Monocle is a magazine, founded in 2007 by Wallpaper* creator Tyler Brûlé , responsible in its own words for “keeping an eye on the world”. That it does, in a peculiarly stylish way: the title, with its adherence to brand fetishism, an obsession with Japanese and Scandinavian culture and enthusiastic if often clumsy reportage of global affairs, makes it an object easily lampooned (check the @OhMonocle Twitter for examples).
Yet it also inspires envy: the magazine has a healthy readership, and its purview now extends to a 24-hour internet radio station, shops and cafes, of which this newly-opened Marylebone branch is the first in London.
If points were awarded for provenance, Monocle would be leader of the pack. Every facet of the cafe’s design, and its beverages and foodstuffs, has been clearly thought out; even the staff look like they’ve been plucked from one of the magazine’s photo shoots. A recent four page feature in the magazine painstakingly listed where everything is sourced from: mugs from Hasami, furniture from Truck of Osaka, lamps from Manufactum. Meanwhile the Monocle monogram is plastered on everything from napkins to complimentary chocolates, the aforementioned radio station burbles from the speakers, and back issues of the magazine are arrayed throughout. The overall experience is pleasingly absurd: it’s a little like being in the antechamber at the headquarters of a benign, and aesthetically rarefied, cult.
The coffee itself keeps things closer to home — it’s from Allpress on Redchurch St, east London — while the cakes are made by Masayuki Hara of Lanka. Both the coffee and the chocolate roll we enjoyed were excellent, although we got little change from £10 for the pair (a macchiato, brought out on a neat little tray, was £3, the cake £4.90). Then again, this is Marylebone.
Though narrow, the cafe extends far back, with the main area giving way to a small area with armchairs and a TV tuned to CNN. Downstairs there is more seating; this area can also be reserved by Monocle subscribers for meetings or presentations, though as the toilets are also down there it’s hard to imagine how they’ll section it off. Subscriber-only loos? Well, it’s one way to boost your readership.
Monocle Cafe is at 18 Chiltern Street, W1U 7QA. Open Mon-Fri 07.00-16.00, Sat 08.00-16.00, Sun 09.00-15.00.
Disclaimer: We review anonymously and pay for all our meals / drinks.