On Monocle’s radar this month are a forested villa just outside Shanghai, an expanding retail concept store in Japan, a coffee shop in São Paulo, London’s latest hotel spa, and a homely bistro in Mexico City.
Each morning, dozens of fishing boats dock in the idyllic village of Reine in the Lofoten archipelago, northern Norway. Dating back almost 350 years, the Reine Rorbuer hotel has 35 red-painted cottages that used to be fishermen’s cabins, otherwise known as rorbuer. First built in the 12th century, rorbuer are a familiar sight on the Nordland coast and are typically built on stilts. Refurbished by Norwegian architect Niels Nicolaisen, this cluster of cabins is an annual destination for dedicated guests who either prepare freshly caught fish in their cabin kitchen or pop over to the Gammelbua restaurant for views of the midnight sun in summer or Northern Lights in winter.
The Reine Rorbuer offers outdoor activities including fjord cruises, fishing trips, hiking, boat rental and eagle watching.
Pottery, clothing and organic food are Starnet’s offerings. Having started as a shop and café in Mashiko, a town northeast of Tokyo known for its pottery, Starnet has added two shops – in Tokyo and Osaka – this year. The Osaka store occupies the former home of a wholesale-textiles purveyor in a once-thriving district of merchants, tile makers and doll artisans. The second-floor café’s menu is heavy on seasonal vegetables, and a larger café space is planned for the ground floor.
Mashiko-yaki bowls from Mashiko’s kilns, fresh produce at monthly farmers’ market.
Despite its name, this newly opened resort in the bamboo forests of Moganshan, two and a half hours from Shanghai, does not require guests to strip off upon arrival. The retreat includes 30 spectacular treetop villas complete with Jacuzzis and 40 earth huts within the 24-hectare private nature reserve complete with a stable.
The Naked Retreats hotel brand is owned by architect Delphine Yip and her South African husband Grant Horsfield, who were also behind the Naked Home Village, a conservation project of traditional Chinese farmhouses in the same location that opened in 2007.
The earth huts and clubhouse are innovatively built using rammed-earth walls to ensure energy consumption is minimised. It is aiming for an industry-recognised Leed platinum certification.
In the hippyish Vila Madalena neighbourhood is Coffee Lab, a roastery and café run by Isabela Raposeiras. “Guests can follow the brewing process and get involved,” she says. All brews are sourced from her native Brazil and can be paired with coffee-themed snacks.
Highlight: Raposeiras also hosts brewing workshops.
In anticipation of the 2012 Olympics, new hotels are popping up all over the UK capital. Spring saw the opening of the Corinthia hotel in Whitehall, a building that was previously the Ministry of Defence HQ and this July the hotel opened its impressive four-floor Espa Life spa. Designed by GA Design, the spa is lavishly kitted out with calacatta and black marble, tiled hammam-style steam rooms and an unusual swimming pool – the lighting around it works so that movement in the water is reflected on the ceiling.
Pop in for an extensive range of treatments or choose from two types of club membership packages that include the use of the gym. Book yourself into the private spa suite for a personalised facial.
A German Klafs sauna with an amphitheatre-like design. Relax on sunken seating and look out through its glass walls on to the rest of the spa.
“The restaurant was designed with a house and country club in mind” says Juan Carretero, architect and designer of restaurant-cum-bar-cum-living room, Country Bistro. The eclectic space has been drawing crowds to the Bosques de las Lomas district.
Watermelon Margaritas and pork ribs by chef Israel Montero.