This Sunday we toast the businesses trying to do things better from a Tokyo beer start-up to a Swedish fashion brand with a fine new retail space in London’s Soho. Plus: we treat readers to a blueberry brioche bun recipe and head to a Mediterranean-inspired Dubai beach club. But first, Monocle’s editorial director, Tyler Brûlé, shares his thoughts on where to holiday this festive season.
It started yesterday. It came out of the blue and a little earlier than usual. It always comes in November but it’s normally around the time of US Thanksgiving. It hits like a wave. I was having a coffee early in the day with one of the Swiss media owners who has his HQ down the street from Monocle in Zürich. We were chatting about business, the state of the world and the mechanics of a deal that he had recently completed. Then, the conversation paused and took a hard left. “Oh, quickly,” he said. “I just remembered the Christmas holidays. Any thoughts on where I should go? I’m thinking of heading somewhere on 26 December for a week or so. Anything come to mind?” I did a lightning-fast calculation but, before I could give my answer, he was already on his lounger in the Gulf (Persian, not Mexico) and was rattling off some hotels that he had in mind in the UAE, with a side order of Oman. As I left his building and walked back toward my office, I made a little mental note: the ‘Where should I go for the holidays: Monocle concierge service’ had its official start.
While we continue to offer our usual in-person services (Fiona in our Tokyo bureau hears the ding of the front-desk bell more than any other Monocle staffer), I thought that I would offer up a few ideas in case you’re thinking about where you might want to escape solo, bring the family or have a romantic couple of days for two.
If you live in a sleepy village, a dull city or simply want a jolt of inspiration and excitement, then go for Bangkok. The city has bounced back better than any other Asian capital and it’s on fire. Reserve a few hours for a long, Saturday lunch at Café Craft by Chanintr, followed by a bit of shopping on the floors above, and top up your wardrobe at JBB* and The Decorum. In the evening, book a table at Charmgang in Chinatown for a stand-out dinner. As for hotels, there’s no shortage of choice and a whole host of openings on the horizon. If you hurry, you can catch the not-to-be-missed Wonderfruit festival, an easy hop from the city.
In need of instant Christmas immersion through a combination of Scottish scenery and Nordic design? My colleague, Ariel, recently returned from Lundies House in the Scottish Highlands and continues to rave about the experience: the furnishings, food, staff and setting. You’ll be able to catch more of Lundies House in the forthcoming issue of Konfekt and also in the pages of The Escapist, Monocle’s travel-themed companion, which makes its return just in time for the new year.
Up for a little shopping weekend? Maybe during the Monocle Weihnachtsmarkt that’s taking place in Zürich from 2 to 3 December? If you want to stock up on gifts at En Soie, dine on schnitzel at Kindli and have Sunday drinks along the Limmat river, then The Storchen hotel combines a perfect location and solid Swiss inn-keeping with no need to ever jump in a car – unless you want to dine at its sister restaurant, Buech, by Lake Zürich in Herrliberg.
Want a combo of mountains and fine wine but in an urban setting? Maybe some fascist-era architecture to boot? I suggest staying at the Parkhotel Mondschein in Bolzano for a few cosy nights (it will have an on-site Christmas market this season) and shopping at Moessmer for woolly, alpine classics, as well as Victorienne for some of the best womenswear in the Alps.
Tokyo is still the best city for a long weekend to put you in the proper mood for Christmas, complete with an evening at a favourite karaoke joint, belting out Tatsuro Yamashita’s “Christmas Eve”. The Park Hyatt Tokyo is closing for renovations in spring 2024, so catch it in its original state while you can. You just might see me there.
Beer might be the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic drink but at a fine-dining restaurant, even its most ardent enthusiast is likely to feel pressured to peruse the wine list. The founders of Japanese luxury beer company Maison Rococo decided to test this theory. Surveying Tokyo’s vast fine-dining scene, they found that the pressure was real but not only for the patrons.
“Serving a beer that could be bought at a supermarket or convenience store was not an experience that chefs and sommeliers were comfortable with,” says Yohay Wakabayashi, co-founder and CEO. So was there a market for a new type of beer that befits a special occasion? It turned out that there was – and a significant one too. Within a year after launching in 2018, the Rococo Tokyo white beer entered more than 100 Michelin-starred restaurants in the city. Others in Singapore and Taiwan soon followed. “It’s a subtly flavoured hefeweizen with a touch of sweetness, which makes it easy to pair with a range of cuisines,” says Tokyo-based food and drink writer Melinda Joe. Hisashi Udatsu, chef-owner of a sushi restaurant in Tokyo, calls it “a partner” that enhances Japanese cuisine’s delicate taste.
The founders confess that they are not beer nerds but they count this as a blessing. It helped them to spot an underserved market: female beer drinkers. While they set out to create a gender-neutral product, they responded to the feedback from women on beer’s bitterness and chefs’ grievances about the pairing difficulties that they had encountered. The message is in the bottle.
Ravinder Bhogal is a food writer and journalist, and the chef behind Marylebone’s Jikoni (writes Julia Lasica). She was born in Kenya to Indian parents before settling in London as a child. Her latest cookbook, Comfort & Joy, was published in 2023. Here, she shares her favourite Punjabi tradition and her weekend rituals.
Where will we find you this weekend?
I have a booking at Canton Blue, the Chinese restaurant at the new Peninsula hotel. Talking about food for a living is hungry work.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or a jolt?
I love to linger in my sheets and drink hot water with apple-cider vinegar in bed before I face the world.
What’s for breakfast?
A Sunday morning Punjabi tradition is having a paratha: a sort of stuffed flatbread, fried in a cast-iron pan with ghee. It has all the sizzle and promise of a fry-up but is far more delicious, stuffed with spiced potatoes, cauliflower or daikon. Mine are often full of kimchi and sharp Montgomery cheddar.
Lunch in or out?
I love dim sum or a good pub.
Walk the dog or downward dog?
A very brisk walk around Virginia Water Park, southwest of London.
Sunday culture must?
I am always inspired by the V&A museum. The last exhibition that I went to see, Unstruck Melody, was curated by my friend, Deep K Kailey, in collaboration with artist Nirbhai (Nep) Singh Sidhu. It explored the wisdom of Sikh teachings.
News or no news?
I prefer to curl up with a good fiction book. Reality these days is rather too harsh and fiction provides a pleasing escape.
Any Sunday evening routine?
I like to have a steamy bath, massage my hair with Grow Strong oil by Mauli Rituals, put on a Jurlique Intense Recovery face mask and light a meditative candle – my favourite is Feu de Bois by Diptyque. I also make a list to set out my intentions for the week.
Will you lay out your outfit for Monday?
I’m a dress girl because it’s just one piece to put on and then you’re done. I love the whimsy and artistry of Australian brand Alémais.
This week our Swiss chef and recipe writer Ralph Schelling treats us to blueberry brioche buns. “I love cardamom more than cinnamon,” says Schelling. “I also like this dish with blueberries and sometimes with sour cherries frozen from summer.” Enjoy.
Makes 10 rolls
1 tsp ground cardamom
100g cane sugar
1 pinch of salt
600g wheat flour
150g marzipan paste
50g cane sugar
1 egg for brushing
To make the dough
Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the milk, cardamom, sugar and salt.
Crumble the yeast into a bowl and pour the lukewarm liquid over it.
Add the flour and knead until a smooth dough is formed.
Cover the yeast dough with a tea towel and let it prove for about an hour.
To make the filled rolls
Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll into small balls.
Line a baking tray with baking paper, flatten the dough balls and press the surface to create a small dent in the centre of each.
Press a thin slice of marzipan paste on top of every flattened ball, followed by a tablespoon of blueberries. Sprinkle with sugar.
Cover carefully with a tea towel and let rise for another 25 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220C.
Beat the egg and brush the edges of the dough pieces with it. Bake the buns for about 15 minutes.
Leave to cool a little and serve warm. ralphschelling.com
You could, if you squint, be in Ibiza (writes Christopher Lord). We’re standing at the foot of an Iberian-looking restaurant with a stucco exterior and the loose shape of a lighthouse. But look closer and you’ll see inspiration taken from across the world, from a rustic terrace to parasols emblazoned with Aztec suns. In the shallows there’s a bright, white superyacht, bobbing in the calm blue water.
Only this isn’t the Balearics but a beach club called Tagomago on the trunk of the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. In keeping with this city’s zeal for constantly reshaping itself, a corner of the club’s sugar-white sand is being hollowed out by a digger to make way for a pool. “It’s not usual for a restaurant to reclaim some of the Palm in this way,” says Rizwan Kassim, the French co-founder of the Rikas Hospitality Group, which owns Tagomago and several other beach clubs along the coastline. “We enjoy the business of creating a destination.”
Tagomago opened earlier in 2023 to some fanfare. It is among a crop of new Mediterranean-inspired beach clubs setting out their stalls – and loungers – around the UAE. A spirited competition is under way for who has the most elegant lunchtime service or the best (read biggest) sound system and accompanying sundowners. Rikas already holds four sun-and-sand clubs around Dubai – including St Tropez-esque Twiggy on the city’s Creek – but now has its sights set on building more in the years to come and is looking at other emirates.
For more on the business of the beach and our first-ever UAE, special pick up a copy of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ today. Or subscribe to Monocle magazine so you’ve got a read on the world wherever life takes you.
Swedish clothing label A Day’s March has launched a new space in a three-storey London townhouse on Soho’s Berwick Street (writes Claudia Jacob). Alongside its own apparel are pieces by 13 top Swedish brands, including Malmö-based perfumer Amoln, leather-goods firm Little Liffner and Stockholm-based homeware designer Printworks. “I hope visitors can sense the fun that went into this collection,” says co-founder and creative director Pelle Lundquist of the brand’s colourful space and timeless, well-made staples.
A Day’s March might be a military expression but it’s also a battle cry for the brand’s relentless expansion into retail. In addition to its London presence, the label, which launched in Stockholm in 2014, also has shops in Gothenburg, Copenhagen and Oslo.
Namrata Sandhu, is CEO and co-founder of the innovative carbon-tracking platform Vaayu. Here, in our series on the inspiring moments that helped entrepreneurs to act, she tells us about how real-time data is empowering retailers to be more sustainable and reduce their environmental impact.
Eureka moment: “When I was growing up in Mumbai in the 1980s and 1990s, it was very polluted: the beaches were dirty, the city was dirty. My friends and I thought, ‘This isn’t OK – we need to do more.’ So we started a kind of charity when we were 13 and set up the city’s first recycling programme. Much later, after I had been working in the climate and sustainability field for a long time, I noticed that a lot of retailers were keen to do better and wanted to know how they could make a positive impact. But nobody had the data; everyone was doing this individually. I thought, ‘Can we do it differently? Can we scale it? And can we help people effect that level of change and reduce their carbon footprint?’ In a way it was very strange because I had been doing this for such a long time. But there was a moment when it all clicked and I knew that I needed to solve this, by connecting with retailers and brands, and helping them to track and cut their carbon emissions.”
Inspired by anything you’ve read? Well, here’s an idea. Why not support Monocle’s independent, opportunity-oriented journalism with a subscription. It might just be the idea that nudges your career in a fresh direction. Have a super Sunday.