This week we drop anchor in Fukuoka to try a bright new ferry service, find a smart restaurant in a Finnish forest near Turku and cook up a comforting soup from Bologna. Plus, an early look at The Peninsula in Istanbul, we pull up a chair at a Singapore restaurant with the makings of a classic and deliver a dispatch from our editorial director’s whirlwind week.
Where should we start this weekend? Should we cut right to the exciting bits, such as my introduction to a new favourite hostel high above Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour or a Thursday eve spent singing with some very talented colleagues? Should I start with the little tour of an exciting new precinct in Singapore? Or should we just spool the tape all the way back to Monday in Dubai? Let’s start in the Gulf.
Monday, Dubai. Confession time. I’m starting to dig Dubai. You can roll your eyes all you want but there are some very interesting things going on and, if you haven’t checked it out in person, you should experience it first-hand before passing judgement from afar. Yes, there are many things that need work but the place is moving at a high speed and what has changed is the global talent that is being drawn to keep businesses ticking over, launch new ventures or reinvent existing ones. I’ve still not fully scratched the surface but I’m getting closer and what Dubai and the UAE in general are up to is worth paying attention to. Why? Because in a week that saw another shootout in a US public school, people are looking to settle in places where “shelter in place” exercises are not part of the curriculum for youngsters and no one’s going to punch you in the face to grab your fine Swiss timepiece. Are there trade-offs? For sure. Is it better than the emirate of a decade ago? Most definitely. One area that needs help is the airport. Given its global hub status, it’s not the cosiest place to wait for your departure or make a connection but no doubt plans are afoot to improve the offer as the pace of change is near astounding.
Tuesday, Singapore. You can’t beat a tranquil driver, especially when you touch down at 06.00, have a day full of meetings and then have to be back to the airport by 17.00. Monty is one of those gentlemen who drives his Toyota Alphard like it’s his very own rolling living room (cue the success of this Toyota cult sub-brand and its kick-back recliners) and you’re just a guest who has been invited in to spend the day with him. While everything ran to time, it was constantly surprising as Monty seemed to take it all at his very own pace and yet somehow we made every meeting with five minutes to spare and every time I needed a pick-up, he was pulling up before I ended the call. One of our top spots was a little sliver of River Valley where, if all goes to plan, southeast Asia’s most architecturally interesting creative, retail and culinary cluster might soon blossom. The vision of the conductor of this community is super ambitious but if he pulls it off, it will be exactly what Singapore has been missing and add an extra pocket of well-planned urbanism amid a forest of high-rises.
Wednesday, Bangkok. Is it only the Thais who understand and come good on delivering multi-generational living at scale? If you’ve not seen the Windshell Naradhiwas and its clever use of cross-breezes, indoor/outdoor interventions and space for three generations on one level, then pay a visit – in person or online. Should you take a peek, check out the apartment by design firm and retailer Chanintr. At the same time, developers MQDC have launched a whole franchise around getting everyone from grandma to kids and grandkids (plus room for two housekeepers and a driver) all under one interconnected roof. Speaking of smart Thais, JBB Menswear understands how to keep the working man in the tropics looking crisp and sharp. Pay a visit to owner Bote at Gaysorn or keep an eye out for a forthcoming feature in Monocle.
Thursday, Hong Kong. Joanna, Jonathan and Sonia have been trying to get me to their little bijou club within a hotel for a while and this time, I finally got to sample their Carlyle & Co spanning three floors of the Rosewood in Kowloon. Make that Wow-loon! With Ilse Crawford behind the interiors, it’s the best hotel experience I’ve had since I first checked into Ett Hem (also by Crawford) more than a decade ago. It’s hard to convey what they’ve pulled off but it’s the smartest little set-up that mixes elegant bars, chic meeting space, a slinky jazz lounge, tightly run brasserie, hidden little Japanese bar and pro-smoking terrace overlooking Hong Kong. The best bit? A velour-wrapped vinyl-and-karaoke lounge to round out the evening with your colleagues. I never knew I had such vocal talent among my Hong Kong crew. The visiting Swiss delegation needs some serious lessons.
Saturday, Hong Kong. Before boarding my flight to Tokyo a few hours ago, we threw open the doors on our HKG airport shop – after being shuttered for three years. If you’re using the Cathay lounges near gate 62, then our rather large outlet is ready to offer you mags, regional specialties, Monocle classics and anything else you might need for your journey. It’s good to see Hong Kong bouncing back stronger than many might have expected. And if you need a weekend reset, try to secure one of the pool suites at the Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel, invite 15 of your closest friends (and their kids) and leave the details to the most hospitable “King”, who runs a very smooth operation.
After the death of its co-founder Eng Su Lee in 2019, beloved restaurant The Coconut Club was in limbo before The Lo & Behold Group stepped up to the plate (writes Joseph Koh). It has stayed faithful to Lee’s work and this second outpost in the Siglap neighbourhood was spruced up by Sacha Leong and Simone McEwan of London-based studio Nice Projects.
The space is inspired by nasi lemak stalls, complete with rattan pendants and glazed tiles. “We believe in its potential to be a flagbearer for Singaporean cuisine,” says Wee Teng Wen, co-founder of The Lo & Behold Group. “We have plans to take it overseas.”
A logistics centre in the middle of a Finnish forest isn’t the obvious location for a new dining hotspot (writes Petri Burtsoff). However, this is exactly what the Finnish Design Shop’s in-house restaurant near the town of Turku has become. Run by chef and author Sami Tallberg, the restaurant relies on foraged forest ingredients from birch sap to wild mushrooms and berries.
“Cooking with wild ingredients is not hard at all,” Tallberg tells Monocle with palpable excitement. “Finland’s forests host 82 types of mushrooms that can be used for cooking.” The 100-seater restaurant has been kitted out in solid pine and ash by the Finnish designer Joanna Laajisto with – you guessed it – Finnish furniture from the brands stocked within the shop.
Emmy-nominated Korean-born writer and showrunner Lee Sung Jin is known for his sharp yet tender brand of comedy (writes Claudia Jacob). His previous shows, Dave and Undone, reached audiences across the world and his new series, Beef, a black comedy about two strangers involved in a road-rage incident, premieres on Netflix next week. He tells us about his ideal Sunday playlist, his new rescue dog and the best cake in all of Austin.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
The gentlest of starts.
What’s for breakfast?
I tend to skip breakfast but when I partake I do eggs, cheese and turkey on an English muffin and a kale smoothie with strawberries, pineapple and banana.
Lunch in or out?
Walk the dog or downward dog?
Walk the dog. I have three. The third is five months old and was rescued two weeks ago. I actually met our little pup at artist and actor David Choe’s kid’s birthday party, where they hosted an animal rescue organisation.
A Sunday soundtrack?
Jónsi to ease into things. Then add some joy to your life with Fred Again, get happy with Baynk and get silly with Jamie XX and Tame Impala. Start to get into the groove with some Darkside, which goes nicely into Jim James. Pivot to The Smashing Pumpkins, then stay in nostalgia and play a run of early-2000s hip hop. As the sun sets, greet the evening with M83. Start to wind down with Frank Ocean. Reflect with Elvis Costello and Bon Iver. End the day with Jon Hopkins.
Sunday culture must? A market? Museum?
Don’t they say that on the seventh day God rested? Or something like that. Culture is a modern God so not on Sundays.
News or not?
No news is good news.
What’s on the menu?
On the menu last weekend was Lambert's BBQ in Austin, Texas. They make a great mac and cheese. I also went to La Condesa. Their tres leches was incredible.
Do you lay out an outfit for Monday?
Only if I’m travelling.
This week our Swiss chef, Ralph Schelling, offers his take on a classic dish from Bologna: baked, cheesy semolina pieces submerged in a hearty beef broth. “For some dinners I like to flavour the mixture with a little saffron,” says Schelling. “I recommend turning on the grill for the final five minutes that it’s in the oven to help the gratin turn golden.”
Starter for 4
4 pinches of salt
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
60g parmesan, grated
1.5 litres good beef stock
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the salt, nutmeg and parmesan. Lightly whisk with a fork until all the ingredients are mixed.
Stir in the melted butter and semolina. Beat again until everything is well mixed.
Pour the semolina mixture into a baking dish lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes.
Leave to cool then cut into small cubes.
Pour the broth into a large pot and bring to the boil. Add the semolina cubes, heat again and serve immediately.
“We see ourselves as custodians of this site,” says The Peninsula Istanbul’s managing director Jonathan Crook. The Englishman arrived here after a decade heading up the hospitality brand’s site on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue (writes Hannah Lucinda Smith). The Peninsula has picked an ambitious site for its 11th hotel: three adjacent historic buildings and a newly built fourth can be found on a stretch of waterfront in the heart of the city, which lay unseen behind hoardings for years. “It’s a unique location,” says Crook as he shows Monocle around the 177-key hotel. “It is our job to protect it, to bring it back to life.”
Designer Zeynep Fadillioglu has turned the central lobby into a destination in itself. This cavernous space was once the international cruise-ship terminal of Istanbul, designed in 1936 by Rebii Gorbon, an architect known for providing a Turkish twist on the Bauhaus spirit. The hotel isn’t just a paean to the past. It also offers a snapshot of modern Turkey’s creative scene, with 80 pieces of artwork, mostly commissioned from Turkish artists, scattered across the rooms and gardens. Fêted Istanbul chef Fatih Tutak, whose restaurant Turk Fatih Tutak was recently awarded two Michelin stars, will run the rooftop restaurant, which will open in June.
For the full first look, buy a copy of Monocle’s out-now April issue or subscribe.
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If you spot a gloriously bright red spot on the horizon between the Korean peninsula and Japan, there’s a good chance that it’s the Queen Beetle (writes Junichi Toyofuku). This jolly ferry service, operated by JR Kyushu Jet Ferry, whisks passengers between Fukuoka’s Hakata port and the city of Busan in South Korea. First launched in 1991, the ferry has carried more than 6.5 million travellers but those who have used the service in recent months have had a much more buoyant experience.
Designer Eiji Mitooka, the man behind the original Beetle as well as luxury trains and shinkansen for JR Kyushu’s railway arm, drew up a new plan. “We wanted to create a quality experience,” he says. Mitooka believes that travel should be uplifting rather than just a case of getting from A to B. The design he settled on was a trimaran, which has a central hull with a smaller one on each side to reduce rocking, and he tapped Aussie firm Austal to build it. “Ships might be the most difficult form of transportation to design,” says Mitooka. “But when all the boxes are ticked, they can be the most joyful, beautiful and delightful.”
Tracking health and wellness has become commonplace but sometimes wearing a smartwatch or other device can feel cumbersome, especially when monitoring sleep quality at night (writes David Phelan). This is where the Oura Ring is so brilliant. Because it’s made of titanium, it weighs up to 6g so you scarcely know that it’s there. Oura (pronounced aura) is a Finnish brand and the ring has now had several generations.
The latest model, Horizon, is fully circular, lacking the distinctive bump of earlier models, which led fellow wearers to nod to each other like members of a secret sect. On the under-finger side, there’s a tiny indentation that lets you know which way up it should be: the sensors sit there for best performance. By measuring heart rate, body temperature and now blood-oxygen levels, the Oura app can tell you how rested you are when you wake and, for the fittest among us, how hard we should work out that day. Just don’t forget to take a rest and have a super Sunday.