As Christmas rolls a little closer, our editors are in generous spirits as we prepare for day two of the Monocle Christmas Market at Midori House (do stop by to meet Santa). Elsewhere, things are looking up for Alpine hospitality in Brixen, we try a Japanese take on a traditional starter and snuggle up in a new Paris hotel with lots of promise. We also have wine recommendations to keep you cosy in the coldest of snaps, plus a Toronto shopping guide that offers ideas for even the fussiest friends and family. First up, at the head of Monocle’s editorial sleigh, Tyler Brûlé takes us for a ride.
The Christmas season, as the centuries have taught us, is a wonderful time for reflection, in-flight entertainment sentimentality (witness Emirates marketing Christmas as if they’d invented it), merchandising wizardry and sustained – some acceptable – lapses in taste and better judgement. Allow me to illustrate.
I’m on the Eurostar from Paris to London and all around me are British staffers from an auto brand (not UK) blabbing away about their company retreat, their big night out, the hotel breakfast buffet, their French managers and their excitement about Domino’s new Christmas-themed pizza. I could attempt to block out this conversation but then I’d have nothing to write about and might miss out on some essential car industry intel. For a while I tune in and out. One of them doesn’t like “all those mint teas because they remind her of hospital” and another is excited about the amazing Christmas meal-deal at his motorway rest stop and the cranberry drizzle offer for that festive pizza. As we approach Lille I’m about to give up on them, when one suddenly starts talking about design NDAs and the friction with their seniors about who gets to talk about their new launch and who does not. No surprises that team UK and France don’t get along but as I remain tuned-in, I’m not left with the best of impressions about this group and how they very publicly represent their company. Christmas season lesson one. Scratch that, make it lesson one for every day of your working life. Keep your trap shut in public settings when it comes to work chatter. You never know who’s in seat 23A.
It’s Wednesday and it’s planning-session day with my senior team from our branding-and-design agency Winkreative (if you want the full family tree, she’s Monocle’s older sister, same father, different mom). We have booked a conference room at one of London’s newest luxury hotels. For whatever reason, they’ve gone big on automatic doors and when I get into the hotel, I attempt to go through the revolving door but it won’t budge. The doorman explains that I haven’t approached it in the right way. Oh? Was I too fast? Wrong angle of attack? “Please try again,” he says. I follow his instruction but there’s no give. I ask whether there’s a more analogue solution for entering the lobby and I’m shown to the side door. I’m in! But it’s only the start. In the subterranean conference room we have trouble getting out. When we take a pause from our meeting to use the washrooms, there are more doors that fail to open and have such tricksy handles that anyone with the slightest dexterity handicap (that would be me) would be cinders in a fire. The high and low points of this reliance on automation are the doors into the bathrooms on the top floor. The men’s room has not been planned with much in the way of a visual delay from the automatic door that swings open and remains open right next to the urinals for a good 10 to 15 seconds. Christmas lesson two. Ding-dong takes on a new seasonal meaning when your technology fails.
On Thursday the London team (plus a few colleagues gathered from Merano and Zürich) gathered for our Christmas party. Part one was at Granger & Co and then, with a bit of lighting, sound and catering magic, we transformed our HQ into a comfy discotheque. From the sidelines I watched my colleagues take to the dancefloor and was surprised by the fine footwork, bum shaking and elaborate hand-fan work by a select group. Did their funky moves match their daily output? Perhaps. Did they all move up a notch in terms of my overall impression? Absolutely. Christmas lesson three. Chloé (who edits and fact-checks this column), Rebecca, Mirko and Martin are all necessary anchors for any future company twirls.
What is the absolute best way to wrap up the week and prepare for another crazy two ahead? Christmas lesson four. A long, leisurely boys’ lunch at the River Café.
And finally, the Monocle Christmas Market at Midori House is in full swing three floors below from where I’m typing this on Saturday morning. I’ve already bumped into guests who have flown in from afar, the reindeer are snorting and Santa has taken up his position for a day of whispers, wishes and photos.
The market runs right up until 18.00 London time today, so please swing by to say hello, sort out all those stockings that need filling and pass along a few story tips to our eager editors. For an audio sample of what has been unfolding, tune in to Monocle Radio and Monocle on Sunday in particular. More from Zürich next week.
More than an hour south of Innsbruck by car, three from Munich or a slow train journey from Verona, Brixen isn’t at the centre of much. That’s what makes the small South Tyrolean town in the Dolomites so alluring – plus the fact that a new generation is adding top design and excellent food to the area’s traditions. The Adler Historic Guesthouse is one of eight new properties to have been completed since 2018, while there are another five projects in the pipeline with an additional one on the Plose mountain range. So what accounts for the town’s unexpected pull and perfect taste in hospitality? Being a little harder to reach and able to balance time-tested customs with new ideas is part of the reason. For the full report, you’ll need to pick up our winter newspaper, Alpino.
Toronto prides itself on its independent retail sector, meaning that there’s still a fine array of bricks-and-mortar shops to wander into as you embark on your Christmas spree (writes Tomos Lewis). Toronto’s music pedigree runs deep – it is one of North America’s largest manufacturing hubs for vinyl pressing. Pick up an album at mainstay Rotate This or at Invisible City Record Shop – home to a record label of the same name and a small wine bar where you can review your purchases over a tipple or two.
Several of Toronto’s fine, independent menswear shops have revamped their interiors this year, including Muddy George on Bloor Street West (good for brands such as cosy Shetland wool jumpers by Harley); Sydney, for fine in-house tailoring on Queen Street West, and Lost and Found for Beams Plus and Il Bussetto leather goods. Elsewhere, Blue Button Shop stocks lines of Japanese design and remains a Monocle favourite.
For the letter writers on your gift list, head to Wonder Pens, Toronto’s best independent pen and stationery shop, which opened a decade ago this year. For enthusiasts of print, pick up a stack of hard-to-find indies at Issues, Toronto’s newest dedicated magazine shop, founded by award-winning creative director Nicola Hamilton in 2022. Type Books remains a staple among Toronto’s fine roster of independent bookshops but Flying Books, a few doors down from The Monocle Shop in the Little Italy neighbourhood, is an excellent recent addition, where you should pick up some of the fine novels that it produces under its namesake publishing house to dive into during the holidays.
Pastry chef Giacomo Cautiello of Pasticceria Scaturchio has seen this Neapolitan family-owned pastry shop grow into a household name since Giovanni Scaturchio founded it in 1905 (writes Lucrezia Motta). Cautiello specialises in babà vesuvio – sponge cakes soaked in syrup – laminated sfogliatella pastries and deep-fried balls of dough known as struffoli. Here, he tells us about the baroque church that he likes to visit in Naples, his favourite Italian broadcaster and his tranquil Christmas plans – away from the bakery.
Where do we find you this weekend?
In the Scaturchio kitchen. I work on Sundays.
Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or a jolt?
Always gentle – if you have the day off.
What’s for breakfast?
Fette biscottate, which are crunchy twice-baked toasts. I slather them in cherry jam.
Lunch in or out?
A Sunday soundtrack?
I always listen to music. I like songs by Roman singer Antonello Venditti.
Sunday culture must?
I usually follow my wife between markets and malls but if I’m taking a walk by myself, I’ll pop to the Gesù Nuovo church in the historic centre of Naples.
News or no news?
I always listen to the TG – Telegiornale – but it usually makes me angry.
What’s on the menu?
Dinner always includes a primo [usually a pasta dish] and a secondo [main meal] with a side and a dessert.
Sunday evening routine?
Relaxing on the couch.
Will you lay out an outfit for Monday?
My wife will dress me – she has an eye for everything that I wear.
Favourite thing to do in the festive season?
Rest. I don’t really have time to relax in the lead-up to the festive season.
Best present you’ve received?
Seeing my son become a criminal lawyer.
What would you like to find under the tree this Christmas?
Three books you’ll be buying for others this Christmas?
I go by how I feel with books but if I had to recommend anything, it would be Un Uomo di Poche Parole by Carlo Greppi.
Stuck for an interesting hors d’oeuvre to serve? Inventive and alluring nibbles, these skewered, deep-fried quail eggs are cute, tasty and easy to make. Our Japanese chef and recipe writer Aya Nishimura thinks that they should be your new Christmas go-to.
4 bamboo skewers
12 quail eggs – if in the fridge, bring them to room temperature before cooking
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbsps plain white flour
1 medium egg – add a pinch of salt and then beat
30g fine breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Bring some water to a rolling boil in a small pan, place quail eggs gently into the water and turn down the heat to medium. Cook for 2 minutes, while stirring the water (it helps the yolks to set in the middle of the egg). As soon as your 2 minute timer goes off, drain and cool the eggs in iced water quickly (very important) and leave to cool completely.
Once cool, peel the eggs very carefully and gently. Doing so in a bowl of water will help to prevent the egg whites from breaking. Pat the eggs dry with kitchen paper.
Pour oil about 5cm deep into a pan that is large enough to lay the skewers in and heat to 160C.
Prepare three separate dishes or low bowls. One with flour, salt and pepper; another with beaten egg; and a final one with breadcrumbs (if you have coarse breadcrumbs, blitz slightly in a food processor). Gently coat the quail eggs in the flour, dip into the beaten egg, then coat evenly with breadcrumbs. Carefully place 3 eggs on each skewer and top up breadcrumbs if needed so that the coating is even.
Deep fry until golden – it takes about 2 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
Serve with a small bowl of tonkatsu sauce and wedges of lemon.
“Do you want the same thing as at home or something you would never dare to do?” asks Leslie Kouhana, one of the family members behind hotel group Maisons Pariente (writes Rooksana Hossenally). She sits on a regal king-sized baldachin bed, adorned with a terracotta-hued headboard, at the newly opened Le Grand Mazarin, the company’s first Parisian hotel. “We decided that we wanted to go with something joyful, something out of this world,” she says, eyes sparkling with a touch of mischief.
Kouhana gestures towards the pistachio-green lamps that cast the room with a warm glow and the sumptuous Renaissance-style tapestry draped over the bed. Forget muted tones and pared-back aesthetics – here, the decor is a nod to the French baroque and classicism. Frilly, hot-pink, leopard-print slipper chairs coexist in unexpected harmony with mid-century side tables that rest on rugs patterned with pink clam shells. “We could have enlisted any of the great designers in Paris but we wanted Martin.” That’s Martin Brudnizki, the Swedish interior designer renowned for his work in London and projects from Portofino to Toronto. “We envisioned the hotel to be the home of an avant garde woman. She’s a bit eccentric and loves a good party. It’s our vision of the Marais, the hotel’s neighbourhood.”
The inspiration for this bold project took root when Kouhana and her sister, Kimberly Cohen, first stepped into the members’ club Annabel’s in Mayfair, London, and witnessed Brudnizki’s mastery of fabrics and fun. “It felt like stepping into Alice in Wonderland. For our inaugural Parisian property, we wanted Martin’s interpretation of Paris.”
Back downstairs, there are coffee and croissants at the hotel’s ground-floor restaurant Boubalé (“little darling” in Yiddish). The menu created by Tomer Lanzman and the culinary dream team of Assaf Granit, Dan Yosha, and Uri Navon of the JLM Group is not to be missed.
The restaurant’s walls and wooden ceilings, adorned with floral motifs and hand-woven doilies, are part wintry chalet, part Eastern European grand café. In the evening the candlelit dining room comes alive as diners savour soft challah bread and platters of spicy condiments, including pickled garlic and chilli. For dessert, the Lorimer white-chocolate cheesecake is a must.
In the run-up to Christmas we’re sharing some top bottles to buy, drink and store in the cellar as recommended by wine expert Chandra Kurt. For Chandra’s full listing, pick up a copy of The Forecast, which is on newsstands now.
Vaux Erbacher, Marcobrunn 2018
German sparkling wines have never been better. This riesling from Vaux has notes of apricots, ripe plums and hints of passionfruit. A colourful bubbly for antipasti or seafood.
Mesquida Mora Sòtil, Negre 2021
From biodynamic project Mesquida Mora, this pure callet aged for 12 months in 500-litre barrels is a red wine with a juicy aroma of plums, blackberries, red flowers, thyme and dark chocolate.
Ribeiro & Moser, Arinto 2022
This new creation comes in a light bottle that weighs 360g instead of the usual 570g. The pure arinto with notes of oses, passionfruit and lime makes for an easy-drinking white wine that’s suited to any occasion.