Is your Sunday stuffed with weekend plans or do you have a moment to unwind and take some time to yourself? Whatever is on the agenda, Monocle’s editors have sought a selection of stories to help keep you fed, watered and inspired. We stop off at a culinary school in Bangkok that’s cooking up good business for its students and hear about a Canadian writer’s ideal weekend in Edinburgh. Plus: an inspiring story from a skincare entrepreneur rooted in tradition. But before all that, take it away Tyler Brûlé…
Good morning from Bangkok, where half of Singapore and Hong Kong seem to have descended for a weekend of hot bites, mall walks and super-extended massage sessions. I’m decompressing from five days spent in Shenzhen. If you haven’t been to the snaking metropolis of some 17 million people tucked around the corner from Hong Kong, it’s a lot to process. How did they do it in just 30 years? Who are all these coffee and bubble tea-drinking youngsters streaming up into these office towers? And who is the clever person in charge of the city’s landscaping programme? Perhaps the biggest surprises about Shenzhen are the amount of greenery and mature trees (a few cues from Singapore perhaps), the funny hum of rubber on road and purring BYD e-vehicles. We’ll come back to Shenzhen at another point I’m sure but, in the meantime, let’s crank up the spotlights and wander over to the winners’ circle. It’s time to announce the top prizes from our quiz that took place two Sundays ago, where I posed a series of questions to clever readers who wrote in with sassy responses. A few highlights below:
1. If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter then you will have caught our story just over two weeks ago about the French and their love of the office. JLL released a report that the French and Swiss lead the way in working from the office but didn’t really explain more as to why. Superior workplaces? Easier commutes? Better lunch options? Explain.
It’s logistically easier to carry on an affair when one goes “to the office” most days. M Bozic.
The French (and maybe some Swiss) have so much personal style. It is difficult to enjoy that on Zoom. They want to dress to go to an office and gain CV capital by presenting the total package. E Schultz.
2. Have you ever flown domestically in Japan? Did you marvel at how quickly ANA and JAL can board a high-density domestic 777 from Tokyo Haneda to Fukuoka? It’s an exquisitely choreographed exercise in social capital and everyone being alert. Can the Japanese teach the rest of the world anything? Or will we forever spend too long shuffling along a stuffy boarding ramp?
Boarding a plane in Japan is like witnessing a ballet in the sky. The secret ingredient? Courtesy with a pinch of efficiency. Could they teach the world? Absolutely. Will the world listen? Doubtful. We’re too busy wrestling for overhead bin space. K Simatovic.
We are doomed. The Japanese have a long cultural standing of respect for rules and for their fellow man. There is little hope for the rest of us. JR Gutierrez.
3. Have you noticed this one? Many booksellers still love wearing masks and working behind plexiglass. Why?
I worked as a bookseller in the late 1980s, travelling around western Europe, visiting English-speaking communities such as UN agencies, international schools and US and UK military bases. Having sold adult and children’s literature, I can say that we are a gentle type and live in our books rather than the real world. B McMichael.
4. One more on this theme. It was weird the first time round but why are there still people driving around alone in their vehicles wearing masks?
Lots of bad decisions to get facial tattoos during the coronavirus pandemic. What better way to hide them while looking civic-minded? J Reynar.
5.What’s better for the environment? Reading off a screen or a printed page from a responsibly managed forest? Supporting evidence is required for this one.
One 6x9 in printed page of read material = 54 sq in of reusable paper = 0.375 sq ft of gift wrapping that I can use for the forthcoming Christmas season. This equals $0.15 saved by the going rate of US Christmas wrapping at $0.40 per sq ft. So if I read 10 pages on paper instead of on a screen, I would have better eyesight, $1.50 in savings and a proud hug from my mom after having received her holiday pajamas wrapped in a sustainable way. T Sheppard.
6. As the northern hemisphere moves into cosy season, there’ll soon be a shift to more candlelight – real and LED. Like the question above, what’s better for the future of our fragile planet but also for our soul?
LED lovers can enjoy their birthday cake with LEDs. P Edelin.
7. You’re in a tiny, woody alpine restaurant. It’s packed and it’s hovering at about 39C indoors. Like you, many fellow guests are visibly uncomfortable with this heat. The management, in wispy layers, seems oblivious to the temperature. Nearby there is a couple in quintuple-ply cashmere and down vests who seem fine with the sauna-style set-up. Their combined weight might be 80 kilogrammes. They look like trouble but you can tell that they’re regulars. People all around are starting to fade. There might soon be a need for medical intervention if a cross breeze is not created. What to do? Ask the management? Or take matters into your own hands?
Ask management to offer them a free upgrade to the brand-new, “event-dining” package. Place them in a quiet corner in the kitchen. They will certainly appreciate that it is an even hotter place. At the same time, guests will take matters into their own hands and open the windows for everyone else. R Becker.
8. Your head of HR has told you that one of your staffers in your sales team identifies as a Persian cat and would like a carpeted pole to rub against next to their desk. Who do you fire first?
First, be kind and place a saucer of strong-scented cat food on the employee’s desk. Next, ensure that their pay and benefits are suitable for cats. Head of Human Resources too. P Edelin.
9. Have you noticed that many new shower installations deliver a very unsatisfying washing experience? The pressure is poor and that refreshing gush is missing. I’m convinced that this lack of a fresh start has made for the West waking up grumpier. Is this water saving worth it?
Never mind heat pumps. The populist revolution will come about because of water regulations. M Bozic.
10. Athens and Lisbon both lay claim to being Europe’s sunniest capitals. Okay, Valletta too. Which is the better city and why?
Lisbon has the roar of Atlantic waves nearby, the fresh bite of the sea, the spicy heat of its overseas territories in its food and it invigorates the soul. P Edelin.
And the winners? Congratulations to Mr Edelin, Mr Bozic and Mr Becker. Treats will be heading your way via DHL shortly. Thank you to all for participating. We’ll do this again over the Christmas break.
It has been more than 10 years since Honey & Co’s founders, Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, first delighted Londoners with their Middle Eastern fare from a small bakery on Warren Street (writes Claudia Jacob). The pair is now opening a fourth site. Honey & Co Daily, a deli, dining room and café on Store Street seems to be about getting back to Packer’s roots as a pastry chef.
The imaginative bakes include zingy lemon, tahini and sesame cookies; creamy sumac and vanilla shortbread and; chocolate rugelach. There is also a deli menu featuring Tunisian harissa and tuna salad, chopped egg in braided challah bread and burnt aubergine-and-feta bourekas. Expect a line-up of sought-after supper clubs in the coming months.
“If I’m going to be an owner, I want to understand the whole process and the kitchen is the heart of the business,” says Nattitda Kiatphattanachai, standing in front of her cooking station, stirring a yellow curry (writes James Chambers). The Food School opened in January 2023 with the aim of training food entrepreneurs, rather than chefs. The full course lasts only nine months and can be sliced into three stages, from essential to advanced. Students learn how to run a restaurant, as well as follow a recipe, and the topics taught by industry experts range from marketing to kitchen design. “People want to open restaurants because they love to cook, even though they have no idea about professional kitchens or how much they cost to build,” says Prim Jitcharoongphorn, chairperson of Allied Metals, a supplier of high-end kitchens to top hotels and culinary schools.
Allied Metals is one of The Food School’s three founders. Co-working space Glowfish, founded by Gavin Vongkusolkit and hospitality giant Dusit Thani are the other two. Instructors from Osaka and Colorno are seconded to the Bangkok outpost and standards inside the building in Block 28 – a new development by Thailand’s top university Chulalongkorn – are on par with a top international restaurant. Graduates have an option to rent an “incubator kitchen” on the ground floor to test their ideas before investing in their own premises. “It’s a good idea,” says Teantan Valairuecha, a 27-year-old engineering graduate, who worked as a project manager before realising the growth potential of Thailand’s food industry. “Renting here lowers the financial risks of opening my place.”
Camilla Grudova is an Edinburgh-based short-story writer from Canada (writes Julia Lasica). Her works include The Doll’s Alphabet, Children of Paradise and The Coiled Serpent, which was published last week by Atlantic Books. Here, Grudova tells us about her weekend rituals, wake-up calls from her cat and an antipathy for yoga.
Where will we find you this weekend?
I’m a full-time writer so weekends are spent like any other day: reading and writing. I take dance classes on Saturday morning and go to the sauna. I also like to write at the café in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, though I rarely go upstairs to look at the art.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or a jolt?
My cat, Ludwig, headbutts me until I give him breakfast and let him outside. I’m trying to get into the habit of going to church on Sundays as it’s a nice end to the week. It’s a bit like therapy but it’s free. It’s good to sing with other people too.
What’s for breakfast?
Porridge and black coffee. If I’m in a rush, I’ll just have a biscuit. For Ludwig, it’s mystery meat terrine.
Lunch in or out?
Lunch is overrated. It’s my least favourite time of day: too late for coffee and too early for a cup of tea or a glass of wine. A big lunch can swallow your afternoon.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
I dislike yoga intensely. I try to swim every day and I do Pilates because I love the story behind it. It was invented by a German prisoner in the First World War – it feels like an exercise from a Thomas Mann novel.
Sunday culture must?
A long walk. Edinburgh has good hills that make you feel like you’re in the countryside. I might also go to the Royal Botanic Garden and Inverleith Park, where you get a great view of the city. Then I’ll pop into bookshops such as Golden Hare Books, Typewronger or Topping & Company. If I’m feeling rich, I’ll buy some lemon curd at the Stockbridge Market on a Sunday.
A glass of something you’d recommend?
If it’s warm, Pernod, which cuts through a humid day. If it’s cold, red wine. My favourites are Bedoba Saperavi from Georgia or Alo Jais Noir Carignan from France.
What’s on the menu?
Spaghetti with anchovies. I have also been eating a lot of apples recently. A wonderful grocery shop near my house has affordable apples from Fife and sometimes free wonky apples too.
Will you lay out your outfit for Monday?
No, I am horrible at dressing myself. I usually put my jumper on backwards or inside out. I grab something off the laundry rack in the morning after I have showered. I need a new gentleman friend to do up the zips on my dress.
This week we share a warming autumn recipe of charred cauliflower with herbs, tangy vinegar and salty capers. You can give the cauliflower some colour in a cast-iron pan before transferring it to the oven or just leave it in a little longer to let it char. “This is best served warm with toasted sourdough bread,” says our recipe writer Aya Nishimura. Enjoy.
Serves 4 as a starter or snack
4 tbsps olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
200g white beans
20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 tbsps red wine vinegar
1½ tbsps capers, roughly chopped
Break your cauliflower into small florets, then toss with half of the olive oil in a large bowl, seasoning with the salt and pepper.
If you have an oven-safe cast-iron frying pan, throw in the cauliflower and fry for 7 minutes at a high heat. Then place the pan and its contents in your oven at 200C and cook for 10 minutes. If you don’t have the right kind of pan, simply put the cauliflower on a baking tray and cook at 200C in your oven for between 25 and 30 minutes (or until browned).
Remove the cauliflower from your oven and put it in a bowl. Add the drained beans, parsley, vinegar, capers and the rest of the olive oil, and mix lightly. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and toast.
Judging by the sharp architecture and immaculate interiors, you might expect Vermicular Village – a cookware showroom, shop, restaurant and café in Nagoya – to be the work of a young company making its mark on the design world (writes Fiona Wilson). Not a bit of it: Vermicular is the brand name of a company that emerged from a family-run iron foundry that has been manufacturing in the city for more than 80 years. At the heart of this retail and hospitality operation are the cast-iron pots and frying pans that are being made a short drive away. Vermicular’s origins date to 1936, when the Hijikata family founded Aichi Dobby, a foundry known for its skill in precision casting machine parts. When the latest recession hit, however, the company’s future looked precarious and it might have closed but for the determination of the third-generation heirs, Kuni and Tomo Hijikata. The brothers were determined that the family business and its exceptional craft folk were not going to be consigned to history. Rolling up their sleeves, Kuni became a casting expert, while Tomo set about mastering precision engineering. The challenge was to shift the company’s skill set away from supplying parts for ships (a dead end at this point) to something that could revive its fortunes. Research pointed the brothers to the kitchen and, eventually, to the creation of an enamelled cast-iron cooking pot.
Tomo realised that the foundry was uniquely positioned to make a pot with a perfectly fitted lid – no mean feat, as it turns out. When the pot hit the market in 2010, influential food bloggers spread the word and before long there was a 15-month waiting list (in the early days, production was slower but now the company can make 20,000 pots a month). Fans come to the showroom to buy pots, cookbooks and kitchen accessories; they can then go down the road to the Pot Made Bakery (yes, even buns can be made in the tiniest 10cm oven pot) or dine in the airy restaurant, appropriately called The Foundry, all overlooking a stretch of water. The care and attention to detail shown by everyone, from the founders to the factory workers, is clear. This is more than a business; they are pouring their hearts into the Vermicular brand. “The factory has been open since 1936 and it has never closed,” says Kuni with pride. “That means a lot to us.”
Khulan Davaadorj is the founder, director and chief technologist of Mongolian organic-skincare brand Lhamour. Here she shares a moment of inspiration from her entrepreneurial journey.
Davaadorj’s Eureka moment: “I did my master’s degree at Columbia University in renewable energy, management and policy. After living abroad all my life, I returned to Mongolia to work for the country’s first wind farm. The extreme weather here affected me so badly that I developed allergies. Doctors suggested that I should live more healthily and use natural products, especially for skincare. So that was the starting point. Then I looked around and couldn’t find anything here. I thought, ‘Why is nobody making organic skincare in this amazing country, with its vast countryside and all these natural resources?’
Whenever I create a product, I try to include traditional materials: for example, the milk that we use is part of our nomadic culture. Organic is nothing new to the nomads; it’s their way of life. We have something called sheep’s-tail fat that we use on babies’ and elderly people’s skin. It contains so much collagen. Mongolian sheep have it in their tails because they have to survive our harsh winters. In nomadic culture, this is so normal.”
For more great ideas and to support Monocle’s independent, opportunity-orientated journalism, please subscribe to the magazine – and receive full digital access – today. Oh, and have a super Sunday.