Sunday 1 March 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 1/3/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


New connections

I started the week feeling like the busiest CEO of a set of boutique media brands. On the flight from Bangkok to Zürich I was hard at work with pencil and diary scribbling in meetings, plotting holidays, planning events and book tours and lining up management summits. I was so busy! I was off to Seoul to see clients, I was heading to Milan for my friend Kim’s birthday, I was returning for the furniture fair in April and then there was Geneva and Basel for the watch fairs and all kinds of smaller engagements in between. What a difference six days make. While in-flight the clients in Seoul informed my office that they were in lock-down mode and advised against travel. The same day Kim postponed her birthday and moved it to June. Not long after the Milan furniture fair followed Kim’s lead and decided to move its mega event to the end of Q2. Later in the week a major Geneva watch event was scrapped and on Friday the Basel watch fair cancelled for 2020, along with the auto salon in Geneva. Suddenly I had a lot of free time on my hands. Or did I?

As my colleague Andrew wrote in yesterday’s edition, Monocle is being sensible while still recognising that we have a duty to be out in the world covering stories, meeting our commercial partners and keeping our eyes open for opportunities that we know will appeal to you, our curious reader. Despite the cancellations and a lot of erasing in my diary (a small mound of spent rubber on my fold-down tray table), I’m still heading to Helsinki today, will carry on to Tokyo on Monday, make my way westwards again on Saturday – destination Paris via Stockholm. What was the Milan week is now LA, Denver and New York. (Please make a note of it as we’ll be doing signings for our new Japan book.) In a couple of weeks we’re unveiling a new publication we’ve developed in partnership with the French business daily Les Echos and we plan to celebrate it with a cocktail party. And why wouldn’t we? The following week we have our Winter Weekender in St Moritz (a two-day event that many of you have signed up for) and unless the WHO or Swiss authorities advise otherwise, it’s most definitely going ahead because it must.

This irksome virus has hit us at a most curious time. You’ll recall that only a matter of weeks ago we rounded out 2019 with calls for less travel and in certain countries flight shaming was all the rage. Many were taking pride in the fact that they didn’t need to travel for business and they could conduct most of their affairs with the help of a laptop and a smartphone. How different things look when those freedoms are removed and global connections are cut off. There will be many lessons from this virus and a very large post-mortem will be mounted. Beijing will hopefully come good on enforcing its laws banning the consumption of specific wild animals (have you heard the cheers of all those buck-toothed bamboo rats and civet cats?), Tokyo will have time to reflect on why having a “Japanic” isn’t a solution in a time of crisis and that having a little stash of gold is always useful.

Most importantly, this virus reminds us of the power of human connection in a digital world. We might think we’re getting on perfectly fine with our businesses or our families until all of a sudden a trade fair, conference, wedding or reunion is scratched from the diary. It was just last year that too many were questioning the need to go to Milan to look at sofas or Basel to marvel at tourbillons or Venice to wander around national pavilions filled with weird and wonderful art. Yes, we call ourselves CEOs, curators, designers, attorneys and architects but really we’re just traders and tinkers, wanderers and hoarders, hustlers and chroniclers and we love nothing more than the freedom to roam this earth. Oh and speaking of roaming, I still have a few clear weeks in my calendar and I’m happy to lecture on media, read bedtime stories or lead retail safaris in exotic locales. Drop me a note at


Helping handstands

Exercise classes often feel like an endurance test – it’s almost as if you’re not supposed to enjoy them (writes Venetia Rainey). So even from first impressions, Lift in Shoreditch, east London, is refreshing. Sure, the hotel-like reception area and greyscale interior are what you’d expect. But instead of the main room being filled with complicated machines, bulky trainers in teeny clothes or supposedly inspiring dance music, there’s nothing but bars on the walls, a few boxes on the floor and dozens of wooden hoops hanging from the ceiling.

Lift’s speciality is unusual – classes range from jujitsu to gymnastics – and is aimed at getting attendees moving in a gentler way. Refreshingly, the suggestion here is that we should think about what your body can do rather than what it should look like.

Unlike other places, there’s no shouting or carefully timed rep rounds. I’m here for a handstand training session, along with a couple of American ex-cheerleaders and a few comfortingly less fit-looking participants. We start with some contorting wrist exercises that make everyone look like something out of The Exorcist and then slowly build up to doing handstands against the wall. My lack of upper-body strength proves not to be a problem as this is about exercising the core muscles and I was pleasantly surprised with the workout.

Would I go back? Definitely. It’s less intense, anxiety-inducing and noisy than the average class (plus, I can still walk the next day). It’s quite nice to be reminded that exercise can be gentle and enjoyable rather gruelling.


Prime cut

As a food entrepreneur responsible for dozens of restaurants, Monaco-based Riccardo Giraudi’s professed inability to cook comes as an unexpected confession. Giraudi has not let this stop him from expanding perhaps his best-known brand, Beefbar, into a global group with outposts from Paris to Hong Kong. And it hasn’t scuppered his import business, Giraudi Group, which trades in rare cuts of meat for the world’s best restaurants. Here he talks overindulgence, his native town’s best Asian restaurant and evenings in with the kids.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’m in Megève in the French Alps with my husband and two kids, it’s snowing and I’m doing absolutely nothing. Normally though I’m at my home by the beach in Monaco.

What's the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
It depends what I did Saturday night. I’m 44 so I’m not as much of a party animal anymore. I tend to stay with my kids and do the usual daddy stuff, and maybe go to the gym.

Soundtrack of choice?
I wanted to be a pianist and I’m still in love with classical music. Most of my soundtracks now are business-oriented though. I do the playlists in all my restaurants so I’m always imagining the sort of music that’s going to go with them. In this business every sense is as important as taste. I have a small Argentinian restaurant in Paris called Anahi and I’ve just redone the playlist. The mood is very Sunday morning, very romantic and slow so I’ll put that on.

What’s for breakfast?
I’m Italian so we don’t have much breakfast in the morning on Sundays. I’ll have little yogurt, with some seeds and nuts and a double espresso – then I’ll cheat and follow it up with another single espresso.

News or not?
Always. I speak three languages, and have three passports, so I'm constantly on Corriere della Sera, The Guardian and Le Figaro.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Both. I’ll go to the gym and take the dog out.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
I do 45 minutes of weights, and 45 minutes of running – about 6km. I eat and drink a lot so I have to try and stay in shape.

Lunch in or out?
I own an amazing small restaurant called Mozza, which has the best brunch in Monaco, so I always go there. I get there early with my kids because it’s always very busy. I have a table in the corner so that no one sees me and so that I don’t have to say hi to everybody because the team all break my balls.

Larder essentials you can't do without?
I create all my concepts, I create all my menus, I do everything – I’m like an artistic director – but I can’t cook so my kitchen is shit. It’s only got a coffee machine, Diet Coke and protein bars. I order everything from my restaurants (I’ve got 15 in Monaco) and they all deliver anything I want. It’s the best problem to have.

Sunday culture must?
I listen to music or I create design concepts. I love what I do, I love to create, so that’s how I’ll spend my time on weekends.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
When I was younger and living in London it would be a bloody mary. But now, it will be a great bottle of wine. Roc de Cambes is the best wine in the world, it’s so earthy.

Ideal dinner venue?
I take it easy on Sunday night so it’s usually something very easy, very light. I have a great Chinese restaurant called Song Qi that I always order the best vegetarian lotus root curry from. Song Qi is probably my favourite restaurant I’ve had. I did it with Alan Yau who created Wagamama and Hakkasan. I was going to bring Hakkasan to Monaco but he sold it so we created Song Qi together as a one-off instead.

Who’s joining?
My husband and my kids – if they’ve behaved themselves during brunch.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I do not meditate, I do not read, I do not cook. But I have a great time on Sunday night. I watch Netflix.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I have one outfit. I wear chinos, a white, grey or dark-blue T-shirt and Prada sneakers. You’ll never see me in anything else.


Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad)

Swiss chef and recipe writer extraordinaire Ralph Schelling shares a simple but scrummy take on a fresh Tuscan salad with some heft. The burrata topping is optional but thoroughly recommended.

Serves 4 as a starter

1 red onion 1 garlic clove
1 chilli
300g day-old farmhouse bread
150ml best-quality olive oil
600g tomatoes
Black pepper
1-2 tbsps white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
85g basil
4 small burrata (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 170C.
  2. Peel the onion and cut it into fine strips. Dice the garlic and chili. Cut or break the bread into large pieces and mix it with the onion, garlic, chili and half of the olive oil. Spread the mixture on a baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes or until it’s crisp.
  3. Remove the onion, garlic and chilli and put them into a bowl. Turn off the oven but put the bread back in so it stays lukewarm.
  4. Mix a third of the tomatoes with the salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice) and blitz them in a blender with the remaining olive oil to create a dressing.
  5. Cut the remaining tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and mix them with the tomato dressing and the bread. Season with salt and pepper and serve with fresh basil (chopped) and the remaining olive oil.
  6. Serve with or without burrata.


Best of the ’Pest

Distance: 4.5km
Terrain: Urban and flat followed by an optional schlep uphill at the end (there’s also a funicular for the fainthearted) to take in the best view of the Danube from Buda castle.

We’ll start our Hungarian exploration at the 11-room Brody House hotel, a smart independent in a 19th-century apartment block near the Hungarian National Museum. We’re assuming you’ve stayed the night so have a nibble and a coffee before you make for leafy Karolyi Garden and Csendes Concept Store on its northeast corner. The small shop – in what was until recently an abandoned building – is a parable of the creative scene in the capital and brims with ceramics, soaps and a deli selling honey, pastries and Hungarian cheese. It’s got a coffee shop next door if you need another caffeine hit. Now head north for two blocks then west for one and you’ll find Mono Art & Design on Kossuth Lajos street. The showroom, opened in 2014 by Akos Pelesky and Judit Garam, stocks the works of some 70 Hungarian designers and print-makers.

Next, for a glimpse of the former Habsburg heartland’s dizzying architectural inheritance, make for the nearby Parisi Udvar hotel, which was reopened last summer in a former bank built in 1913. Budapest’s Kroki Studio is behind the timely and impressive revamp of the art nouveau arcade. Another block north and another west brings you to Vass Shoes, a family-owned sole trader that specialises in handmade men’s kicks. Now that you’re smartly shod, head past Nanushka Store & Café for a peek at the homegrown womenswear designer’s new showroom on the way to Hilda for lunch. The 1840s-built restaurant was designed by the same Jozsef Hild of St Stephen’s Basilica fame and is finished with Zsolnay tiles and a mosaic of a woman serving a roast chicken (the rotisserie chicken is excellent but so are the Mangalica pork chops).

For the home stretch head to the Gresham Palace Budapest, a former insurance company that’s now a Four Seasons and probably the city’s slickest place to stay, before scampering across the Szechenyi Chain Bridge for one of the best views of the city’s fairytale peaks and spires. Next head south down the Buda bank to Prezent at Dobrentei Utca 16. This pretty shop sells yet more Hungarian hardware (clothes, woodwork, stationery and bags galore) from its site close to Elisabeth Bridge. Depending on your energy levels – and how many shopping bags you’ve amassed – you can now cut back along the Buda waterfront then turn left up the steps by the Guard’s Palace to take in the vertiginous viewing point at Buda Castle and trace the horseshoe-shaped journey you’ve taken along the banks of the pretty river below.


Déjà moo

Last Saturday my day kicked off with a cacophony of crowing cockerels (writes Alice Cavanagh). I was not, as you might assume, enjoying a restful weekend à la campagne. Instead I found myself jostling with the crowds on the opening day of the Paris International Agricultural Show. The annual trade fair runs until 1 March and packs the best of rural France into the grand halls of the Paris Expo centre at Porte de Versailles. The purpose? To introduce city folk, such as myself and President Macron, to the best French breeders (of animals) and food producers, as well as to showcase developments in agriculture. This year, there were more than 3,000 farm animals from 392 breeds competing for recognition in the livestock category and in the producers’ market, arranged patriotically by region, there were thousands of wines available for tasting.

Although I didn’t catch sight of the French president on my trip, officials proudly advertised that he spent more than twelve hours at the fair – a slight slip below the virile 14-hour endurance record he set last year. The event, and some kowtowing to the industry, is essential for politicians. (The late Jacques Chirac is still fondly remembered in these aisles for his bon vivant’s attitude.) And yet, the star of this year’s show was not Macron but the mascot: a six-year-old Charolais cow named Idéale. While some of the livestock on site was auctioned off to butchers and chefs, I’m happy to report that Idéale will be heading back to the rolling green pastures of Beaujolais come Monday.


Changing the landscape

Say goodbye to ski-cabin clichés (writes Will Kitchens). Open since 2018, Colorado Lodge is a cluster of Japanese-inspired accommodation in Big Bear, the most popular ski spot in southern California. “People from Los Angeles go to Big Bear all the time but every cabin has always looked exactly the same,” says the lodge’s co-owner Marcus McInerney.

 Although McInerney – also the owner of Los Angeles design-build firm Sheet/RockLA – has visited Big Bear since he was a child, it wasn’t until 2016 that he discovered Colorado Lodge, which was then a cluster of crumbling cabins for housekeepers.

McInerney, along with Terremoto Landscape architects, gutted the cabins and outfitted them with Baltic-birch-plywood interiors and modern laminate flooring.

 The result is a simple, refreshing take on the ski cabin and a perfect weekend getaway from Los Angeles. “It’s close enough that you can walk to town or the ski slopes but once you’re in the property you feel secluded from everything,” says McInerney. “It’s sort of like an adult summer camp up in the mountains.” Adult as in refined, that is.


Bright idea

In the first of a new series on products that have dazzled our editors, we shine a light on an adjustable German-made wall-light that caught our eye.

Precisely engineered, sleek and firmly focused on function is a description that could be applied to any aspect of German design right now (writes Nolan Giles) but Jung’s Plug & Light modular system is an exemplar of these values. Why? Well, to start with it’s beautiful. It is also a system that, once installed, sits snugly on a wall to allow a moveable light to click satisfyingly into place. It’s up to you what you choose to spotlight but switch off that harsh LED ceiling lamp and instead direct a subtle glow over a staircase or throw a beam onto that artful arrangement of antiques. Whatever you’re planning, this device can help you master the mood lighting and cast things in a more flattering light.


Don’t forget...

If at first you don’t succeed? Try, try again. This is the bullish thinking behind tomorrow’s parliamentary election in Israeli, the third in the past 12 months. Despite deadlock during the two previous outings, the nation is set to decide again between the Blue and White party of Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. The nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party will likely hold the balance of power and its anti-Netanyahu-leaning leader Avigdor Lieberman has at least promised the public that there won’t be a fourth election. Netanyahu’s prospects are looking fair, as current polling predicts a majority (albeit whisker-thin) for Likud in the 120-seat Knesset. That said, the prime minister is also set to stand trial on charges of bribery and fraud later in March.

Saturday marks an important day in the build up to the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest. Finland, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden will finally announce the acts that will represent them at the competition in Rotterdam in mid-May. Swedes are notorious Eurovision fanatics and the winner of their very own song contest Melodifestivalen will go on to represent Sweden this year. If Sweden collects the trophy, it will tie with Ireland as the country with most Eurovision wins (Ireland has won a surprising seven times).

Many important industry trade shows have been pushed back amid the confusion of coronavirus. Next week would have meant a trip to the Taipei Cycle Show on Wednesday before revving up for the Geneva Motorshow on Thursday for our reporters. However, both events have hit the brakes (the former postponed, the latter cancelled). Level heads will be key to keeping businesses – from bikes to cars and beyond – on an even keel. We’re pleased to see so many shows postponing, rather than cancelling outright, and listening to pragmatism rather than to alarmist news sites. The infection will be with us for a while so it’s important to stay calm. Plus the sooner businesses get back on the road, the quicker the economic bounceback can happen. You can follow the developments across the Monocle Minute and Monocle 24.


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