This week Monocle’s itinerant editors come bearing treats from their travels. We visit a café-cum-library in Kyoto and profile a London perfumer that is smelling success in Asia. Plus: a cosy hotel in Upstate New York and a sweet Swiss recipe to keep you feeling toasty as autumn arrives in the northern hemisphere. Before that, Monocle’s editorial director, Tyler Brûlé, tells us about the week that was.
First, a quick apology while you munch on your muesli this Sunday morning. Last week I said that we would announce the winners of our Monocle Weekend Edition Sunday quiz today but, due to an overwhelming response and too many damn fine answers, it has taken our panel of judges and auditors a bit longer to get through all of the correspondence. We’re going to push things back: all three winners will hear from us by midweek and, hopefully, join us bright and early for Monocle on Sunday seven days from now. In the meantime, let’s head to the Basque region of Spain, Munich, seat 22K on a Cathay Pacific A350 and do a speedy spin around Hong Kong.
I’m rather late to the party with this one and I’m not quite sure what has taken me so long but the week started with quick visits to Bilbao and San Sebastian. Wow! Wow! Wow! From the Santiago Calatrava-designed airport in Bilbao and delicious pintxos at every turn to finely edited homeware shops and pockets of solid 1960s typography across shopfronts, it’s all good. As I was booked to do a speech and had to scamper onwards, there wasn’t much time to take everything in. I did, however, move at a considerable clip and have already decided that the area will be part of the mega Europe roadtrip next summer once that new Toyota Land Cruiser finally arrives. Unlike any other European country, there’s something about the scale and approach to planning in Spain that imbues its cities with a certain confidence and stature. San Sebastian could be a bit sleepy in late October but it has just enough people and commerce to create a rush around 09.00 and give the centre a sense of purpose and industry. So too Bilbao. And, speaking of industry, you can tell that this is a region that makes things, where families who own factories have deep pockets. If manufacturing continues to return to Europe, things will only move upwards for this stretch of the continent’s Atlantic coast. For the moment, San Sebastian is free from luxury-goods shops but I wouldn’t be surprised if we soon witness the whole place shift up a gear with retail and hotels to match the knock-out culinary scene.
It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’m with Mats, my friends Tommy and Tara, and some other friends of theirs from Gstaad. We have all gathered at Schumann’s Tagesbar in Munich to congratulate Tara on the opening of the new Rosewood Hotel around the corner – a project that has taken more than five years to complete. In a couple of hours a ribbon will be cut, the doors will be thrown open and the Bavarian capital will have a new property to give some of the established hotels a bit of competition. Transformations of listed structures in German cities are never easy and when the project is a five-star hotel with all the demands of health, safety, the environment and ever-demanding guests, it gets even trickier. Having checked in for two nights, I can say that they pulled it off. The rooms are perfectly lit, the food is on point and the spa is wrapped in the most lush yet earthy-green tiles. If you’re heading to the Munich Security Conference this winter, you have a new address.
It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m on the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. Do I work on some proposals? Try a film? Or even three? Cathay Pacific has done a seriously good job with its in-flight entertainment line-up and there’s much I want to watch in the section devoted to European films. After a few emails and a quick bite, I settle on November. Amazing! I don’t think that I would have found this had I searched for it at home and if you’re looking for something to keep you on the edge of your seat this Sunday evening, spend a couple of hours with this French thriller based on the five days of investigations during the Paris terror attacks in 2015.
It’s Friday evening and I’m with my colleagues Mikey, Harry and Jojo. We’re in the Lobster Bar at the Island Shangri-La. There are bunches of bankers smoking outdoors, minstrels and Alice in Wonderland characters in costume. All around there are Halloween-themed canapés and there’s definitely a whiff of decadence. The city feels good.
Hong Kong’s Pedder Building is going through a serious transformation so, just before closing, I take the lift up the fifth floor to see the new little oasis or gentleman anchored by The Armoury. It’s woody, brassy, warm and the right size for modern retail. It smells box-fresh. It looks it too. I send a note to my colleague, James, to ensure that we cover it in detail in our forthcoming special on Hong Kong. It’s my fifth trip here this year and, while it has been on the sleepy side, I get the sense that it’s starting to shift up a gear. Finally.
After 20 years in the book business, Yoshitaka Haba has acquired a reputation in Japan as the man to go to for any public library or private institution looking to put together a compelling book selection. Haba’s main office is in Tokyo but at the height of coronavirus pandemic he started thinking about setting up a second office for himself and the 10,000 books he had amassed, and somewhere for his wife to make her exquisite cups of coffee.
He decided that Kyoto made sense and got in touch with Yasushi Horibe, a Tokyo architect whose work he admired. “I didn’t know Horibe but had read a book by him and found myself agreeing with what he said,” says Haba. “I wrote to him and told him three things about the project: books, coffee and a place where time flows slowly.” Without hesitation, Horibe agreed to help. Together they have created Donkou + Café Kissa Fang, a remarkable private library and café in a quiet corner of northeastern Kyoto. “When I saw the land, I immediately decided to take it and went to the bank the next day.”
Based in London and known for its modernist retail spaces and unconventional scents, Perfumer H is expanding to Hong Kong and Taipei. In-house spatial designer Kathryn Pell and founder and creative director Lyn Harris have been working on the shops’ interiors to marry the design signature that they established in the UK capital with new features and local materials. In Taipei, the boutique’s front desk and display cases are made using batu wood, while its façade is framed with handmade clay tiles.
Inside, olfactory testing shelves feature handblown glass bottle stoppers suspended in test tubes. Within Perfumer H Hong Kong, behind a pair of linen curtains, there is also a laboratory where bespoke formulas are prepared and candles refilled. “Our clients appreciate the level of detail that the brand offers, from the product to the shop design. They want something that highlights their individuality,” says the founder, who looks to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan for inspiration.
Lagos-based architect Tosin Oshinowo established Oshinowo Studio, formerly known as cmDesign Atelier, in 2012 (writes Julia Lasica). Since then, she has designed a number of residential, commercial and civic projects, including the Maryland Mall. In 2017 she created the lifestyle and furniture brand Ilé Ilà, meaning “House of Lines” in Yoruba. Here, Tosin tells us about her Sunday lunch menu, her love for akara and what’s on her reading list.
Where will we find you this weekend?
At home, watching Top Boy on Netflix.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I wake up at 07.00 and it’s usually a slow start. I enjoy reading in bed. It’s the only time of the week when I can properly rest and it’s refreshing to do something that further informs my approach to life. I’m currently reading What We Owe the Future by William MacAskill. I then like to have a restful day, catch up with any outstanding work from the week and get my hair done. Sunday is also the day that I spend time with my family.
What’s for breakfast?
I always have proper ground-bean coffee in bed. When I get up and have breakfast I have akara, a dish that’s made using spicy black-eyed-bean paste, which is then fried into a bun. I usually have this with a truffle-infused olive-oil sauce, onions and peppers. I always look forward to it.
Lunch in or out?
I tend not to eat out much. I have become quite conscious of my diet, as well as how food is prepared and my salt consumption, so I eat at home. I normally have fried rice for lunch, which is made from basmati rice and an assortment of vegetables, and topped with jumbo prawns.
I go to the gym three times a week. I look and feel better for it.
A Sunday soundtrack?
I don’t listen to music but I do like talk radio. On a Sunday I’ll have BBC Radio 4 on in the background.
Your Sunday culture must?
Usually an exhibition. Sundays are such chilled days so it’s a good time to take it all in.
A glass of something you’d recommend?
Cold chardonnay in the sunshine.
Any Sunday-evening routine?
I get ready for the week ahead. I like to strategise what I have got on.
Will you lay out Monday’s outfit?
Yes, always. I wake up at 05.30 on Mondays as I go to the gym and then head to the office, so my outfit needs to be prepared in advance.
Maluns is a slow-roasted potato dish from the Graubünden area of Switzerland. While Swiss chef Ralph Schelling used plums, there are plenty of other options. “You can also make it with apricots or replace the red wine with white wine or port,” he says. “And if you’re making the dish for children, simply swap the red wine for grape juice.”
For the preserved plums
250ml red wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
1 tbsp honey
200g dried plums
For the ‘maluns’
700g floury potatoes
250g plain white flour
A pinch of nutmeg
Begin with the preserved plums. Put a medium saucepan over a medium heat, add the wine and simmer until it reduces by half. Pour in the water and spices and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Once the wine mixture has cooled slightly, mix in the honey and add the plums. Soak the fruit in the liquid for at least 12 hours, adding a little water if necessary to cover the plums.
Now it’s time for the maluns. Peel the potatoes and grate them (using a rösti grater) into a bowl. Add a little salt and let them stand for 5 minutes. Wrap the grated potatoes in a clean cloth and squeeze out the water.
Mix the potatoes with the flour and some freshly grated nutmeg. Rub the mixture between the palms of your hands until it forms a breadcrumb-like consistency.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Roast the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden brown.
Serve warm with the plums on top.
Camptown, nestled in New York’s Catskill Mountains, lays to rest the creepy, Deliverance-style clichés about the region (writes Ann Marie Gardner). This new 50-room hotel flips the narrative of cabins in the woods and evokes a design-forward, service-centric, 1970s pool-party feel, complete with waterbed cabanas (even if the weather won’t always oblige). The Catskill Mountains are known for Washington Irving’s tale of Rip van Winkle, an idle farmer who drinks a magic potion and falls asleep for 20 years. When he wakes up, he finds that he has missed a war and his sleepy village has transformed into a vibrant town. Arriving at Camptown is similarly transporting.
The hotel, formerly the Rip Van Winkle Motor Lodge, was owned and run by the Carl family since the 1930s. New owners Ray Pirkle and Kim Bucci of Ramshackle Studio have reimagined the existing historical structures. A hillside gazebo with a beautiful cedar roof is now Bar Piscina. The dark dive bar has evolved into an intimate gathering spot. The lobby retains dark wood ceiling beams and a huge stone fireplace but these are contrasted with white walls, Scandinavian furniture, custom mirrors and chairs with weaving by Catskill fibre artist Becca Van K. What’s particularly lovely is that Camptown, a 24-room lodge with a further 26 authentic log cabins spread out across nine hilly hectares, preserves its original charm.
In our out-now business special, The Entrepreneurs, the Monocle team asked some of our favourite founders about the moment when they decided to take the plunge and start something for themselves. This week, Sameer Vaswani, who co-founded of Prodigy Snacks with his wife, Neena, tells us about his eureka moment.
“We were driving across Italy, stopping off at petrol stations and little shops. We wanted to buy our children snacks for the journey but couldn’t find anything that we were happy to let them put into their bodies. Everything on offer contained too much sugar or too many processed ingredients – and that’s not to mention plastic pollution. It dawned on us that we should create a business that could figure out a new way of doing things in the food industry. We are both chocoholics, so we thought, ‘OK, why don’t we start a chocolate brand that is fit for today’s world?’ That’s what consumers are looking for. We also wanted to help the next generation. So we invented Prodigy, which seeks to reimagine the classic chocolate bars, snacks and biscuits that we all grew up with and love, making them better for both the planet and our bodies. We wanted it to cause less harm to people and communities – and, of course, to our health.”