Saturday 2 November 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 2/11/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Serious reservations

It’s a passing comment but one that makes you realise how priorities have changed. A friend is just buying his first apartment and tells me that one of the key requirements is that it is near a food market. To hell with good schools and convenient transport – what he needs is artisan chocolate, and lots of it. He has been renting close to London Fields, in east London, home to the hugely tempting Broadway Market. Indeed, its proximity has lured him into a life of expensive olive oil and sourdough. I worry about his habit but he’s insistent that any new gaff has to come with abundant access to heirloom tomatoes and goat’s cheese.

But the good news for him is that, as retail wobbles like a drunk in a dark alley with one shoe on, prime real estate is being converted apace into food courts for independent makers, and numerous scraps of land across the city now host bijoux markets (London never really went for the food truck). In Covent Garden, what was a stuttering shopping centre is now Seven Dials Market, packed with street-food vendors and producers that cluster along Cucumber Alley (I’m sure that’s the name of a club I once went to). It’s run by Kerb, a key player in this movement. And nearby, at the base of the refurbished Centre Point tower, is Arcade. It has a similar vibe, with its stands offering a culinary round-the-world ticket. It’s not a new thing – but the speed of transition is.

There are several reasons for their success. People have lost all appetite for bland food chains (many mid-market players have folded – bye bye, Jamie Oliver). The food is good and affordable. And there’s a sense of excitement and entertainment that comes with these new venues, which we seem to crave; perhaps pushing its luck a tad, Arcade even bills itself as a “food theatre”. But another reason for their uptick is that London’s cooler dining spots are so bloody infuriating.

It’s Tuesday and you want to find a restaurant that you can take friends to for dinner on Saturday. You idiot: you needed to book two weeks in advance – at least. Why?

My theory is that online reservation services have allowed people to hold tables at several popular spots and then release the ones they don’t want on the day. And as they never have to speak to a poor owner, they feel no shame pulling this trick. So when you try and book there may be some availability at 22.50 but, alas, nothing useful for anyone who isn’t an insomniac.

This happened to me last week. In the end I secured a table by use of that old-fashioned trick: a phone call. Although I was told that we would need to give back the table after two hours. And on the night? It wasn’t busy, we stayed in our spot all night and the staff moaned about all the cancellations and encouraged us to linger. This farrago is why many diners are heading to food markets. Fix it.

The desire for entertainment is also having an impact on London’s top-tier art world. It’s evident that scheduling committees have been asking themselves how they can get more young people through their doors – as well as more parents with kids – and create something that will satisfy Generation Instagram too. While upholding the highest cultural credentials at all times, of course.

And the result? Well, a lot of fun actually. The Bridget Riley show at the Hayward presents numerous op-art pieces that distort your perceptions (last Sunday children were clearly loving staring at even the most nausea-inducing examples). Antony Gormley, at The Royal Academy, offers a tunnel to squeeze through, statues that defy gravity and eye-level willies. And Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern can beat even Disneyland with his water experience, manufactured fog and funster mirrors. What’s not to like? And how proud you’ll be when your kids scream, “I want another go on the Gormley!”

And even better? There are food markets on the doorsteps of all three. Culture and buns – and no lingering on OpenTable.

How we live / Global

Crime apps don’t pay

On a recent Saturday night, while having cocktails with friends visiting London for the weekend, we scrolled through a real-time feed of incidents happening near their apartment back in New York (writes Jamie Waters). Among the hundreds of listings, a woman had been shot, there were muggings and gas leaks, and some hapless chap had been hit on the head with a pumpkin.

We were on Citizen, a US neighbourhood-surveillance app that relies on sightings by laypeople and aims to offer “urgent nearby crime and safety alerts”. Originally called Vigilante, it was banned from the Apple Store in 2016 following concerns it would encourage ordinary folk to take crime-fighting into their own hands. But it has been relaunched with a gentler name and now it has more than one million users. In fact it is one of a handful of popular neighbourhood-watch apps; others include Nextdoor (which has a crime section) and the Amazon-owned Ring.

These are an inevitable development of the community app. We share mood boards on Pinterest and restaurant reviews on Yelp. Why not crime tip-offs? Well, because it can make you paranoid. My friends deleted Citizen because it had them constantly looking over their shoulders. It turns New York, Chicago and Los Angeles from metropolises packed with restaurants, bars and shops – and spirit – into a sea of red-dotted crime scenes. Perhaps it’s only possible to enjoy our lives in big, gritty cities by being a little oblivious to the tough things happening around us.

The Look 05 / Punk Parents

Mum, dad… what are you wearing?

Who’s that stomping around in big black boots with bright yellow stitching? A nose-ringed art student with an agenda? Not quite. If you find yourself in east London today, it could well be a demure thirty-something mum or dad in jeans and a crewneck. Just this week we spotted a woman on the Tube crocheting in her Dr Martens. The chunky English lace-ups with skull-crushing platforms are one of those fashion items – like the Birkenstock – that seem to forever be yo-yoing in and out of style (and a moment on the up is definitely underway for Docs). Yet they have always been totems of rebellion and youth subculture, which makes the fact that they're being sported by older, more sensible folk an intriguing development. Perhaps these grown-up punks just want to inject some attitude into their look?

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Parisian dreams

For the past few months I’ve been trialling a new concept for my commute between Zürich and London. Rather than jumping on the Swiss flight from Kloten to Heathrow, I’ve started booking a day or two of meetings in Paris and using the combo of the TGV Lyria and Eurostar to get to London. Aside from enjoying a more civilised journey (no circling over Biggin Hill on a Tuesday morning), monthly visits to Paris mean I have a better rhythm for visiting clients and grabbing dinner with friends. Though I haven’t done a tally just yet, I reckon Paris is now running neck and neck with London as the city I spend the most time in after Zürich.

On Sunday I joined some Canadian friends for dinner in the 16th and over a few pizzas we discussed their recent arrival in the French capital and how much they’re enjoying this side of the Atlantic. The last time I met them they were renting an apartment and trying to get to grips with Parisian life: schools, identity cards, French classes, neighbours and the dizzying array of choice in weekend escapes. Nine months on they’ve bought a sprawling apartment, their child is enrolled in a local public school (“We decided we didn’t want it to be a private-school expat ghetto”), they joined a fancy tennis club and life is good – really good. After dinner we wandered out onto the quiet street and continued our chat about life in Paris, in particular how difficult it was going to be to move anywhere else.

A few minutes later we said our goodbyes and promised to meet before Christmas. En route to my hotel I looked up at the apartments on the wide boulevards. What was going on in those interconnecting salons on a Sunday evening? Were children at dining tables doing homework while parents watched one of those long-winded cultural discussion programmes on France 2? Were lovely bottles of Bordeaux being uncorked for a soothing sip before bedtime? Were chic couples still out at their local Vietnamese having a late dinner? The next question was, “Could I do a bit of Paris?”

When I pulled up at the hotel 10 minutes later I imagined I was walking into my fantasy apartment building (how nice if my digs were at the Hôtel de Crillon!) and wondered what my Sunday evening and Monday morning routine might be. Would Monocle have a little bureau around the corner from Agence France-Presse perhaps? Or would we be closer to Le Monde’s new set-up near Austerlitz? I think I nodded off thinking about Parisian life and definitely woke up feeling a bit disoriented – partly through thinking I was still in Seoul and wondering why my room looked so Louis XIV, and partly because I was dehydrated from sleeping beneath a duvet that was like an oversized meringue.

Out on the street I met my driver and set off for a day of meetings. Before my first I made a brief stop at the Publicis Drugstore for a magazine pit-stop. While looking through the latest titles I was reminded that I owed Monocle Weekend Edition readers some prizes from the recent quiz. Back in the car I went through all the responses that were sent in a few weeks ago and, while they were all generally good, Nikolay was the clear winner for answering question four about e-scooters. Here is his response:

“All these e-scooter companies (start-ups, right?) can be put in the same group as Airbnb, Waze and Uber and this group should be labelled: ‘Super-cool companies whose business models are disrupting the status quo and also the life of local citizens.’ How are they doing this? Airbnb is raising rents and drastically reducing the number of apartments available for long-term rent. Waze is causing traffic jams in the so-called ‘shortcuts’ around towns, which can’t cope with such traffic. Uber’s tax-paying schemes are well documented. These companies make us feel like tourists rather than priorities in our own cities.”

Spot on, Nikolay. A lovely treat is heading your way. There will be more quizzes in the run-up to Christmas.

The interrogator / Edition 36

Espen Egil Hansen

Oslo’s Aftenposten (Evening Post) is Norway’s leading daily newspaper; its morning edition has the nation’s largest print readership. Espen Egil Hansen has been the editor in chief since 2013, after earning his stripes at Norwegian daily Verdens Gang. There he climbed the editorial ranks and pioneered the publication’s digital development.

What news source do you wake up to? I start at 6.15am with Aftenposten online, a few Norwegian sources – such as Verdens Gang and national broadcaster NRK for breaking Norwegian news – and then The New York Times, Guardian and Denmark’s Politiken. I also check in with local paper Adressa, from my hometown Grimstad - my father is 93 and still living there. I also scan some newsletters – Axios is a favourite.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines? I am incredibly spoiled: I get served coffee in bed every morning by my partner. We’ve been together for 30 years and I'm afraid it’s been happening most of that time.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? I am not a great FM listener anymore; podcasts and audiobooks occupy my listening time. Walking to work I listen to Aftenposten’s daily podcast Forklart. I'll follow it up with How They Built This and NPR’s Planet Money. Going home I usually listen to NYT’s The Daily.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? A tune from Brazilian Rodrigo Amarante: the artist who made the opening tune to Netflix’s Narcos. The song? “Irene”.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? I get Aftenposten delivered at home; the rest of my media life is mostly digital. The rare exception is when traveling, when I usually pick up a few local papers to get a feel of what they are doing.

Magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?Aftenposten is among the few newspapers that still publish a weekly in-depth news magazine: A-magasinet. Another favourite is our sub brand: Mat fra Norge [Food from Norway]. Then Monocle, of course, and sometimes Vanity Fair for a long flight. I would love to have a great magazine for ecological gardening but haven’t found one.

Are you a subscriber or more of a newsstand browser? Mostly subscriber. I subscribe to The New York Times, Financial Times, Politiken, Norway’s DN, The Economist and Aftenposten.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? Løves book shop, café and wine bar in Aarhus, the perfect mix of new and used books, for a long afternoon eating and reading. It serves tapas-like dishes, some Italian salads, soups and good coffee. A lot of people go there to eat and then they pick up a book.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? I plan for the cinema but end up at the sofa – my life in a nutshell.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late and why? Mini-series Chernobyl was brilliant. It was a part of history that coincided with me getting into journalism; getting a dramatised version of stories from your own time is a treat. There was a lack of information and the whole thing was very scary. It highlighted the need for reliable information. Beyoncé’s Homecoming was a visual and musical energy boost; even if I am not a huge fan, it just opened up my eyes to what a great artist she is. And I just started Netflix’s The Spy, with Sacha Baron Cohen. Very promising.

Sunday brunch routine? Weekends are made for being outside. In Norway we call going outside and cooking on the weekend Tur; people all over the country walk out in the woods, or go out to the islands, or up in the mountains, and bring some food, make a fire and brew coffee. A perfect Sunday brunch is roasting hot dogs or a cheese sandwich over an open fire with family and friends.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? Very rarely. Running a news organisation, I am fed up when it comes to evening time. If anything of importance is happening then I get a little push on my phone or someone from my organisation phones me.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? I have a new routine: no radio, no TV and no mobile in the 45 minutes running up to bedtime. I am trying to move from five-and-a-half hours’ sleep to seven.

Culture / Read / Watch / Listen

Tempting treats

‘The Cheffe’, Marie Ndiaye. French-Senegalese author Marie Ndiaye’s latest novel introduces us to a chef whose obsession with the kitchen – and nailing the perfect taste – takes over her life. She’s independent, dedicated and doesn’t need anybody’s approval (other than her customers’). It’s an evocative read that opens up questions about when drive turns into stubbornness.

‘Monos’, Alejandro Landes. A mesmerising – if unsettling – film set in the Andes, Monos follows the lives of children who are part of a chaotic guerrilla group. This is no simple war drama; rather, it’s a powerful parable on the loss of innocence. It’s also proof of the rising clout of Colombian cinema and this is the country’s pick for the international feature film at the Oscars. For more, listen to our interview with director Alejandro Landes on The Monocle Weekly.

‘Cheap Queen’, King Princess. Brooklyn-based Mikaela Straus (AKA King Princess) has made a name for herself with her outspoken queer lyrics and brilliantly gender-fluid look. She may only be 20 years old but she knows how to mix genres old and new. Title track “Cheap Queen” is a catchy, self-confident pop anthem; on this album you’ll find everything from 1950s swagger to melancholy ballads, electropop and R&B.

Outpost News / Svalbard

Holding the Arctic to account

Citizens of Svalbard Treaty signatories – a 46-nation pact – are free to live and work on the Arctic Ocean archipelago visa-free. But it’s not for the faint of heart. With more polar bears than people, this little island group sits between Norway, Greenland and the North Pole and sinks to temperatures of minus 20C in the winter, when the sun doesn’t rise for more than 100 days. The 2,400-strong population is a mixture of more than 50 different nationalities but Norwegians make up about 60 per cent, and Norway’s government manages Svalbard’s administrative capital of Longyearbyen.

It’s here that Hilde Kristin Røsvik, who previously worked for Norwegian broadcaster NRK, serves as editor of the nation’s only print-media outlet, Svalbardposten, a Norwegian weekly with a circulation of about 2,100 (many ex-Svalbard residents maintain a subscription from abroad). “I wanted to do something in a new place,” she says. “It’s nice living here.”

What’s the big story this week? The Labour party’s Arild Olsen won re-election as Longyearbyen’s local council leader recently. There’s been a mixed reaction: a lot of people here were hoping that another party might be able to win, as Labour has been in control for a long time here.

Favourite headline? “Serial Sock Thief”. There’s only one grocery store in Longyearbyen and recently someone was caught stealing from it – a lady in her fifties. She had been buying NOK2,000 (€200) of groceries when she sneaked out with two pairs of socks. There isn’t very much by way of crime here so this was our big story.

Favourite photo? Skating season started on Sunday and all the children came out to play hockey on the ice not far from the school. There’s a photograph we published of them playing in this beautiful crisp light.

Down-page treat? We have a lot of snowmobiles here; it’s how we get around. This week we ran a story on a company in Svalbard that launched the world’s first snowmobile breakdown-rescue service. It’s like insurance: you pay a regular amount and they’ll look after you if you get into an accident.

Next big event? We have Polarjazz at the end of January. Artists come from all over the world and there are about 14 cafés and restaurants here, so there’s a lot of activity. There are concerts in the pub, the restaurants – even a show in the kindergarten for the children.

Modern etiquette / Edition 30

How do I avoid a flimsy thank-you?

Wasn’t it thoughtful of that friend of yours to pick up the cheque, invite you to their wedding or cat-sit Mr Tiddly? Now, how to deliver a thank-you that hits home? A gracious email feels cheap and will only do for work-related pleasantries (or if someone spotted you for a coffee). For thank-yous of a higher magnitude, might I suggest going beyond the chocolate-and-flowers axis. Wine is fine – better if it’s something you’d drink yourself – but what about something really thoughtful? Theatre tickets to that play you both talked about over dinner would work, as would that book you’ve just finished (with a perfectly penned note tucked under the cover). In a world of all-too-abundant emails, online calendars and, worse, e-greetings cards (don’t get me started), these tangible gifts feel all the more meaningful. You’re most welcome.

M24 / The Menu

Range of recipes

Meredith Erickson talks us through her new cookbook, which concerns the peak of Alpine cooking. Plus: Berlin’s unique Thai market and why some of the world’s best sourdough bread emerges from the Poilâne bakery in Paris.


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