As we leave January behind, February promises to reinvigorate our senses by way of a hearty beef-shin stew recipe, rejuvenating stay at a rustic Tuscan guesthouse and communal farm-to-table restaurant in Scotland’s Pentland Hills. Plus: an aromatic aperitif to settle in with and Apple’s technological vision of the future. But first, Tyler Brûlé has a few tales from the high seas.
We’re in uncharted territory this weekend dear reader, so buckle up. Or better yet, don a life jacket. For starters, I’m on a cruise ship. Second, I’m in the Caribbean. And third, I’m rather enjoying myself. This little adventure got under way last Sunday, when I made a quick dash from the microphone at our Zürich studio set-up to the number four tram. From there it was a quick connection to the train to Zürich Airport and then a little shuttle out to the Swiss A330 that would zip over to Montréal. On Canadian soil, immigration officers seem to have been given a few hours of retraining in charm school as they now say “Welcome home” when they finish inspecting your passport, rather than interrogating you about why you live overseas. That said, there’s still plenty of work to be done to improve the arrival process but it’s progress.
Two hours after landing, I was in Ottawa visiting my grandmother. I brought her a box of Luxemburgerli from Sprüngli, we chatted in German, I inspected her radio to ensure that it was tuned to the correct Estonian station and marvelled at all the letters that she had received from various Governor-Generals and the Queen. You might recall that my grandmother is 105 and a reminder that a moderate diet, sunshine, coffee and dancing are all tonics to help us pass the 100 mark. The following morning it was off to Toronto to audition architects for an overhaul of retail operations on College Street and then a little cocktail with friends and family. Over drinks I told some high-school friends that I was off to the Caribbean to join a cruise ship and, after a few looks of shock and some explaining (“We did the branding and visual identity for a new premium player in the sector,” I told them), my friend Nicole advised that I only needed to concern myself with St Barths and that first-stop Barbados wasn’t really her scene.
Some 12 hours later our jolly Air Canada flight touched down in Bridgetown. The five-hour hop south was a bit like a west Toronto social club with more than half the cabin somehow connected through church rummage sales, friends and family flight passes or winters spent on compounds along the island’s west coast. Bubbly Barbara, the in-charge flight attendant, made sure that we left the flight with plenty of treats and reminded me to say hello to my mom. She also managed to get the entire crew to sign a card that was presented to me on landing as a thank you for bringing back the Air Canada maple-leaf roundel (our creative agency Winkreative tidied up the airline’s identity a few years back). I’d be telling a fib if I said that I didn’t feel a little jolt of national pride at that moment.
Outside the terminal, Laurent was waiting to make a speedy introduction to the island. First the east coast, then overland past a few estates and, finally, to the Coral Reef Club for check-in, a dip and sundowners. As Laurent runs the Mount Gay rum brand, the rest of the evening became a warm, tasty, gentle blur. Despite Nicole’s warnings about Barbados, I was quite enjoying the place, particularly the sleepy, easy pace of the area and its rather confident air of not trying to impress – or be especially modern.
On Wednesday afternoon the midnight hull and gleaming-white superstructure of Explora 1 came into view as we drove along the dock in Bridgetown. I was supposed to visit the ship while it was under construction at Fincantieri’s shipyard but coronavirus measures got in the way. I was due to be on one of the inaugural voyages but the Monocle Quality of Life Conference blocked that embarkation. Having worked on a few high-profile airline projects beyond Air Canada, there’s a satisfying delight in seeing your team’s design work applied to the fuselage of a Boeing or an Airbus. Being able to look at your handiwork across a massive expanse of steel or atop a funnel is a whole other kind of rush. In this instance, more of a point of Swiss pride as its parent company, MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company), is headquartered in Geneva.
I have been on board for a couple of days, keeping a mental log book and processing the pluses and minuses of this type of travel (to date I have only sampled Hapag-Lloyd and Silversea ships.) Some of it I will share next week once I’ve disembarked in Gustavia and some I will share quietly with the shipowners. Now it’s time for a little beach, sun and rum moment here on St Kitts.
The Swiss are well known to excel in all matters of hospitality, even beyond their own borders (writes Ivan Carvalho). At Casa Newton, set amid the rolling hills of Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia region, the Bertherat family from Geneva display yet again the Helvetic gift for hosting. Opened this past autumn, the 11-room hotel occupies a renovated 19th-century villa once home to a family who were relatives of famed physicist Isaac Newton.
The welcoming Sienna-brick hue of the façade hints at a rustic farmhouse yet, inside, a rich assortment of fabrics, tiles and colours form a sophisticated 1970s-style setting. “I think it’s important to not forget about the history of the house,” says architect and owner Antonie Bertherat-Kioes. “Our idea [for the design] was to do it like it would be our home. We wanted a cosy atmosphere without it being old-fashioned.”
For more on Casa Newton, pick up the latest issue of ‘The Escapist’, which is available on newsstands now.
Ready-to-wear French label Soeur opened its first London boutique on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, London, last week (writes Lucrezia Motta). Founded in 2007, the brand reflects the sisterly bond between co-founders Angélique and Domitille Brion. Here, Domitille tells us about her favourite flea market in Paris, the classic French dishes that she serves up on a Sunday and where she goes to escape the city.
Where will we find you this weekend?
I’ll usually be at the farmers’ market on the Avenue de Saxe but I could also be next to my fireplace reading newspapers, having lunch at home with family or on an island by the Atlantic coast.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or a jolt?
I take time for myself and start by preparing lunch for everyone. I don’t like to have a schedule on the weekends
What’s for breakfast?
Black coffee and fresh bread with butter, which I dip into the coffee. I also like to drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon.
Lunch in or out?
I prefer lunch in. I like to make the most of my slow mornings.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
No dogs, especially in Paris.
A Sunday soundtrack?
Chet Baker or Glenn Gould – songs that put me in the right mood allow me to be in my own bubble.
Sunday culture must?
The flea market Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves. I love meeting my daughter there for a stroll.
News or no news?
I read the L’Obs magazine every weekend. I also listen to podcasts about news and affairs, as well as design and food.
What’s on the menu?
A blanquette de veau; something traditionally French. To finish, I’ll have some good cheese and a Mont Blanc pastry from Angelina bakery – a must every Sunday.
Sunday evening routine?
I always end up watching a TV series or a film to relax. I like crime series – at the moment it’s Bodies on Netflix. I then make soup for everyone.
Will you lay out an outfit for Monday?
Never. Everything in its own time. I usually think about it while showering on Monday morning.
This classic peposo (beef stew), from Brutto: A (Simple) Florentine Cookbook, must be lovingly prepared with only the highest quality ingredients. Slow-cooked beef shin makes for a rich and hearty meal, while the peppercorns give it a fiery kick. Serve with a slice of fresh sourdough.
100g lard (or butter)
800g beef shin, cut into small chunks
Flaky sea salt, to taste
1 bottle chianti or sangiovese
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2 tbsps black peppercorns
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
Black pepper, to taste
Sourdough bread, for serving
Melt half of the lard in a large frying pan and sear the meat on all sides until it is nicely browned. Add a few pinches of salt to the pan during this process. You might need to fry the meat in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. If there is any dark residue at the bottom of the pan, it can be deglazed with a splash of red wine.
Once the beef shin has browned, transfer it to an even larger saucepan with the remaining lard. Add the sliced garlic and peppercorns, and stir for 1 minute. Now, add the chopped tomatoes and the rest of the wine. Briefly bring to a boil, before reducing to a low simmer.
For the next 4 hours, keep half an eye on your peposo to make sure that it’s not drying out. If it is, cover the pan, though the full bottle of wine should be sufficient to keep it stew-like. After 4 hours, check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. The beef shin will have disintegrated somewhat and become stringy and soft. If it hasn’t, then leave it in for longer. You could also let it cool and leave it covered overnight. Just make sure to give it another 30 minutes on a medium heat the next day.
Serve with hunks of sourdough or unsalted Tuscan bread. penguin.co.uk
The Free Company is snuck into the Pentland Hills, a short drive from central Edinburgh, and has gained a reputation for its cosy premises, cordial welcome and hearty food. Once you make your way through the winding country lanes leading to this popular farm-cum-restaurant, you’ll see a glimmer of light coming from the roaring fire in the yard, and a pair of friendly faces.
Owners and brothers Angus and Charlie Buchanan-Smith who started The Free Company in late 2016 with friends Stella Stewart and Jack Fletcher, make a point of personally greeting their dinner guests at the restaurant’s entrance before directing them to the ground-floor bar, which serves organic wines, regional beers and perfectly mixed cocktails. The six-course menu is ever-changing but some highlights from its recent winter series include house pickles, beef-fat beetroot and aged Shetland hogget.
Botivo is a drink in a category of its own (writes Liv Kessler). Somewhere between aperitif and herbal tonic, the British-made tipple, born out of a partnership between Imme Ermgassen and Sam Paget Steavenson, is a good bridge between day and night. “Non-alcoholic drinks also deserve to be well made and have all that passion and thought put into them,” says Ermgassen.
Botivo is made by infusing apple cider vinegar with fresh herbs and spices for several weeks, before adding a touch of wildflower honey to balance out the final product. The result? The right mix of bitter, citrus and herbal notes, one that goes rather well with tonic water, soda or even a little booze. Bulgarian illustrator and animator Rozalina Burkova is responsible for the branding, which Ermgassen tells Monocle is “intentionally playful and pleasure-seeking” to offset the seriousness and moderation that non-alcoholic drinks normally attract.
Apple’s first all-new product in almost 10 years launched on Friday in the US (writes David Phelan). The Vision Pro is the company’s first step into spatial computing, though its price tag of $3,499 (€3,216) means that it won’t be in every home.
The headset has remarkably high-resolution displays that sit in front of your eyes thanks to clever software and many cameras. While it’s far from the first of its kind on the market, Apple’s mantra is, “Don’t do it first, do it right.” The Vision Pro lets you see a virtual computer screen in the middle of your room (and interact with it by pointing or using a keyboard), while the visor lets others see your eyes – or a digital version of them, at least.
This is easily the most advanced and effective headset available to purchase. Even though it’s versatile and capable, however, a question remains: do people want to wear a headset for hours at a time?
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