This week we point you in the direction of two up-and-coming bakeries – in London and Paris – to get your Sunday off to a tasty start. And why not think about an overnight journey across Europe? Our correspondent recounts the joys of the ÖBB Nightjet before we skip over to Lebanon to visit a hotel with a history. But first, an update from Tyler Brûlé.
Earlier this week, part of the Monocle crew boarded trains and jumped in cars, and made their way to the gentle hills above Lake Constance – destination: Wolfsberg. Not to be confused with the German city that’s home to Volkswagen’s HQ, the Swiss version of Wolfsberg is all perfectly trimmed gardens, exceptional art, fine hospitality and exquisitely run meeting facilities, as it’s here you’ll find the UBS Center for Education and Dialogue.
That might sound a bit fancy and over-inflated for what is essentially a corporate training hub but it all depends on whether you've been invited and experienced the facility first-hand. If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that has a well-oiled retreat that’s been part of the firm for decades, then holding management summits might not be much of a problem. But for smaller enterprises it’s a different matter, as a management retreat in a hotel or country estate rarely goes to plan. You might be familiar with the airless conference room in the five-star hotel where there’s a shortage of plugs for colleagues to find power and which is buried so deep that mobile signals can’t penetrate. Or perhaps you’ve gone down the stately-home route, where the walks through fields and forests are terrific for one-on-ones but the walls between rooms are so thin that you can hear your colleagues’ morning bathroom functions before you kick off a day of presentations.
There’s plenty to do before we hit Christmas – particularly when it comes to events, signing books and meeting our global community
None of these were concerns at Wolfsberg, where the “user journey” is so well-tuned that you can focus on your agenda; never worry about technological glitches; dine on well-prepared, no-nonsense classics; consume excellent wine; and sleep in a room that’s best described as “Swiss monastic-luxe”. After 24 hours with commercial and creative colleagues from two parts of our business, we had cooked up a complete plan for 2022 (of course, all subject to change) and even commandeered the bar’s sound system to create an impromptu dance floor.
So what’s in store for the year ahead? A lot! We’ll have more on our line-up over the coming months because we realised that there’s plenty to do before we hit Christmas – particularly when it comes to events, signing books and meeting our global community. Here are a few dates you might want to add to the diary.
Tomorrow night we’re launching The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs and clinking glasses with some of our Portuguese and Brazilian readers at Java in Lisbon.
On Thursday it’s The Monocle Media Summit in London, with a stellar line-up of speakers and a cosy cocktail after.
The following week we’re in Los Angeles and Toronto for more book signing.
After that, there will be events in Geneva, Zürich, Munich, Stuttgart, Milan, Paris and Amsterdam – all before our Monocle Christmas Markets.
If you’re a subscriber, you’re already on the invite list. If you’d like to secure an invite, then please join our club. It’s an excellent crowd. Promise!
To describe Dusty Knuckle’s following as “cult” would be to undersell the phrase, the bakery’s immense popularity and how good its loaves are (writes Josh Fehnert). Started in 2014 by Max Tobias and Rebecca Oliver (later joined by Daisy Terry), the firm moved to a shipping container before taking a space in Dalston from which it’s potato-sourdough loaves, rye bread and focaccia sold like, well, hot cakes, and found their way onto the tables of London’s best restaurants.
The unassuming site also hosts bread-making courses, pizza nights (ably supplied by the 40ft Brewery & Taproom nextdoor) and languorous brunches filled with bacon sandwiches, cinnamon-flecked morning buns or orange-and-poppy-seed swirls. So imagine north London’s excitement when Dusty Knuckle opened a new site on Green Lanes in Haringey this summer. And what a space. The teal-and-white exterior looks slightly more polished than the original but inside the red-trimmed bakery there’s the same hum of good-natured chatter and customers ordering ’nduja pizzas, charred sardines and baby gem in flatbread or vada pav (fried and spiced potato balls with chili, coconut and peanut masala on a soft bun).
As well as the grub – and did we mention how good that is? – the bakery is a social enterprise that helps vulnerable youngsters find their way back to meaningful work, employing 50 people and turning out 5,000 loaves a year. You might also spot it’s handsome milk float around town making deliveries. Great products, it seems, aren’t always born – sometimes they’re bread.
As you’ve read, the best bakeries take a few simple ingredients and combine them to create something magical. That’s how a small space on Rue Saint-Dominique in Paris’s 7th arrondissement became the capital’s seemliest new spot for croissants and crusty loaves.
Founder Mickael Benichou, who has five cafés in France and two in Japan, gave Franco-Israeli interior architect Emmanuelle Simon carte blanche to fashion the bijoux bakery. The result? A blue-stone floor that riffs on the Parisian paving beyond, Japanese raku-style tiles (referencing Liberté’s outposts in Kyoto and Tokyo) around the central island and a space illuminated by custom-made plaster-and-frosted glass lamps by Simon and plenty of wooden accents.
Food-wise, the alcoves behind the counter are piled high with sourdough loaves and the vitrine heaves with irresistibly rummy canelés, pains aux chocolats and light-as-air choux buns. Bravo. liberte-paris.com
Danish-born Rebekka Bay helped clothing company H&M to create the minimalist brand Cos and worked for Gap and Uniqlo before joining Finnish firm Marimekko as creative director last year (writes Grace Charlton). She has been tasked with updating the silhouettes of its distinctive clothes and breathing new life into the time-tested brand. Here she shares her weekend routine, recommends a go-to white wine from Austria and tells us about her dislike of tablecloths.
Where are you this weekend?
At our summer house, which was designed by Friis & Moltke and overlooks the sea in Mols Bjerge National Park, northern Denmark.
What’s your ideal start to a Sunday: a gentle start or a jolt?
I guess a bit of both. I love waking up slowly, drinking coffee while still in bed, looking at the sea, taking in the light and the season. Also scrolling through social media, reading emails, magazines, cookery books, followed by a run on Kastellet or a hike in the national park.
What’s your soundtrack of choice?
Always jazz, ideally Sunday at the Village Vanguard by Bill Evans.
What’s for breakfast?
Toasted rye bread, soft-boiled eggs, avocado, Vesterhavsost cheese and coffee. Plus, tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, and leftover pickled red onions. I pickle them with bay leaf, star anise and pepper. I eat them with anything.
News or no news?
I prefer the culture pages over the front pages. How to Spend It in the Financial Times, reviews, museum previews and cookery books are my favourite.
What are your larder essentials?
Anchovies in salt, good olive oil and aged parmesan.
A Sunday culture must?
The podcasts The Last Meal, hosted by Danish food critic Laerke Kløvedal, and Are We on Air?, hosted by Arman Naféei.
Ideal dinner venue or menu?
On Sundays we eat at home, ideally something comforting and easy and out of a bowl. We usually get a Thai or Vietnamese takeaway or maybe have a bolognese that was cooked the day before.
A glass of something you would recommend?
A glass of Austrian white wine. I like Arndorfer’s GS Terrassen 1958.
What will we not find on your Sunday table?
A tablecloth, fancy food, work-related stuff.
What’s your Sunday-evening routine?
Watching the news while ironing and going to bed early enough to both read and get eight hours of sleep.
This week our London-based recipe writer has opted for a comforting pasta dish with lashings of ricotta and zesty lemon.
3 tbsps olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes or chilli flakes, plus extra for serving, to taste
2 medium size courgettes, cut into 5mm thick matchsticks
130g ricotta cheese
2-3 tbsps pasta cooking water
1 lemon, juice and zest
3-4 tsps sea salt for pasta, plus extra to top dish, to taste
Parmesan cheese to serve
Crushed black pepper
Bring water to boil, in a large pot and add salt. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions minus a minute or two to keep it al dente.
Heat the olive oil gently over a low heat in a medium-sized frying pan. Add the chopped garlic and red pepper flakes, and heat until the garlic starts to release its aroma and turns golden.
Turn up the heat to medium, add the courgettes, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes; you don’t want to over-cook the courgette.
Now add the ricotta, 50ml of the starchy pasta water, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Stir until it resembles a creamy sauce.
When the pasta is ready, drain the water. Add to the pasta sauce and toss to combine in the pan.
Plate between two deep bowls, grate the parmesan over the top, sprinkle with crushed black pepper and extra red pepper flakes, if desired. Enjoy.
When Maria Bournassar was growing up in the Lebanese mountain village of Hasroun in the 1990s, there was one house on the steep main street that didn’t look like the others (writes Leila Molana-Allen). The children never knew who lived there; perhaps it was haunted. The house in question belonged to the Chamoun family. In the 1970s, Lebanese industrialist Toufic Chamoun decided to tear down the building that stood on the site before that house: his family’s palatial Ottoman villa. In its place was built a modernist family home. Chamoun was hailed variously as a visionary and a madman. Home to his wife and eight children, the angular white stone structure became a social hub. Chamoun’s grandson, Rony Zibara, remembers his time growing up there in the 1970s as a “beautiful era, full of glamorous people”.
But in 1978, during the Lebanese civil war, that all changed when Chamoun was kidnapped. He never came home. “It crippled the family in many ways,” says Zibara. “They plunged into mourning for 40 years.” The family never went back to the house and it stood abandoned until a few years ago when Zibara’s mother, Leila, made a request. “She said, ‘Fix up that house for me before I die’,” says Zibara, a branding specialist who was living between Paris and London.
Now Villa Chamoun has been reborn. Bournassar and her husband Rodrigue Charbel worked with Zibara to overhaul the house into a nine-room hotel in just four months. They employed more than 70 artisans from the village, making the project a social initiative too.
“The irony is that I’ve never liked staying in hotels,” says Zibara. “So I wanted the villa to feel like your own home.” The house was transformed using bright pastels, vivid jewel tones and plush velvet. What was left from the 1960s and 1970s was salvaged, while Zibara designed new furniture in the spirit of the house and its history. In every room is a clothing rack topped with the silhouetted face of a woman with beehive hair, inspired by his memories of his aunt’s hairspray cans. “It was about reimagining the 1960s for me, not making it a cliché,” says Zibara. villachamoun.com
The last time I took a night train, about a decade ago, I was stuffed into a six-bed compartment on a trip from Frankfurt to Berlin (writes Christopher Cermak). Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep and arrived at my destination feeling groggy. Despite my love of train travel, I resolved not to repeat the experience any time soon. And I wasn’t all that surprised a few years later when Deutsche Bahn decided to put its night trains to sleep altogether. Instead it was to be plucky little Austria that stepped into the void with its federal railway service. Quietly, over the past five years, the ÖBB has been upgrading and adding routes and trains across Europe.
Fast-forward to late September 2021, when I caught a 12-hour night train from Berlin to Vienna. This time I was in my own compartment, complete with a rather tasty dinner and breakfast, each brought to my table. Is it strange to say that I felt a little emotional as I ate my eggs? Patriotism comes in many forms; I felt genuine pride, fuelled by nothing more than a train ride (well, half-pride, as I’m part-American too and that side of me struggles to be proud of US train connections). The night train is a great way to travel, not least because it’s more climate-friendly than cramped flights and offers an appropriately socially-distanced alternative too. Give it a whirl – and remember to thank the Austrian Federal Railways for the privilege when you do.
To celebrate the launch of ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’, we’ve selected a smattering of inspiring upstarts and smart business folk to spotlight. This week: Lisbon’s Studio Astolfi, a visual merchandiser elegantly elevating Europe’s most eye-catching window displays.
There’s no doubt that window displays are an art form and one of its finest practitioners is Portugal’s Studio Astolfi, which has carved an attractive niche for brands including Hèrmes. Studio Astolfi’s work for the luxury goods purveyor has wowed the passersby of its shops in Portugal, Spain and France, where objects and spaces take customers through an experience.
The woman behind the brand is architect and designer Joana Astolfi (pictured), who founded the studio in 2007, combining her training with a passion for the visual arts and collecting second-hand objects. While she started solo by doing individual projects and collaborations, today the studio relies on a small staff comprising artists and architects, as well as an external team of woodcarvers, welders and glass-makers to turn her vision into reality; her imaginative commissions can take more than two months to complete. “Window displays are a sort of open-air gallery,” says Astolfi.
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.