This week we visit a café and bookshop in Paris, check in to Sydney’s smartest new hotel and rustle up a recipe for Okinawan noodles. Plus: a watch with earbuds hidden inside (who knew we needed one?), a Munich bakery on the rise and Nomad Arts Projects founder Juliana Forero’s Floridian Sunday plans. First, Tyler Brûlé shares his highlights from the week that was.
This week I’ve felt like a proper North American. I’ve never really thought of myself in these terms but much crisscrossing of US, Canadian and Mexican borders made me feel like I was a part of a more grand, if slightly underexploited, project. Here are a few observations from the road, runways and luggage belts of Toronto, Chicago, Des Moines and Mexico City.
Toronto, Monday evening. Where to take mom and friends Lisa and Philip for dinner on a drizzly, freezing spring evening? Should we do something easy, such as drinks and light bites in the rooftop bar at the Park Hyatt? Or should we be a bit more adventurous? As I’m trying to figure out the logistics, Philip sends me a text to suggest that I take a peek at the recently opened Ace Hotel. For a moment I pause and try to imagine the Monday evening crowd and whether they’re going to hit the right note for our little gathering. Perhaps I should do a quick reconnaissance mission? An hour later, I pull up at the hotel and walk into the sprawling lobby – and I’m immediately impressed. It feels a bit more mature than other Ace hotels (even Kyoto) and I’m so intrigued that I enquire whether it’s possible to get a little tour of the rooms. A couple of minutes later the hotel’s head of communications pulls up at the front desk and the tour begins. While we’ve featured the Kyoto hotel in the pages of Monocle (see Issue 135) and the group in general on Monocle Radio, my expectations are mid-range. I’m expecting decently appointed rooms that will get all the basics right and will be on the small side. On one of the upper floors we enter a corner “suite” and I’m positively impressed: wood block floors, plywood cabinetry, a smart little kitchen, a deep Japanese-style soaking tub and mix of vintage modernist furniture and commissioned pieces. The next room is even better, with its clever layout and views to the west of the city. Back downstairs the service in the lobby lounge is excellent and I’m so pleasantly surprised by the whole experience that I suggest that mom, Lisa and Philip go off on a tour. My former hometown has been suffering from a lack of decent hotel stock for too long. Finally it has a well-designed property to play host for a night or a month.
Chicago, Wednesday morning. I touch down super early at Chicago O’Hare and I’m happy to see that my connecting gate is only two desks along the rather faded concourse. There’s little in the way of exciting coffee offers so I join the queue at Starbucks, order a flat white (it seems they’ve done away with small cups in the US so I settled for one that’s far too big for the purpose) and find my position in the holding pen of passengers waiting for their morning desserts. I don’t go to the ’Bucks that often but when picking someone up at Zürich Airport or buying mags at Tsutaya in Roppongi Hills, I’ll happily use the company’s services and I’m usually surrounded by customers drinking Americans or cappuccinos. It’s rather different at 07.30 in the US, where most of the beverages being poured, swirled and sprinkled are the height of a wheelie suitcase and are a much closer relative to a sundae than something that might have been picked in the hills of Colombia. I find the whole scene fascinating as almost all of the customers are decked out in some kind of “athleisure” ensemble and I’m left wondering whether everyone is flying to a nearby Midwest state for a spinning class and where those large beverages will fit in a narrow-body 737.
Seat 1D, American Airlines Chicago to Des Moines, still Wednesday. It’s a very good thing that you can’t smoke aboard commercial flights any longer as everyone on this plane would have been burnt to a crisp if someone had lit up and the flame had made contact with all the alcohol that was being splashed around by the lady next to me. I thought that the neurotic extreme sanitiser had been left behind in Q4 2021 but seemingly not. So efficient was my fellow passenger with her wipes and overall routine (full seat, windows, seatbelt, armrest, bulkhead wall, armrest again) that I was quite sure she was going to give me a good scrub down as well. Just when I thought she was finished, she yanked open the armrest, pulled out the tray and gave that a once-over as well. When she was done, she pulled down her mask and then tucked into her bag of Starbucks treats and, in an instant, all her hard work somehow crumbled as she started to lick her XXL creamy beverage.
Immigration hall, Mexico City Airport, Thursday afternoon. I am so, so happy to be a North American and never have I cherished my Canadian passport more as I’m guided by the airport staff to bypass the massive queue and head straight to the e-gates reserved for Mexicans, Americans and Canadians. Olé!
Polanco, Mexico City, Friday afternoon. It has been more than a decade since I’ve been to Mexico City. I’m walking around the leafy streets of Polanco and I’m having trouble taking it all in – the cafés, the shops, the chic men and women, the busy dog walkers and the general buzz of the place. I grab drinks at the very elegant Casa Polanco, dine at Pujol and the city is just the tonic I’ve been looking for. There’ll be much more from Mexico over the coming weeks and months. Mucho!
And finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for. The 2023 edition of our Quality of Life Conference will be pitching up in Munich from 31 August to 2 September and hosted at the world HQ of Allianz, our partners for this year’s summit. As ever, we’ll be tackling themes that focus on improving urban living and heightening quality of life for all. Start packing those dirndls and Lederhosen; we’ll see you in Munich. Tickets can be secured here and all questions can be directed to Hannah Grundy at email@example.com.
If there is one ingredient that Julius Brantner values most, it is time (writes Florian Siebeck). “Like a fine wine or good cheese, bread becomes significantly better when you respect its natural maturing process,” says the third-generation baker. Instead of taking over his family business, Brantner opened his own bakery in Munich where he uses only organic ingredients and wants to “make gluten sexy again”. Whole rye grain is used for a sourdough that rises for at least 24 hours. This allows the bread to develop a fuller flavour and reduces levels of hard-to-digest carbohydrates that can result in allergic reactions. Excellent bread takes time so Brantner and his team work long hours. They only shut up shop when the last loaf is sold.
Juliana Forero, the Colombia-born, US-based founder of Nomad Art Projects (NAP), is a fixture of Miami’s cultural scene. As well as serving as the director of cultural organisation NAP, which she launched in 2018, she is currently chief curator of Frank Art Gallery and Studio 18 Art Complex in Pembroke Pines. Here, she tells Monocle about her meditative Sunday plans and eclectic musical tastes.
Where do we find you this weekend?
Next week we will be cruising calmly before preparing for our next summer exhibition, which opens on 15 June.
What’s your ideal way to begin a Sunday: a gentle start or a jolt?
I’m always on the run so I love it when I can take the time to slow down, watch a morning movie with my boys and enjoy the pace of a lazy Sunday. In the afternoons we typically head out to a park or festival, or go for a walk.
What’s for breakfast?
Always Colombian coffee. It pairs well with anything. Today we’ll have waffles with strawberries.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
Both. I have a senior dog and walking him is so slow that it’s meditative.
A Sunday soundtrack?
My taste is eclectic so I let my playlist run randomly. I’ll listen to Zero 7, Thievery Corporation, Amel Larrieux, Aterciopelados and Joe Arroyo.
A Sunday culture must?
I like to take my family to exhibitions that I’ve already visited or that I know they will like. I let my children explore and guide me. Our visit to Leandro Erlich’s Liminal at the Pérez Art Museum Miami was a hit. We also sometimes visit Wynwood and explore the murals.
What’s on the menu?
If it were up to me, there would always be fried plantain.
Your Sunday-evening routine?
It’s rather uneventful and I love it that way. I check my to-do lists for the family and for the galleries, plan the clothes for the following day for the boys and pack school bags and lunchboxes.
Do you lay out an outfit for Monday?
Yes, every day. Weekday mornings are intense so having my clothes laid out helps me to stay organised.
Made with thin somen wheat noodles, this dish is a speciality on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. The simple, flavourful stir-fry features crisp pork belly, crunchy spring onions, aromatic sesame oil and an umami hit of soy sauce. Enjoy.
100g somen noodles
3 tsps toasted sesame oil
1 large pinch of salt
2 medium eggs, beaten
100g pork belly, thinly sliced (2-3mm thick) and cut into bite-sized pieces
½ carrot (approx 60g), sliced into 4cm sticks
6 spring onions (green part only), cut into 4cm pieces
1 tbsp soy sauce
Boil water in a large pan and cook the noodles for 1 minute (aim for a little less than what the packet instructions specify). Drain and rinse under cold water.
Drain the water completely and place the noodles in a small bowl. Add 2 tsps of the toasted sesame oil and the salt, then toss the noodles to coat with the oil.
Heat 1 tsp of the sesame oil in a frying pan, pour in the beaten eggs and scramble until soft. Remove the eggs from the pan and set aside. Add the pork belly to the pan and cook until crispy.
Add the carrot and spring onion to the pan and stir-fry for a few minutes until soft. Add the noodles and soy sauce, tossing the noodles to dress them.
Return the scrambled egg back to the pan and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.
At the heart of Capella Sydney, the Harbour City’s most ambitious new hotel in years, there’s a plant-filled oasis called Aperture (writes Maddison Connaughton). Today guests and Sydneysiders are busy ordering coffee under a constellation of flowers created by Amsterdam-based designers Studio Drift. But Make Architects’ Michelle Evans, who led the painstaking restoration of the 107-year-old sandstone building, tells Monocle that the site looked rather different when the project started seven years ago. Tasked with designing “the best hotel in the world”, Evans began with a “treasure hunt” for heritage features. A painstaking restoration revealed the bones of the building, which once housed government offices. Now the low ceilings and cubicles are gone, replaced by 192 guest rooms and suites, a bar, a lounge, a spa and Brasserie 1930, the fifth restaurant from Sydney’s Bentley Group.
Capella Sydney is the first Australian outpost of Singapore-based Capella Hotels. As such, it was crafted to reflect and celebrate aspects of Antipodean culture, says Nick Hildebrandt, sommelier and owner of the Bentley Group. Executive chef Brent Savage’s menu includes Flinders Island scallops and Kinross Station lamb. Throughout the hotel you’ll spot artwork by Australian artists such as Judy Watson or Otis Hope Carey and design details from Melbourne stylist Simone Haag.
Press the edge of this watch and the display flips up to reveal tiny, capsule-shaped earbuds that are held in place magnetically (writes David Phelan). These buds offer high-quality audio with active noise cancellation. There are three sets of silicone ear tips, ensuring a snug fit. While ordinary in-ear headphones are marked left and right, here they’re identical and reset every time you put them back. The smartwatch is attractive too, with decent battery life and features such as heart-rate monitoring and 80 modes for measuring your sporting endeavours.
“You can smell the cinnamon when you walk in,” says Natalie Magnusson at Bokbar, her Nordic café and bookshop in Paris’s rapidly gentrifying Belleville neighbourhood. Originally from Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden, Magnusson had been living in France for a decade when the pandemic began and she lost her job at a translation agency. “It was a blessing,” she says. “I could work on my bookshop.” She funded it with her savings and did most of the work on its interiors herself. There are plans to host meetings with authors, run writing workshops and start a “language café” where people can practise Swedish.
“I wanted to share my love for Swedish literature,” she says. On the shelves, you’ll find works by Nordic authors, both in their original language and in translation. Her best-selling author is Tove Jansson, the Finnish creator of the Moomins. “The atmosphere of the north can really be felt in the books,” she says. France might have a flourishing literary scene but the appetite for Nordic books, fuelled by the popularity of hit titles such as Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, seems only to be growing.
Bokbar functions as a relaxed, unofficial cultural embassy that has quickly become part of the neighbourhood’s everyday life. “I wanted it to feel like home,” says Magnusson. The space features Swedish touches, from Skultuna candle holders to an IFK Göteborg football club pennant. Customers stop by for coffee from Gothenburg roasters Gringo Nordic and the cinnamon buns that Magnusson bakes downstairs. Some homesick Swedes have also walked through the doors. “You can come here and talk to people,” says Magnusson. “This is a space for everyone.”
72 Rue Julien Lacroix, Paris
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