Sunday 23 January 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 23/1/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Buon appetito

Can an Englishman rival a nonna for hearty Italian cooking? Our Italian culture editor finds out in this week’s dispatch, which also takes in a Lisbon bakery brand, a look behind the scenes of Soho House Paris and where to walk a discerning pooch in London and New York. Plus: wine recommendations and Sunday rituals from Colombian chef Mariana Velásquez, and Tyler Brûlé starts proceedings.


Unfinished business

We start this Sunday with an urgent advisory: it’s safe to go out in the world. Really! I point this out because across the course of an average week I still encounter people (supposedly well-informed) who still say, “I’m really looking forward to travelling again when it’s easier to cross borders,” or, “My company will let us start booking flights once the situation improves and it becomes less complicated.” For individuals who think that it’s difficult to cross borders (we’ll park Asia to one side) and pass through airports, it’s not. Promise. As for companies trying to save on travel expenses by scaring staff, you’re going to find yourself on the back foot if you don’t allow your best and brightest the chance to venture out on the road to win business and peddle your wares.

On Monday, I embarked on one of those old-fashioned roadtrip work weeks that, quite recently, many promised would be a thing of the past. You might be familiar with these proclamations and protests; who wants to wake up early for a short-haul flight? Why travel for work when you can do almost everything on your screen? What’s the real benefit of being there in person when virtual is cheaper and just as effective? Aside from the very simple fact that such statements are nonsense and wishful thinking on the part of the extremely lazy, a well-paced work trip is invigorating, inspiring and quite often highly entertaining. Here’s why.

Monday evening, Jah Izakaya & Sake Bar, Copenhagen. I’m dining with a group of Danish entrepreneurs and creatives, and after a delicious meal and many rounds of sake I have more business leads and our executive editor Nolan has so many story ideas that we could easily develop a special edition devoted to Denmark. In fact, that’s exactly what we’re going to do and that’s the magic of a finely tuned business dinner. On top of that, one of the Japanese partners behind the restaurant also informs us that he’s going to move to Okinawa for a while with his family for a little lifestyle reset. We all pledge to buy a little plot of land and build a retirement compound where we can all spend a bit of time in the Pacific sunshine.

Tuesday afternoon, Nordhavn, Copenhagen. I’ve never been a big fan of waterfront revitalisation projects. I think I’m still scarred from watching developers and dopey city planners destroy most of Toronto’s harbourfront in the 1980s and since then have struggled to find projects that truly deliver. After a little stroll around Copenhagen’s rapidly densifying Nordhavn, my views changed. The scale is mixed, the streets tight, the architecture a blend of the very good but also mediocre, and it’s all filling in at speed rather than waiting to grow into itself. Developer NREP and its partners should be applauded as this is a new benchmark. For sure, it needs more trees (these things always do) and even more shops and services, but it’s off to a great start. Go take a peek.

Tuesday, early evening, Cranks & Coffee, Klampenborg. We venture north to check out the fine goods from Pas Normal Studios at a small venture that does exactly as it says above the door: serves up cycling gear and excellent coffee. Across interconnecting rooms, dogs and babies are napping, a bike is being tuned and some cool boys are grinding beans and marvelling at Nolan’s Bally boots. We end up stocking up on some goods and, on the drive back down to Copenhagen, agree that such field trips are essential for keeping a sharp eye on how retail is evolving and why such outlets are key to creating better neighbourhoods.

Wednesday, Goods, Copenhagen. A couple of months ago I ordered a cardigan from this excellent men’s shop, couldn’t be bothered to have it shipped and said I’d pick it up on my next visit. This turned out to be good for my wardrobe and their Wednesday sales. While the cardi was retrieved I found a couple of other woolly and chunky items on the rails and brought them to the till. When the salesman scribbled out the amount I was slightly surprised by the total. “Aren’t you in your winter sale yet?” I asked. “Sorry, no we’re not,” said the young chap. “We don’t believe that it makes business sense to follow the sales cycle when people still want to buy winter items and aren’t ready to purchase clothes for spring.” This was the most clever bit of marketing wisdom I’d heard in a while. Not only was I happy to pay full price but also felt like I was now a soldier in the battle to upend the cycle of retail being in a state of constant and usually ugly looking deep discounts.

Thursday, ‘Jyllands-Posten’ HQ, Aarhus. While the Jutland-based newspaper might have gained global notoriety for its publication of those Mohammed cartoons, its new headquarters on Aarhus’s waterfront is also a solid example of what a modern media company can look like and how it can function. Having architecture firm Henning Larsen design the building is a good start, hiring an excellent chef to keep journos’ tummies full keeps the stories and scoops flowing, and an investment in the best furniture and fittings makes it much more exciting to be at work rather than sitting at home.

Friday morning, Copenhagen Airport, gate D2. My SAS flight to Paris is full of the Danish fashion crowd heading for buying appointments and menswear presentations. From row one all the way to the back of the Airbus, the cabin is full of little clusters of Copenhagen funky monkeys in beanies, boxy tailoring and Vibram-soled footwear better suited to the streets of Courchevel than the galleries of the Palais-Royal. The show of force is telling. Buying appointments on Zoom aren’t that efficient and you miss out on the opportunity to travel in a pack with similar tastes in knitwear.

Friday evening, Le Voltaire, Paris. The Lusophone world has invaded for the first sitting: to the left, a large table of Portuguese are chattering away and catching up on the week. To the right, a very chic mother, two handsome young gentlemen (her sons?) and perhaps a girlfriend or daughter-in-law with Japanese roots suggest they might be from São Paulo. In fact, all the women in the packed room are chic in their own “we can only be in Paris” way: powerful eyewear, bouncy hair, sequins, gentle cosmetic interventions and wafts of classic scents from Guerlain. There’s so much to take in, to decode, to taste, to enjoy. All of this and much, much more in a busy, working week out in the big, big world. Try it.

Eating out / A Padaria Portuguesa, Lisbon

On the rise

It has been a ruinous few years for city-centre shops that rely on commuters but one Portuguese bakery brand sees space for reinvention before the masses trickle back to town. A Padaria Portuguesa began operations in 2010 and quickly opened 59 outposts that employ 1,000 staff to serve its simple sandwiches and fresh salads in and around Lisbon.

Image: Rodrigo Cardoso

Co-founder and CEO Nuno Carvalho sees now as the moment to pivot to fresher and more sustainable produce, and undertake a smart fit-out of everything from its staff uniforms to the shops by architect João Pombeiro and Lisbon-based XXXI (with plenty of terracotta, wicker and earthy tones). “Ideas of health and overconsumption are not reserved for activists and romantics,” Carvalho tells Monocle. “They affect us all in our everyday life. The essence of the business is serving cheap, fast lunches and snacks. That’s still the same but we’ve evolved.”

Eating out / Brutto, London

Home comforts

As an Italian abroad, I have a natural distrust of restaurants with red-chequered tablecloths. It feels like low-hanging fruit: too easy a signifier for homely, family-style cooking (writes Chiara Rimella). So I should have been wary of Trattoria Brutto, which opened last year in Farringdon, central London. The red flags (and tablecloths) were all there: old-school photos on the wall, dark wooden chairs and a menu written in Italian by an English chef.

But that chef is Russell Norman, which changes things. A former teacher, Norman shook up the London food scene when he launched Venetian-inspired Polpo in 2009. At the time, I had just moved to the city; his restaurant on Beak Street was one of the few that my compatriot and I would happily go to without complaining too much about how everything was wrong. That restaurant evolved into a chain but recently folded, surrounded by a scene that caught up with it – and superseded it.

Image: Brutto

Can Norman do it again with Brutto? The answer is yes, only this time the idea is a little more grown-up. It’s casual but not as breezy and cheap as Polpo was; you can tell by the 750g Fiorentina steaks on the menu. As with Polpo, the key to its success is in the research. This time the focus is on Tuscany. Even if Norman hasn’t spent years in Florence, as he did in Venice, his attention to detail and reverence are palpable. It’s not just about the taste, which a lot of other restaurants in London can replicate. There is magic to the dishes that he has chosen: the cutlery and glasses, the way the food is plated and served.

Brutto means “ugly”. Not enough people appreciate the importance of ugliness in Italian cuisine: the haphazard, messy nature of taste. Here, fluffy coccoli (deep-fried dough dumplings) are served with a mound of prosciutto crudo and a pool of slack stracchino cheese (pictured). Anchovies are laid chaotically next to one another and covered with a pile of carved-out butter. Penne alla vodka – vodka-and-tomato pasta – are a kitsch blast from the past (specifically, the 1980s). But what really gets me are the thin, pink slices of roast beef. Norman has cooked it – and written it on the menu – just as my grandma would have: “rosbif”, a phonetic approximation of the English. Yes, Italians might be obsessed with how “grandma used to make it”, so much so that they’re unable to move on. But seeing an English chef play with this stereotype and understand it (and Norman really does) gladdens my heart.

Sunday Roast / Mariana Velásquez

Staying on course

Brooklyn-based Bogotá-native Mariana Velásquez’s keen eye for a tempting dish has made her one of the most in-demand names in the world of food styling. Having worked with magazines and on culinary projects alongside the likes of Michelle Obama and director Lin-Manuel Miranda, her first cookbook, Colombiana, is a collection of traditional recipes with a modern twist. She tells us about sipping wine by the fire, mourning routines and a penchant for Hawaiian pizza.

Image: Gentl & Hyers

Where do we find you this weekend?
In Bogotá but I’ll be heading to my family’s country home in the mountains soon. The house is 3,000 metres above sea level and overlooks the Sopó valley. It’s in a cold, foggy forest with moss, fragrant eucalyptus and ferns. We’ll be cooking on the wood stove, taking long walks and sipping wine by the fire.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday – gentle start or a jolt?
Slow, please. My husband, Diego, gets the paper and makes coffee. Then we read the news cover to cover. I love being read to.

What’s for breakfast?
First I drink black coffee then have fruit and, later, a bagel with cream cheese and lox from a place near us in Brooklyn.

News or no news?
News with a mix of light reading.

Any larder essentials you can’t do without?
Good olive oil, flaky sea salt, panela – a form of unrefined sugar from Colombia – and chilli oil.

A Sunday culture must?
A film in the afternoon. Also NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, a quiz show about the news of the week.

Ideal dinner venue or menu?
If we are cooking, roast chicken with vegetables. But we also love takeaway pizza. Ideally Hawaiian, with natural red or orange wine.

Who’s joining?
No one! Sunday is a day to simply be.

A glass of something you would recommend?
I’m really enjoying Clos Lentiscus 2017 Kikiriki Black. It’s made in a biodynamic, family-owned winery near Sitges in Spain. Their wine is exquisite and the family’s century-old legacy of wine-making is now being passed to the only heiress, a fabulous young woman whose passion for wine is palpable.

What will we not find on your Sunday table?
My computer.

Any Sunday evening routine?
I make a hand-written list of my tasks for the week. It helps me include my goals and work out bookings. Then we watch a movie and go to bed by 21.00.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Arancini with almond and saffron

Swiss chef Ralph Schelling’s take on the Sicilian staple (balls of rice coated with breadcrumbs then fried) contains almonds and gooey mozzarella. This version is pan-fried in a little oil but Schelling assures us that leftovers can be refrigerated overnight and reheated slowly in an oven on a low heat until crispy.

Illustration: Xihanation

Makes 16

80g unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
250g arborio rice
125ml dry white wine
Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
750ml chicken broth
3 tbsps freshly grated parmesan
½ tbsp flour, plus extra for dusting
50ml milk
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
100g fresh mozzarella, finely diced
50g plus 2 tbsps chopped salted almonds
2 tbsps frozen peas, thawed
2 eggs, beaten
300g panko breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil

In a large saucepan, melt 60g of the butter. Add onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, until lightly browned. Add the rice, white wine and saffron, season with salt and black pepper and cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed, for 2 minutes. Add the warm chicken broth 250ml at a time and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and will take about 20 minutes in total. Stir in the grated cheese, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.

Melt the remaining 20g of butter in a small saucepan. Add ½ tbsp flour and stir over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the milk and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens. Season with nutmeg, salt and black pepper and transfer to a bowl to cool completely. Stir in the mozzarella, almonds and peas.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the eggs, panko and flour for dusting into 3 separate shallow bowls. With slightly moistened hands, shape the rice mixture into 16 equally sized balls. Press an indentation in the centre with your finger and press down on the sides to enlarge. Spoon a scant tbsp of the almond filling into the hole and press to enclose it. Place the ball on the baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining risotto and filling. Dust the arancini with flour and tap off the excess. Brush with the egg and roll in panko.

In a large, deep skillet pan, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 180C. Fry the arancini (in batches if necessary) over medium heat, turning occasionally, until golden and cooked through (about 8 minutes). Put on paper towels to drain and serve hot.

Weekend plans? / Soho House Paris

Club rules

More than 26 years after opening his first Soho House, Nick Jones has finally touched down in France. This 36-key hotel, restaurant and members’ club is in the former red-light district of Pigalle, high up near Montmartre hill. It took Jones and his team five years of searching to find this spacious, 19th-century apartment building, which was once home to film-maker Jean Cocteau. The quiet Rue La Bruyère doesn’t offer many clues about what’s behind the establishment’s heavy green doors, which guard a beautiful courtyard, cabaret space, gym and pool.

“We always try to stick to the local spirit and the DNA of a place, while bringing our own touch,” says Jones. “We wanted to respect the history of the building.” To that end, the Soho House team tapped several French designers and upholsterers to create elements that were “glamorous without being too flashy”, says Jones. The site is spread across three buildings from different periods: the 19th-century hub, a 1940s annex and a contemporary extension. Materials include plenty of rattan, wrought-iron garden furniture and benches upholstered in Pierre Frey prints. The cabaret room (pictured) has velvet walls and a marble pool for when the weather is warm.

Image: Alex Crétey Systermans

Under the restaurant’s glass roof, members can enjoy escargots de Bourgogne or a baba au rhum with a glass of wine. The first and second floors have something of Versailles about them: think four-poster beds, herringbone parquet floors and Louis XV-style furniture. On the third level are Provençal floor tiles and hanging lamps that were sourced from markets. It feels French but with a refined, cosmopolitan touch – even the staff are friendly (not an intrinsically Parisian quality).

For more on Paris’s latest hotel bars and boltholes, read the full report in the new issue of ‘The Forecast’. Subscribe today so you don’t miss an issue.

Book Club / Four & Sons x Hoxton Mini Press

Paw quality

Published in collaboration with pup-loving print title Four&Sons, Hoxton Mini Press’s new Dog-Friendly series offers detailed guides to the best surrounds for your hound in New York and London. The recommendations range from dimly lit pubs and cosy restaurants to hotels, parks and cafés that your furry friend is as likely to enjoy as you are.

The book also offers a dogs-eye view of the world through original photography and interviews with interesting people and their pets (Monocle’s editor in chief Andrew Tuck and his wire-haired fox terrier, Macy, are among them). It’s an ideal purchase for those looking to explore their city with Fido in tow.

Parting shot / ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’

Feedback loop

To celebrate the ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’, which is out now, we’ve selected a smattering of inspiring advice, ideas and bright businessfolk to spotlight. This week, Kim Scott, co-founder of Radical Candor LLC and the author of ‘Radical Candor’ talks about being the boss – and how to carry it off well.

1. Solicit feedback
This is true no matter where you are in the hierarchy but it’s especially important if you’re the boss. You need to understand what is going on from other perspectives.

2. Focus on the good stuff
If you’re a leader, especially an entrepreneur, your job is to show your team what’s possible. Praise is a much better tool for doing this than criticism. Remember that praise has to be sincere and specific. One of the mistakes people make is thinking that praise is only used to show that you care about someone when it should also challenge other people directly: it shows the whole team what success looks like.

3. Now you’re in a better place to offer criticism
Make sure that while you praise in public, you criticise in private. The best criticism I’ve ever received has come in impromptu two-minute conversations. It can be a gift in one of two ways: either because you’re giving the person an opportunity to fix the problem or because you’re wrong and only by telling that person what you think do you give them the opportunity to correct your thinking. But remember to state that you’re giving criticism to help them improve. Make sure you do it right away. The longer you wait, the harder it is to remember the context.

4. Focus on things that people can change
Describe the situation, the behaviour and the effect that the behaviour had. Then you’re explaining to the person how to change the way they do things, not their personality.

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.


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