Sunday 12 January 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 12/1/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Switzerland’s bright idea

We’ll start this new addition to Monocle’s weekend line-up with a Happy New Year, Guten Rutsch, Bon Année, Buon Anno and Bun Onn. If you’re wondering why we’re kicking off 2020 in Switzerland’s official languages, it’s because we’re sitting on a little alpine train belonging to the Rhätische Bahn and it’s a rare occasion that we get to pepper a sentence with a little bit of Rumantsch.

As this is the “back-to-work express” (early train on the first Monday of the new year), it should be a bit of a cold jolt but there’s something about this winding journey back down to reality that is refreshingly pleasant. Could it be the cloudless sky and the uninterrupted blanket of white lining the valley? Perhaps. Is it the coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice procured pre-departure? It’s certainly a help. Or is it that someone has had the good sense to create a carriage where the lights are turned low and there’s a code of silence? I posed all of these questions to my travel companions (mom and friend Melanie) and we all agreed that the Rhätische Bahn’s patschifig (which means peace and wellbeing in Rumantsch) cars were not only the way forward for all forms of mass travel but also worthy of some type of humanitarian and design award. “How civilised is this?” whispered Melanie while taking in the view. “How clever of the Swissies to have thought about a place free from convenience store lighting and people clucking into their phones.” For the next two hours we enjoyed the absence of inconsiderates playing Youtube clips, and instead relished the soothing lighting (essentially daylight only), newspapers and fresh baked cookies. Thanks mom!

Two days later I boarded my Eurostar carriage at Gare du Nord and might as well have been in a branch of Monoprix or at the dentist. So bright are the new-ish carriages that sunglasses are essential at all hours and the tinny din of mobile devices creates an air of scratchy, staticky unease. Who wants to sit under flat, cold, bright LEDs for two and half hours? Who did the final walk-through of the carriage and design and thought, “This looks welcoming and cosy?” And wouldn’t it be a relief for the power grid if the lights were turned down or even off?

Next week the final instalment of this season’s Monocle Winter Weekly Edition newspaper series hits newsstands just in time for the World Economic Forum in Davos (if you’re not a resident of Mitteleuropa you can secure a copy here). To keep things sharp and brisk, we’ve canvassed Monocle’s nearest and dearest for their ideas on the topics the world’s political, business and cultural leaders should be tackling and we’ve come up with a punchy list of 50 for consideration. Dimming the lights should be one of them! Given the great expense and man-hours lost looking for myriad sustainable solutions, isn’t one of the simplest ways to conserve energy (and make us look better) is to turn down or turn off the lights? The race to install LED arrays and bulbs might be well intentioned but we now have cities and country lanes that are too bright, colleagues and guests who get headaches from the glare, birds and insects disoriented and upset and too many rooms and salons that no longer work on dimmers leaving occupants looking shiny, haggard, baggy and saggy.

If you’re heading to Davos next week and taking the train (as you should) rather than a car or chopper then make sure you secure a seat in one of the Rhätische Bahn’s patschifig carriages. Not only will you be taking part in a more serene and sustainable journey, you’ll also look more dashing as you make the ascent.

Image: Anton Rodriguez


Shoreditch nights

Daniel Willis, Isaac McHale and Johnny Smith have steered a steady course through London’s famously choppy restaurant scene. The trio met at a boat party in Croatia in 2010 (writes Josh Fehnert); by 2013 they’d sailed into success via their fêted The Clove Club restaurant before opening up Italian favourite Luca in Farringdon (we smacked our lips and soon dished it out a Monocle Restaurant Award). So how did we miss the boat on Two Lights? The truth is that the trio’s modern American bistro on Kingsland Road in East London isn’t physically far from their first restaurant but feels a world away: the difference between a king crab and a greasy kebab, both good but for different occasions. Shoreditch's renaissance – from artists’ garrets to a place that arses called Garrett roam seeking their lost stag-do brethren – is a bit of a shame but that shouldn’t overshadow the food and keep us away, right? We’ll come to that.

On the table the restaurant is a success. Everything from the marinated olives to the monkfish in bacon broth has the team’s hallmark of turning simple fresh ingredients into unfussy and unbelievably good food. The pork collar with carrots and fennel pollen packs a punch and evidently there are far worse ways to end an evening in Shoreditch than with a pear upside-down cake and brown-butter ice cream. In fact, we witnessed some of them as soon as we left. No sooner had we passed out the door than the stag-dos, dry-retching and police sirens started in earnest. It was when I saw the paramedics holding back a woman’s hair as she heaved into a traffic cone that I realised this: Two Lights is a really excellent restaurant; do go but during the week. This stretch of Shoreditch on a Saturday night is too high a price to pay.


Anissa Helou

The Syrian-Lebanese author and cookbook writer shares her Sunday agenda. We get a peek into her larder, hear about her obsession with Korean television and receive some Sicilian wine tips.

Where do we find you this weekend? I am in my home in Trapani, Sicily, because I divide my time between here and London. Sicily is like going home but without having to deal with the problems of my two home countries.

Ideal Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt? To wake up with the sun shining, then go for a walk along the sea before returning for breakfast at home.

What’s for breakfast? Sicilian bread made with ancient grains, sheep’s milk ricotta, my own honey gathered on Monte Erice and a sprinkle of sea salt from nearby Mozia. All with a good cafetière coffee.

Soundtrack of choice? Schubert’s trio for violin or [Egyptian singer] Umm Kulthum’s “Laylat Hob” [“A Night of Love”].

News or not? I am a news junkie so definitely news, however depressing it is.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping? A daily walk of at least 5km.

Lunch in or out? It depends whether I am working or not. If I’m working then it’s a simple lunch at home, which could be spaghetti with bottarga or salumi with good bread and a salad. If not, Sicilian lunch by the sea in Trapani or dim sum in London.

What’s always in your larder? Saffron, tahini, spices and spice mixtures, burghul, dried mint, dried pulses, dried barberries and raisins, rose and orange-blossom water, and very good extra-virgin olive oil.

Any cultural essentials for a Sunday? Any of the Korean TV series on Netflix, which I am obsessed with right now. My favourites are Misty, which is the first one that I watched, The Lies Within and White Nights – which I am totally engrossed in. You should watch one of them.

A glass of something you’d recommend? Nero d’Avola, catarratto or prosecco. But only if I am with friends.

Your ideal dinner menu? I don’t usually have dinner unless I have friends over, in which case I might prepare an Emirati biryani or Iranian jewelled rice to serve with saffron rosewater chicken. Or a roast leg of lamb marinated in Arabian spices and saffron.

And your ideal dinner venue? My home.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed to prepare you for Monday? Watch a little more of whichever Korean series I am into – they run to 16 episodes or more.



Every week we’ll be offering you a simple recipe by a top chef to add a delicious punctuation point to your Sunday. This week we’re heading to Mitteleuropa for a hearty dish with lashings of butter and spuds. Come on, what’s not to like? In the coming weeks and months we’ll also be enlisting the kitchen skills of Swiss chef Ralph Schelling and London-based food stylist Aya Nishimura.

Ingredients: 675g Yukon gold potatoes Kosher salt 110g unsalted butter, cubed Freshly ground black pepper Grated appenzeller or gruyère cheese for sprinkling (optional)


  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot over a medium-high heat and just cover with water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender on the outside but resistant in the middle when poked with a sharp knife. Drain the potatoes and let them sit at room temperature until cool (or overnight).
  2. Peel the potatoes using the dull side of a paring knife. Don’t use a peeler as the potatoes are fragile. Using a box grater, grate the potatoes into a large bowl.
  3. Melt 55g of the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Transfer the grated potato to the pan and stir to coat with the butter. Stir occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes, season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 to 2 teaspoons of pepper and stir. Melt the remaining 55g of butter in a microwave.
  4. Still working over medium heat, press the potatoes into a round shape with a wooden spoon. Press the edge of the rösti together so that it forms a small wall, away from the edge of the pan (as if it had just come out of a ring mold). Gather all of the rösti from the sides of the pan, moving the wayward sprigs into the middle.
  5. Pour half of the melted butter around the outside edge of the potatoes, lifting the edge gently with a spatula so that the butter can run underneath the rösti. Let the rösti turn golden brown on the first side by frying for about 7 to 10 minutes.
  6. Place a plate or a large, flat lid facedown over the frying pan and flip out the rösti, add the remaining melted butter to the pan and fry the other side for 7 to 10 minutes.
  7. Reshape the rösti as needed, so it’s packed tight into a cake. If you’re going to serve with cheese then sprinkle the grated cheese over the rösti 5 minutes before you finish cooking, then serve immediately.

Meredith Erickson is the author of ‘Alpine Cooking: Recipes and Stories from Europe’s Grand Mountaintops’, published by Ten Speed Press.


Break with the past

Does spending a wintry weekend holed up inside a Ralph Waldo Emerson-themed suite tickle your fancy? What if it was Henry David Thoreau? No? Well, me neither (writes Will Kitchens). Thankfully, Troutbeck – a 1765-built estate-turned-inn in Amenia, New York – won’t subject you to such indignities. Despite its vaunted history as a cultural crossroads for the likes of Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt, there’s an admirable lack of dusty glass cabinets full of black-and-white pictures commemorating their stays inside the inn, which is a two-hour drive or train ride from Manhattan.

“The house-museum model is dead,” says hotelier Anthony Champalimaud. Although Troutbeck was first converted into an inn in the 1970s – as a contrived attempt at an English country estate – it sat idle for nearly a decade until Champalimaud purchased it in 2016. Located among 100 bucolic hectares bisected by two creeks, Troutbeck’s 46 rooms have been revived with modern touches by Anthony’s mother, the interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud, while the property’s executive chef is Michelin-starred Gabe McMackin.

Although Troutbeck is a modern take on the country estate, it doesn’t completely shrug off its history. “Troutbeck has always been a home to the arts,” says Champalimaud. “And rather than trade on that history, we’re very much informed by it.” Today the estate is home to a gallery space and it hosts salons, film screenings and concerts inside its garden walls. “Hospitality can play a role in preservation,” says Champalimaud. “And that preservation isn’t limited to historic preservation but it can help establish guidelines for how you give a property a future and make it relevant again. It should just feel like we’re the next generation to have inherited this house.”


Shopping circuit

Distance: 2.5km
Terrain: Flat
Notes: We’ve kept it short and sweet: carrying the shopping bags will be all the exercise you need.

Fancy a stroll? This week we stretch our legs on a shopping-focused walk through Neubau, a less-polished area of Vienna that rewards exploration, just west of the cutesy, cobbled, chocolate-box city centre. The 7th district has always been a mercantile affair with tall terraces skirted by independent traders, and today the time-tested antique shops and cursive signs rub up against white-walled concept stores and canny newcomers. Start at Neubaugasse U-Bahn station and head to (1) Jarosinski & Vaugoin’s atelier on Zieglergasse, which offers a sharp collection of silverware – from cutlery to cufflinks – and a sense of how Austrian craft has lasted in the capital. Next, drop into to the nearby outpost of the milliner (2) Mühlbauer, should a felt hunting hat or fetching fedora take your fancy. (3) S/GHT, at 46 Neubaugasse, was founded a decade ago by Vivien Sakura Brandl and still stands out for its parquet-floored perfection and colourful inventory of Austrian designers. Then chart a course to (4) Irenaeus Kraus for the shop’s second-to-none selection of posters, maps and prints from around Europe. Map in hand, stop for a pick-me-up at (5) Sous-Bois, a coffee shop and stationery retailer founded by French graphic designer Chloé Thomas. For the last leg, lug your shopping bags east down Neustiftgasse past the Volksgarten U-Bahn and Naturhistorisches Museum Wien for a sundowner at the 1950s-style (6) Volksgarten Pavilion, overlooking the city’s leafy Heldenplatz.


Tomorrow’s technology

The technological bunfight that is the largest consumer electronics show in the world, CES (writes David Phelan), isn’t just about toothbrushes that’ll do your teeth in five seconds and in-ear headphones with ultraviolet cleaning features in the charging case (though both were on show too). No, this year the surprises came from the transport sector.

Along with autonomous flying taxis, there was a concept car from Mercedes called Vision AVTR, seeming to build on the designs of James Cameron’s movie Avatar. The self-driving vehicle senses the respiratory patterns of those inside and even has moving flaps and pulsing lights to give the impression that it’s breathing. There’s no steering wheel.

Somehow Sony managed to keep its latest prototype secret until CES. The Sony Vision-S is an electric vehicle with 33 sensors to keep its passengers comfy and the outside world safe. The car will steer itself using advanced navigation and Sony’s outstanding photographic sensors. Though driverless, the prototype has a steering wheel which, with typical modesty, Sony put at the left of the vehicle, making it suitable for US, but not Japanese, roads. How very thoughtful.


Next week is about...

Prizes Awards season is in full swing and Monday’s headlines will tell of the drama of this year’s nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards. The Oscars take place on 9 February and the key players are likely to be Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Our senior editor, Robert Bound, has been heard staking his reputation on Sam Mendes’s war epic 1917 (“I defy you not to enjoy it”) to do well as it heads into the season with a fair wind and fawning reviews.

Politics In the UK, Monday also marks the deadline for nominations for the Labour party leadership that will see the end of Jeremy Corbyn’s reign. By the end of the day we might have some sense of the field – or more likely a greater sense of the confusion in the Labour camp about whether the UK’s left can, will or should make a dash for the centre ground and greater electoral credibility (supplies of which are dwindling dangerously).

Pets And finally, on Friday there will be hairy scenes at Madrid’s Church of St Anton (he’s the patron saint of animals). The annual gathering sees pet owners offering their feathered familiars, dogs and cats up for blessings before attending what one imagines will be an unusually lively mass.


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