Sunday 12 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 12/5/2024

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Matters of taste

This week, we head to a bucolic garden restaurant in Nantes and raise a glass to a laidback guesthouse on the Balearic Islands. Plus: Monocle’s Swiss chef whips up a quintessentially Viennese sandwich and we get in line for some irresistible ‘onigiri’ in Tokyo. At the top is Tyler Brûlé, with tales from travels past and an elegant new venture in Küsnacht.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Hidden treasures

It’s the turn of the century: high summer and I’ve rented a compound of dammusi on Pantelleria. For the past week, friends and colleagues have been drifting in and out, local wine flowing and the pool scene full of afternoon games, tumbling routines (how limber I was then) and late-night nudie dips. Rustic architecture and cloudless days aside, the best feature on the property was the boxy little 4WD white Panda parked under the sunshades. While the staff did a good job keeping plates and glasses full, there were moments when you found yourself looking for any excuse to have a change of scenery. “Anyone need any cigarettes? Do we want the weekend newspapers? Running low on SPF 10? Anyone care to join me?” I asked late on a Saturday afternoon. “I’ll join you!” said Anne, jumping up and taking a quick dip in the pool. “I’ll meet you at the car.”

Ten minutes later, I was cranking the little Panda into gear, spinning around in the driveway – and we were off. We sped down the gravel track, dust blowing in the windows, and Anne was fiddling around trying to find some music. “Do you think we’ll pick up Radio Tunis, Radio Free Libya?” asked Anne, static crackling from the speakers. By the time we hit the first village and poked our head into an alimentari for some basics, we’d found some tunes that sounded vaguely Maghrebi and the afternoon was set. We drove up to the Nato listening post and decided not to take any photos, we raced past Giorgio Armani’s lush set-up and spotted a few properties that we thought might be worth checking out for a future summer break. The Panda took a little getting used to but after a few tight turns, some open road and near misses with community buses and trucks, I’d found my way with the slightly baggy steering and relaxed braking. Armed with little more than a wedge of lire, towels, good eyewear and some mags and newspapers, we picked up in town. We agreed that we could happily just keep driving, save for the fact that the island was rather small and we wouldn’t get very far. “How amazing would it be to jump on the ferry, get off on Sicily, tour the island, get another ferry and head north up through Puglia?” I asked. On the drive home, I think that we both had thoughts about the dream of disappearing, albeit for a short time, and just relying on instinct: the feeling of invincibility and simplicity afforded by the little sun-bleached Panda.

I still look back on that summer as a slightly golden age, when newspapers and radio were still essential for keeping abreast of things in a remote place such as Pantelleria. Mobile reception was rubbish and digital distractions were on a horizon far, far beyond the Western Med. For sure, there are many disconnected corners of the world where this might be possible. But do these luxurious outposts still have enough connectivity to fly in weekend newspapers from distant lands or ambitious local printers who see the value in printing special holiday editions for visitors who keep on seeing mastheads from the Netherlands, France, Germany and Sweden? I returned to Pantelleria about 12 years ago and while the island managed to deliver again, the terms were slightly different; the crowd new but the setting still faintly exotic. There was even a Panda in the driveway but in a more rounded form in keeping with the times. As I’m at that point in the spring/summer planning cycle, I’m thinking about where I could go that still has a disconnected charm, where locals are at ease with their daily rhythm and immune to the concerns of those in supposedly more evolved economies. If you have any thoughts where such a Shangri-La might still exist, I’m all ears. You can find me at and you can be sure that any tips will only be shared with the like-minded and appreciative.

The Monocle apartment / Gasthof Oxen, Küsnacht

Here to stay

On the second floor of the Gasthof Oxen in the heart of Küsnacht (a project that is a distant cousin within the Monocle family) is a spacious suite for long weekends down the lake from Zürich. With two bedrooms, an elegant living room and full kitchen, the Monocle apartment houses a collection of original art and photography from Monocle’s archives, as well as painters and illustrators from around the region, and vintage posters from our chairman’s collection.

Image: Samuel Schalch
Image: Samuel Schalch

On the shelves, there’s plenty to read and there’s a well-stocked fridge with wines from up the slope. Furnished with a mix of mid-century Swiss, US and German classics, the apartment also showcases designs from Hakola, Burel Factory, Tiptoe, Johanna Gullichsen and Paris-based ASL.

Image: Samuel Schalch

If you’re looking for a summer or autumn escape with a Monocle kiosk just down the stairs (your coffee will be ready the moment you bounce out of a comfy Finnish bed), please drop an email to Izumi Dresen at Monocle subscribers can enjoy their usual discount. The apartment is available from CHF600 per night. We look forward to hosting you.

Image: Fabien Voileau, Sarah Mainguy

Eating out / Freia, Nantes

Cream of the crop

Named after the Nordic goddess of fertility, Scandinavian-inspired restaurant Freia serves fine fare and fresh produce grown in a greenhouse-like structure hewn from pale wood with vast windows looking out towards its kitchen garden beyond (writes Claudia Jacob). The recently opened restaurant is the second outpost of Sarah Mainguy and Damien Cremois, the chef-owners of fêted Nantais bistro Vacarme. Freia conveniently sits opposite the Gare de Nantes but its location on the sixth floor of a multistorey car park, high above the city’s bustle, makes it feel surprisingly bucolic.

Seasonal plates feature sea fennel, fermented legumes and cockles collected at low tide, marinated in a rich beurre blanc. “I’m inspired by the nonchalance of Scandinavian cuisine because it’s the antithesis of French traditions,” says Mainguy. “Nordic techniques give me the freedom to draw on flavours from outside France without telling a story that isn’t my own.”

For more fine French fare, pick up a copy of ‘France: The Monocle Handbook’, which is available at The Monocle Shop.

Sunday roast / Amy Corbin

All-time classics

In 2018, London-based designer Amy Corbin co-founded restaurant group Kudu Collective with her partner, chef Patrick Williams (writes Grace Charlton). Here, she tells us about her favourite spots to wander in south London, classic breakfasts and family trips to her South African-inspired restaurants, including Kudu in Peckham and Kudu Grill in Nunhead.

Where will we find you this weekend?
Eating out at one of our restaurants so that our kids can see their dad cooking.

Your ideal start to a Sunday? A gentle start or a jolt?
I would love to say gentle but that ship has sailed. When you have three children under the age of five, it’s always more of a jolt.

What’s for breakfast?
Pancakes, bacon and maple syrup are guaranteed crowd-pleasers.

Lunch in or out?
Out because there’s no cleaning up. And I love exploring the latest openings in London.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
We have a lovely American bulldog, who was the first baby in our family.

A Sunday soundtrack?
Funk and soul classics.

Your Sunday culture must?
I love wandering the streets of Lordship Lane in East Dulwich or Bellenden Road in Peckham to pick up some vegetables, cheese and fish.

News or no news?
News. I sometimes feel so wrapped up in my family and work that it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on in the world.

What’s on the menu?
I’m a bit obsessed with making soup and sourdough at the moment. If I’m eating at one of our restaurants, I’ll have sea bream cooked on the braai [barbecue] in typical South African style, with zhug-butter roti.

Sunday-evening routine?
I get our children ready for the week by reading bedtime stories and singing songs. The classic mum’s life.

Will you lay out an outfit for Monday?
Absolutely. I have about 20 seconds to get changed before the chaos begins in my house. I’ll wear a smart-casual outfit to reflect the feel of our restaurants.

Illustration: Xiha

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

‘Tafelspitz’ sandwich

This week, Monocle’s Swiss chef whips up a sandwich inspired by classic Austrian veal dish Tafelspitz. Garnish generously with pumpkin-seed oil and leaves.

Serves 4

4 slices Ruchbrot (rye bread)
2 tbsps wholegrain mustard
350g veal, boiled in broth
2 tbsps freshly grated horseradish
5 tbsps pumpkin-seed oil
1 red onion, cut into rings
4 cornichons
4 tomato slices
2 tbsps chives, roughly chopped
1 handful lettuce leaves


Spread the slices of Ruchbrot with the mustard.

Slice the veal thinly. Place it on top of the bread.

Grate the horseradish over the meat.

Garnish with the pumpkin-seed oil, red onion, cornichons, tomato slices, chopped chives and lettuce leaves.

Weekend plans? / Teranka, Formentera

Sunny disposition

This laidback bolthole – perched amid a rugged pine forest on the smallest and wildest of the Balearic Islands – is accessible only by boat. There are 35 guest rooms and suites spread across three stone-hewn buildings, Mar (sea), Tierra (earth) and Cielo (sky), each with art-filled interiors and an abundance of natural light.

Image: Teranka

In between wild swimming and hiking through fig and pine trees, guests can sign up for activities including meditation, yoga and pilates classes. As the sun sets, the hotel’s rooftop becomes the preferred spot for sundowners, tapas and seasonal crudo, before guests wander down to the terrace for the best in fresh island fare, which often means grilled pulpo, fat prawns and sizzling Iberian pork.

Image: Yoshitsugu Fuminari

Parting shot / The Queue

Having a ball

Good things come to those who wait. But is that old adage the reason why we’re all too eager to form an orderly line? In our latest issue, we explore the psychology behind queuing. Here, Monocle’s Tokyo bureau chief gets in line to find out whether the queue for ‘onigiri’ is really worth the wait.

Come rain or shine, there’s always a queue outside Onigiri Bongo, a renowned onigiri [rice ball] shop in Otsuka (writes Fiona Wilson). Bongo’s owner is Yumiko Ukon, a youthful 72-year-old, who has been working six days a week for the past 40 years. “I’m the face of this place and I don’t like to disappoint people, particularly my regular customers,” she says. Her late husband started Bongo in 1960; they met after she tried one of his onigiri. It was love at first bite. Today, Ukon runs a tight ship with a team that starts work at 07.00 and spends the morning prepping before the doors open at 11.30.

Ukon uses rice from Iwafune in Niigata prefecture and a wooden mould to make the ball, adding any of the more than 50 fillings on offer and wrapping it in seaweed. “People crave the taste of home-cooked food,” says Ukon. The grilled-salmon onigiri is Bongo’s most popular. Sujiko (salted salmon roe) is another favourite, as is egg yolk soaked in soy sauce. When the restaurant recently relocated, the old interior came too, including the worn counter. “The world is changing but everything stays the same in here,” says Ukon. “That’s how people like it.”

For more top food and drink that’s worth the wait, pick up the latest issue of Monocle, which includes our special on queuing. Or subscribe today so that you never miss an issue. Have a super Sunday.


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