Sunday 21 January 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 21/1/2024

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Warm welcome

Feeling peckish? We’ve got you covered. This week we head to the Netherlands for the finest pastries in Amsterdam, peruse Tuscan classics from a famed London restaurant and tuck in to a comforting Japanese rice bowl. If you’re dreaming of warmer climes, come with us on a tour of Marbella, the thriving Andalusian city that welcomes visitors all year round. But first, Tyler Brûlé has a few tales from the road.

The Faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Taking a spin

16.00 Sunday, Tomigaya, Tokyo
There are few better ways to start or round out the week than walking through the doors of your favourite barber late on a Sunday afternoon, being given an enthusiastic greeting and then easing into the chair. In exactly 55 minutes there’s a precision cut, a full shave complete with delicate eyebrow maintenance (why this is not common practice in Western barbershops is a mystery), ear cleaning, calf massage and a smooth soundtrack of 1980s Japanese pop. After a chorus of thank-yous and goodbyes (arigato Taira-san!), I’m ready for the rest of my speedy Asia tour.

10.00 Monday, Little Nap coffee stand, Tokyo
The sky is clear, the sun is warm and the air is a crisp 7C. It’s a typical Tokyo winter day and I’m enjoying a cappuccino while watching cool locals arrive with their dogs, friends or big-wheel SUVs – Land Cruisers and G-Wagons. The scene is a bit of Tokyo perfection and I make a mental note to perhaps spend a good chunk of next winter working from Monocle’s Tokyo bureau.

11.00 Tuesday, Harajuku, Tokyo
Sometimes it’s the very tiniest gesture that makes all the difference. I’m visiting the HQ of a major Japanese fashion retailer with my colleagues Linard and Nanako, and, to kick off the meeting, a pair from the comms team present us with a special-edition illustrated sticker to mark the year of the dragon. It’s in shades of hot-orange, gold and black, and the dragon has a little twinkle in his eye. I peel off the back and immediately whack it on the cover of my notebook. The comms team nods with approval. Now the dragon accompanies me to all meetings, while also subtly promoting the brand that commissioned him.

06.30 Wednesday, en route to Haneda Airport
Every airport transfer should involve the comfort of a Toyota Alphard Executive Lounge, which is perhaps the most comfortable ride in the world. A similar version to the car, the Lexus LM, which is made from the same body, is finally available in Europe and is a welcome challenger to all those VWs and Mercedes-Benz Vitos.

18.00 Wednesday, Apgujeong, Seoul
Hyundai Department Store has unveiled a new wine shop alongside the food hall in its most upmarket branch. It’s a benchmark worth checking out if you’re in retail design or wine exporting.

10.00 Thursday, Incheon International Airport, Seoul
We’re told there’s a tourist boom in South Korea. Really? Incheon airport is packed but compared to Tokyo, there’s not a French face in sight or Aussie accent in earshot. Moreover, top-rank hotels are offering rooms at rates that don’t reflect a rush of tourists. January might not be a prime month to visit South Korea but I’m wondering what’s next for the K-boom.

09.00 Friday, Repulse Bay, Hong Kong
I’m having breakfast with a friend. It’s a perfect 22C, sunny and the beach is dotted with bronzed 80-year-olds doing their morning stretching routines and limbering up for their early dips. I ask the driver to do a little spin around a couple of roads to look at the housing stock on offer. There are a few shockers but also some 1970s gems. I make a mental note – Hong Kong could also be a good winter base next January.

On the topic of Hong Kong in winter, make sure you register for The Chiefs and join us for Monocle’s first conference in Asia between 27 and 28 March.

New opening / Grammes, Amsterdam

Oven fresh

On a trendy corner in Amsterdam’s Rivierenbuurt neighbourhood, Grammes bakery offers an inviting escape from the cold (writes Amy van den Berg). The building, constructed in the round-edged Amsterdam School style, has hosted a bakery since the 1930s. Inside, customers are greeted with the scent of freshly baked croissants and Breton cakes – as well as a warm smile from Nawal Batoun, who opened the shop with her partner, Maxime Papin, in 2019. Both have plenty of experience in the food industry: Batoun has a background in food photography and recipe-writing, while Papin is a trained pastry chef.

Image: Ingrid Hofstra
Image: Ingrid Hofstra

“Attention to detail, craftsmanship and the quality of ingredients are crucial in order to stand out with such simple products,” says Papin. It’s an attitude that has paid off: Grammes’ croissant is the best in the neighbourhood and every month a new weekend pastry, such as matcha or cappuccino tart, is offered on the counter.

Retail safari / Sydney

Harbour lights

Lace up your best walking shoes for a smart shopping tour of Sydney (writes Carli Ratcliff). Start at the Strand Arcade between Pitt and George Streets. You’ll find plenty of sparkly things that are sure to delight at Rox Gems & Jewellery. At the other end of the arcade is Haigh’s Chocolates, Australia’s best confectionery company, whose family-made wares make for perfect gifts. Japanese-Australian designer Akira on the top floor is well worth a stop-off too. Next, wander down George Street to Hunt Leather for accessories.

Image: Terence Chin

Sydney’s inner suburbs offer treats that are well worth seeking out. At the Cookery Book in Northbridge, for example, you’ll find the latest Australian and international cookbooks. Head to nearby Koskela in Milsons Point for idiosyncratic furniture and florist Bess on William Street in Paddington for the best flower arrangements. P Johnson is close at hand for top-class clothing for men and women. When it comes to design, you’re spoilt for choice. Our picks, though, are Vampt Vintage Design in Surry Hills and The Society Inc by Sibella Court in St Peters. The only issue that you’ll have is lugging your purchases home.

Image: Yann Diener

Sunday roast / Marie Darrieussecq

Peace by piece

Marie Darrieussecq is a French writer and translator raised in the Basque Country, who has also practised as a psychoanalyst (writes Claudia Jacob). The success of her dystopian debut novel, Pig Tales, marked her as one of the most prominent voices in contemporary French literature. Here, she talks to us about her penchant for flower pollen, the excitement of Parisian nightclubs and her beloved whippet, Odette.

Where will we find you this weekend?
At home in Paris.

Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or a jolt?
I try to resist picking up my phone and get out of bed by about 08.30. I drink a litre of coffee to combat the sleeping pill I usually take at 04.00 out of insomniac despair. I don’t sleep in, otherwise I’ll sleep even less the next night.

What’s for breakfast?
Half a spoonful of flower pollen. It’s good for everything. Then, I’ll have coffee and, depending on my mood, 40 grams of oats with plant milk – virtue – or three large pieces of toast with salted butter and honey – vice.

Lunch in or out?
I never go out. I don’t like talking while I eat or leaving the house before 14.00. At almost 55, I’m entitled to a little peace and quiet.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Both. I do yoga at home to help me sleep. And my dog walks me. Her name is Odette; she’s a whippet and a Parisian superstar.

A Sunday soundtrack?
Radio news, followed by silence. Music usually makes me feel too sentimental. When I’m in the mood, I listen to my children’s playlists. I go out dancing about once a month. My knees hurt but I love nightclubs in Paris. I like the friendly queer ones that my children go to – the ones that don’t exclude anyone, not even grey-haired menopausal women.

Sunday culture must?
I go swimming at the local pool down the road or go to the cinema. I live and breathe culture, so on Sundays I rest. I also visit my husband’s 93-year-old mother, who lives in the suburbs.

News or no news?
I listen to the news every morning and, generally, whenever I’m in my kitchen.

What’s on the menu?
My husband usually cooks but he’s away at the moment. I like to make vegetarian lasagne. It’s hearty and nutritious, and there’s always some left over. My children can’t get enough of lentil dhal and aubergines with sesame seeds.

Sunday evening routine?
My children are grown up but they are often at home on Sunday evenings. We order whatever they want delivered – normally sushi. I gnaw on my cucumber maki and curse them.

Will you lay out an outfit for Monday?
Every day I wear what my husband calls my “battle dress”: a warm, old, soft jumper and some form of trousers.

Cooking the books / ‘Brutto: A (Simple) Florentine Cookbook’

Simple pleasures

Brutto ma buono (“ugly but good”) was the unusual philosophy of late British restaurateur Russell Norman, who opened Trattoria Brutto in London’s Farringdon district in 2021 (writes Claudia Jacob). Two years later, the launch of the Brutto recipe book, which is published by Penguin imprint Ebury, is packed with the restaurant’s most cherished dishes. It’s proof that the modest ingredients of the humble Tuscan trattoria punch above their weight.

Image: Tony Hay
Image: Tony Hay

Try your hand at the deep-fried courgette flowers (fiori di zucchini fritti), a comforting antipasto, followed by rich sage and pork-filled pasta pockets (raviolo di maiale e salvia) with a bitter radicchio salad on the side, and soft almond biscuits (ricciarelli) to finish. Brutto’s rustic recipes are an ode to a rural culinary tradition that saves stale ciabatta crust for a warming ribollita stew, and that isn’t afraid to use the animal in its entirety. It’s simple Florentine fare that neither promises too much nor fails to deliver.

Illustration: Xiha

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Oyako donburi

This dish is a traditional Japanese rice bowl that takes its name from the Japanese word oyakodon (“parent and child”), a playful reference to the incorporation of both chicken and egg. Monocle’s Japanese recipe writer, Aya Nishimura, shows us how to prepare a bowl of this warming and flavourful recipe.

Serves 2


2 tbsps saké
300g chicken thighs, cut into 2cm cubes
150g Japanese rice (often sold as sushi rice)
2½ tbsps light soy sauce
3 tbsps mirin
2 tsps light brown sugar
3 tbsps dashi stock (Japanese bonito stock). If you don’t have this, you can use saké instead
½ medium onion, finely sliced
4 large eggs
2 spring onions, thinly sliced diagonally
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice mix)


Pour 1 tablespoon of the saké over the chicken, mix and put aside while preparing the other ingredients.

Put the rice in a fine sieve and place in a bowl filled with cold water to wash the rice. Change the water three times then soak the washed rice in fresh water for 30 minutes to an hour.

Drain the rice and tip it into a small pan with 200ml water. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil. When you hear the water boiling or see steam coming out from the sides of the lid, turn the heat down to low and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the lid on to steam the rice for another 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a wet wooden spoon (the water prevents the rice from sticking to the spoon). Set aside until needed.

Mix the rest of the saké, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar and dashi stock in a medium-sized pan and bring it to a simmer. Add the chicken and sliced onion, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Beat the eggs lightly in a mixing bowl and add the sliced spring onion. Pour ¾ of the egg mixture over the simmered chicken in a circular motion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the rest of the egg mixture, cover and cook for another minute.

Divide the cooked rice between two bowls and spoon over the chicken and egg mixture. Serve with shichimi togarashi, if you like.

Weekend plans? / Marbella

Everything under the sun

Sheltered by the Sierra Blanca hills on the Costa del Sol, Marbella, a city of 150,000 inhabitants in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, has long attracted wealthy holidaymakers, from aristocrats to celebrities (writes Julia Webster Ayuso). In some ways, little has changed since the mid-20th century, when the city began attracting princes, oil tycoons and A-list actors in search of privacy. Now it is welcoming a growing number of high-end travellers every year.

Image: Sara Meinz
Image: Sara Meinz

“New brands are coming to open hotels here and most luxury establishments are undergoing renovations,” says Laura de Arce, the city’s tourism director. Take, for example, the newly renovated El Fuerte de Marbella. The imposing hotel opened in 1957 and has welcomed the likes of Walt Disney, Timothy Dalton and Penélope Cruz. The Marbella Club, meanwhile, has maintained its homely atmosphere while adding a spa, as well as Chanel and Louis Vuitton boutiques. In Puerto Banús, a port lined with yachts, boutique hotels in restored palaces have recently opened as an alternative to beachfront resorts. Hotel group La Ciudadela has launched three outposts in the centre, each with a restaurant and rooftop terrace, while the restoration of La Fonda, a hotel by the Relais & Châteaux group, turned a 16th-century chapel into the setting for its dining room. With hot spots across Spain saturated with tourists during summer, enticing guests during the low season has become an urgent matter for the country’s hospitality industry, which makes Marbella’s warm winters and gentle summers its biggest asset.

For more on Marbella and other sunny destinations, pick up a copy of ‘The Escapist’, which is available to purchase now.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

Parting shot / Canada’s moose

Deer diary…

When I grew up in Canada, there seemed to be moose everywhere I looked (writes Amy van den Berg). They were drinking from a stream in a painting on the wall of my grammy’s house, in wooden tchotchke form on my neighbour’s mantelpiece and even woven into the curtain fabric in the living room at my best friend’s house.

Their use as a symbol of the nation seems to say that, much like the ungainly mammal, Canada takes up a lot of space, with qualities that are strong, steady, mostly innocuous and even a little bit goofy. They wander into towns and across highways and, as they would for a loveable old relative, everyone stops to let them pass, logging on to the town Facebook group to tell others to keep an eye out. Beyond the image of this large, silly, lumbering animal, there is a dignified significance. They are our friends, our neighbours and our symbol – and we could do a lot worse.

If you’re a fan of fine storytelling and pristine print, then there’s a good chance that you’ll get a lot from a Monocle subscription. Support us, our independent journalism and get an unrivalled read on the world today. Have a super Sunday.


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