little light in the galley and given I’d been sleeping for a solid six hours and been holding off on a haircut until I hit Tokyo, I definitely had horns atop my head. She didn’t quite scream but she let out a high-pitched “Oooooo”, I made a gravelly “Ohhhhhhh” and then we both retreated into the galley and started to laugh somewhat hysterically.
From check-in to lounge to aircraft, I spoke to four people working for Air France and all had been with the airline for about 20 to 35 years. One had started in Grenoble and made her way to Paris, another was always based at CDG and the woman looking after me had been there for 19 years. She told me how much she loved her job. As we started our approach to Tokyo Haneda, she asked whether I enjoyed the flight and whether I minded if she turned up the lights a little. “What was not to like?” I asked. “Perfect service and enjoyable.”
At some point across 2024, CEOs and their accounting teams in various corners of the service sector will look at costs and headcount, and there’ll be a temptation to pay off those who have been around the longest. Do not. Seasoned pros should be cherished, rewarded and retained for they are the embodiment of the brand. Merci.
Bengal Brothers’ signature kathi rolls (a popular street food from Kolkata) are a lunchtime favourite in Hong Kong. Tanvir Bhasin and Vidur Yadav, both originally from India, upgraded the colourful Wan Chai restaurant in 2023, adding dinner service, cocktails and new dishes inspired by the Parsi cafés of Mumbai and the toddy stalls of Kerala.
“Every city in India has its own version of a café and we want to represent what they stand for,” says Yadav. The restaurant emits a vibrant energy, buoyed by service with two big smiles.
For more ideas on where to eat, stay and shop in Hong Kong, pick up the newest issue of ‘The Escapist’.
Dubai has much more than malls (writes Jack Simpson). For wonderfully wobbly-looking ceramics, try Cole & Cinder: a Dubai-based firm founded by Nicole Farrelly, whose studio you can book to visit. As far as independent bookshops go, Magrudy’s is the original independent but Books Kinokuniya Dubai in Dubai Mall is the most well-stocked. Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz is the place to nab an original artwork, while The Edit, curated by Rumana Nazim, focuses on womenswear by female-founded brands.
Nearby is The Flip Side record shop, ready to cater to vinyl collectors. For something sweet, Kathy Johnston’s Mirzam chocolate factory is the place to stock up on UAE-made confectionery. On the fashion front, Emirati Mohammed Kazim’s comely sandal shop Tamashee is a must and L’Afshar makes simple handbags and accessories. Last up we’re off to D3 for a scoot around The Lighthouse concept shop and Peter Ahn’s Frame, both of which are piled with books and design items.
British chef Tom Kerridge is the co-owner of the two-Michelin-starred pub The Hand and Flowers and the one-starred The Coach, both in Buckinghamshire, as well as London’s Kerridge’s Bar and Grill (writes Julia Lasica). Kerridge is the author of several cookbooks, the latest of which is called Pub Kitchen: The Ultimate Modern British Food Bible, published by Bloomsbury Publishing. Here, he tells us about his favourite slow-cooked Sunday lunch, a spy thriller that has gripped him and why he isn’t defined by his uniform.
Where do we find you this weekend?
I mostly spend weekends with my family. On Saturdays I do odd jobs around the house. Because I live close to three of our restaurants, I might go in to ensure that things are running smoothly. Sundays are for cooking with the family and taking my little man to rugby training.
Lunch in or out?
It isn’t always in but I do love to put stuff in the oven – and I always make more than enough in case others want to join. My favourite thing is to leave something in the oven to slow-cook before we head off for training: braises, stews, slow-roast shoulders of lamb with holes for cloves of garlic. Something easy and simple that I can leave alone for four to five hours and that makes the house smell lovely when we get back.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
Walk the dog every time. Dogs are a big part of my life and walking with them is the perfect chance for a catch-up and a wander in the countryside.
A Sunday culture must?
Always sport. It’s the form of escapism that I like to embrace and an important part of British culture. We’ll have the rugby, football or Formula 1 on our TV. In the summer, it’ll be cricket.
Do you have a Sunday-evening routine?
Not really. We try to make sure that the little man is in bed by a fairly reasonable time and then catch up on a box set. We’re a bit late to the party but the spy thriller Slow Horses is a favourite at the moment. It’s unbelievably good.
Will you lay out an outfit for Monday?
Absolutely. I have to have that organised – otherwise, I can’t sleep properly! But definitely no chef whites or a shirt and tie. I have worked hard my whole life so I don’t have to wear a uniform.
Monocle’s Japanese recipe writer, Aya Nishimura, cooks up a chargrilled broccoli salad with a fresh, sweet-and-sour take on Caesar dressing. Enjoy.
For the croutons
3 tbsps olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 slices of sourdough bread, cut into 2cm cubes
½ tsp Aleppo chilli flakes
Large pinch of salt
Crushed black pepper, to taste
For the dressing
1½ tbsps red wine vinegar
3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
3 tsps runny honey
3 fillets of anchovies, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed but kept whole
For the broccoli
200g tenderstem broccoli
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Crushed black pepper, to taste
2 medium-size eggs
30g almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
Chilli flakes, to taste
Heat the olive oil and garlic in a frying pan. Add the cubed bread and fry until crispy and golden on all sides. This will take about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add half a teaspoon of Aleppo chilli flakes, a large pinch of salt and black pepper to taste. Toss lightly and set aside.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a small jar and shake until they emulsify.
Heat a griddle pan over a high heat until it starts to smoke. In a bowl, toss the broccoli with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the broccoli mixture to the heated pan. Place a cast-iron lid (one that is smaller than the griddle pan) over the broccoli to weigh it down. Grill on both sides for about 10 minutes.
Bring some water to boil in a small pan. Gently slide the eggs into the water and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook the eggs for 6 minutes. Once cooked, drain the eggs and blanche in ice-cold water to prevent them from cooking any further.
Add the broccoli to a bowl with the chopped almonds. Pour over the dressing and mix well. Arrange the broccoli on a large plate and scatter the croutons. Peel the eggs, tear them in half and place them on top of the salad. Sprinkle with extra chilli flakes. Serve warm. ayanishimura.com
It starts with the usual tale: falling out of love with the big city and swapping concrete towers for green pastures (writes Katharine Sohn). In 2016, Julius Roberts moved from London to a smallholding in Dorset, trading the heat of the kitchen (in his case, Noble Rot on Bloomsbury’s Lamb’s Conduit Street) for the quiet of the countryside. He eased into the life of a self-taught farmer, spending his days feeding his piglets – Snap, Crackle, Pop and Alby – and learning on the job.
His first cookbook, The Farm Table, is a love letter to the seasons, brimming with rich soups, slow-roasted feasts and a guide to combining flavours from afar with what we have closer to home (its recipes use many ingredients that grow in his garden). Roberts not only makes the art of farm-to-fork life look easy but also hits the mark when it comes to home cooking.
As the winter drags on, it might be time to visit Athens, which is emerging as one of Europe’s most exciting food scenes, buoyed by young restaurateurs unafraid to play with their culinary heritage (writes Hester Underhill). One of the most hotly anticipated new arrivals is Gallina, which opened in the Koukaki neighbourhood in October. “Our menu is modern and old-fashioned at the same time,” says Vasileios Bakasis, restaurant critic, food journalist and CEO of Gallina’s parent group, Prime Rebel Snob. “It’s comfort food with a fine-dining spin.” Dishes such as turbot in assyrtiko wine sauce and rotisserie chicken with miso beurre blanc are served to diners seated on custom chairs by New York studio Objects of Common Interest.
Further north, in up-and-coming Kypseli, some of the most coveted tables in the city are found at Allios Kafeneio, which opened in July. “I wanted to update the kafeneio and bring it into a new era,” says owner Kostas Kafetsis. A kafeneio is a traditional Greek café-cum-bar that serves light meze dishes. Kafetsis’s take involves small plates of slow-roasted lamb, chicken croquettes and fried saganaki cheese drizzled with lemon, all served alongside natural wines from the Peloponnese. Celebrating small Greek producers is also the mission of Spyros Pediaditakis, who opened restaurant and bakery Akra (pictured) with chef Giannis Loukakis last spring. “We find our fruit and vegetables at the local organic market,” says Pediaditakis. “And we update the menu daily according to what we pick up there.”
For more tasty morsels, pick up the latest issue of ‘The Escapist’, which is available on newsstands now.
You might be cutting back on drinking in January but it doesn’t have to taste of botanicals and tonic water. The alcohol-free wines offered by London-based company Wednesday’s Domaine will sate your craving for a midweek tipple, closely matching the complex flavour profile and aroma of wine. In 2021 founder Luke Hemsley developed a non-alcoholic white called Piquant, which has hints of almond and citrus, as well as a red called Sanguine, with notes of fragrant plums and blackcurrants.
Made from de-alcoholised wines sourced from Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha region, the beverages are bottled and wax-sealed in the UK. “Wednesday’s Domaine is more about moderation than abstinence,” says Hemsley. “But there are moments when alcohol just doesn’t quite fit in with our busy lives.”
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