Sunday 19 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 19/5/2024

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Leading the way

This week, we take a seat at a Swedish seafood restaurant from the owners of a Stockholm stalwart, check into an 18th-century property in New Orleans where charming architecture meets contemporary hospitality and catch up with a Melbourne-based creative director championing the simplicity of small spaces. Plus: we raise a glass to the luscious vineyards of Mendoza and get in line for French fare at Bouillon Pigalle to discover whether it really is worth the wait. At the front is Tyler Brûlé, with stories from a busy week in Iberia.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

World of difference

About once a week I think about that book I’m going to write. There’s the one I’ve started and made decent progress on. Without going into too much detail, the setting is alpine/near future and features a media company, all kinds of tanned, polite people sporting jaunty Mitteleuropean gear and many more fantastic animals that look great in the meadows – and on the dinner plate. There’s another book that has been in the works for more than 20 years and yet, it’s nowhere in terms of structure and planning. A week ago, while walking around Cascais (more from there in a moment), Mats suggested that I put the work of fiction on ice and focus on something more autobiographical. “You’ve pretty much written the book already, just do it,” he said. The comment has been following me around all week – and what a week it has been. In many ways, it has been typical of a chapter that might find its way into this possible work of nonfiction. If you’ve been following versions of this column since 2001 (NZZ am Sonntag, FT Weekend, The New York Times), you’ll know that I go through phases where certain cities or regions start to dominate for weeks, months and even years. If the past seven days are anything to go by, I might either be entering my Iberian era or already in the thick of it. Allow me to share a few datelines to illustrate.

Cascais. There’s something about this Atlantic enclave beyond the city limits of Lisbon. While it’s well established as both a smart resort community and upmarket residential district, there’s something a bit scrappy and not fully formed about it. The town centre is a mix of tourist shops selling Portuguese-inspired tat made in China and Bangladesh, a few franchised outposts of well-known premium brands and some traditional daily-essential shops clinging on for dear life. The modernist housing stock is excellent but much of it unloved and not quite understood; so much so that some real gems are being knocked down and replaced by hulking, out-of-scale monstrosities that are all glass balconies and pointy edges. That said, I had one of my best dinners of 2023 there last year, the beaches are relaxed, clean and orderly, and it’s bursting with potential. Add to that the safety factor (it’s not the south of France) and you’ll know why I found myself peering over fences and staring at the ads in estate-agent windows.

Lisbon. It’s Monday and a group of fresh acquaintances have invited us out to Pinóquio. While the restaurant doesn’t take reservations and you’re meant to queue, Marcela – the evening’s ringleader – wanders straight in, kisses many of the waiters (“I’ve known them since I was a child,” she says) and we settle in for a dinner of simple, perfectly prepared Portuguese classics. Everyone orders beer, then wine, and the dishes keep coming. At a certain point, I sit back and make an observation. A sizeable group of adults ranging from mid-thirties to early-fifties are enjoying dinner and there hasn’t been one word about allergies, abstinence intolerances or dietary preferences – just pure enjoyment and a love of food and drink. Refreshing! I might add that the assembled group was swimwear-ready for the forthcoming season in Comporta.

Porto. By now you’ll know that Monocle likes Portugal because it makes things. It’s by no means the fastest country on earth but the nation boasts an exceptional network of ateliers and factories that can make €1000 brogues, ceramic lamp bases, super-tech cycling gear and hard-wearing outdoor café chairs. On Tuesday I visited one of our bag factories on the outskirts of Porto. It was nice to see women young and old stitching bags and dealing with one of the owners, who knows her trade back to front and is, in fact, quite fast. Also refreshing!

Santiago de Compostela. I love a sneak preview and friends Celeste, Evelyn and David invited me for a speedy drink and then a quick spin around the soon-to-open home of their Fundación RIA. Still very much a building site, David (Chipperfield) assured me that it would all be fine on the night and, after we climbed a few floors, I started to believe him. Afterwards, they treated me to dinner at the very tasty Anaco and I did an unsubtle job of lobbying for an exclusive on the space. Much, much more from lovely Galicia soon.

Madrid. Could this be the best of Europe’s big capitals at the moment? It certainly feels like it. The city has snap, energy and is full of elegant locals. There is much to be said for a city where residents make an effort – and Madrileños are top of the league. On Wednesday afternoon, I did a quick retail tour and, while checking out some of the renovated floors of a branch of El Corte Inglés, I was reminded how correct all of the male sales staff looked in their jackets and ties. Also refreshing! That evening we hosted 20 friends of Monocle at Aarde and our fashion director, Natalie, remarked, “It’s incredible how chic everyone is in this city.” The following morning, at a distant gate for the Iberia flight up to London, the theme continued. “Isn’t it extraordinary?” I said to my colleague Andrew, gesturing to a pair of young bankers seated across from us. “Perfect navy suits, impossibly crisp white shirts and highly polished loafers. So correct.” Andrew smiled and nodded in agreement. A most refreshing and reassuring look.

Image: Simon Bajada

Eating out / Rolfs Kök, Stockholm

Catch of the day

If you have had the pleasure of eating at Rolfs Kök, a fixture of Stockholm’s food scene since 1989, you’ll be happy to hear that the team behind it recently opened a seafood restaurant called Rolfs Hav around the corner (writes Liv Lewitschnik). Restaurateur Klas Ljungquist and chef Johan Jureskog have created a tantalisingly fresh seasonal menu of oysters, goose barnacles, lobster rolls, crab claws, prawn cocktails, chowders and all manner of other delights from the briny deep. Some of the city’s residents regularly pop in on their way home from work, pulling up one of the 18 chairs at the restaurant’s seafood bar – which is just how Rolfs Hav’s owners want it.

“The idea is to swing by,” says Ljungqvist. “You can stay for 15 minutes or all evening.” The snug space can become a little crowded but it always feels welcoming. It has an edge of cheeky elegance too: there are oyster-shell lampshades designed by Stockholm-based artist Michel Bussien, while one wall is covered in an artwork made from salmon skin (trust us, it’s beautiful) by Swedish master tanner Lotta Rahme. The two Rolfs restaurants don’t just share staff and enjoy the same level of popularity – they’re also connected by a passage through the wall and kitchen. “People who love seafood all over the city have found us,” says Ljungquist. “And they keep coming back for the atmosphere.”

For more culinary delights, new openings and urban boltholes, pick up a copy of Monocle’s May issue on newsstands now.

Image: Sarah Anderson

Sunday Roast / Colin Chee

Small is beautiful

Colin Chee is the founder and creative director of Never Too Small, a Melbourne-based media company dedicated to improving living in small-footprint urban spaces (writes Gabriella Wong). His videos, documentaries and books showcase smart architecture and innovative designs. Here, he tells us about how wonton noodles make the perfect breakfast, sharing a croissant with his dog, Shiro, and his Sunday spent studying floor plans.

Where will we find you this weekend?
Downtown Melbourne, where I live.

Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or a jolt?
I usually walk my dog, Shiro, first thing in the morning. We share a freshly baked croissant from our local café. He only eats the crumbs so I have to eat the crust. Afterwards I head to the Queen Victoria Market for my weekly shopping and then treat myself to a quiet brunch alone.

What’s for breakfast?
A plate of Penang wonton noodles and a glass of iced milk tea; it has been my favourite breakfast since I was a kid. It’s so good that I would choose it for my last breakfast too.

Lunch in or out?
Brunch out with my favourite people at Archie’s All Day in Fitzroy. Its crispy prawn toast with scrambled eggs, home-made chilli relish, labneh and coriander is divine.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Shiro leads the way.

A Sunday soundtrack?
Bach’s The Goldberg Variations recorded by Glenn Gould in 1981.

Sunday culture must?
Catching up on the podcasts that I subscribe to and looking at floor plans for new real-estate listings. I’m not looking for a property, I just like to study them. It’s a bit of an odd hobby; people read a good book on Sunday, while I look at small apartments.

News or no news?
I stumble upon news on social media.

What’s on the menu?
Sesame noodles made using my godmother’s secret recipe, with extra garlic. It’s the kind of food that makes you want to stay indoors until the next day because of your garlic breath.

Illustration: Xiha

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Potato galette with leeks and anchovy

Chef Aya Nishimura whips up her take on a traditional Breton galette, a type of French pastry tart that can be filled with any combination of fruit or vegetables. This version is complete with well-seasoned, thinly sliced potatoes, leeks, anchovies and some nutty gruyère cheese.

Serves 6


For the pastry
200g plain flour
½ tsp fine sea salt
150g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2-3 tbsps ice-cold water

For the filling
1.5 tbsps olive oil
2 garlic cloves, diced 1 leek, finely sliced
150g mascarpone
175g new potatoes, cut into 5mm thick slices
8 anchovy fillets
15g gruyère cheese


Put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add 2 tbsps of cold water and pulse a few times until it forms a dough. If it looks too dry, add a little more water, 1 tsp at a time. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a flat disc. Wrap in cling film and rest for an hour in the fridge. If making ahead, you can do this a day in advance.

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan).

Pour the olive oil into a frying pan over medium heat and add the chopped garlic. Once the garlic starts to release its aroma, add the sliced leek and a large pinch of salt. Cook for 15 minutes, until it just starts to caramelise. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Take out the pastry from the refrigerator. On a floured surface, roll it out into a circle approximately 32cm in diameter. Move it to a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Spread the mascarpone evenly over the pastry, leaving a 3.5cm gap from the edge. Spoon the cooked leeks over the mascarpone and then arrange the cooked potatoes on top. Finish by topping the mascarpone and leeks with the anchovy fillets and a dusting of grated gruyère cheese.

Fold the edges of the pastry in. You should end up with a circular galette, approximately 25cm across. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the pastry turns golden.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and cut into 6 wedges. Serve with a simple green salad and vinaigrette.

Weekend plans? / The Celestine, New Orleans

Southern comfort

In 1938, Tennessee Williams rented a room at a building on Toulouse Street, New Orleans, where he penned much of A Streetcar Named Desire (writes Katharine Sohn). Now known as The Celestine, it’s a place where travellers looking for jazz hits and po’ boys (fried-seafood sandwiches). Built in 1791 as a private residence, this elegant 10-room hotel offers a welcome break from Louisiana’s boxier hotels, with an old-meets-new feel that carries through its interiors. The bar is named after Antoine Amédée Peychaud, the Creole creator of Peychaud’s Bitters, an anise-flavoured ingredient used in the city’s most famous cocktail – the sazerac. His wife Célestine is the hotel’s namesake.

Image: Celestine
Image: Celestine

Hotelier Robért LeBlanc (also behind The Chloe in town) turned to interior designer and friend Sara Ruffin Costello to add some 1950s European flair, including black-and-white tiles, lacquered four-poster beds, leopard-print upholstery and antique oil paintings. “We wanted to design inspiring nooks and crannies, where 21st-century creatives could find a place to think, write and draw,” says LeBlanc, who fulfils his creative potential in room nine. “It’s where I’m comfortable and where my writing tends to flow. Every great hotel needs to provide at least one room like this.” In a city known for its vibrant festivities, mornings in the French Quarter are best spent beating beignet queues at Café du Monde or sitting in the guesthouse with a book and a brandy.
727 Toulouse Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

Image: Tony Hay

Bottoms Up / La Fuerza vermouth

Across the grape divide

The four friends behind Mendoza-based food-and-drink company La Fuerza wanted to reinvigorate Argentina’s stagnant vermouth industry (writes Alex de Royere). So they decided to create a version that captured the spirit of the modern Andes. “Bottles with old-fashioned labels kept young consumers at bay,” says co-founder Martín Auzmendi. “Our goal was to give this beverage a fresh identity.”

In 2018 the company released a vibrant rojo bottle brewed with malbec and a lighter blanco version made with torrontés grapes from the fertile soil of the Andean flatlands, where more than three quarters of Argentina’s vineyards are located. Today, La Fuerza Vermouth, which is packed with wild herbs, is available in Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay, and has become a point of reference for the region’s spirit-making industry. “We want to export an expression of Argentinian culture, in which we make time to sit down with our friends and family for an aperitif,” says co-founder Agustín Camps.

Image: Stephanie Fuessenich

Parting shot / The queue

Cheap as chips

There’s an old adage that says that patience is a virtue. But does that depend on what you’re waiting for? In Monocle’s May issue, we get in line at one of Paris’s busiest bouillons to find out. These former working-class canteens have been repurposed into traditional restaurants that continue to offer accessible fast fare that remains wonderfully authentic – and extremely popular.

When it comes to classic French bistros, Bouillon Pigalle is a hit with Parisians and visitors alike (writes Annabelle Chapman). Located on Place Pigalle, in the heart of the city’s former red-light district, the queue outside the restaurant regularly snakes around the corner, with waiting times that can exceed an hour. Waiters in white shirts and black waistcoats serve dishes ranging from soupe à l’oignon and oeuf mayonnaise to the French-cuisine cornerstone steak frites, all at alluring prices.

Many of the people queueing outside note that this is a considerable part of the place’s appeal. “I’m queueing today with my flatmates from back home in Germany,” says Stephanie Schachel, a student in Paris who is spending a semester at Sciences Po. “I know this place: it’s cheap but good.” Another queuer, Nicolas Lopez, is also an international transplant to the city and showing visitors around. “I wanted to introduce my family to the concept of a bouillon [a restaurant that serves traditional French cuisine],” he says. “I particularly like the saucisse-purée [sausage served with mash]. It’s French and inexpensive.” Everyone in the queue agrees that Bouillon Pigalle is perfect for an extended lunch with friends, perhaps with a carafe of wine, which here can range from a modest un quart to a supersize jeroboam; again, at prices that are hard to beat. “We are queuing because this place has the esprit bouillon,” adds Cécile Vassas. “There’s traditional French cuisine and a convivial brasserie atmosphere inside. And you can always order steak frites.” The consensus is: the queue might be long but once you make it through the door you will be rewarded tenfold.

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


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