Sunday 19 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 19/2/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

International flavours

This week we’re dropping anchor in Hokkaido to stay at a peaceful new retreat, before pausing for a nibble at New York’s Williamsburg Market. We also speak to Spanish film director Isabel Coixet about her weekend rituals and recommend some books for younger readers (or those looking to treat them). First up, Tyler Brûlé completes his tour of Asia.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Last leg

Previously in The Faster Lane, I had just wrapped a day of meetings and was waiting for a colleague and friend to arrive for rooftop drinks at Bangkok’s Park Hyatt before heading off to a welcome evening for our Asia editor, James Chambers. As we took in the views across the city, I tried to get my bearings to identify the Swiss embassy’s compound for my colleague Linard in relation to the British mission. “Where did it go?” I asked no one in particular. “The British embassy used to be right below us here but I forgot that they sold it.”

“Where is the embassy now?” asked Linard.

“It’s all coming back to me,” I said. “I believe that the British embassy is now occupying a random office tower somewhere in the skyline. They sold off the land for a tidy sum but as a nation they’re now invisible within Bangkok’s streetscape and in real-estate terms are outgunned by the Japanese, Americans, Swiss and even the Dutch.”

Thai breaker
En route to our dinner we passed a new-ish branch of Tops grocery store (part of Thailand’s Central group). As I watched bustling traffic pulling in and out of the garage and the warm lighting inside, I silently wondered how long it will be till the Thais take their food-retail skills to Europe. Given that the group is already behind the likes of KaDeWe, Globus, Illum, Rinascente and now Selfridges, they must have spotted a few opportunities to take their concepts to needy markets in many corners of the continent. They might start with challenging the current offer in the UK, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.

Well captured
What better way to capture a memorable evening than having your illustrator guests sketch out the assembled group in fine detail? Below is our new man in Bangkok and the extended team of Monocle contributors and contacts. The handiwork is courtesy of the super-talented Sundae Kids.

At speed
It wasn’t the earliest start last Sunday but once we got under way and fuelled up, we hit our stride and took in the ongoing overhaul of the Emporium shopping mall (we need to find a new outlet to sell Monocle now that Asia Books has closed; stay tuned) and the final day of the Bangkok Design Week exhibition.

Up there
Our correspondent Gwen Robinson convened a little editorial powwow on the rooftop of the Kimpton Maa-Lai (worth a round of drinks and bites if you’re looking for something new in Bangkok) with some colleagues from the Nikkei along with some fine rosé. The conversation meandered through Myanmar, Taiwan, Hong Kong and finally ended up back in Bangkok with Gwen convincing me to speak at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in early spring.

Hot wheels
If you’re in need of a good-humoured, occasionally cheeky driver in Bangkok, I can highly recommend the Grand Hyatt’s Khun Sak. Book him, if you can.

Singapore swing
I needed an extra day or two in Singapore as there was little space in the diary for poking around and simply exploring. Like Bangkok, Singapore is in full swing and, unlike my recent trip through the US and Canada, the city's CBD is hopping with full offices and busy bars and restaurants after hours. Regional offices are expanding, there’s a global drive to attract talent and you get the feeling that this autumn will belong to southeast Asia as there’s a real sense of ambition and industry. Expect a few Monocle events from Q3 on.

Alpine perch
I’m filing today’s column from a well-worn bench in front of our seasonal outpost in St Moritz (find us at Hotel Steffani, Via Traunter plazzas 6). Linda is busy welcoming customers, the March issue of Monocle and new title Spain: The Monocle Handbook are shifting off the shelves and we’re prepping for a little cocktail event that we’ll be hosting during the Nomad art fair next weekend. If you’re up in Engadine, please join us from next Saturday at 16.00.

House News / Monocle’s March issue

Start your engines

Monocle’s March issue is first off the starting grid in asking whether the automotive industry is heading in the right direction with a deep dive into the future of electric vehicles and the potholes along the way. Elsewhere, we offer a common-sense manifesto for the future of business that’s more bulls and bears than unicorns and fanciful valuations; a look at architect Iwan Iwanoff’s Aussie vernacular; a crafty new inn in Fukuoka; and a review of Europe’s best factories for fashion brands seeking to make things closer to home. Plus: recommendations, insights and analysis aplenty.

Pick up a copy here or do the right thing and subscribe so you never miss an issue.

Top of the shops / Shinkenchiku Shoten, Tokyo

Post modern

Architecture magazine Shinkenchiku is a household name in Japan. Now its publisher has launched a bookshop, Shinkenchiku Shoten – or Post Architecture Books – in Tokyo’s Aoyama district. “We used to have a library space for the public in our old office,” says Asami Naito, the magazine’s senior editor, who also worked on the bookshop project. “We wanted to have a space to engage with architects and readers.”

The team worked with Yusuke Nakajima, owner of popular independent bookshop Post. “This is a place to showcase the value of books as a printed physical object,” he says of Shinkenchiku Shoten. To stock the new shop, Nakajima selected about 500 inspiring titles from publishers around the world, organised into categories such as monographs, spatial design and urbanism. “Architects draw from art, design and literature for their works,” he says. “We wanted to provide a broader perspective on their discipline.” There is also a space for exhibitions and events.

Sunday Roast / Isabel Coixet

Screen time

Award-winning Spanish film-maker Isabel Coixet has directed 12 feature films, as well as many shorts and documentaries (writes Paco Herzog). Her TV debut with HBO, Foodie Love, reveals a penchant for food. Here, she shares a love of champagne, anchovies, Wagner and the trombone.

Image: Alamy

Where do we find you this weekend?
This weekend I’ll be in Barcelona with the actors rehearsing my next film.

What’s your ideal way to begin a Sunday – a gentle start or a jolt?
I usually just stay in bed but not this weekend. My film is a very good cause.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Neither. I am a cat person.

Soundtrack of choice?
JJ Johnson [the US trombonist] or Wagner.

What’s for breakfast?
Eggs benedict and several mimosas, please.

Lunch in or out?
I like a bit of both. So in and out!

Larder essentials that you can’t do without?
Tinned anchovies from Anchoas Sanfilippo, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and a bottle of chardonnay.

A glass of something that you would recommend?
A cocktail of lemongrass, yuzu liqueur and saké.

The ideal dinner menu?
My special anchovies: in oil with piment d’espelette chillies. Seriously, they’re the best.

Will you lay out your look for Monday?
No. If I prepared something to wear on a Sunday night, I would have changed my mind by Monday morning.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Swedish meatballs

This week our Swiss chef is inspired by a recent meal of köttbullar (Swedish meatballs) at Stockholm’s stunning Operakällaren restaurant. “It was divine,” says Schelling. “My recipe is a bit simpler and this dish is wonderfully easy to cook.”

Serves 4 as a main course


2 onions
1 tbsp butter
500g mixed minced meat
1 medium egg
3 tbsps breadcrumbs
5 tbsps full-fat milk
Salt, to season
3 tbsps grapeseed oil
Pepper, to season
250ml beef broth
200ml single cream
½ tbsp cornstarch
50ml cognac
50ml red wine
1 bunch of chives
Cranberry sauce, to taste


Peel and finely dice the onions. Heat the butter in a medium pan on a medium heat and sauté half of the chopped onions until translucent.

In a bowl, knead together the minced meat, egg, breadcrumbs, milk, fried onions and a teaspoon of salt.

With moistened hands, form the mixture into small balls (about 5cm in diameter) and set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Fry half of the balls, turning them regularly for about 10 minutes until browned on all sides.

Repeat for the second batch, then set all of the meatballs aside, keeping them warm.

Now add the remaining onions to the pan (leave the fat in there as it adds flavour). Season with salt and pepper.

Deglaze with the broth and cream. Bring to a boil.

Mix the cornstarch, cognac and red wine together, then add to the sauce to thicken it. Simmer again for about 5 minutes. Season again, to taste.

Wash the chives, shake dry and cut into fine rings. Stir most of the chives into the sauce, saving some for the garnish. Arrange the meatballs, sauce and some cranberries on a platter. Sprinkle with the remaining chives and serve with creamy mashed potato and a cucumber salad.

Weekend plans? / Shiguchi, Niseko, Japan

Elemental retreat

Not far from the ski slopes of Niseko on Hokkaido’s northernmost island, British-born photographer and art collector Shouya Grigg has opened his take on Japanese hospitality (writes Sarah Rowland). Shiguchi’s five villas pay homage to an ancient Japanese system of construction in which hand-carved joinery is used instead of nails. “It’s not a conventional hotel or ryokan,” says Grigg.

“It’s all about connecting things, like the joints that bring together the parts of an old farmhouse, shrine or temple.” Grigg restored a set of kominka (traditional rural houses) that were originally built in the Aizu area, using their old timber frames and installing shoji sliding doors, ceramics, fireplaces and a mix of vintage and modern furniture. Each guest house also has access to a private onsen. Craft is everywhere too, from the washi paper lamps, ink paintings and handmade objets d’art from across Japan.

Must try / Williamsburg Market, New York

Biting the Big Apple

It’s mid-morning in Brooklyn and a line of patrons is forming at the brightly lit coffee kiosk inside one of New York’s newest food halls, Williamsburg Market (writes Tomos Lewis). “The energy has been really uplifting and positive,” says barista Xavier Reminick in between orders. Many of the brews are crafted with the market’s signature Good Morning Brooklyn blend of lightly roasted beans from Colombia, Ethiopia and Sumatra. The market, which occupies the large, exposed-brick hall of a former warehouse, was designed by Manhattan’s Ogawa/Depardon Architects. It is one of a slew of new spaces in New York (and across North America) that are elevating and reinterpreting the food-court format. The 17 food-and-drink outlets housed in the market’s kiosks are an appetising array of some of the city’s small independent businesses. Tuck in.

Image: Clark Hodgin

Three dishes to try

Fried chicken sandwich at Paper Plate
These fillets are marinated in buttermilk and served on a potato bun with pickles. They’re as tasty as they sound.

Brussels sprout Caesar salad at Bklyn Wild
Treat yourself to this plant-based restaurant’s take on a Caesar salad, which features the juice of preserved lemons in the dressing.

Whiting fillet at Harlem Seafood Soul
Tami Treadwell launched her food truck in 2016. Go for this delicious fish option or, if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, try the fried macaroni-and-cheese bites.

The Stack / Children’s books

Words and pictures

For this week’s round-up of must-read new books, we turn our attention to the children’s section. Here are three beautifully illustrated and immaculately imagined new worlds.

Image: Tony Hay

1. ‘Spin to Survive: Frozen Mountain’, Emily Hawkins and Ruby Fresson
You might have spotted illustrator Ruby Fresson’s fine work in Monocle. She brings her playful style to this game-in-a-book treat, complete with a fortune spinner.

2. ‘Adventures in Time: Fury of the Vikings’, Dominic Sandbrook
Historian Dominic Sandbrook, one half of the wildly successful The Rest Is History podcast, brings to life the lost world of Viking explorers. Part of the brilliant Adventures in Time series.

3. ‘Books Aren’t for Eating’, Carlie Sorosiak
In this love letter to reading, a goat-cum-bookshop owner tries to find the right title for a tricky (and hungry) fellow ungulate.

If you’re a fan of escaping into a good read and imagining new and better places, subscribing to Monocle might be for you. You’re never too young to see the world’s best bits with a subscription. Have a super Sunday.


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