Sunday 27 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 27/8/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Back to school

As August draws to a close and September beckons, the final countdown to Monocle’s Quality of Life Conference in Munich begins – and just a few tickets remain. Elsewhere this week, we hear from Monocle’s editorial director Tyler Brûlé, check into a smart new hotel and restaurant outside Tokyo and share a simple sorbet recipe to freshen up any meal.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Summer heights

You will have noticed by now that this columnist has yet to check out for a proper summer break and has been busy keeping things ticking over in the world of Monocle and its affiliated businesses. The current plan calls for ten days in Greece sometime in October but as September is already fully booked with various events, meetings and client tours, I feel that the little Greek odyssey is under threat. I still remain vaguely optimistic that I’ll have a sunny moment in Vouliagmeni and nearby coves and bays. This is not to say that I feel in any way deprived of a solid summer. There were multiple trips to Portugal, a magical few days at the Villa Arnica in Südtirol, a steady course of morning dips in Lake Zürich and, earlier this week, a mini alpine tour through Switzerland.

As soon as the red light went off in the studio last Sunday and we wrapped up our broadcast, I made the dash up to St Moritz, swapped to my mountain wheels, drove to a nearby lake and attempted to find a place on the lawn. As this was the last day of the summer holidays for eastern Switzerland (with neighbouring Italy still on a break), it was nothing short of wild. The normally calm lake was filled with tinkling kids, inflatable swans, long-range water guns and novice stand-up paddlers. We managed to last just under an hour. Calm was restored a couple of hours later when we met up with our friends, Astrid and Larkin, at a favourite local, downed a hearty bottle of red, a pizza or two and a good cut of beef from the nearby farm that lets its cattle graze along the runway at Samedan airport. If you have spent much time driving through the Swiss Alps, you’ll know that high-altitude cows have a certain fascination with speeding autos taking hairpin turns and like to lie roadside watching Porsches and G-Classes zip past. I often wonder what they make of these four-wheel beasts. Are they jealous? Bewildered? And then I think about their cousins who live at the airport and gaze upwards when a Gulfstream or Pilatus goes roaring past. How do they process all of this activity? And does this environment make for a better filet? It’s also worth pointing out that this is one of the corners of the world where cows really do fly. Agusta helicopters from the Rega air ambulance service can occasionally be seen gliding down the valley with an injured cow slung underneath. It’s for this reason that I sometimes think it wouldn’t be bad to come back as a Swiss cow in another life. There’s not too much to worry about: you’re well subsidised, you get to spend all summer up in the mountains, breathe fresh air, drink newly melted snow, get treated to a village parade at the end of the season, have no P&L or HR concerns and you know that you’ll be airlifted by chopper to a well-equipped vet when you sprain your ankle 2,800 metres up a slope.

On Monday we set a course to Interlaken, then made a hard left and weaved our way up the valley – destination Mürren. Having heard a few reports about Ramdane Touhami’s Hotel Drei Berge, we decided to give it a spin. While it’s still a work in progress and an exceptional exercise in branding, Touhami and his crew get top marks for shaking up the alpine landscape with a jolt of Parisian chic, exquisite printing and some of the best crockery ever designed for a hotel. The property will close for a few months this autumn to go through its next round of renovations but it presents a fresh and much-needed challenge to alpine hotel operators elsewhere across Switzerland.

Tuesday morning saw us back in the car for 90 minutes before pulling up at the Gstaad Palace. If they ran a later summer season (and they really should!) I would also consider parking myself there for ten days of pool time, hikes, lunches at the Sonnenhof restaurant and Indian dishes on the terrace at the Palace.

While the mountains were toastier than usual, you can see that there’s more summer potential than ever as cities and beaches baked at lower elevations. It’s no surprise that this will be a theme at The Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Munich next Friday. This is your last chance to join us for the big event of the year. Hannah Grundy, our woman in charge, can still secure you a seat and a schnitzel but you must hurry. Hopefully we’ll see you at our cocktail reception on Thursday evening at Schumann’s.

New opening / Kurkku Fields, Kisarazu

Back to the land

Rock stars find many ways to part with their wealth but Japanese musician Takeshi Kobayashi has always taken a philanthropic view with his spending (writes Fiona Wilson). A successful lyricist and keyboardist in his own right, as well as the producer for multimillion-selling Japanese band Mr Children, Kobayashi might have gone on a lavish spending spree. Instead he joined composer Ryuichi Sakamoto in 2003 to launch AP Bank to support projects that centred on sustainability. Next, he opened an organic restaurant, Kurkku Kitchen, in Harajuku. Then he bought a slice of land in Chiba and in 2010 turned it into a farm. Gradually, that rural idyll – barely an hour’s drive from central Tokyo – has become a sustainable food mecca and, as of this year, a hotel.

Image: Fuminari Yoshitsugu
Image: Fuminari Yoshitsugu
Image: Fuminari Yoshitsugu

Kurkku Fields (kurkku means “cucumber” in Finnish) occupies a rolling patch of 30 hectares. Today it’s a model of organic agriculture practice, with rows of carefully tended vegetables, nearly 1,000 chickens roaming freely in their own quarters and a host of buffalo, dairy cows, goats and sheep. It’s not for show either. The produce is used in the restaurant, which serves vitamin-packed lunches and wood-fired pizzas to a full house. The ice cream stand sells fluffed-up soft ices made with the cows’ milk; the milk from the buffalo, sheep and goats is used for cheeses that turn up in the shop, bakery and restaurant.

There is much to be gained from a stay at Kurkku Fields but the message never overshadows the simple pleasure of spending time in the countryside so close to Tokyo. For 64-year-old Kobayashi, the project points to his legacy. “In the past few years, I have come to realise that the mission of Kurkku is to contribute to the realisation of a sustainable society,” he says. “It’s something that has to continue into the future.”

Image: Xiha

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Honey and cardamom sorbet

Sorbet makes for an excellent dessert when the mercury rises and this week our Japanese recipe writer offers a simple riff on the classic (with milk instead of fruit juice). “Use a shallow and wide container so that it freezes quicker – a metal baking tray works but make sure that it fits in the freezer,” says Nishimura. The mixture needs time to freeze and be broken up twice so this is one to make in advance. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can mash the sorbet with a fork but try to work it quickly before the mixture melts. “That’s key for a smooth sorbet,” she adds. Serve with your favourite summer fruit.

Serves 4 to 5


500ml whole milk
6 cardamom pods (lightly crushed to release seeds)
4 tbsps honey


Put milk, cardamom and honey in a pan over medium heat and bring it to just below the boil, stirring until the honey dissolves.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Once lukewarm, sieve the milk to remove the cardamon seeds and pods. Pour the liquid into a freezer-safe container. Place in the freezer for one to two hours (it might take a little longer to set, depending on the container and temperature).

Once half-set, pour the sorbet into a blender and process until smooth. Swiftly pour it back into the container and freeze it again for an hour.

Repeat step 4 once more. Freeze for an hour and then serve.

Sunday roast / Theo Clench

What’s cooking?

Theo Clench runs London restaurant Cycene in Shoreditch. At the Michelin-starred venue, diners can experience set menus in a restored townhouse and enjoy Clench’s creations, which marry classic techniques with flavours from his travels to Asia and Australia. Here, he shares his weekend rituals, suggests a soundtrack and recommends a reliable glass of Burgundy.

Where will we find you this weekend?
I’ll be relaxing at home.

What is your ideal start to a Sunday, gentle or a jolt?
Gentle. I like to have a lie-in and a slow morning coffee.

Downward dog or walk the dog?
We don’t have a dog but maybe that’s something for the future. Yoga isn’t something that I’m into as I’m not very flexible. I do enjoy training in the gym.

What’s for breakfast?
Avocado and eggs on sourdough toast.

A pantry essential?
Chipotle chilli flakes.

Lunch in or out?
Sometimes I’ll cook a good roast at home but I like to keep it as relaxed as possible. This week I collaborated with Chris Restrepo [at the restaurant Kurisu Omakase] on a 12-course seafood-lead menu. It’s always great working with a friend who shares a similar ethos.

What’s on the evening menu?
I’m usually either preparing the roast or eating the roast by this point. I won’t go for a big lunch and dinner.

Who will join you?
My partner, Sophie, and sometimes friends.

A glass of something you recommend?
A glass of 2020 Nuits-Saint-Georges Aux Croit Rogues. It’s a seriously good chardonnay from Burgundy. I’ll go for a lager or a gin and tonic on a more casual weekend.

Any Sunday evening routine?
Watching a movie and relaxing on the sofa.

Your soundtrack of choice?
Anything by Rüfüs du Sol.

News or no news?
Definitely news. I like to stay up to date.

Will you lay out your outfit for Monday?
Nope, we’re closed on Mondays.

Weekend plans? / Es Racó d’Artà, Mallorca

Call of the wild

Sitting on the terrace of hotel Es Racó d’Artà, you can look down the hill across fields and forests as birds flit overhead and croaking frogs let rip from the lily pond (writes Andrew Tuck). It’s a version of Mallorca that many visitors to this popular beach destination never see but these mountains, this landscape, are the island at its best. Es Racó opened just three days before the coronavirus pandemic started and, after that, there were numerous stop-starts triggered by waves of lockdowns. “This past year has finally seen the venture in full flow,” says María Rincón, who is part of the hotel’s management team and has been working on the project for five years. She is a passionate advocate for this special spot. But to describe this as a hotel is to underplay the scale and vision behind the project, which is owned by celebrated Mallorquín architect Antoni Esteva and his friend, builder-developer Jaume Danús.

Image: Anthony Perez
Image: Anthony Perez

The property sits on a vast estate of some 185 hectares, which was snapped up by the duo when the family that owned it finally decided to sell up. Having been left abandoned for 50 years, it was in need of some care – the old stone farm buildings had fallen into disrepair and fertile fields were neglected. Esteva (who has overseen the sensitive restoration of several buildings on the island, including the lauded Son Gener Hotel) and Danús wanted to give something back to the island and show respect for its traditions, crafts and way of life. So the first thing that they did was to tend the soil, planting xeixa, an ancient variety of wheat, as well as 14 hectares of vines (they will start making wine next year), harvesting olives to make oil and setting up bee hives. Only then did they give their full attention to the dilapidated finca, slowly turning it into the heart of the hotel. They also developed a series of casitas, some with private pools, and villas that are subtly dotted across the landscape. There are also spaces for yoga and meditation, as well as a soothing spa.

Sustainability is at the heart of the project and the building makes use of solar and geothermal energy, allowing carefully engineered shafts of daylight to illuminate the subterranean treatment rooms. Every space is considered. But there is something bigger at play here: an attempt to reset tourism on the island and to find a path back through the fields to a Mallorca of memory.

Image: Tony Hay

Throwing shades / Collaborations to covet

Eyes on the prize

Tired of seeing the same sunglasses as you scan the poolside crowd? Here, our fashion team runs through the key collaborations framing the debate around good eyewear.

Ganni x Ace & Tate
Copenhagen-based Ganni has lent its flair for colour to Dutch eyewear specialist Ace & Tate. The pair have collaborated on a playful 10-piece sunglasses collection produced using recycled and sustainable acetate. “It was a shared priority to build this collaboration with low-impact materials while infusing the designs with the excitement and energy of the summer,” says Sean Gregory Paron, marketing director at Ace & Tate.;

SMR Days x Prism
Since it was founded in 2020, menswear brand SMR Days has established itself as a summer specialist, introducing higher levels of craft and witty design to men’s resort wear with its hand-embroidered shirts and patterned linen trousers. Its sunglasses collection with London-based label Prism channels the same spirit. Opt for the rounded frames that feature textured red acetate and are named after the Greek island of Mykonos.;

Brunello Cucinelli x Oliver Peoples
Italian luxury fashion brand Brunello Cucinelli has been producing sunglasses as part of an ongoing partnership with US-based eyewear specialist Oliver Peoples. The newly released light-yellow and orange frames are among our favourites. They’re ideal for those who want to add a touch of colour to all-white summer looks – and they might match the shade of your aperitivo too.;

For the full report and plenty more, pick up the latest edition of our seasonal newspaper, ‘Monocle Mediterraneo’. Have a super Sunday.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00