Sunday 16 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 16/10/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

On the road

This week we tip off readers about an astronomically good restaurant in Málaga and recommend a tried-and-trusted favourite: Fujiya Hotel in Japan. Our Swiss chef offers a Persian-influenced breakfast and we visit Milan for shopping and Paris for an overnight stay. But first, Tyler Brûlé shares a lesson from his past.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Tricks of the trade

Toronto, October 1988: the post-theatre crowd arrives at the Yorkville branch of Mövenpick restaurant. It’s a warm Friday evening, so the doors have been flung open to the small stretch of tables on the pavement in order to accommodate all of the diners. A few hours earlier I took up my position in an elevated part of the restaurant – white shirt crisp, tie tucked into the top of my floor-length apron, five pens in my left pocket, corkscrew in my right, and notepad slipped in my waistband around the back.

Robert is the manager in charge this evening and he zips around the restaurant, greeting customers, straightening chairs, ensuring that the shirts of the wait staff stay tucked in, all while keeping in close contact with the head chef so that the kitchen can run at full speed. He’s from Bern and is part of a small corps of Swiss managers who have made the Toronto Mövenpick franchise among of the most successful hospitality establishments in the city.

By day I’m doing journalism and political science, and a couple of evenings a week I’m making a lot of cash while getting an education in human behaviour, German, time management, wine and basic accounting. During a review the GM asks me whether I would like to join the management programme. It offers training in Switzerland and the possibility to work in any of Mövenpick’s global network of restaurants and hotels. While flattered, I tell the GM that I’m planning to stick with journalism for the time being and see how things go but in the back of my mind I know that I quite enjoy the buzz of a busy restaurant and the mix of regular guests and newcomers, big tippers and miserly grumps, fussy eaters and jolly gluttons.

Not long afterwards I decide that it’s time to leave Toronto, make my leap across the Atlantic and apply for a researcher position at the BBC. When an HR staffer at the corporation asks me about my education and who my favourite professor was, I say that Robert from Bern was by far my best teacher as he had challenged me to do multiple tasks at speed and taught me daily diplomacy and to sharpen my memory. Indeed, my most impressive trick was to remember the full order (drinks, starters and mains) for a table of eight without having to write it down. It’s a skill that serves me well to this day.

Zürich, two nights ago: there’s a crush of guests at 19.30 sharp for Monocle’s first-ever restaurant pop-up (pictured). It’s a drizzly evening but the terrace is full of smokers enjoying yuzu cocktails and regulars are chatting while newcomers are being introduced to the concept of the evening ahead. Hokkaido-born chef Tsubasa Hanawa and our team have turned a space that normally functions as our boardroom into a field kitchen and there are various “Japasta” dishes in the works. The hit of the evening is a tagliatelle bolognese that has some strong links to a classic Japanese curry. It’s so popular that a pair of architects ask for a third serving. A couple have flown all the way from Sydney to meet the crew and have the full Zürich experience and over drinks we discuss news balance, why they’re obsessed with our radio anchor and star writer Andrew Mueller (he’s an Aussie, after all) and what they would like to see more of in our pages and on air.

Does it seem odd that we’ve just launched a new book on Portugal, our November issue will soon hit newsstands and over two days we’ll also host 80 diners in a space that’s usually a radio lounge? Not really. I’m just happy that I did a few years of Swiss F&B training in my university years and that these skills can be applied to better serving Monocle’s global family well beyond our pages. Up next is Japasta fun times at Midori House in London. Dates will be announced soon.

Eating out / La Cosmo, Málaga

Taste of heaven

Steps away from Málaga’s old Alcazaba fort is a contemporary treat for visitors (writes Francheska Melendez). Founder and chef Dani Carnero (pictured, bottom left) says that he hadn’t planned to start his third restaurant but the site was just too good to pass up. As with his other two restaurants, La Cosmo has a clear Andalusian influence but here he takes a simpler approach. “It’s about presenting a quality product with pellizco,” he says, borrowing a flamenco term to describe his search for authenticity.

The restaurant’s focal point is an open kitchen, which invites diners to observe the chefs working around a charcoal grill. “I love open flames,” says Carnero. Behind the bar, as he is dressing a plate of grilled razor clams with a creamy, chive-flecked sauce, he explains his efforts to combine his hometown’s rich past with the future of the area’s food. “A region’s gastronomic memory is vast,” he says. “It’s much more than a dish or product. My current obsession is to do my bit to identify, maintain and reinforce that memory.”

Image: Ben Roberts
Image: Ben Roberts

Better rail and airport connections have made Málaga – for better or for worse – the gateway to the Costa del Sol. That once meant package holidays but there’s so much more subtlety and charm when you look closer. The region has a long history of food production: the Phoenicians founded the port in 1000 BC and probably named it after their word for salt.

La Cosmo fittingly draws on Arab-Persian preservation techniques that are traditional to the area. Its sardines are flame-grilled and then brined with a paprika-peppered sauce known as escabeche. “It’s a shame that in Spain people eat more ceviche than escabeche,” says Carnero. If anyone can redress that balance, it’s him.

Top of the shops / Vicolo Via Mameli, Milan

Past masters

Vicolo is Italian for a small street or alleyway that is hidden away from the hubbub of a city centre – and that’s precisely the atmosphere that this shop in Porta Vittoria evokes. It’s the sort of place that invites discovery, whether you’re partial to dried flowers, table linens or home-made candles. Vicolo Via Mameli was started by Italian Nicola Pozzi and his American partner, Ryan Weimer (pictured below, on left with Pozzi). They first discussed the idea in 2019 but it took a year to get started. Pozzi quit his job as a fashion buyer to launch the project, while Weimer arrived from a background in art direction.

Image: Luigi Fiano
Image: Luigi Fiano

The shop is a gentle rebuff to Milan’s ubiquitous mid-century modern outlets. Here, the focus is on late-19th-century and early-20th-century antiques and goods that have a more rustic feel. The couple say that a major influence is the Shaker movement. “Modern doesn’t feel cosy and inviting to us,” says Weimer. “We like organic materials.” Pozzi says that the items in the shop have a “functional beauty”, meaning that they’re designed to be used rather than be simply decorative. “This has turned into a lifestyle for us,” says Pozzi of the shop. Milan is a little cosier for it too.

Sunday Roast / Juan Ignacio Vidarte

Basque in the weekend sun

Juan Ignacio Vidarte’s relationship with the Guggenheim Bilbao began in 1992, when he served as the managing director of a consortium overseeing the museum’s construction. Appointed as its director-general in 1996, Vidarte now divides his time between Bilbao and New York, where he also works with the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation. Here, he tells us about the best pintxo bars in Bilbao, morning swims and other Sunday plans.

Image: Markel Redondo

Where will we find you this weekend?
I’ll spend the first half at our place on the coast, 80km west of Bilbao, and the other half in the city.

What’s your ideal way to begin a Sunday – a gentle start or a jolt?
An early-morning stroll at the beach and a swim in the ocean before breakfast.

What will you be having for breakfast?
There’s always some extra-virgin olive oil on the table, as well as a mix of orange and grapefruit juice, some nuts, a banana, espresso and, in Bilbao, a traditional sweet butter bun.

Lunch in or out?
Out. The grilled foie gras at Café Estoril is amazing. And a red vermouth with a shot of Campari over an orange slice and an ice cube with a couple of pintxos in any of the nearby bars.

Any exercise?
Apart from the morning swim, a bicycle ride in the countryside, as long as the weather is good.

Your Sunday soundtrack?
It’ll include Van Morrison and Bach.

A Sunday culture must?
Sundays are usually good days to devote long stretches of time to reading a book. I’m currently revisiting George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. I also often visit the flower market at the Arenal park in the old part of town and, sometimes, an Athletic Club match at San Mamés stadium, the cathedral of Spanish football.

News or not?
Just the headlines online.

A glass of something?
A red rioja or a white txakolí [a slightly sparkling Basque wine].

What’s on the menu?
Red bean stew in the winter and grilled fish for the rest of the year.

Your Sunday-evening routine?
A family dinner at home and streaming a classic film, such as The Godfather: Part II.

Will you be preparing Monday’s outfit?
Not unless it’s a special occasion, such as an exhibition opening or a board meeting, in which case it’s always a suit, most likely blue or grey.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Persian omelette

Who says that you can’t update a classic? Swiss chef Ralph Schelling has created a green take on an omelette, made with spinach and dill. You can cook it in advance and cut it into strips to use as a garnish for soup or fill it with cottage cheese or ricotta. “I can whip these up in one minute,” says Schelling, who, after some questioning, admits that he has a rather fancy blender. Enjoy.

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 4 as a light breakfast

50g baby spinach
3 sprigs dill
¼ bunch spring onions
3 large fresh eggs
4 tbsps flour (you can substitute 1 tbsp with buckwheat flour)
1-2 tbsps olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl.

Coarsely chop the spinach, dill and spring onion, and add to the eggs, stirring thoroughly.

Sift in the flour and season with salt and pepper. Mix everything together to make a thick pancake batter.

Heat the oil in a medium non-stick frying pan and pour about ¼ of the mixture into the pan. Fry for 2 minutes. Turn over and cook the other side for 2 minutes until firm.

Repeat three times until you have four equal omelettes. Serve warm.

Weekend Plans? / Rosalie Hotel, Paris

Art house

Image: Christophe Coenon

“It’s important to create hotels with a sense of place,” says Joris Bruneel, motioning to the 1990s-era mirrored building that contains Rosalie, his second establishment. After a career working for large hospitality groups, he is now creating premises that feel like one-offs. Rosalie was a Mercure hotel before it was updated by designer Marion Mailaender, who looked to Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier for inspiration and installed some William Morris-print headboards. These were made from recycled fishing nets and complemented by works from students of the local Estienne art school. “As with Babel, our first hotel, I wanted everything to be made here,” says Bruneel, pointing to some custom-made, brushed-steel speakers by Quark and sipping coffee roasted at nearby Brûlerie des Gobelins. The grub’s good too. Downstairs, chef Majda Gaillourdet turns out a mean shakshuka baguette and crowd-pleasers made from local produce that can be enjoyed indoors or on the leafy deck.

Report / Fujiya Hotel, Miyanoshita

Timeless classic

It’s hard to know what to love most about the Fujiya Hotel: the crisp bed linens (made up to perfection), the pond teeming with carp, the indoor spring-water pool (the outdoor pool is open for a brief but pleasurable period in the summer), the piping-hot onsen water that bursts from the bathroom taps or the 1930s dining room, with its coffered ceiling, heavy silverware, jacketed waiters and a menu featuring such classics as beef stroganoff and apple pie à la mode.

Image: Kohei Take

Regulars were alarmed when the Fujiya announced that it was closing for two years for renovations but the updates were gentle and painstaking. The lounge, with its oil paintings and proliferation of sofas, looks just as it did (and is still called the “Magic Room” from the pre-war days when a magician from Yokohama entertained visitors before dinner); the buildings have been strengthened against earthquakes and a new spa added. During the refurbishment, much of the old furniture was packed off to Ishikawa prefecture for a refresh before being returned to its original place.

The train journey from Tokyo is a pleasure: the Romance Car from Shinjuku and then an uphill climb on the Hakone Tozan, Japan’s oldest mountain railway. Fujiya’s staff are seasoned professionals, knowing just when to help and when to stand back. Like all of the best places, the hotel doesn’t need to keep up with the times. There is nowhere else like it.


Growth strategy

What comes next for business and the way we work? ‘The Entrepreneurs’ is our annual magazine dedicated to answering the big questions surrounding your professional life. Expect ideas, inspiration and savvy suggestions. Here we share a notable perk of work: how one company rewards its staff with access to nature.

Image: Dan Wilton

The green belt is a halo of untrammelled land that surrounds London, protecting the English countryside from being encroached on by the capital. Landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith grew up here, on the Serge Hill estate, a large house and grounds nestled in the greenery near Watford. His eponymous studio, founded in 1998, has created gardens for public and corporate clients across the UK and Europe and has been awarded eight gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show. Until last November it was based in an office building in the inner-city London neighbourhood of Clerkenwell. But Stuart-Smith felt that there was a disconnect between the team’s practice and their environment, so he invited everyone back to his place – sort of.

In 2020 he began work converting some outbuildings in Serge Hill into studios. At the same time, he broke ground on a new plant library: a garden that acts as both learning device and appealing recreational space for his recruits. “A lot of people I employ are in their twenties or thirties,” says Stuart-Smith. “Living in London, they often don’t have access to a garden, so they can’t properly learn everything about plants.” When Monocle visits, his staff, whose work is mostly carried out on screen, are out picking beans and herbs to supplement their lunches.

Today the plant library is home to about 1,000 species, including fruit and vegetables such as aubergines, tomatoes and melons. Eighteen people work in the studio and have access to the garden for a soothing spot of horticulture. There’s a nursery being built next to the plant library, which will be run by Sunnyside Rural Trust, a charity that supports adults with learning disabilities, some of whom will be working there. “A lot of this came out of a book that my wife wrote, The Well-Gardened Mind, which is about the therapeutic benefits of gardening,” says Stuart-Smith. His team’s wide smiles attest to its theories.

For more from the world of start-ups, success and succession, buy a copy of our business-minded magazine ‘The Entrepreneurs’ now. Have a super Sunday.


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