Sunday 20 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 20/11/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Made to perfection

Fancy one last tipple before the weekend is out? Us too, and we have the skinny on three wines worth uncorking. While your chosen bottle is breathing, why not make a beeline for a delectable Porto bakery, consider where to set up in southern Spain or find out how the head of a Hong Kong gallery spends his weekend? All of which sounds more agreeable than Tyler Brûlé’s convoluted room-service order…

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Short order

On a recent Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of the waves gently hitting the beach and the sun breaking through the clouds of the Atlantic. As I had a few hours to spare before my first engagement, I considered my options. Do I go for a little jog along Miami Beach? Do I write this column? Or should I park myself on the balcony, feel the sun’s rays and put that draggy novel out of its misery. Whatever the activity, I need a coffee and an orange juice to get rolling, so I dial “guest services” only to be told at 06.55 that I need to call back in five minutes as room service does not open its lines till then.

For a moment I walk over to the minibar set-up and consider the coffee machine and various sachets, and think that it might be worth firing up the little unit – but I’m overcome with questions. While I don’t want to be a slave to Nespresso – just as I hate being held hostage by Google or Microsoft – why do so many hotels opt for rogue in-room coffee-making systems that are complicated when one’s clear-headed and feel like a puzzle concocted for a geeky engineering club at MIT when one’s fresh out of bed? This particular unit sounds somewhat Italian and, as I examine the various blends on offer, assess the knobs, dials and “pour here” arrows, I realise that it’s now 07.01 and call down for my order instead. Given my line of business, I’m all for accuracy but why does a two-item order need to be repeated back to me in detail?

“Can I repeat your order?” she asks.

Do I have a choice? I’m thinking. “Yes, sure,” I reply.

“So that’s one fresh orange juice and one cappuccino. We’ll have that up to you within 40 minutes. Have a good day.”

Before I can ask why it’s going to take 40 minutes for an OJ and frothed-milk coffee, I realise that the poor souls running breakfast operations were probably sold the professional version of the coffee system that’s glaring at me from the far corner of the room. I go out onto the balcony and tackle my book.

It’s now 45 minutes since I made the call and the book has not improved; in fact, I’ve barely put a dent in it and the luxurious window of time in which I can do nothing is slipping away. I call room service again and ask how they’re getting on.

“Can you repeat your order?” the woman asks.

Really!? “It was an orange juice and cappuccino,” I say. “If it’s not en route then we can just cancel the order.”

“It’s on its way to you now. You should hear a knock on the door any moment. Please call us back if you’d like to clear the tray.”

A minute later the door chimes and I walk to the foyer. I open the door with a whoosh and stand aside holding it open. With my right arm, I make what I believe to be the globally recognised signal for “welcome and enter”: a smile with a sideways nod and then a gentle swing of the arm with a slow opening of the palm, followed by a gentle extension of the hand and sweep of the fingers that settle pointing in the direction of where you’d like your beverages to be placed. I’m about to release the door and assemble myself for my now very-much-needed coffee when the waiter asks, “Do I have your permission to enter the room?”

“Uhhhh, yes,” I reply. “Unless you want me to take the items off the tray?”

“No, it’s OK,” he says. “I just need your permission to come into the room.”

I’m about to ask why he needs for permission when I’ve clearly ordered something called “room service” but I can’t be bothered and he’s only going from a script that has been cooked up by some litigation leery GM or F&B manager suffering from a serious case of coronavirus-caution hangover. As I go to sign for my order, my eye is drawn to the total at the bottom of the slip. I’d like you to guess, dear reader, how much I paid for a cappuccino and an orange juice – consumed in a part of the world where, I believe, such fruits quite literally grow on trees, though you’d never know it. The first three correct answers will receive a little pre-Christmas treat. Drop me a note at Answers and winners will be announced next Sunday. Wishing you a good week.

Sunday report / Tarifa, Spain

Second home

While its golden sand makes Tarifa, southern Spain, popular with tourists in the summer, the city’s population of more permanent transplants from across Europe has added to its year-round charm. “This place traps people who are looking for something,” says personal trainer and coder David Thomson, who moved here from London. We meet him as he enjoys a morning brew at Número C café, where framed stills of films such as Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control, much of which was shot in Andalusia, adorn the walls. The aim of Número C’s founder, Balazs Kiss, was to recreate the laid-back café culture that he had enjoyed in London and Budapest before relocating to Tarifa. “I didn’t set out to open a café,” he says. Rather, the business was a response to a gap in the market and a rising demand among blow-ins for a place to meet. “I lived in a van for the first year so that I could make all of this happen.”

Image: Ben Roberts
Image: Ben Roberts
Image: Ben Roberts

Tarifa address book

Kook Hotel Tarifa
A modern take on an Andalusian palacete with a lush vertical garden. Take in the view from its rooftop terrace over the Old Town towards the Strait of Gibraltar.

Bar el frances
Securing a table at this popular haunt can be challenging, partly because it doesn’t take reservations. Arrive early to sample French-inspired dishes under the bougainvillea vines of the terraza.
Calle Sancho IV el Bravo, 21a

Zero Gravity
Carefully curated clothing and accessories for men and women that strike a balance between sporty, street and smart.

For the full report and more destinations to visit, as well as fresh inspiration and tips for starting a business, pick up a copy of ‘The Forecast’, our look ahead at the coming year.

Counter-top staple / Monoware mugs

Lasting treasure

Some table-top items last generations and still feel fresh; others less so. (Apologies to those of you with cupboards brimming with square plates, ivory-handled fish knives or dusty punchbowls.) London-based brand Monoware’s stoneware sippers have the makings of a classic with their comely curves and matte finish.

Image: Tony Hay

The design isn’t striking but that’s partly the point, says its founder, Daniel Baer, who left a 20-year career in publishing to turn his hand to pottery. “We set ourselves the challenge of creating forms that blend the traditional and the modern with subtle complexities,” he says of these pretty, Portuguese-made vessels, which were designed with Ian McIntyre. Bottom’s up.

Sunday Roast / Billy Tang

Art of return

Londoner Billy Tang left a curatorial role at Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum to take the reins of Hong Kong’s foremost independent art gallery, Para Site, in 2022. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Tang, whose parents arrived in the city as refugees from Vietnam in the late 1970s, before relocating to the UK. Here he tells us about finding a new favourite restaurant and the importance of swimming.

Image: Shuwei Liu

Where do we find you this weekend?
At home in Sheung Wan. Later a group of us will go to South Bay Beach, then head for dim sum at a trolley place called Lin Heung Kui.

What’s your ideal way to begin a Sunday? A gentle start or a jolt?
I’ve been a night owl but I’m becoming a morning person. I usually like to think about what I want to cook.

What’s for breakfast?
A toasted sandwich, crepes or a shakshuka. It depends on what’s in the fridge.

Your soundtrack of choice?
I’ve been listening to a lot of dub and a band called The Revolutionaries, with some punk rock by Black Flag thrown in.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I’m inconsistent when it comes to yoga. Meanwhile, I really want to adopt a dog. I used to look after a shiba inu in Shanghai and I miss her dearly.

Some exercise to get your blood pumping?
I was once obsessed with cycling but people told me that it’s suicidal in Hong Kong, so I gave my bike away. Now I bring my trunks with me everywhere I go. Swimming is the greatest way to process things, recover, reflect and solve problems.

Lunch in or out?
Out. It has been quite difficult for me to find a good lunch spot, though I recently had a great meal with another Shanghai emigre at Liu Yuan Pavilion.

Larder essentials that you can’t do without?
Lap cheong sausage, a quintessential emergency ingredient if you need something fast. I make carbonara with it, which makes my chef friends roll their eyes.

A Sunday culture must?
I’m still discovering parts of the city and Sunday is good for this.

Your evening routine?
I was inspired by the exfoliating rituals of people such as Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator. Their skin is amazing. I have my own routine now.

Will you lay out your clothes for Monday in advance?
My reference point for fashion is a Vietnamese gangster film called Cyclo by Tran Anh Hung. I start with a monochrome uniform: all black, all white or a mix of the two. Once in a while, I go for something crazy.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Sesame prawn toast

This gingery, garlicky and peppery prawn toast is a slightly healthier but still flavour-packed take on the takeaway classic.

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 2

For prawn paste:
300g prawns, peeled and deveined
1 medium egg, yolk removed
1 spring onion
1 small clove of garlic, finely grated
1.5 tsps ginger, finely chopped
2 small green chillies, finely chopped
2 tsps light soy sauce
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1 pinch of white pepper powder
1 large pinch of salt

3 slices of white bread
1½ tsps white sesame seeds
300ml vegetable oil for shallow frying


Tip all of the ingredients for the prawn paste into a small food processor and blend until it forms a smooth paste.

Toast the bread lightly. Divide the paste into three portions and spread onto one side of the toast.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the bread, paste side down, for about 90 seconds. Flip gently and cook for a further minute.

Remove from the pan and drain excess oil on a wire rack or on kitchen paper. Repeat with the rest of the toast. Cut into quarters, then serve immediately.

The Stack / ‘The London Pub’

Raising a toast

Pass the door of one on a Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see that pubs – old and new, dingy and delightful – are still a lively part of London life. Despite closures, rising energy costs, the fact that younger generations tend to drink less and, of course, the pandemic, there are still more than 3,000 boozers in the UK capital catering to every taste. These range from those serving upmarket craft beer to the “What’s that smell?” sort of spots. What might not cross your mind as you peer red-eyed and hiccupping at your reflection in the mirror behind the bar is the important historical role of the pub over the past century.

Image: Tony Hay
Image: Tony Hay
Image: Tony Hay

Hoxton Mini Press’s latest book in its Vintage Britain Series, The London Pub, presents an array of snapshots of pubs taken throughout the 20th century. The black-and-white images mix the remarkable (such as a gig by the Rolling Stones, GIs on leave or a lively drag show) with the quotidian: a quiet pint as the sun moves across the table in south London, keg carriers in King’s Cross or glasses hoisted amid sandbags during the Blitz. There are whistles wetted, pies, games of pool and dominoes, pipes smoked, pints downed and songs sung. This is a hazy snapshot of a few riotous moments in the ongoing history of the London pub.

On the case / Three wines to try

Bottle shop

Monocle’s latest edition of ‘The Forecast’ includes some wise recommendations by Swiss wine writer Chandra Kurt. Here we share three top bottles: a lively bubbly, a Swiss speciality and an organic Tuscan number.

Image: David Willen

Rendez-Vous No 3 Extra Brut, Champagne Billecart-Salmon
A wonderful new project from the family-owned champagne house, this just-released bottle is for aficionados seeking something sparkling and new in a field full of old names. It’s a pure pinot meunier from historic soils that was aged for 64 months on the lees; an exuberant, effervescent surprise for celebrations.

Heida Grand Cru 2020, St Jodern Kellerei
The highest achievement of a vertiginous Swiss vineyard in Visperterminen. The heida grapes come from the best plots and offer an aromatic expression of Alpine viticulture. This white wine is stored for two years before its release. It is one for admirers of the subtleties and charms of lesser-known indigenous grape varieties.

Chianti Classico 2019, Brancaia
The first vintage of a new top wine from a Swiss-owned Tuscan winery, this Gran Selezione is a sangiovese red, aged for at least 18 months in barrels. It is organic and powerful, yet still full of freshness, aromatic grit and silky tannins.

Make my day / Masseira, Porto

Freshly baked

Porto’s Benedita Saavedra and Adriano Sequeira (pictured) launched their bakery, Masseira, in 2018. It specialises in sourdough and natural-fermentation bakes but, to really make your day, it has a sourdough brioche filled with port-soaked raisins. Masseira’s story is one of many great discoveries in Portugal: The Monocle Handbook, which is on sale now. It’s as tasty as it sounds.

Image: Matilde Viegas


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