From the world’s most anticipated openings to ingenious start-ups and practical advice on how to set up your own star bar, here are our hand-picked heroes benchmarking top-notch service.
Opened in January in lower Manhattan, Sixty SoHo (fomerly 60 Thompson) is the hotly anticipated work of acclaimed British interior-design studio Tara Bernerd & Partners and hotelier Jason Pomeranc. Expect glass, steel and velvety finishes in the 97 timber-floored rooms that come with artwork commissioned by British artist Harland Miller.
The feeling is cosy in spite of the industrial accents while high windows shed light onto the lounge where cream-and-blue couches surround hefty iron tables piled high with books. At the Gordon bar an eclectic collection of flowerpots and old maps blends in with bouncy sofas on a vibrant tiled floor. To eat there’s New York restaurateur John McDonald’s menu at Italian-themed Sessanta as well as Above Sixty SoHo, a members-and-guests-only roof terrace sure to top the socialite’s tick list for the year to come.
Many people prefer home cooking to eating out but not all of them have time to slavishly perfect their soufflé for dinner parties. With this in mind Giorgio Riccò launched an online service that brings private chefs into your home to do the hard work for you.
La Belle Assiette lists about 420 such chefs in five countries on its website. Customers planning everything from a romantic meal for two to a wedding party can browse the menus, check photographs of the dishes and pore through other customer reviews before booking and paying up front for a restaurant-quality meal cooked in the intimacy of their own home.
La Belle Assiette began in France in 2012 before moving into Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland. Next came a full launch in the UK in December 2014 with expansion to further European nations on the horizon.
Hidden in the untouched forest of Hanazono in northern Japan, Zaborin is a new ryokan (guest house) with 15 villas situated directly above the Zabo natural spring. Each villa has its own indoor and outdoor bath with spring water fed directly from the Zaborin hot spring, 1,000 metres below ground. The warm water is also used for under-floor heating in the villas and for melting the snow on the driveways of the property.
For the active there’s good skiing in the Niseko region or in the new resort of Hanazono, while some villas feature a tatami room overlooking a private courtyard. In the restaurant Hokkaido-born chef Yoshihiro Seno uses seasonal produce to create authentic teppanyaki and kaiseki (traditional multi-course) dining.
After two decades as creative director at several Tokyo nightclubs, Luli Shioi (pictured) traded dancefloors for dumplings when she started her own catering firm, Mama Luli, in 2012. The self-taught chef who spent a few years looking up culinary ideas in Sydney in the 2000s makes whatever her clients request, from catered dinners to cakes.
“My food is homemade and healthy,” says Shioi, who is unwilling to commit to a single style of cookery. Her impressive recipes come from around the globe and word-of-mouth reviews keep her phone ringing with requests from small business to global corporations, including Nike and Yves Saint Laurent. When Monocle visits, deliveries going out include a lunch order for a nearby office.
Whereas larger catering companies encompass a team of managers, chefs and an army of waiters with set menus, Shioi designs unique dishes for the needs of the client. “I ask them what they want to eat, how and in what situation, rather than presenting a fixed menu,” she says. “And there is a joy in meeting their requests.”
This means Shioi does everything from answering the phone to serving the food – as well as selling her own granola range – but by being small she positions herself closer to customers. “I’m not a craftsman. I’m just a mama for everyone,” she says.
Sommelier Bernard Magrez and chef Joël Robuchon’s restaurant-cum-guesthouse, La Grande Maison, opened its doors in December last year. The 18th-century mansion hosts two restaurants: a swanky 42-cover affair dedicated to Robuchon’s fine dining and L’Olivier, a less formal space with room for 24.
As comes naturally to the hotels in these parts of Aquitaine, the wine list is extensive and offers the region’s renowned tipples alongside a choice of 259 bottles. Upstairs, each of the six guest rooms is designed by Bordeaux-native Frédérique Fournier and finished with French furniture and toiletries from Hermès.
When the wife of Parisian bookshop owner and former publisher Jean-Noël Flammarion saw an old hotel building in the famous and elegant shopping arcade Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert for rent, she thought it was time that Brussels finally had a small-scale luxury hotel.
Nadine Flammarion transformed the grand building into Hôtel des Galeries, which boasts a main entrance in the pedestrian street Rue des Bouchers and another in the Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. The latter gives access to the hotel’s bar and restaurant Le Comptoir des Galeries with a counter over which bites such as handmade croquettes are served with a glass of wine.
In front of the bar is a small terrace covered by the century-old glazed shopping arcade of Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. Next door a former pharmacy building also owned by Jean-Noël houses the Librarie des Galeries, where among original interior details dating back to 1946 visitors can snap up art books and photography.
Daughter and interior architect Camille Flammarion and Parisian Fleur Delesalle designed each of the 23 rooms that lie over four high-ceilinged storeys. The suites are divided over two levels, with one offering a stunning view over the Grand Place and historic City Hall of Brussels.
“We wanted modern Scandinavian accents combined with antiques found here at the Brussels Sablon,” says Nadine. “The use of natural materials like the wooden floors still respects the soul of this classified heritage building.”
Hotel Valverde occupies a six-storey 19th-century palatial building on tree-lined Avenida da Liberdade in downtown Lisbon with views of the city’s rooftops and São Jorge Castle. It includes a tree-shaded patio with swimming pool and a lounge, in which films are screened.
Each of its 25 rooms is decorated with 1950s furnishings and modern pieces sourced from Scandinavia, Italy and the UK by Bastir, the Porto design studio behind the city’s popular Bairro Alto Hotel and Vidago Palace in Portugal’s Trás-os-Montes region.
Not all of Japan’s salarymen spend the evening working late at the office or entertaining clients. Nowadays, some even take cooking classes. Since 2007, Japan’s ABC Cooking Studio has taught more than 10,000 men how to make bread, bake cakes and prepare an entire meal from scratch. The Tokyo-based company opened its first studio in 1985 for women who wanted to hone their skills in the kitchen and has expanded its network to more than 120 locations. The rise of the so-called ikumen (a play on words that combines the slang for a “dashing man” and “child rearing”) has led ABC to start its “+m” classes for men.
It is a move that reflects a shift in gender roles in Japan as men spend more time helping out at home and less time at work. Not long ago Osamu Yamada’s repertoire was limited to yaki soba, a pan-fried noodle dish. Now he cooks elaborate and healthy meals each weekend. “I started taking classes last April because my wife and I were about to have our first child and I wanted to lighten her load by doing some of the housework,” says Yamada. “It’s made my wife very happy.”
Guests in the know have been keeping quiet about the nicest new room in Palma de Mallorca: La Torre, a tower- topping suite in the new Sant Francesc Hotel Singular. Sprawling across multiple levels the suite has two bedrooms, a living room and a terrace with panoramic views to the Tramuntana Mountains and the sea. The hotel is hidden in an old manor house once owned by Mallorquín noblesse and now run by the Soldevila Ferrer family, who have overseen the Hotel Majestic in Barcelona since 1918. The 42 rooms mix old and new treasures and juxtapose antique furniture with a growing contemporary- art collection.
Aman Resorts’ new Tokyo space is the group’s first city property and the model for several urban projects to come. Situated on the top six floors of the Otemachi Tower, this 84-room hotel offers sweeping views of the Imperial Residence grounds and Mount Fuji.
Designed by Kerry Hill Architects, the interiors are adorned with Japanese touches including washi paper and camphor wood, while a Zen rock garden soothes guests at check-in. Despite its location in the bustling heart of the Japanese capital, Aman Tokyo’s spacious rooms – equipped with deep granite soaking tubs – make it a true urban oasis.
In March the Soho House group will launch its biggest venue to date in Istanbul’s bustling Beyoglu neighbourhood. With Palazzo Corpi – a 19th-century Genoese family home – as its entrance, the space straddles three buildings and includes 87 rooms. Members can expect the obligatory stunning views offered by other houses in the group and will be treated to the city’s minaret-peppered skyline from a rooftop pool. As well as showcasing its in-house spa label Cowshed, a version of London’s Cecconi’s Italian restaurant will supply the food.
As usual the look and feel come courtesy of company founder Nick Jones and design director Vicky Charles. Although the style is the fitting mix of comfort and familiarity found elsewhere, local flourishes such as Feleksan Onar’s glass-blown lamps add homeliness to the outfit’s first Anatolian outpost.
February’s debut of The Knickerbocker hotel is a contemporary reimagining of the now-legendary original of the same name. First built in 1906, the “Knick” is again conjuring images of US hospitality’s glitzy heyday from its location in a 16-storey Beaux Arts building in Midtown Manhattan – the very spot where its predecessor was shuttered in 1921. Inside expect flattering lighting and a muted palette of coffee tones with oak wood accents that punctuate the 330 rooms and suites. Stylist Ted Gibson outfitted the front-of-house staff in sporty-chic slate grey uniforms and at the restaurant and café, Michelin-starred chef Charlie Gibson serves up a storm with a few of the Empire State’s regional delicacies. Rooftop bar St Cloud is perched underneath the New Year’s Eve Ball and offers a mean martini overlooking Times Square.
“Even in today’s social-media dominated world, no one is sitting at home with a shoebox full of printed tweets, comments or ‘likes’,” says Lisa Krowinski (pictured, top right, second from right) when asked about the relevance of the cards produced at her workshop in Pittsburgh. From the space on Butler Street, passers-by can spot Krowinski and her team of five carefully turning out cards and paper-based stationery pieces by the hundreds of thousands. The business’s survival is an indication that despite advances in electronic technology there’s still value in a hand-delivered envelope shielding a thoughtful thank you. It’s both a case of what you say and how you say it. Sapling Press’s mission is to put traditional typography into the hands of its customers. “Old typefaces are just so beautiful to look at,” says Krowinski. “And humour is the most important part; we want our cards to be funny but in a truthful way, not crass or cheesy.”
While she writes many of the cards herself, Krowinski also collaborates with authors to come up with memorable quotes: “There’s nothing more desperate and sad than trying to stop an email from sending,” one card reads.Sapling started 12 years ago when Krowinski, then a Baltimore-based graphic designer, grew weary of working in the glare of a screen. “I missed getting my hands dirty,” she says.
A longstanding fondness for wooden letterpress blocks led her to seek out a printing-press professor at Maryland Institute College of Art, from whom she learned the fundamentals of her budding business idea. She went on to buy her first printing machine, a Vandercook SP15, fired it up and so began the business that has occupied her ever since.
In spring 2003, Krowinski sold the first series of Sapling’s cards at the National Stationery Show in New York. “I had no idea what I was doing then,” she says, adding that she has since picked up much about how to run the business side of things at trade fairs. One such lesson was to hone her cards into themed collections rather than large eclectic mixes of styles and sentiments. Krowinski’s professional background continues to come in handy as she designs other paper- based paraphernalia such as clothing tags, business cards and wedding invites.
“The feeling you get when you receive a greeting card in the mail can’t be replicated online, no matter how hard you try,” says Krowinski. Judging by the children’s noses pressed up on the studio’s front window, the same can be said for the craft of making them.