Worked up a hearty appetite this week? Read on to hear why the brothers behind El Celler de Can Roca are going back to basics in Girona and learn about the most creative new openings in Mexico City. Still peckish? We sit down with Oslo chef Esben Holmboe Bang to talk larder staples and, for dessert, Ralph Schelling has a recipe for a showstopping mille-crêpe cake. For starters, Tyler Brûlé is getting dressed up.
What are you going to wear today? It’s a big question I know but let’s take a few moments to ponder it. As it’s Sunday, you might shift from pyjamas to something a little more athletic and then slip back into something that’s supposed to be a bit more formal but still looks like pyjamas. I hope not. Or you might take “Sunday best” to heart and pull out your finest suit, polish your shoes, knot a tie and head to church. Or if you’re really fortunate, you might be reading this in a corner of the world where such a question is completely absurd because you have the luxury of being able to walk to your wardrobe and pull on a national costume, regimental uniform or ethnic ensemble.
On a recent trip to the Gulf I felt a little left out, underdressed and wrinkled as I watched groups of men shuffle around the mall in their creaseless kanduras and crocodile sandals. What a luxury to just pull on a T-shirt, undies and a flowing white robe, top it off with a jaunty head-dress and then be ready for any occasion: breakfast meeting with the lawyer, greeting head of state on tarmac, three hours at Starbucks with your cousins, rally driving in the desert or interviewing Latvian personal assistants in a bar at 02.00. I get a similar feeling in Japan when I see men and women wearing kimonos on a Sunday in Ginza with their dainty bags, fans tucked in their obi and delicate wedge sandals. For sure, they’re not as easy to get in and out of as a kandura but there’s a simplicity to it all that makes me wish there was a well-cut, comfortable but dignified Swiss national costume that could work equally well for client presentations, Saturday stock-ups at the supermarket and also dinner at Kronenhalle.
People seem to like a doeskin short and a bit of knee – a uniform that’s familiar and has a jolt of authority but also says “prepared to party at the snap of a pretzel”.
The closest I can get to national dress and pull it off somewhat convincingly is to go Austro-Bavarian. Fun fact, I’m writing this column in a head-to-toe look from Munich’s Lodenfrey: Ludwig Reiter lace-ups, grey knee-high socks with a dark-green weave up the back of the calf, Meindl lederhosen, collarless shirt and dark-green velvet waistcoat with grey felt trim and horn buttons. While I wish I was in Munich for the real Oktoberfest (the official event was cancelled yet again) I decided that we should do our own version in Zürich. That way we could both bring together Monocle’s Mitteleuropean readers and briefly experience the joy of having to concern yourself with just one look that allows little room for interpretation and also makes you feel firmly fastened, look super sharp and generate endless compliments. “Oh, you look so chic. Wow!” says a good friend. “Now that’s hot,” says a regular customer. “Can I feel your lederhosen? You should wear that every day, so elegant,” says another. You get the idea. People seem to like a doeskin short and a bit of knee – a uniform that’s familiar and has a jolt of authority but also says “prepared to party at the snap of a pretzel”.
Given all the discussion around sustainable fashion and identity politics, isn’t this the time for the return of national dress? No more large wardrobes packed full of seasonal outfits and fast fashion. Instead, regionally made pantaloons, tunics, gilets and elaborate hats. Also, national costumes are the epitome of equality as everyone gets to look the same: social rank and status disappear behind folds of boiled wool, raw linen and fancy pleating. I’m not sure if my Austro-Bavarian Tracht is the answer for a 21st-century, heart-of-Europe, hard-wearing costume but it’s got a few of the necessary elements and I’d be very happy to button, lace and strap myself in all over again tomorrow.
The Monocle Media Summit returns to London on 14 October and we’d love to see you there. Join our editors for a look at the brands, correspondents and titles that are shaping the media landscape and steering its future. We’ll also be hoisting a glass to celebrate 10 years on the airways for Monocle 24. Appearing this year are CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward, Zeitmagazin editorial director Christoph Amend and journalist and broadcaster Christine Ockrent. We’ll also speak to cultural commentator and president of The Media Society Peter York and designer and founder of Mag Culture Jeremy Leslie, and get the headlines from Finnish TV anchor Matti Rönkä and BBC anchor Mishal Husain. Book your ticket today.
The Roca brothers are better known for fine dining than simple neighbourhood restaurants but the pandemic pushed them to try something new: an establishment they called Normal, in their native Girona. “We’re not conformists, so we weren’t able to sit still during the forced closures of 2020,” says restaurateur and co-founder Jordi Roca. “We whirred into action to see how we could preserve our entire ecosystem – the talent, knowledge, employees and food providers – and keep them thriving.” As well as El Celler de Can Roca, which is arguably their most famous opening, the brothers preside over ice-cream parlour Rocambolesc and Casa Cacao, a small chocolate factory, shop and hotel in the centre of the northern-Catalonian city.
“Normal is the alchemy of who we are,” says Josep Roca, the restaurant’s director and sommelier. As he joins us at the table, a tortilla layered with fresh white gambetta mushrooms is served by a friendly-faced waiter. Elsewhere on the menu the dishes are simple and comforting, from beef Wellington to a sheep’s-milk flan for dessert. “As we are people of the Mediterranean, restaurants are places to socialise,” says Josep. “And they will continue to be.” The dining chairs we sit back on were inspired by traditional Spanish seats and designed by Andreu Carulla, who has been collaborating with the Roca Brothers on product design since 2009 and designed the space. The idea? To celebrate the everyday, ordinary and normal. The result? Anything but.
There are exciting openings galore in the Mexican capital. At Grupo Habita’s slick downtown property Círculo Mexicano, chef Gabriela Cámara has opened two new seafood spots. Known for her buzzy restaurant Contramar, where diners are transported to a seaside town on the Pacific coast, Cámara has again brought the ocean to the concrete jungle with Caracol de Mar. This sophisticated restaurant is in the hotel’s open-air courtyard, where guests are served fresh prawn aguachile and Peruvian-Japanese tiradito (like sashimi with spicy sauce) under banana palms and strings of lights.
At the unfussy Itacate Del Mar, conchas (sweet buns in the shape of shells) and Cámara’s tuna tostada layered with avocado and chipotle mayo are available to take away. While Caracol is more formal, Cámara says “they have a common thread of simple Mexican food”.
In the Roma district, chef Lucho Martinez has taken over the old Máximo Bistrot space with a new opening called Em. Inside the creamy interior lined with slick black chairs, Martinez serves an inspired menu of dishes that put a Japanese spin on Mexican ingredients such as baby corn with yuzu butter and soy. It’s polished and approachable – words that perfectly suit the city’s restaurant scene.
Danish-born chef Esben Holmboe Bang’s food is centred on the fresh, bright flavours of Norway, which he now calls home. Using organic, wild and biodynamic produce, his dishes are simple, layered and, at times, boundary-pushing. In addition to running Maaemo, Norway’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Oslo-based Bang opened a space in Shenzen in 2019 and a beautiful brasserie called The Vandelay in late 2020. Here, he tells us about jazz in the morning, sifting through the weekend papers and why he likes to start his Sundays early.
Where do we find you this weekend?
Saturdays are spent at my restaurant but on Sundays, I’m usually at home with the family – in the garden, if the weather allows.
What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I always start my days early. It can be a gentle start but it needs to start.
Soundtrack of choice?
I put on a few jazz LPs early in the morning. Then, I move on to talk radio.
What’s for breakfast?
Eggs and maybe pastries. I’m not one for big, sweet breakfasts, so I’d rather have something warm and savoury. Toast with good cheese is my favourite.
News or not?
Definitely news. I like to sift through the weekend papers.
Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Sunday is actually the only day I don’t exercise; I get up early and see where the day takes me.
Lunch in or out?
Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Really good cheese, butter, eggs and sourdough bread. Oh, and oats for porridge. I love porridge.
Sunday culture must?
I like to catch up on the news by listening to the radio in the afternoon. Then, music. Films are also always a welcome addition.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
Maybe a bit of both.
A glass of something you’d recommend?
Plenty of water and good coffee. If it’s dinner time, a white burgundy.
Ideal dinner venue?
Home. Preferably with family and friends.
The ideal dinner menu?
A whole roasted chicken with roast potatoes and a green salad – the perfect Sunday feast.
This week Swiss chef Ralph Schelling rustles up a Japanese speciality. Made from skinny pancakes and layers of whipped cream, this dessert takes about an hour to prepare (including cooling time). Feel free to add fresh fruit on top or within the layers for a fresh, seasonal twist.
250g plain white flour
50g butter, melted
50g caster sugar
1 pinch of salt
30g matcha powder (plus extra for sprinkling)
550g single cream
110g icing sugar
Seeds from one vanilla pod
Mix flour, milk, water, butter, eggs, sugar, salt and matcha powder to form a smooth batter then chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Whip the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla to form stiff peaks and refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat a little cooking oil in a skillet on a medium heat and fry the batter for a few minutes until it begins to brown and keeps its shape. Turn and repeat until cooked. Do this in batches to make about 15 thin crêpes of about 15cm in diameter and 2mm thick. Refrigerate the crêpes for 15 minutes until cool.
Begin to layer the crêpes. Evenly spread about 1 tbsp of cream on top of the first crêpe, cover with another and add another layer of cream. Continue until crêpes and cream are used up – don’t add cream to the top layer.
Finally, sprinkle the cake generously with matcha powder and serve.
The lucky few who attended Monocle’s conference in Athens last weekend will have learnt that the Greeks keep their list of favourite islands rather close to their chest for fear of everyone turning up. But this escape on the breathtaking Cycladic island of Antiparos was too good to keep to ourselves. “Antiparos is all about calm and that’s what we’re trying to achieve at The Rooster,” says owner Athanasia Comninos, who opened the resort on the remote northwestern side of the island earlier this year. “We really want to keep our footprint to a minimum.”
The 16 earth-coloured villas, which are made from island stone, seem to blend into the hilly landscape. It goes without saying that you won’t find any sunbeds, umbrellas or music blaring on the beach. As the evening sky turns to a pale purple, guests start to trickle from the bar to the outdoor dining area, which serves a seasonal menu by chef Andreas Nikolopoulos that makes tasteful use of produce from The Rooster’s vegetable garden just a few hundred metres away. Think traditional xynomizithra whey cheese with grapefruit, lavender and aniseed; cauliflower steak with herbs; or king-crab risotto delicately scented with saffron. “People told me that I was crazy not to choose a sea view for the restaurant,” says Comninos. “But there is something special about the hills.”
The spacious and elegant villas are designed by Athens-based firm Vois, led by architect duo Katerina Vordoni and Fania Sinanioti, and Comninos, who previously studied interior design in London, has incorporated ideas from her travels to Brazil, Mexico and beyond. “I don’t come from a hospitality background but I always used to dream of opening my own hotel,” she says, looking down onto the cedar-covered beach as preparations are made for a private event. “For now I’m just excited to be able to share my happy place with other people.” theroosterantiparos.com
To celebrate the launch of ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’, we’ve selected a smattering of inspiring upstarts and smart businessfolk to spotlight. This week: a Toronto bookshop that’s sticking to type.
Joanne Saul and Samara Walbohm founded Type Books in 2006. “When we started, Amazon was on the rise and so was Indigo [Canada’s largest book retailer],” says Saul. “Neighbourhood bookshops were disappearing.” Now Type has three locations across the city and 13 staff, and is one of the best-loved names within Toronto’s constellation of independent booksellers. “Our shops are a collaborative project,” says Saul. “We have incredible staff who help us choose the books. But our selection is also influenced by the people who come in and talk to us.”
Literacy programmes for children, readings and signings, and exhibitions by Toronto artists are also among Type’s offerings. “What we imagined for our business was so against the prevailing wisdom at the time that finding capital was impossible. Many thought we were crazy. Thankfully, we had some savings and our families and friends were willing to take a risk and help,” says Saul. It has never been plain sailing but Saul says that this has taught her plenty of lessons: “Prices are generally printed directly onto books. If someone wants to shop online, we can’t compete with that – nor do we want to.” A recent innovation is the “mystery bag”, which costs CA$100 (€68) and is personally curated by one of Type’s booksellers (Margaret Atwood is among those who have bought one). “In those bags we’re able to do what we love, which is to put the right books in people’s hands,” says Saul.
For more inspiring start-ups, tips, advice and provocations about making your passion your vocation, pick up a copy of ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’. Have a super Sunday.