Sunday 2 February 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 2/2/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


A change of key

Do you ever wake-up feeling extra frisky and bushy of tail and know that no matter what happens it’s going to be an extraordinary day? That was me last Wednesday morning in Paris. I threw open the drapes and was greeted by a cloudless sky. I knocked back an orange juice, arranged my things, had a shower and then went down to meet my driver. No street protests were planned until late afternoon so I was over in the 16th in less than 15 minutes and had a productive meeting with a small French luxury house specialising in the fine art of timekeeping.

Afterwards I stayed in the same arrondissement for a meeting with a champagne house, popped out for a quick coffee with a colleague (was that Sharon Stone chatting up a young actor in the lobby?), visited another group of brands, then made a quick stop at JM Weston to order loafers and buy a pair of brogues (does it really take three months to make a pair of slip-ons? Will my feet be the same size by the time they arrive?), skipped lunch and dashed over to the 7th for a meeting with a large infrastructure company. By the time we wrapped up, the streets were filling with vans packed with riot police who were suiting up for potential action. Where was Bruce Weber (yes, he’s happily back behind the camera) to capture the beefy officers helping each other strap on their shin pads and adjust their helmets?

I had enough time to swing past the stationery department at BHV (not quite Japan-standard but close) before catching the TGV to Basel – and Paris almost felt like its normal self. Or maybe even a better version, as somehow there were fewer vehicles on the road. Three hours later the train pulled into Basel’s main station and I made my way across town to meet a client for dinner at the Volkshaus. For the better part of two hours we attempted to set the world of marketing and communications to right over a rich chardonnay, courtesy of the talented winemakers at Gantenbein, and then it was back to the station for my train back to Zürich.

Fifty five minutes later we pulled into the main station and I could feel the pull of the sofa, a bit of jazz from TSF on the radio and maybe a cognac to round out what had been a business, carbon footprint and wardrobe-friendly day. At the front door of my building I reached into the inner pocket of my tote for my keys but, after much shuffling between passports and papers, my fingers failed to find the stiff leather loop. I moved the search to the main body of the tote but couldn’t find them jammed in the magazine/newspaper/laptop-filled depths either. How strange. I was sure that I heard them clinking earlier during the train journey. Or was that the sound of five Swiss franc coins? Hmm… they must be in my overnighter for sure. Nope! Not in the inner pocket, not in-between the folded jacket, not hiding out in a sock. No keys.

At this point it was 01.00 and I was emptying the contents of both bags onto the cobblestones while eyeing up the hotel across the street to see if someone was manning the front desk and thinking, “If I don’t manage to find them (which I will), I can always check-in there.” After turning over everything, it was clear that the keys were either riding around on the TGV or were still in London in the pocket of the blazer that I wore on Monday. I made my way across the street, rang the night buzzer and introduced myself: “Any rooms this evening sir?” Through the static and crackle the night porter apologised that there were no rooms at the inn. This isn’t great but there are four or five hotels within two blocks and all are perfectly fine. But 10 minutes later, I wasn’t. There wasn’t a bed to be had. Although I didn’t want to cross town, it looked like I had little choice and so I called a larger property. “Yes, we have a room sir,” said the receptionist. “We’ll see you shortly.” Thank heavens.

Fifteen minutes later I was in a slightly overheated but rather large room. I opened the windows, untucked the duvet and passed-out. At 07.00 I was woken up by a clatter, a gush of water and the sound of bodily functions in full flow. Did I check-in so late that my name wasn’t in the system and a staffer had decided to use my toilet? I sprung out of bed and crept toward the bathroom, bracing myself for what/who I might find. Phew! All clear! The noises continued and I traced them to the door linking to the next room. Had the hotel scrimped when it came to soundproofing? Are the Swiss not masters of doors that whoosh closed with a reassuring thud? Clearly not. I managed to combat the unpleasantries from next door by blasting the shower and the sink and getting out as quickly as I could. At check-out I asked if they were familiar with room 333 and its acoustic challenges. The woman looked surprised and said she was not. I gave her a graphic account. She winced. I suggested I only pay part of the bill. Her manager agreed. I’ve yet to find my keys.

Footnote: On 19–20 March we promise to offer much better hospitality when we host our second Monocle Winter Weekender in St Moritz. Myself, Andrew Tuck and a small ski team of editors are looking forward to hosting you in the heart of the Engadine for two days of discussions about opportunities, global trends and intriguing ideas. For more info visit or email Hannah Grundy at


Gut feelings

After returning from a trip back home (writes Tom Edwards), a Kiwi colleague shared with me a morsel that he had picked up at his favourite Wellington newsstand: Hunters Journal. This celebration of a divisive, and sometimes wilfully misunderstood, Kiwi pastime is an antidote to the over-filtered, picture-perfect plates of Instagram. With a forensic eye, Hunters gets unsparingly to the heart of what is a rather squeamish matter for most: hunting. Would those of us happy to eat a chicken be as comfortable about throttling the thing? The magazine is sentimental but more about the act of hunting than the feelings of the hunted – cue the image of a woollen-hatted cherubic blond manchild helping his grinning father haul the carcass of a freshly killed buck. It’s really not for everyone.

From a design viewpoint the magazine is humdrum, borrowing a leaf or two too many from more established names in the independent publishing industry, but it certainly delivers plenty of bang for 20 Kiwi bucks (€12). January can often be about faddy diets and fickle resolutions and this odd, unsettling and, by turn, intriguing magazine shows meat’s beautiful and brutal journey from forest to plate in a part of the world where hunting is a sporting pastime. The rub? It offers more to think about than most meat-eaters, meat-haters or January moralists normally confront. But like I said, it’s not for everyone.


Bit of a stretch

The idea of paying to stretch sounds perverse (writes James Chambers). Stretching is something we do by ourselves, half-heartedly extending hamstrings before a kickabout. But some people in Hong Kong take it seriously and pay up to HK$1,620 (€190) an hour. Welcome to assisted stretching. You can wear whatever loose-fitting kit you want and there’s no spirituality, sweating or essential oils.

My “stretch ambassador” is a muscular martial artist called Andy who, at 37 years old, can still – and frequently does – do the splits. Alongside competitive taekwondo, he teaches assisted stretching at WeStretch (really), a newcomer in Hong Kong that has just opened its second studio in Causeway Bay. One-on-one sessions take place on a massage table rather than a mat and for my debut treatment Andy will only extend me up to level seven; at 10, he informs me, I’d be trembling uncontrollably.

He’s telling me all this while I’m strapped down with a cummerbund-shaped buckle around my stomach; it keeps my hips flat while my body is rotated. What happens now I wonder? I can feel muscles move for the first time. “What’s that one called?” I say, staring up at the ceiling. Teres minor and teres major, he replies. Of course. At times my legs resemble a carpentry square, making L-shapes both vertically and horizontally. Quite flexible for a rookie, according to Andy. Plenty of guys in their thirties can’t get their leg above 45 degrees without hitting eight or nine on the pain barrier, he tells me.

Professionals (rather than professional athletes) make up a sizeable chunk of WeStretch customers: lawyers and bankers who spend all day at a desk and can afford to pay the hefty price tag. Andy assures me that I can do all of this on my own. However, deep down, in the freshly stretched sinews of my newfound muscles, I know my pre-football warm-up will remain amateurish: lifting a leg, hopping around for two minutes and then balancing each forearm on my head. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.


José Avillez

Portugal’s José Avillez made his name working as head chef at Lisbon culinary institution Tavares. Since launching his Belcanto restaurant in 2012, Avillez has become the first Portuguese chef to receive two Michelin stars and today oversees 12 restaurants in his home country alongside an outpost in Dubai.

Where do we find you this weekend? I’m going to Seville this week but normally on Sundays I go to see my parents at the home in which I was born. It’s a small farmhouse in Cascais with chickens and it’s where they grow vegetables.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday? I don’t sleep in and I’m usually up about 09.00, which is later than my usual start of 07.00. Saturday is the most relaxed night of my week so I stay up a little later.

Soundtrack of choice? I’m really into bossa nova at the moment. I have a few different styles that I get into but I’ve been shooting in Brazil recently, for a cookery show on which I'm a judge, so I’m enjoying their music.

What’s for breakfast? Normally I have some eggs, poached or fried, with some avocado. Depending on the season I might have some vegetables. I normally have a banana and sweet-potato milkshake. I drink it every day.

News or not? It’s often the thing that I do first in my day, on my phone. I’ll have a look at the news from the day before that I missed while I was working.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping? I make sure I exercise two or three times a week with my personal trainer but not on Sundays – Sunday is for rest.

Lunch in or out? I like to be at home on Sundays because I’m normally at my restaurant, Belcanto.

Larder essentials you can’t do without? Salt. It’s not “correct” because it causes a little harm – but I can’t cook without it. I need eggs and some olive oil too.

Sunday culture essential? It’s the only time in my week I get to read, so I read for one or two hours at least. I like to re-read books, ones that were part of my childhood. I like Gabriel García Márquez and Valter Hugo Mãe.

A glass of something you'd recommend? I think that Portuguese wines are some of the best in the world now so perhaps a touriga nacional. But I don’t like it too heavy or too young.

Ideal dinner venue? I go to a lot of restaurants so that’s a little more like work. Every week or two I make sure I have a meal out somewhere. I like seafood restaurants best.

And who’ll be joining you? My wife and two boys.

Walk the dog or downward dog? I normally let the dog run where it wants on the farm – we’ve got a bit of land so the dog can entertain itself.

Sunday evening betterment routine? On Sunday night I take a look at my agenda for the week ahead and think about which days I can fit some exercise in.

Will you lay out your look for Monday morning? I don’t care too much about what I’ll wear on Monday.


Dutch caramel apple pancake

After an abstemious January (for some) we’ve decided to indulge you a little with a joyously sweet, cinnamon-freckled pancake with a shot of rum to get you through the coldest of snaps. Enjoy.

Serves 2-4

60g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
4 medium eggs, beaten
240ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsps dark rum
30g butter
1 large red apple cut into 10 wedges
65g caster sugar
To serve:
1 tbsp caster sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon powder


  1. Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, add the beaten eggs and draw the dry ingredients into them with a whisk – try to avoid leaving lumps. When they’re fully incorporated, add the liquid ingredients.
  2. Rest the batter for at least 30 minutes or, even better, prepare it the day before and keep it in the fridge overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 220C (200C with fan).
  4. When the batter is ready and the oven is hot, heat a 23cm ovenproof frying pan (ideally a cast-iron one) over medium-high heat on the stove. Add the butter to the pan and tilt it as it melts to coat the bottom and sides.
  5. Place the apple wedges in the pan, sprinkle with sugar and let it melt. Cook until the apple starts to brown – it will take about 3 minutes on each side – being careful not to burn the caramelised sugar.
  6. Turn the heat up and pour the batter over the apple pieces. Cook for 1 minute, until the outside of the batter begins to set.
  7. Then (carefully) put the pan into the oven. Cook for 12 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with the extra sugar and cinnamon powder and eat immediately.


Change of pace

Distance: 3km
Terrain: Flat with the occasional twist that seems to turn back time.
Notes: Design, architecture and art are the focus of this walk on Tokyo’s eastside, where the neighbourhoods of Bakurocho, Ningyocho and Nihonbashi make up an area of wholesalers and centuries-old shops and restaurants.

In recent years, this somewhat sleepy part of the city has been attracting entrepreneurs who are eager to experiment with new ideas. Start your walk at Parcel, a contemporary art gallery in the basement of the DDD hotel, which opened last November. The gallery is a new addition to the renovated stopover, which has had a handsome redesign led by Fukuoka-based architect Koichi Futatsumata. Cross the street, grab a coffee at Bridge Café and head southwest until you reach Kiyosubashi-dori. Here you’ll find Elävä I, one of two homeware and ceramics shops that Akira Minagawa, fashion designer and founder of Japanese label Minä Perhonen, recently opened in the area. A short walk away is the Tokyo showroom of Maruni, the Hiroshima-based furniture-maker whose tables, chairs and sofas – designed by Naoto Fukasawa, Jasper Morrison and others – are displayed over three floors.

If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, head south into the heart of Ningyocho for the fish-shaped, red bean-filled sweets that Yanagiya Taiyaki has made since 1916. You might also consider queuing at Tamahide, inventor of the oyakodon (bowls of egg and chicken on rice) or try the takeaway window of wagyu restaurant Imahan for minced-meat croquettes and bento box meals. A few blocks west is the Tokyo showroom of Ozeki Lantern, a family-run company that has been making lights since 1891. The company’s workshop in Gifu has, since 1951, been producing washi-paper-and-bamboo table lights, pendants and standing lamps designed by US artist Isamu Noguchi. The final stop is the newly opened Coredo Muromachi Terrace shopping complex in Nihonbashi, where Taiwanese book chain Eslite Spectrum Nihonbashi sells a vast selection alongside stationery and Taiwanese food. It also, somewhat incongruously, runs a glass-blowing kiln – a transparently good idea if you ask us.


Surprising package

Frankfurt’s Messe exhibition space is known around the world for its trade shows (writes Hester Underhill), some of them industry defining, others decidedly niche. From Zellcheming in June (the general meeting of the association of the pulp and paper chemists and engineers) to November’s Formnext (an exhibition and conference dedicated to the doubtlessly thrilling world of additive manufacturing), the Messe is constantly abuzz with innovation and activity. But the centre really comes to life in late January when the triple-whammy of Paperworld, Creativeworld and Christmasworld descend on its hallowed halls.

Fear not if you feel you have expended your Christmas cheer in December; Christmasworld is a somewhat sober event where Taiwanese bauble manufacturers and Polish artificial-tree makers preside over a quiet hall while Bing Crosby records echo from the PA system. In Creativeworld (a show for the latest DIY craft products) you can check out the latest glitter-guns or tie-dye equipment, or find tools to add studs to a denim jacket. But it’s Paperworld where the real excitement is to be found among the 1,600 stalls and 31,000 attendees from around the world. On show are products from glue sticks to staplers but the overall feeling is one of a fight back. Although the world of digital is much discussed here it seems many companies are realising the capacity of paper and good packaging to create tactile experiences for customers. India’s presence was also felt to the extent that Paperworld will be heading to Mumbai for the first time in March. The paper industry, it seems, is far from folding.


Next week is about...

Monday marks the Iowa caucus, the first major stop on the Democratic party campaign cavalcade. In the last election cycle the party had narrowed itself down to just two frontrunners by now (Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders) but the current field is much larger and allegiances are split: Bernie’s back but party members will also choose between the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. Candidates with fewer than 15 per cent of the first vote will be eliminated while the remaining presidential hopefuls live to campaign another day. To cut to the core of the rather complicated process look out for analysis over the coming weeks and months in the Monocle Minute.

The dominance of Ireland’s centrist Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties is likely to continue after the Irish head to the ballot box on Saturday. Some polls are showing a surge in support for the hard-line nationalists Sinn Féin (which is winning approval through its rhetoric about better pension provisions and even the far off prospect of a united Ireland). This will worry the incumbent, Leo Varadkar. Despite a strong showing on the world stage and a confident stance on Brexit, the Taoiseach’s appeal at home is waning just as Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s waxes. Will the centre hold? Almost certainly. Will Varadkar survive? That’s altogether less certain.

Dramatic irony
A drum roll please. Yes, the nominees for the 40th Golden Raspberry Awards will be announced in Los Angeles on Saturday. The parody prizes are doled out to the worst films and actors of the year and include categories from worst picture to worst director and – really – the worst prequel, remake, rip-off or sequel. Oh, and a host of categories that denigrate bad special effects, poor scores and hokey on-screen partnerships. Our culture correspondent’s picks to be panned? “Serenity, with Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway,” says Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco. “It was so terrible. A mix of sci-fi and erotic thriller. Oh, and Cats was made for this.” At its worst the awards can be a little childish and spiteful (few winners turn up to accept them) but at their best they can inject a little humour and humility into an industry that can take itself a little too seriously. Have a good week.


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