This week we’re testing the beds at a new Manhattan hotel, whipping up a light-as-air-soufflé inspired by our chef’s adventures in Austria and shopping in São Paulo. Plus: the sparkling new wine accessory that you never knew you needed, Vitra’s chief design officer on his favourite Sunday repast and Singapore’s best new street for eats. First up, chewing over this week’s events, is Monocle’s editorial director, Tyler Brûlé.
It has been a tour of Europe’s capitals this week, with a media conference and a bit of Marrakech on the Atlantic coast, superior service in Madrid, smiling security in Helsinki and a lesson on energy conservation in Stockholm. We start in London.
Saturday afternoon: Daunt Books, Marylebone.
Could it be time for booksellers to steal a trick or two from luxury-goods retailers and start putting doormen at their entrances and creating queues out front? If the likes of Louis Vuitton do this to create desire and demand, Daunt might feel the need to limit customers because their shop was so busy that it was almost impossible to move among people stocking up on cookbooks and perusing biographies and cosy fiction for the months ahead. The mood among the stacks was so buzzy and infectious that it would have been next to impossible to walk out empty-handed. But why so busy? The good weather might have encouraged Londoners to venture out in droves but it also could have been all the American tourists on the last leg of extended summer holidays enjoying a unique retail experience that’s increasingly difficult to find back home.
Monday morning: An auditorium, Estoril.
Every year the world’s distributors of newspapers and magazines gather for the annual Distripress congress somewhere in the world. This year retailers, publishers, wholesalers and freight forwarders assembled on the Atlantic coast to take stock of a sector that’s not without a few challenges. As newspapers gradually accelerate their shift away from printing weekend papers and put more emphasis on the dailies, the death of Queen Elizabeth II brought a timely boost to their sector. While all were most respectful in tone on the day of the funeral, many conversations revealed that the monarch’s death had delivered a spike in newsstand sales not witnessed in decades. The headline: when it comes to marking a major event or milestone, the consumer wants something collectable from a respected media brand. No surprise that the likes of Paris Match and Der Spiegel had bumper newsstand sales.
Late Monday evening: JNcQUOI Club, Lisbon.
This intimate rooftop retreat above the treetops of central Lisbon has done a good job of positioning itself as one of Europe’s best places to meet dazzling people and enjoy excellent service along with fine dishes and drinks. At our table was host Miguel, his brother, Morocco’s ambassador to Portugal and a few others. In the background and on our plates were performers and recipes from La Mamounia in Marrakech. With the hotel on a mini world tour, their takeover of JNcQUOI was the best bit of marketing for a winter retreat I’ve yet encountered. The king and his diplomats are out in the world on a high-speed soft power push.
Wednesday, midday. Sportivo, Madrid.
The men of Monocle have a few natty retailers at which they like to touch down for a seasonal wardrobe top-up – and Sportivo is one of them. On Tuesday morning the very attentive Nacho helped me find a few essential and not-so-essential purchases for the months ahead. The shop is perfectly merchandised, the range broad, the brands surprising and reassuring, and the service brisk yet relaxed. You can read more about Sportivo and other good purveyors of menswear in the October issue of Monocle, which is out now.
Friday, midday. Security, Helsinki Airport.
Helsinki Airport is not having an easy time as closed Russian airspace has upended Finnair’s business model of connecting Europe with Asia – and Finland is not exactly conveniently positioned as a stopover to other parts of the world. Nevertheless, the terminal is still reasonably busy and going through security is a breeze as the airport has invested in X-ray/sensing machines. With all the new security apparatus, I ask a young blonde lady with a top knot whether I still need to remove my jacket. “Yes, yes,” she says, all smiles and laughter. “You still need to do that despite all the machines – and I still need this job!”
Friday evening. Östermalm, Stockholm.
With many governments fretting about a challenging winter on the energy front, a look up to the windows of apartments of Stockholm offers a hint at how to not only save energy but also give the impression of warmth: go for a dimmer lighting set-up at home. As masters of good domestic lighting (yes Denmark, you can be included in this category as well) the Swedes know how to create intimate environments by going for bulbs with lower wattage and golden lighting that offers a warm ambience as opposed to other nations that like to crank up the lights and blind themselves in chilly blue hues. Which brings me back to all those good people who read books and magazines. Could it be a strategy to also encourage consumption via paper in these challenged times rather than reading on screens that must be charged and supported by a chain of routers and servers that devour energy. On that note, why not subscribe to Monocle for the dim yet toasty months ahead? Now there’s a bright idea.
Brazil’s Fasano Group opened its first New York hotel and restaurant over the past year but it has also just launched a new venture on home turf. Its latest addition is a food and wine shop in São Paulo that’s piled high with everyday essentials, from cheese to fresh fruit and vegetables. “I’m very proud of finally making my dream come true,” owner Gero Fasano tells Monocle as we tour the building. Within the space there’s a bakery, a wine selection of about 720 varieties and a café with a balcony. Ana Joma Fasano, Gero’s wife, is in charge of the homeware, which ranges from furniture to pyjamas. Gero’s favourite product from the aisles? “I just love the fact that we are making our very own mozzarella in-house,” he says.
The Joo Chiat neighbourhood on Singapore’s eastern coast has always been a cultural crossroads and a world apart from the tall, glassy towers of the CBD. Take a stroll and you’ll find rich Peranakan influences in the ornate shophouses (pictured, top) and, before the pandemic, you’d have spotted a few Vietnamese restaurants, beauty salons and hawker stalls (plus the odd shady karaoke bar or massage parlour after dark).
Since lockdowns forced the city’s nightlife to lose its swagger, the street has been through a shake-up that shows there’s still a place here for independent retail, restaurants and entrepreneurship. One notable new entrant is Sojao, a homegrown brand selling impossibly soft bed sheets. Its first physical shop (pictured, centre), which also stocks products from other Singaporean labels, was previously a hair-and-nail salon.
Likewise, Antonio Miscellaneo, chef-owner of Italian restaurant La Bottega Enoteca, has roots in the precinct, having lived here for the past 16 years. The restaurateur initially considered opening in the city centre but soon felt the pull of Joo Chiat. “The folks here are open-minded and willing to try new things,” says Maxine Ngooi, co-owner of Tigerlily Patisserie, another new business here. “This neighbourhood enables us to be our quirky selves and experiment with odd flavour pairings.”
Joo Chiat Road address book
Beyond its own organic bed sheets, you’ll find plenty of Singapore brands stocked in this homeware shop.
La Bottega Enoteca
Famed for its Neapolitan-style pizzas (pictured, bottom) and salumi selection, this Italian is Singapore’s hottest table.
Botanically inspired pastry shop with fascinating and, crucially, tasty flavour combinations.
Grocer focused on fresh, ethically sourced produce from Australia, Europe and beyond. Its bistro is equally good.
A pretty bolthole with a great selection of natural wine and spirited programming.
Following stints at design firms Fritz Hansen and Muuto, architect Christian Grosen joined Vitra as design director in 2014 (writes Maja Renfer). Now as the Swiss firm’s chief design officer, Grosen heads up operations at the company’s base in Birsfelden. Here, Grosen shares tips for Alsatian wine, home-baked bread and his Sunday hiking habit.
Where do we find you this weekend?
I’m in Alsace visiting a couple of wineries. My friend, who is really nerdy, recommended them to me. It’s amazing to have such an abundance of good wine just a 30-minute drive from home and it’s always a pleasure to drive through the vineyards.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Gentle start. It’s the only day of the week when my entire family has time for a peaceful breakfast together.
What’s for breakfast?
A soft-boiled egg, fresh fruit and coffee. I don’t drink much coffee but on Sundays I enjoy a carefully prepared cup.
Lunch in or out?
Lunch at home. Ideally with home-baked rye bread. It’s one of the things from my home country, Denmark, that I can’t do without.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
We typically go for a hike on Sundays. We live close to the mountains and for me it’s the perfect way to clear my mind. I also often enjoy a game of tennis.
A Sunday soundtrack?
I listen to Thundercat a lot. Khruangbin is also great for a Sunday afternoon.
Sunday culture must? A market? Museum?
I’ve always had a soft spot for flea markets and there are some really good ones just across the border in France. I rarely buy things but it’s a great source of inspiration and I always come across weird stuff that I’ve never seen before.
News or not?
I follow the news closely during the week. Sunday is no exception. I sometimes wish I didn’t but I’m kind of addicted.
What’s on the menu?
Sunday is “empty-the-fridge day”. I’m still learning but my wife is a genius at making delicious meals out of whatever might be left in there. It has become a bit of a sport for us to avoid throwing anything away so you never know what the menu will be.
Sunday evening routine?
I write down three things I want to focus on in the week.
Do you lay out an outfit for Monday?
I’ve tried but I always feel like wearing something else when I wake up.
These feather-light, Austrian-style soufflés were inspired by Swiss chef Ralph Schelling’s years spent living in Salzburg. “There are these desserts called Salzburger Nockerln, which look great but are rather boring,” he says, at the risk of offending an entire city. “This recipe is a mixture of a classic soufflé and the Nockerln.” The best of both worlds. Enjoy.
For the soufflé:
10g butter, softened
2 tbsps caster sugar
4 medium eggs, divided into yolks and whites
4 tbsps powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested
1 scraped-out pulp of a vanilla pod
4 tbsps ricotta
4 tbsps plain white flour
Powdered sugar, to sprinkle
For the strawberry sauce:
Juice of ½ lemon
Birch sugar, to taste
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Coat the inside of four cocottes (or tall ramekins) with the softened butter and sprinkle lightly with the caster sugar.
Beat the egg yolks with the powdered sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and ricotta until creamy.
Now beat the egg whites with a whisk until there are semi-stiff peaks; gradually and carefully fold the flour into the mixture, keeping as many air bubbles as possible.
Once combined, fill the prepared cocottes to the brim with the mixture. Place in a hot-water bath and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
While you wait, start preparing the sauce. Rinse the strawberries and remove the green stalks. Purée the fruit with the lemon juice and, depending on the sweetness of the berries, add the birch sugar to taste.
To serve, remove the soufflés from the oven, sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and enjoy immediately with the strawberry sauce.
Manhattan’s new openings continue with Nine Orchard, a smart hotel on the Lower East Side set in a building from 1912. The overhaul of the 14-storey property, which had stood empty for several years, preserved many of its original features, including the pearly façade and vaulted ceilings. The 116 airy guest rooms are dressed with camouflage-green drapes and floral headboards; some have giant bathtubs and private patios with exquisite views of the cityscape. Downstairs, the Swan Room, a striking former bank teller’s patch lined with chandeliers and dusty-pink and red booths, serves cocktails and small plates devised by Ignacio Mattos. At the neighbouring Corner Bar restaurant, also from Mattos, diners eat classic dishes, such as burgers and steak tartare, and drink martinis in a welcoming brasserie atmosphere.
Although the UK can stake a claim to having some of the world’s top chefs, the nation’s nosh isn’t nearly as iconic as that of our near and sneering neighbours in, say, France (writes Josh Fehnert). This is where Phaidon’s new cookbook comes in to help Blighty’s blighted culinary cause. The British Cookbook by food historian Ben Mervis adds charm and refinement to Lancashire hotpot, Lincolnshire sausages and sticky-toffee puddings in turn. I love a spotted dick – a spongy, raisin-flecked dessert, before you titter – and a jam roly-poly or a Manchester tart, and somehow this well-researched collection of 550 recipes seems ready to elevate them beyond the claggy, custardy mountains of my memories. Meanwhile, Mervis masterfully moves between the sublime and the scrumptious, leaving a trail of tasty crumbs through the country’s past: from pasties to curries, Welsh favourites to long-forgotten Scottish delicacies. This is a rich culinary history that the UK might not have known it had, featuring intriguing dishes with names such as Homity Pie, Singin’ Hinnies and Bedfordshire Clanger – pure poetry.
After four feverishly busy days, the 56th annual Feria Hábitat València trade show closed on Friday (writes Julia Webster Ayuso). More than 1,000 brands from some 60 countries gathered in the Fira exhibition centre to showcase their latest creations in lighting, kitchens and textiles. At the forefront of the show were craft and a focus on sustainability; there was also plenty of innovation in the work of brands such as Zumex & Lowpoly, which used orange-peel waste in its 3D printing, and Ecocero’s acoustic-insulated ceilings that were made from recycled plastic. A lesson? That even with the best will in the world, it can be difficult to pair eco-credentials with pleasing aesthetics. But the conversations that Monocle had with brands were refreshingly frank about the need for companies to make fewer products from better materials that last longer. Another take on the idea was presented by Patricia Urquiola’s biodegradable collection for València-based Andreu World (pictured, bottom left) – just don’t leave it out in the rain.
This year’s fair took place alongside Espacio Cocina Sici and Home Textiles Premium by Textilhogar, making it the city’s largest in a decade, both physically and in terms of visitors – attendance figures were up by nearly 20 per cent on those of 2019. It also coincided with València’s tenure as the World Design Capital, as well as events such as Jaime Hayon’s first retrospective exhibition and the World Design Street Festival. The organisers might attribute the fair’s success to the show that they put on but we have a hunch that the Mediterranean backdrop might have been another factor.
You know how it is when you’ve still got a third of a bottle of champagne left at the end of an evening but you don’t feel like finishing it? No, us neither (writes David Phelan). But assuming that there’s a scenario in which, for some reason, you have leftover sparkling wine, there are far better options than sticking a teaspoon in the bottle. Coravin’s system is ingenious. First, there’s the Sparkling Stopper, which you can secure to the bottle with a lock. Then the Sparkling Charger fills the bottle with carbon dioxide to the right pressure. This keeps the wine bubbly for up to four weeks, though you’ll probably quaff it before you can put that to the test. The system works very well and means that the fear of wasting sparkling wine evaporates as quickly as the fizz would have. And should you find yourself in a restaurant that doesn’t serve champagne by the glass, you can raise your eyebrows and ask, “Oh, dear, don’t you have a Coravin?” Have a super Sunday.
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