Sunday. 5/2/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Global flavours

This week we touch down at a new restaurant in Marrakech, a bookshop in Seoul and a a hotel in Belgrade that’s full of contemporary art. Plus: a sweet recipe from Swiss chef Ralph Schelling, cookbooks to covet and our editorial director, Tyler Brûlé, shares his thoughts from his whistle-stop tour of Asia.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Travelling light

It was Sunday evening, I’d just returned from a lovely dinner with my friends Tommy and Tara, and I was staring at a rather battered Rimowa suitcase that was lying open on the bed. I was hours away from embarking on a two-week tour of Asia and realised that I was out of practice for a multi-climate, six-city tour. Had I really once travelled for such long periods with such a small cabin bag? How had I managed to stuff a compact olive bag with all that I needed for work, play, fitness and more? And did I still need to be living by the same rules? Would it not make more sense to just trade up to a bigger bag that I could check in and would make life easier?

Absolutely not! With great determination and a firm grip on my itinerary I found my rhythm after a few moments of folding and stacking and recalled that the secret to packing for such a tour is to trick yourself into thinking that it’s just a four-day trip and limit the wardrobe to the basics that you might need for an extended weekend. For sure, it’s not easy, as you have to plan around hotels with dependable laundry service and ensure that a client never sees you in the same ensemble twice but, with a little diary consultation, it can work. It just takes patience and a bit of sartorial sacrifice.

My original itinerary had me starting in Zürich and heading straight to Seoul but a few meetings in Geneva jumped in the way, so I had to jump on the train, meet, drink and dine with clients, stay overnight in a hotel and then catch a Finnair flight up to Helsinki and on to Seoul.

At Helsinki Airport’s gate 52, I was told that a mask would be required to board the flight and was essential for the duration of the journey to Seoul. Really? Was this a requirement of the airline or the South Korean government? The man at the gate mumbled something to the effect of, “That’s the way it is,” but, once onboard, I realised that it was more about keeping up appearances and ensuring that the memory of the pandemic stays alive than following a strict rule. The Finnish crew seemed rather exhausted by the idea and took every opportunity to pull their masks off once in the galley and, after drinks had been served, most passengers dispensed with theirs. On landing in Seoul, I was expecting Incheon’s workers and passengers to be fully masked but there were some strong signs that people were doing away with them and not paying attention to the reminders to keep them on.

I was in Seoul a little over a year ago and found the city a bit sleepy and, despite offering business visas, it wasn’t in a position to be hosting the world. Thankfully, it had found much of its rhythm again and there was a healthy energy and a renewed sense of ambition. How different it was from being in Washington a few weeks ago; DC felt like a geriatric zombie town. The coronavirus measures seemed to be receding at speed in Seoul and the city almost felt like its old self but there was an urgency to build on the momentum around brand South Korea and ensure that it could deliver on its promise to be a new hub for multinationals fatigued by Hong Kong and fed up with operating out of Shanghai.

After 24 hours in Seoul, it was on to Tokyo. When I stepped off the aircraft, I was greeted by not one or two people in pink vests flapping various health forms and pointing and shouting but more than 20. As a first impression, it was off-putting and less than welcoming. While the immigration procedures were fast enough, you immediately got the sense that Japan might be marketing itself as a country for people who have enjoyed the past few years of absurd rules and get a thrill out of squirting on alcohol-based sanitisers and tearing into a pack of fresh masks – maybe even in an array of seasonal new colours.

Last month I penned a piece in the Nikkei about the need for Japan to take some active measures to move society out of the pandemic at speed. While there are a few rebels who go against the flow and don’t don masks, the country feels as though it’s caught between some vague official guidance (there have been few enforceable laws in Japan governing the pandemic) about not wearing a mask and a very real need to kick-start the economy – particularly by opening up to tourists. Just before I arrived the government said that coronavirus would be downgraded to flu status and many remarked that this would be the turning point when things would get back to normal. I’m not so sure.

Social conformity is part of what makes Japan Japan, so it’ll be a while before the Plexi, ethanol, temperature checks, masks and early closing hours are removed and the Tokyo that we love comes roaring back. On the plus side, there are still very few tourists, so now’s the time to have Kyoto almost to yourself, as I did on Saturday. Save for the odd pairs of Germans and Aussies wandering around in matching hiking gear (by the way, why? You’re in a proper city, so dress for the occasion for heaven sake), there are only well-behaved domestic tourists queuing for egg sandwiches and special-edition curry. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was in Europe this week, so hopefully she clocked that life is fully back to normal and, for her capital to compete, it needs to get its genki groove back. Now!

Eating Out / Sahbi Sahbi, Marrakech

Out in the open

“We wanted to make something unique,” says Olivier Marty, co-founder of Studio KO, the architectural practice behind Marrakech’s smart new restaurant Sahbi Sahbi (writes Sarah Rowland). Marty and partner Karl Fournier are perhaps best known for their work on the same city’s Yves Saint Laurent Museum. Opening Sahbi Sahbi, whose name means “soulmates” in the Darija dialect, wasn’t just a culinary or aesthetic act; it was political too. Kitchens in Morocco are mostly closed shops in which secrecy surrounds recipes that are passed down through generations. Sahbi Sahbi’s female-led kitchen, however, is at the centre, turning out cumin-spiced lamb tagines, chermoula sea bass, various pastillas (pies) and herby couscous dishes. “This is our attempt to showcase both modernity and the past,” says Marty. “We wanted to use design as a backdrop for the menu.”

Everything in the restaurant (except the bamboo lamps by American designer Isamu Noguchi) is made by local artisans. “There’s an abundance of wood and earthy materials,” says Fournier. Studio KO employed a variety of textured surfaces, such as carvings, brick and cedar elements, and non-symmetrical tiles. “We hope that Sahbi Sahbi becomes a special place for interaction and social gathering,” says Fournier. “It’s a space where people are invited to discover the Moroccan traditions that we’ve come to love.”
sahbisahbi.com

For more places that work, pick up our February issue today. Or subscribe to Monocle so that you never miss an issue.

New opening / Graphic, Seoul

Jumping off the page

Seoul-based restaurateur and comics devotee David Paik says that he opened Graphic, a four-storey shop dedicated to graphic novels, so that like-minded people could share their love of the form (writes Jeyup S Kwaak). “I wanted to challenge the misconception that manhwa [comics] is a lower form of art,” he says. Nestled in the sleepy Gyeongnidan-gil neighbourhood, the building was designed by South Korean firm Oonn and design agency U Lab as a homage to the printed page. Display tables resemble an open book, while the walls and exterior feature vertical lines that evoke the edges of a page. There’s an entry fee but the bookshop provides coffee, tea and snacks – there’s a whisky bar too.
33 Hoenamu-ro 39-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Sunday Roast / Nacho Alegre

Flat out

Nacho Alegre is a Spanish photographer, publisher and art director based in Barcelona (writes Claudia Jacob). He is co-founder and publisher of Apartamento, which continues to tell stories about the lives of creative people through their homes. Alegre talks Indian takeaways and morning croissants in Barcelona, plus why crosswords put him to sleep.

Where do we find you this weekend?
In Barcelona, still trying to recover from the Christmas holidays.

Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
A gentle start is ideal, if the children allow it.

What’s for breakfast?
Porridge for the kids, coffee for me. I’m not a breakfast person. I might take them for an easy stroll to the park and buy some croissants at Éric & Benjamin, though.

Lunch in or out?
I try to go sailing on Sundays if I’m in Barcelona. That means a quick sandwich afterwards. If not, then we might meet some friends for lunch and extend it well into the evening.

A Sunday soundtrack?
[Children’s artist] Caspar Babypants, the Moana soundtrack and Jonathan Richman.

Sunday culture must? A market? Museum?
Did I mention that I have children?

What’s on the menu?
If we haven’t eaten lunch out, we order Indian food from Veg World India on Carrer de Bruniquer.

Sunday evening routine?
I like to go through the news and then, if I’m not too sleepy, I do The New York Times’ Sunday crossword. It’s quite a challenge and it often puts me to sleep before I finish it.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Quince tarte Tatin with thyme

“I like quinces a thousand times more than apples,” says our Swiss chef Ralph Schelling, who has a particular weakness for the fragrant Japanese ornamental variety. Cooking times for the fruit vary considerably. “The small ones from my garden go very soft after five minutes but other varieties or larger specimens can take much longer,” says Schelling. “Just remember that when the fruit is soft, it’s ready.”

Illustration: Xihanation

Makes 1 tart (with a diameter of 25cm)

Ingredients

150g plain white flour (plus some extra for dusting)
130g unrefined cane sugar
1 pinch salt
180g butter
1 egg yolk
1.25kg small quinces
2 or 3 sprigs thyme
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out and pod discarded
1 dollop whipped cream (optional)

Method

1.
Mix the flour, about 50g of the sugar and the salt in a bowl.

2.
Spread 100g of the butter on top of the flour and add the egg yolks. Crumble the mix together by hand. Knead the crumbs into a ball. Cover it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to create your shortcrust pastry.

3.
Preheat the oven to 200C.

4.
Wash the quinces. Cut them into quarters (eighths for larger ones) and remove their cores. Place the fruit in a pan and cover with 200ml of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Let it cool briefly. Drain if there is any juice left.

5.
Heat a pan with the remaining butter and sugar on the hob. Once the sugar has melted, remove the pan briefly from the heat and add the thyme and vanilla. Layer the quince pieces in a circle with the skin sides facing down.

6.
Caramelise the sugar for three to four minutes over a medium heat.

7.
Roll out the shortcrust pastry on a floured work surface until it is slightly larger than the mould. Carefully place the dough on top of the quinces, nudging the overhanging edges into the pan.

8.
Bake for about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the tart rest briefly. Place a pie plate on top, flip and carefully remove the pan.

9.
Serve with whipped cream while the tart is still warm.
ralphschelling.com

Weekend Plans? / Pavilion Hotel and Social Club

Making a stand

Belgrade’s Pavilion Hotel and Social Club is more than just a stylish addition to the increasingly impressive hospitality options in Serbia’s capital. It also represents a stand against the less admirable aspects of the city’s recent – and rapid – development (writes Guy De Launay). Not only have cookie-cutter concrete blocks colonised the banks of the Sava and Danube rivers but also the demolition of elegant downtown villas is threatening to change the character of some of Belgrade’s oldest neighbourhoods. Ivan Jugovic is determined that this should not happen in Dorćol, a district at the heart of the Old Town. The veteran nightclub operator spotted an opportunity to create a place for rest and play.

Image: Jaka Bulc

Pavilion Hotel and Social Club is housed in a building on Dobracina Street that originally served as the residence of architects Danica and Branislav Kojić before becoming the Iranian embassy. Now it has 14 guest rooms as well as a bar, restaurant and courtyard garden. The “cherry on top”, says Jugovic, is the ever-changing selection of contemporary art. The owner is keen to position Pavilion as a social club for locals, as much as accommodation for visitors. “In the morning you could read a book here,” he tells Monocle. “At lunch, take your business to another level. After that, you don’t know how the day will end.”
hotelpavilion.rs

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The Stack / Cookbooks

For all tastes

In the first in a new Sunday series of recommended books to read, we’ve selected a trio of covetable new cookbooks to satisfy even the fussiest of diners.

1. ‘Cooking: Simply and Well, for One or Many’ by Jeremy Lee
Covering most bases, with chapters on anything from artichokes to salsify – and a useful “impromptu suppers” section, British chef Jeremy Lee (of London institution Quo Vadis) writes as captivatingly as he cooks.

2. ‘The River Cafe Look Book’ by Ruth Rogers, Sian Wyn Owen and Joseph Trivelli
The team at (perhaps) London’s best restaurant assembles a series of beguilingly uncomplicated recipes that children can try their hand at – though we suspect adults will be tempted to join in.

3. ‘Oren: A Personal Collection of Recipes and Stories from Tel Aviv’ by Oden Oren
The chef celebrates the flavours of the Mediterranean on a personal journey of food memory with his simple but sumptuous recipes. Have a super Sunday.

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