Monocle’s editorial director, Tyler Brûlé, shares his thoughts on throwing a great party before we stop in for refreshment in Paris, share our picks of the season’s best Japanese gardening gear and cook up a recipe for a show-stopping ‘pommes aligot’ that proves that sides can be as good as the main. Plus: the Austrian who is reinterpreting the Moroccan riad. Sound good? Then let’s begin…
It would be something of an understatement to say that the past seven days have been a blur – in part because of the pacey schedule but also because of a busy Salone del Mobile in Milan (please see Andrew Tuck’s column from yesterday’s Weekend Edition and our design editor Nic Monisse’s dispatches here) and because being the host of a private karaoke bar is hard work.
This time last week our Hanami Market in Zürich was in full swing and, on the top floor of our office, a full team of kimono dressers and hair stylists were getting our team of mama-sans ready for our little experiment in running a nightclub. By 19.00 the various Japanese market stalls were packing up their wares and Dufourstrasse 90 started its transformation from café/kiosk/shop into something a bit more moody and dimly lit. While the hostesses (flown in from the finest clubs in Ginza) shuffled in to run a briefing on the finer points of hosting, our hospitality chief, Raffi, made sure that his team had their ties perfectly knotted, Desi checked that the sound system and song library was at the ready and I escaped back home for a proper disco nap, shower and costume change into black tie.
At 21.30 our first guests arrived, were treated to champagne and saké, and the evening started to take its course. For the next seven hours, drinks were poured, songs requested, duets performed, bums shaken, cigarettes lit and tasty bites (shrimp and pork cutlet sandwiches) served. With the help of Yuko, Izumi, Rochdi, Raffi and Mats, we assisted our Japanese hostesses in offering a style of hospitality rarely experienced outside the bars of Ginza or pockets of Osaka and Kyoto. We chatted with our guests in little low-slung groups of seats, took their orders, made sure that glasses were always topped up but never quite managed to so delicately offer a pack of Dunhills to a guest. To watch a little tray motioned in front of a guest with a cigarette pack angled “just so” and then, in a similar movement, a hand reaching into the sleeve of the kimono and retrieving a lighter to light up for a guest feels like a little piece of choreography that has been lost in contemporary hospitality – non-smoking rules or not.
I’m quite sure that the mama-sans of Ginza (or the recently deceased Régine of Parisian nightclub fame) had a top-10 list of guiding principles devoted to how creatures of the evening behave and how to offer superior service. But if I had to pen my own, it would go something like this.
People over 40 are seeking a new type of evening experience that is sophisticated, comfortable and immaculate but also allows for a bit of dancing, singing and measured debauchery.
This audience is also happy to pay for such an experience.
It’s important to pepper the room with younger faces as well: it keeps the mood fresh and even exciting.
Exoticism always helps, particularly the Japanese variety.
There is an audience that wants to dress up and play their part, their role in an evening. Dress codes are good and should be enforced.
No one should be allowed to choose a song that lasts more than three minutes, 30 seconds unless it’s very, very good.
It is essential that at least 50 per cent of the guests and hosts/hostesses are good singers. It’s vital to always remember that you’re in the entertainment business.
Lighting, lighting, lighting. A good dimmer forgives many sins.
Many more people smoke than they might let on.
Everyone likes a deep-fried midnight snack, no matter how tight their dress or what regime they might be following.
We haven’t done the final postmortem on the evening just yet – and there’s definitely room for improvement. But it’s safe to say that our “Ginzüri” evening will be repeated sometime this autumn. Till then, there’s much more on the horizon when it comes to bringing our audience together. Stay tuned for the announcement of our summer markets in Zürich, London and Merano, our Quality of Life Conference (at the end of summer), the next edition of The Chiefs and a couple more Weekenders. But before all of those, we’ll be at McNally-Jackson in New York this coming Wednesday for the US debut of Spain: The Monocle Handbook. If you’ve not RSVPed yet, please drop Hannah Grundy a note at email@example.com. See you at Rockefeller Center or possibly in Asheville from next Friday.
“If you have a friend over, you use your nicest tableware,” says Kevin Vasic, co-founder of Recto Verso in the Marais (writes Annick Weber). “We want our café to have that quality.” Vasic and partner Luís Mesquita opened Recto Verso in February and serve home-made cakes on Japanese plates.
The same attention to detail goes into the coffee. Vasic and Mesquita use beans by Norway’s Fuglen Coffee Roasters and Sweden’s Koppi to make filter and espresso-based drinks. Our Ethiopian pour-over took a few minutes to brew, giving us time to bask in the café’s homely charms.
6 Rue Portefoin
Food writer Esther Clark trained as a chef then worked on farms in Tuscany and northern India before returning to London. Her new book, The Modern Spice Rack, was released last week. Here, Clark shares a penchant for Turkish eggs, mismatched plates and French apricot jam.
Where do we find you this weekend?
At home in my north London flat, pottering around – the sun is shining. It’s so rare to have no plans and I really welcome it sometimes.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Gentle and slow: coffee on the stove, flowers on the table and toast under the grill. I spend the morning forming a plan of what I’ll cook in the afternoon – usually a cake, pickle or bread for the week to come. Then off to the greengrocer for a leisurely meander before coming home and cooking.
What’s for breakfast?
I make lots of jam. I don’t really eat breakfast during the week, so Sunday is the day I’ll have a hunk of toast with a thick layer of salted butter and jam. The French apricot jam I make in the height of summer is my favourite. If I fancy something savoury, I’ll make Turkish eggs [cilbir]. I just love that combination of thick garlicky yoghurt and hot, richly spiced butter with oozing poached eggs.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
I live in hilly Harringay, so my legs certainly get moving. Fresh air is really important to my routine. I spend lots of my time leaning over a hob or writing at my desk and I think it’s important to get out, even if you don’t feel like it.
Sunday culture must?
I don’t tend to venture too far but I do love a flea market, car-boot sale or even a charity shop session. Grabbing a bargain is satisfying. I collect lots of plates to shoot my food on, so those places are a dream day out for me.
What’s on the menu?
Roast chicken stuffed with lemon, herbs and far too much butter, and cooked until golden. Always and forever my Sunday go-to. Buttered potatoes or chips, tarragon aioli and butterhead lettuce are mandatory. Then crumble and cold cream. I love hot puddings and cold cream.
Some side dishes are good enough to overshadow the main course – and that’s the case with this indulgent French number that could easily just be dubbed “creamy, cheesy potatoes”. French chefs would say tomme d’Auvergne is the only cheese to use but a combination of gruyère and mozzarella would do nicely too. “I prefer a good aligot to a fondue,” says our Swiss chef and recipe writer, Ralph Schelling. “Ideally with fried sausages and crispy onions or simply a green salad.”
Serves 4 as a side
4 to 5 medium potatoes
1 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
230ml double cream
Salt and pepper to taste
650g tomme d’Auvergne, grated
Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters
Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water along with a teaspoon of salt.
Bring to the boil over a high heat and cook for about 25 minutes until soft.
Drain the water and finely purée the potatoes using a hand blender – no lumps please.
Place the pot of puréed potatoes over a low heat and stir in the garlic, cream, salt and pepper.
Slowly add the cheese slowly to the potato mixture, stirring and mashing to combine.
Continue stirring until the potatoes can be stretched with a spoon like melted mozzarella and serve.
“We made five different colour tests for the façade,” says Christian Schallert, peering upward as he recounts his recent encounter with Marrakech’s stringent planning laws (writes Liam Aldous). Schallert’s new hotel is a striking addition to the quiet Majorelle neighbourhood, rendered in the city’s traditional ochre-pink colourway.
The new opening marks the end of a long and sometimes difficult journey for the Austria-born Schallert. He opened his first hotel in Barcelona in 2015 and purchased a prized plot of land behind Yves Saint Laurent’s former Marrakech residence back in 2017.
Now that the site is ready for guests, the self-made hotelier strides through his just-finished maison, gesturing to a wall-hanging made from a repurposed djellaba. Every object has a story: the sunloungers made by a metalworker from the medina; the brass ashtrays and bowls designed by an affable artisan in a souk close to the Ben Youssef Mosque. The interiors are almost ecclesiastical, from the curved ceilings to the traditional Tadelakt hand-polished plaster walls.
“I envisaged another Marrakech experience, away from the souk or medina, without trying to reinterpret the riad,” says Schallert. “I want people to feel as though they’re in a sanctuary where they can unwind from the hustle of street traders or bustle of traffic.”
A sunken lower-level terrace, private hammam and pool provide recluse from the sounds (and eyes) of the neighbours. Pointedly, there are no televisions in the rooms; stone bathtubs provide an alternative way to unwind.
Majorelle address book
Moro: Concept shop and restaurant with accommodation.
Plus61: Antipodean-influenced restaurant favoured by expats and locals alike.
Mouton Noir: Canteen-style bistro with a focus on meaty dishes and alcohol-free cocktails.
115 Rue Mohammed el Beqal
Galerie 127: This second-floor gallery in the Gueliz district specialises in conceptual art photography.
Le Jardin Majorelle: Yves Saint Laurent’s former home and garden backs onto Maison Brummell Majorelle.
Yves Saint Laurent Museum: Near to the designer’s jardin is this 4,000 sq m venue.
It’s time to tend those errant weeds and preen those unkempt corners of your garden, baskets or window box – and you’ll need the right equipment to do it. Here, Monocle’s editors share our picks of Japanese-made gear for the spring season, from a flask and gloves to a cheerful yellow watering can and a broom to sweep up afterwards.
Royal Gardener’s Club
A simple watering can from Tokyo’s Royal Gardener’s Club. The retractable lid helps to prevent spillages.
Founded in the 1940s, Matsunoya specialises in aramono (household items) made by artisans across the country. This one cleans up.
Gardening can be thirsty work, so don’t forget your thermal Japanese-made flask.
These gloves from Tet are great for gardening and DIY. And they make for a smart way of tackling thorny issues.
If you’re digging our ideas, you can see our full line-up in Monocle’s April issue, which is out now. Have a super Sunday.