Points of view - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 12/6/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Taste of the action

This week we’ll serve up a smart new restaurant turning out small but tasty plates in Toronto’s Ossington and some new stovetop staples you’ll be glad we recommended. We also make for a Manhattan hotel overlooking Central Park and a Madrid bakery on the rise and ask a Mexican architect about her weekend plans. First up, with the specials, it’s our head waiter, Tyler Brûlé.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Roadtrip report

After 12 days on the road (with a quick one-night stopover at home for a wardrobe reset), my spring tour came to an end on Thursday afternoon when I pulled into Zürich’s Hauptbahnhof, jumped on the tram, made my way to the office and put my suitcase in park. It’s now Saturday morning and the sky over this stretch of Switzerland is cloudless. I just had a little swim in the lake and I’ve found the first free moment to rewind and highlight the more enlightening and educational moments of my stops in Paris, Milan, Florence and Lugano. Here’s the recap.

Perfect casting. It’s the last day of May and a friend who runs a large Paris-based multinational has invited me to a little party in his sprawling rooftop Japanese garden. It’s a sunny evening and Paris is looking its best. So too are the staff in charge of parking cars, serving drinks, checking bags and weaving through the garden with well-balanced trays. Thankfully the French have not fallen for the guff that you’re no longer allowed to do a casting when it comes to hiring frontline staff for events or hosting guests. A week in Paris was a good reminder that appearances and making an effort are an essential part of running a tight brand.

Super chic. Speaking of appearances, if you’ve not caught a glimpse of Air France’s new TV commercial, take a look. Having just announced a big overhaul of their First Class and Business Class cabins, they’re making a pitch to be Europe’s, if not the world’s, most elegant airline.

Mario. I’ve had the same driver in Milan since 1996 and every time I settle into his car, Mario asks, “Tyler. Mama? Nona? Tutto bene?” I tell Mario that all is good and that the timing for this question couldn’t be better as 5 June is Nona’s birthday and she’s hit 104! “Mamma mia! Bravo, Nona!”

€4,000?! I’ve booked into my usual Milan haunt and the room rate is in step with the crazy prices being charged all over the city. I explain to the hotel that I need to head to Florence and will be back in two nights, and, if possible, would like the same category room. As Milan is rammed for Salone del Mobile, I’m relieved that they still have a room. “The best rate we can offer is €4,000,” says the woman manning the desk. As this is more than four times what I’d just paid, I shake my head and decline the offer.

Americans. They’re back, they’re everywhere and they’re happy to pay €4,000 for a room. Europe’s travel sector should be thrilled about this and welcome and thank them warmly.

More knobs and levers, please. Sustainability, unsurprisingly, dominated most discussions, press releases and product pitches across showrooms and exhibitions in Milan this week – so much so that the design message and even the designers themselves get lost in all the heavy-handed and often empty PR spin. On Tuesday morning I experienced a “smart, sustainable water and energy-saving eco shower” (all touchscreens, mood lighting and more) in my hotel room in the hills above Florence. When I went to press the off button, nothing happened. I pressed again and I got a blast of blue lighting. Pressed again and the water turned into mist and then back to a torrent. If there’s a water shortage in Tuscany this summer, you can blame this particular model of sustainable shower. I had to leave the water running and make my way to the front desk to ask them to alert their engineer. Here’s a lesson in sustainability: more levers, knobs and taps for basic, daily functions and fewer touchscreens for simple interactions.

Penélope. Shortly after my shower incident, I was on stage interviewing Penélope Cruz in a cosy auditorium in the heart of Florence. Chanel had invited more than 300 students from Italy’s best design schools to hear about the world of craftsmanship and the importance of preserving skills and I was in charge of moderating and fielding questions. At one point a student asked Ms Cruz what she thought about the digital world and life in the metaverse. “I feel that we spend too much time talking about this topic and hopefully we start moving in a different direction,” she said. “The only place I want to be is back in the 1990s! They really were the best.”

Angèle. The Belgian popstar performed at Chanel’s party later that evening. Wow! If you get a chance to see her perform this summer or in the autumn, secure a ticket.

CHF220. Feeling energised by Penélope’s words of wisdom, I made my way back to Milan for some meetings and a dinner with Fendi Casa, and had Mario head for the Swiss border – destination: Lugano. Rather than €4,000, I managed to get a room at the cosy Hotel Gabbani for CHF220 (€212) – complete with easy-to-operate taps!

Kitchen staples / Crane Cookware

Hot pots

Charmain Ponnuthurai’s beautiful pots and pans are made in France’s Picardie region at a foundry that’s been there for nearly 200 years. The latest creation for her brand Crane Cookware is a russet-hued, copper-covered range including winsome woks, comely casseroles and pretty pans for any occasion. Copper was chosen as a material for its conductivity and capacity to heat and cool quickly, age gracefully and look good: all of which, we think you’ll agree, are rather conducive to a sturdy and striking set of pans.

Image: Tony Hay

Eating out / Obrador San Francisco, Madrid

Rising fortunes

“The older generation has a more vivid memory of what bread used to be like,” says Antonio Ramos, co-founder of Obrador San Francisco, a bakery in the shadow of Madrid’s Royal Basilica of Saint Francis the Great. “There was a horrible gap in our bread culture in Spain. What we’re doing now with sourdough starter might seem novel but it’s just the way things used to be done here. Our job is to recover that practice, to dignify the typical loaf,” he says. And dignity is a quality that abounds in his clean, white-walled shop, where a queue often forms.

Image: Ben Roberts
Image: Ben Roberts

Ramos is just one of many younger bakers who are rediscovering Spain’s bread-making past. At Obrador San Francisco, as well as the classic pistola, you’ll also find items made using traditional recipes from across the Iberian peninsula. There’s the ensaïmada, a sweet, shell-shaped pastry from Mallorca, and the coca de tomate, a savoury tomato pie from Castellón. Our favourite? A brioche bun from the Levante called a panquemao. obradorsanfrancisco.com

Our June magazine, which is out now, features an in-depth report on Madrid’s community of new bakers. Buy a copy for the full article or subscribe so that you don’t miss an issue.

Sunday Roast / Rozana Montiel

Family time

Rozana Montiel founded her eponymous architecture studio in Mexico City soon after completing her studies at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. Her interdisciplinary design firm champions sustainable community-driven projects and urban interventions rather than sparkly towers. Here she shares tips on escaping the city, drinking micheladas in the sun and her daughter’s desire for pancakes.

Where will we find you this weekend?
I’m based in Mexico City but on the weekends I like to travel. We have an eremita [small cottage] a two-hour drive away near a beautiful lake in Valle de Bravo.

Ideal start to a Sunday: gentle or a jolt?
I like to start slowly by drinking a morning coffee in the garden.

What’s for breakfast?
My daughter, Hannah, is 10 years old and loves pancakes. My husband, she and I make many different types on Sunday mornings. We like to try different combinations but banana is a favourite.

A pantry must?
Olive oil and olives.

Lunch in or out?
On Sundays, if we are in Mexico City, we often get food from Kazu’s Kitchen, a Japanese restaurant that we love.

Downward dog or walk the dog?
In the afternoon we walk our dog, Oliver.

A glass of something?
If we stay in then I love to have a michelada in the garden. It’s a really refreshing cocktail with beer, lime, chilli and a salted rim.

Sunday evening routine?
My husband, daughter and I each choose a book for the week and put it on the table. The idea? We pass by them during the week, pick them up and have a flick through, and discuss each other’s choices.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling


This week, Swiss chef Ralph Schelling has prepared a few hearty Austrian-style apricot dumplings for us to enjoy. The dessert works whatever the season and apricots can easily be switched for frozen fruit, fresh plums or even compôte. “I love to add a little ground cardamom with the cinnamon,” says Schelling, who also sometimes uses wholemeal panko breadcrumbs instead of the homemade variety below. Enjoy.

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 4


For the apricot dumpling dough:
500g whole potatoes (floury cooking potatoes)
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp melted butter (plus more for serving)
125g flour
8 small, ripe apricots
50g marzipan, cubed

For the breadcrumbs:
50g butter
50g caster sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
75g breadcrumbs

Optional extras:
Icing sugar
Ice cream


Preheat oven to 200C.

Prick the potatoes with a fork and bake for about an hour.

Remove from the oven and – careful they’re hot – cut them in half and scrape out the inside. Discard the skins and press the potato through a ricer then leave to cool slightly.

Mix egg yolks and butter. Leave to cool completely.

Now add the flour and knead into a dough. If the dough is still too sticky or moist, simply add more flour, a little at a time, until the dough is firm but not dry.

Roll out the dumpling dough on a lightly floured surface to about ½cm thick and cut into 8 equal-sized squares.

Now cut a small wedge out of the apricots at their natural seam – just enough to tease out the stone – and insert the marzipan into the apricots.

Place each marzipan-filled apricot in the centre of a pastry square. Then wrap the dough around the fruit, pinch the edges closed and roll the whole thing into a dumpling in your hand.

Put a large pot of water on to boil, salt heavily (3 tbsps) and bring to the boil. Carefully slide the dumplings into the water and then simmer for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a pan for the breading. Add the caster sugar, cinnamon and breadcrumbs and mix well.

Remove the dumplings from the water with a ladle, drain slightly and roll directly in the breadcrumbs.

Serve the apricot dumplings with more melted butter. Enjoy with icing sugar or ice cream.


Weekend plans? / Park Lane, New York

Points of view

This 46-storey property on Central Park South was built in 1971 and was in dire need of an update when design studio Yabu Pushelberg moved in. Ritz Carlton alumnus Prince A Sanders (pictured) is managing director on behalf of the hotel’s investment and management company Highgate. “You feel like you’re still part of the park,” says Sanders, gesturing to the plant-motif murals in the rooms as he shows us around. And Central Park rightly takes centre stage. Many rooms have great views over the green space but the best are from Darling, a lounge that’s filled with plants and dotted with rattan chairs. Another theme is the building itself. “The designers wanted to play with the fact that the hotel opened in 1971,” says Sanders as we pass a plush velvet tub seat. There are mid-century chairs, patterned carpets and murals everywhere. “We wanted a throwback to that old New York charm,” he says. Perhaps what’s most striking about Park Lane, however, is how accessible it feels. In an area known for its exclusivity, the hotel is the sort of place you can saunter into, no questions asked.

Image: Max Burkhalter
Image: Max Burkhalter
Image: Max Burkhalter

For more on Manhattan’s best new hotels, pick up a copy of our July/August issue, which is on newsstands from next week.

Talk of the town / Toronto round-up

Blossoming block

Monocle’s recent (and wildly successful) Sakura Market event at our shop and office on Toronto’s College Street gave our editors the chance to scope out some recent openings in Canada’s biggest city. Here were a few of our favourite finds from the trip.

To shop
Flying Books, Little Italy
A new and near neighbour to our bureau and shop on College Street, this charming bookshop, publisher and writing school was founded by editor Martha Sharpe, who started its new chapter as a physical space in February 2022. Welcome to the neighbourhood.

Milky’s, Dundas
A delightful little coffee shop on Dundas (they also have a small concession at Stackt Market) where the team serves teas and coffees in a smart wood-panelled space. There is also a quirky selection of Japanese ceramics and all the coffee kit and brewing bits you could shake an Aeropress at.

To Eat
Wilma Snack Bar, Ossington
Anyone not convinced by the success of converting roadside parking into outdoor terraces should grab a glass of wine and order the fried artichoke and duck liver crostini at this smart new Ossington haunt (formerly Crosley’s). The portions are lovely but lean. That said, the clue is in the name, so order generously and you won’t be disappointed.

Tech corner / Sonos Roam

All roads lead to Roam

The problem with Bluetooth speakers is that while you want them to be as small as possible for convenience and portability, audio quality usually suffers (writes David Phelan). The Roam from Sonos bucks this trend. It’s small enough to carry easily in one hand (about the size of a water bottle) and weighs just 430g – but it sounds terrific. It’s also tough enough to handle a drop or two of rain, or even survive unscathed after being submerged in water a metre deep for half an hour. Because it’s a Sonos, it’s smart enough to know when you are in range of another Sonos speaker and will switch to wi-fi automatically, with the press of a button transferring to the next speaker.

Sonos includes Trueplay in its latest products, which means that it adjusts the sound according to the environment, often with dramatic improvement. Here, Trueplay is done automatically. And just in time for summer, Sonos has added great colours to the range which was previously just black and white. Choose from a calming blue (wave), luscious green (olive) or perky red (sunset). Oh, and have a super Sunday.


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