Sunday 30 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 30/10/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Bright sparks

This week we set down our cases at a new hotel in Oslo, rustle up a tasty chicken parmigiana sandwich and hear about a work perk so good that the public wanted a taste. Plus, a perfect overnight stay in Puerto Escondido, tantalising audio technology and musician Benjamin Clementine’s Sunday itinerary. First up, Tyler Brûlé.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Service with a smile

Bonjour! Guten morgen! Bom dia! Kalimera! Good morning! Buenos días! On a little spin around the Kavouri district to the south of Athens last week, I was reminded of the power that a smiley, sincere kalimera can have for a bit of simple brand building – not to mention sales. Add to that a good soundtrack and it’s quite easy to create a whole tribe of repeat customers. I had two little coffee kiosks to choose from during my morning stroll (both side by side). I opted for the first one because I liked the tune that was playing but my generally good mood jolted up a notch after the warm welcome. I was all set to try the rival joint the next morning but when the same grinning staffer from the first kiosk saw me, it was hard to shift my custom a few doors down. While many F&B operators get lost in the science of roasting, elaborate latte art and chatter about the provenance of the beans or the mental health of the orange that’s about to be pulverised, there’s more power in creating a lasting bond by throwing on a smile, delivering some solid eye contact and belting out a bassy “good morning”. Try it!

Speaking of bom dia and warm welcomes, our new title, Portugal: The Monocle Handbook, is out and we’re heading to Lisbon for a round of book signings and a few glasses of wine. As this will happen before Christmas, dates will be announced soon. So if you’re planning a sunny escape, hold tight for a couple of days and keep your eyes peeled for our venues and timings. If you haven’t managed to get your hands on a copy yet, you can do so here. Of course, if you come to Lisbon, many of your favourite Monocle editors will be on hand to sign it.

As you well know, Monocle is a big fan of elegant infrastructure, smart architecture and well-poured concrete. You’ll also know that we hate it when law-enforcement agencies, inept local governments and lazy landowners do little to battle graffiti. For the record, many corners of Switzerland (add many other countries to this list) seem to have given up on battling sprayers who take pride in tagging lampposts and ticket dispensers, highway pillars and shopfronts with generally uninspired slogans, icons and rubbish. Do governments not see that failing to tackle this and keep up a fight only creates a climate for more vandalism? If a very rich country like Switzerland chooses not to combat property damage and encourages a climate of disrespect, where do we end up? Monocle’s all up for establishing a coalition to fight the decay. Of course, we all know that proper enforcement and prison sentences would put a swift damper on things but, in the meantime, there’s also a sustainable solution: super-fast-growing ivy. While I would hate to see all of that beautiful stonework and concrete covered up, creeping ivy along motorways, on school walls and across sound barriers is the cheapest solution to reset the blighted urban environment.

We were treated to course after course of creatures pulled fresh from the Med. But it was the very simple idea of a ‘chambre privée’ that stood out

What is it about the passenger who travels empty-handed that causes extreme suspicion? Is it that we expect everyone to be well-accessorised these days? Or does a lack of any possessions suggest a person in a desperate situation? I’m on a busy train to Milan and the only passenger in my carriage who makes me look twice is the middle-aged man who’s reasonably well dressed but doesn’t have a newspaper under his arm, a tote in his grip or a backpack over his shoulder. Did he forget everything as he dashed out the front door? Did his partner chase him out of the house? What’s going on? And why does a passenger without any cultural distractions or a place to put things seem so unsettling? Is it just me? Yes, he might have a phone and, of course, there’s much that such a device can do but somehow it all seems a bit odd when travelling long-distance. The good news is that I arrived at my destination safely, just in time for a tasty lunch meeting.

And what a lunch it was! I met my friend “Pepe” at Langosteria Café for a leisurely, meandering, pre-long-weekend lunch and, while the food and wine was delicious, what also stood out was the cosy, curtained corner that he’d booked for a few hours of clandestine discussions. Accompanied by my colleague Anna and Pepe’s associate Alberto, we were treated to course after course of creatures pulled fresh from the Med. But it was the very simple idea of a chambre privée that stood out. Why don’t more restaurants have discreet nooks and mezzanines for hushed discussions and cloaked encounters?

For the next two weeks, this column will be coming from various points across the US. First up will be Miami and Phoenix, and then it’s on to Dallas for edition two of The Chiefs. My colleague Hannah tells me that we have 10 more tickets on hand, so drop her a note at or visit our site if you’d like to secure a spot for our premiere summit in the Americas.

New opening / Sommerro, Oslo

Corridors of power

“People in the area have an emotional connection to the building,” says Dominic Gorham, a guest-relations manager at Oslo’s recently opened 231-key Sommerro hotel. The art deco building was once the headquarters of a Norwegian energy company. “Guests still come here to get energised,” says head of brand Siri Løining. Oslo-based architects LPO and interior design firm Grecodeco were given the task of sprucing up the interiors without erasing the past. “That’s quite difficult to do in a place with protected status,” says Løining. “There are three words on the façade here: light, power and heat,” she says, pointing to an etching that has been here since the 1930s. “Those words still mean a lot.”

Image: Thomas Ekström
Image: Thomas Ekström
Image: Thomas Ekström

From its large windows and brightly coloured carpets to chef Jonathan Howell’s brasserie Ekspedisjonshallen, the building has a lot of spark. “Oslo was missing a casual dining spot that didn’t feel too fussy,” says Howell.

There is a reassuring sense of solidity here. “If you build a hotel based on trends, you’ll have to update everything in five years,” says Løining. “Here, it doesn’t matter if things get scratched or change with time.”

For more of Monocle’s favourite new hotel openings and hospitality news, pick up a copy of our November issue. Or subscribe so you never miss an issue.


Washoku and awe

New to the ground floor of Helsinki’s Hotel Kämp, Sanchome is the latest opening by the Finnish-Australian chef Tomi Björck (writes Petri Burtsoff). The proposition is simple: classic Japanese dishes made from seasonal Finnish ingredients. “Many high-quality, ambitious Japanese restaurants have recently opened in the West but Helsinki didn’t have one,” says Björck. “It’s one of the most demanding cuisines in terms of cooking methods and the quality of ingredients.”

Image: Viola Virtamo

Two classically trained Japanese chefs run Sanchome’s kitchen and ensure that dishes such as beef tataki, bonito with ocean perch and robata langoustine with shiso butter are authentic. Sanchome also serves a mean house saké and, for those who fancy a bit of everything, there’s a 20-plus-course tasting menu available at the six-seat omakase counter.

Sunday Roast / Benjamin Clementine

Moon music

Mercury Prize-winning UK-born composer Benjamin Clementine is known for his arresting spinto-tenor voice, his poetic lyrics and the originality of his songwriting. A knight of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Clementine spent his early adulthood in Paris before returning to his native London. His latest album, And I Have Been – recorded in the hills above Santa Monica – was released on Friday by Preserve Artists.

Where do we find you this weekend?
At home in London, telling my children to play and stop disturbing daddy.

What’s your ideal way to begin a Sunday?
Some frankincense, reading, breakfast and practising patience. Then a walk with the family.

A gentle start or a jolt?
A gentle start. I don’t like to rush.

Soundtrack of choice?
At the moment, Japanese musician Isao Tomita’s recording of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”.

What’s for breakfast?
Most mornings for the past six years, my wife, Florence, has made me a homemade bagel with avocado and a smoothie. I got tired of it on the second day but please don’t tell her.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I used to do a lot of sports but then I got married. Now I do it when the dogs are sleeping.

Lunch in or out?
Out if I’m in Paris.

A glass of something that you’d recommend?
I don’t drink any more after reading The Marshmallow Test [a book about self-control by Walter Mischel]. I used to like a neat Diplomático rum or a cheap Montepulciano – it’s better than any wine made in England.

Ideal dinner venue?
I eat green now so I can’t suggest any good places. But a place that I used to go to was Cholada Thai in Malibu. It’s a very raw and ethereal place.

Your ideal dinner companion?
My wife.

Will you lay out your look for Monday?
A long coat with a creased black shirt or polo neck underneath. Unbrushed teeth but clean shaven, with cowboy boots and a pondering mind.

Listen to our interview with Benjamin Clementine on ‘Monocle On Culture’ on Monocle 24.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Chicken parmigiana sandwich

This hearty Italian sandwich features just-melted mozzarella, a tomato sauce suffused with anchovies and garlic, and crisp breaded chicken. What’s not to enjoy?

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 2

For the tomato sauce
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1½ tbsps olive oil
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
200g passata
1 stem of fresh basil

For the rest
1 chicken breast (about 200g)
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
50g parmesan cheese, finely grated
25g panko breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20g plain flour
1 egg, beaten
4 large basil leaves
150ml vegetable oil for frying
125g firm mozzarella (avoid soft buffalo mozzarella), sliced into 5mm slices
2 milk buns, cut horizontally into two


For the tomato sauce, gently heat the garlic in the oil in a small saucepan on a medium heat. When it starts to turn golden, add the chopped onion and anchovy. Cook until the onion turns translucent and the anchovy breaks down and blends into the oil.

Add the passata and basil, and cook gently until the sauce slightly thickens. Season and set aside.

Now slice the chicken horizontally so you have two thin breast fillets. Spread the chopped garlic on both sides of the chicken and season.

Preheat the oven to 220C (200C with fan).

Mix the parmesan, breadcrumbs and chopped garlic evenly in a shallow tray. Prepare another two trays: one with flour and one with the beaten egg with a pinch of salt.

Dust the chicken with the flour and pat to remove any lumps. Dip in the beaten egg, then coat with the breadcrumbs. Dip in the egg again and cover with more breadcrumbs. This makes the chicken extra crunchy. Repeat with the other fillet.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and gently add the chicken fillets. Cook each side until golden and crispy. Remove from the oil and set over a wire rack to drain the oil.

Spoon the tomato sauce over the chicken. Place the slices of mozzarella on top and put in the oven with the wire rack (so the bottom of the chicken doesn’t become soggy). Cook until the cheese melts. In the last few minutes of cooking add the sliced buns to toast.

Remove the chicken and bread from the oven. Brush the cut side of the bread with olive oil. Cut the chicken in half and place the basil leaves on each slice. Assemble the sandwiches and serve.

Weekend plans? / Casa To, Puerto Escondido

Suite dreams

Anyone still in doubt about the buzz around Puerto Escondido in Mexico must have missed Monocle’s report in Issue 148. Since we last visited, Casa To’s promise has been fulfilled. This nine-suite property features concrete portholes that offer privacy but also plenty of natural light.

The ground-floor suites have gardens and terraced solariums, while the interiors feature lamps by Natural Urbano and crafts from Guadalajara and Oaxaca. Though there’s no restaurant, a short amble will take you to a town with plenty of new openings. Try Kakurega Omakase for a clever take on Japanese cuisine and cap it off with a drink at Cobarde.

Tech Corner / Astell&Kern SP3000

Sound investment

Imagine an iPod but infinitely more glamorous and with astonishing audio quality (writes David Phelan). For its latest high-end portable device, the SP3000, South Korean electronics company Astell&Kern has used the kind of stainless steel favoured by watch-makers. The design further evokes timepieces with its side-mounted crown, which controls the player’s interface on the 14cm display. This music player can handle uncompressed audio, so you’ll be grateful for its 256GB of storage (you can also add extra memory with Micro SD cards). It lets you stream music from Spotify and other online services, and it works with Bluetooth and wired headphones.

Image: Tony Hay

Work perks / David Chipperfield Architects, Berlin

Canteen spirit

What’s 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 game-changing ideas, fresh inspiration and savvy suggestions. For a taste of what to expect, here’s a story about a company canteen so good that it went public.

David Chipperfield Architects (DCA) has left its mark on Berlin. The practice, which also has outposts in London, Milan and Shanghai, has applied its signature minimalism to buildings around the city, most notably in a recent touch-up of the Neue Nationalgalerie. However, architects at the studio say that Berlin’s cab drivers are less likely to recognise the office’s name for its stellar CV than for its lunch canteen, to which they regularly ferry visitors. “If you search for us online, the first thing that pops up is Chipperfield Kantine, not the Chipperfield website,” says managing partner Eva Schad.

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Housed in a pale concrete building in the courtyard of DCA’s campus in Mitte, Chipperfield Kantine serves a mostly vegetarian menu with an ever-changing main course, salad and soup option, prepared from organic regional produce by in-house chefs. Though its primary function is to feed the studio’s employees (who pay half price), anyone is welcome to stroll in for lunch or a coffee. “The idea is that it’s our kitchen, living area and garden – and people are invited to join in,” says Schad. “It’s made for us but we’re happy to have lots of guests.”

The canteen started serving more than a decade ago after an architect at the office suggested that a friend could set up a restaurant in a neglected building on the studio’s grounds in exchange for a midday meal for the staff. Word spread quickly about the Kantine’s hearty lunches. Today it’s a place where DCA’s architects can gather to mix with the neighbourhood’s cultural crowd. According to Schad, it is now impossible to imagine the studio without the canteen at its core. “It functions as a catalyst for new relationships, knowledge and ideas,” she says. “We spend most of our daytime here in the office but if you’re in the Kantine it feels like life, not work.”

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


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