Sunday 8 March 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 8/3/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Past glories

Do you ever fantasise about time travel? Are there moments when you think, “Life was so much easier in my parent’s day: better fashion, louche living, two TV channels, four cars”? Or do you spool much further back? Do you see yourself as a Roman centurion on some Mediterranean island wearing fancy sandals, a gleaming helmet and sporting a good tan? Or are you more of the mind that all is going to be much better in the not-too-distant future and you’ll be having the time of your life in your automated vehicle, in your AI-enabled home, eating dinner via a vegan suppository?

This week I managed to do a serious bit of time travel – all the way back to the early 1990s. No, I wasn’t invited to a ridiculous fancy-dress party. As we all know, large gatherings are banned in many countries (including Switzerland) so there was no danger of finding myself in an organised group of people. While I do get that this freaking virus might be slowed by curbing mass gatherings, I’m not entirely convinced that these are the types of measures that are going to save humanity.

Not surprisingly the stoic Finns were taking all of this in their stride when I touched down in Helsinki last Sunday evening. There was no assault of hand sanitisers at every turn and all seemed quite normal on the flight, in the airport and upon check-in at the hotel. On Monday it was all firm handshakes from men and women alike, and with a packed set of meetings it was business as usual. For sure, there were no large groups of tourists repacking suitcases stuffed full with Marimekko oven mitts in front of Stockmann department store (a very good thing) but there seemed to be plenty of other visitors in town doing business and scouting the sights.

After a delicious lunch at the relaunched Savoy restaurant (you can read about the gentle facelift executed by Ilse Crawford in our forthcoming April issue), I headed back out to the airport and boarded the JAL flight to Tokyo. Nine hours later I was back in 1991. Had I passed through some time warp over Siberia? Or was this the Japan I first visited in my early twenties when the Japanese weren’t remotely interested in the concept of mass tourism and the welcome was an endless bus ride in from Narita? It certainly felt like the most wonderful throwback.

It’s now day four in Tokyo and I feel as though I almost have the city to myself. The Thai families, the groups from the Gulf, the rolly-suitcase herds from Dalian and the Aussies on tour are nowhere to be seen. Tokyo is very much open for business (despite the school closures and much remote working), it’s just missing business and leisure visitors. Though this is not great for the retail and hospitality sectors, it’s also an important alarm bell for a country that has been doing its best to drive up tourist numbers, while also diluting much of what makes Japan great to begin with. For those who know the country well, isn’t part of the charm that it’s a bit difficult to navigate and decode? That it’s not always perfectly PC? That it’s stubborn and charmingly outdated at times?

This current health and economic crisis offers governments an important moment to pause and reflect on what’s next. A more quiet, less fawning Japan feels a bit more on point. Hopefully some clever conclusions will be drawn in these moments of self-isolation.

Image: Lateef Photography


Pleasure Ireland

For a long time, clichés about Irish food were lumped in with clichés about the Irish more generally: both were seen as a great laugh (writes Josh Fehnert). Luckily, Michelin-star-studded chef Richard Corrigan’s new opening on London's Old Street is adding some nuance and finesse to the idea of Celtic cuisine. First impressions are good: there’s a thankful lack of paddywhackery – of that ghastly Gaelic font, tin whistles or bodhráns bedecking the walls. And the staff are bright-eyed and friendly. There is also stout by the pint (Gibney’s not Guinness) and sourdough soda bread with an impossibly creamy buttermilk butter – both bode well for the meal to come.

The 85-cover space is bright and spare with an extra handful of seats huddled around a seafood bar brimming with fresh-netted oysters, crab, clams and fat langoustines (alas no cockles nor mussels). My partner (she’s Irish) deftly fields a flew pleasantries from the table next to us (visitors from Dublin), while I take on the task of ordering. It’s good news again. The delicate bass ceviche with blood orange and pickle is a welcome surprise, as is the special of lightly spiced Goan curry with scallops, and taramasalata that I find myself missing long after its saline scraps have been hungrily scraped from the bottom of the bowl. For mains, sugar-pit pork (from Hannan Meats) with cime di rapa (turnip tips), black bean and lime salsa would justify a visit in its own right, and the wood-oven-baked back of sole with squash, cavolo nero, grapes and hazelnuts is a subtler but equally complete plate.

I know what you’re thinking: is any of this Irish? Well, not exclusively. But it showcases a creative snapshot of how the nation’s ingredients and culinary traditions can be conjured and combined to represent it. Just as Joyce penned his vivid odes to his homeland from continental Europe, Corrigan has created a studied, subtle and confident portrait of a nation’s cuisine that has plenty to offer the world. Now, anyone fancy a coddle?

Image: Loi Xuan Ly


Sweet spots

Frenchman Samuel Maruta co-founded Marou a decade ago with his business partner, Vincent Mourou. The Vietnamese chocolate brand is sold around the world and the pair have now branched out into cafés. In February, the third Maison Marou opened in Ho Chi Minh City’s district 2, where Maruta has lived since arriving in the country in 2007. While his business partner goes cycling on Sundays, Maruta likes to stay a little closer to home.

Where do we find you this weekend? We’ll be at our company, Maison Marou, at some point every day. If I don’t know where to find my two kids I’ll come here. At some point my wife will drop in. It really is like a second home.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt? I wake up between 07.00 and 08.00 pretty much every day of the week and Sunday is no different ⎯⎯ unless we’ve had an exceptionally late Saturday. The last one of those was for the opening of our new shop. We had people here until 01.00, which is pretty late for us. Once I’m up I’ll go downstairs and make coffee ⎯⎯ a Vietnamese blend from Cafés Folliet. The French guy who owns it will be out cycling most Sundays with my business partner.

Soundtrack of choice? Soundtracks are a big talking point now that I’m in the café business. Vincent and I both have very eclectic music tastes and we are curious about what’s happening [in France] even though it’s hard to follow from here. There’s the double distance about being far away and growing older. I listen to French radio, such as Radio Nova, and I always have the Shazam app open to identify music.

What’s for breakfast? Green lentil salad and sardines. I’m half Japanese so growing up we always had savoury breakfasts such as grilled salmon with rice. French people find it weird to have savoury breakfasts but for me it’s completely natural and as I grow older I’m more and more attracted to that type of stuff.

News or not? French radio tends to be shot like TV these days and they have YouTube channels so I will catch up with long-format programmes on the weekend. One I always listen to is Le Masque et la Plume. It’s a weekly film and book-review programme on France Inter, which is like the French NPR or BBC. I lost that whole newspaper culture when I moved to Vietnam. You don’t get the press here and even the mail is notoriously unreliable.

Walk the dog or downward dog? I have multiple dogs and I walk them late at night. I usually let the dogs walk with me but I only do that when there’s no one around, about midnight; it’s the last thing I do just before going to bed. They are three big dogs so if I leashed them all at the same time I’d feel like Ben Hur being dragged around in his chariot

Lunch in or out? We eat dim sum as a family. My wife grew up in Hong Kong and she’s kept up that Sunday tradition. Our two kids also love it. We’re creatures of habit so we always go to the same Cantonese restaurant: Shang Palace on Ly Tu Trong in district 1.

Larder essentials you can’t do without? We are lucky to have great butchers and fishmongers. Prawns in Vietnam are huge, quite cheap and very tasty, so doing a big bowl of them means that everyone is happy.

Sunday culture must (book, film, radio)? I usually carry a book with me that I don’t have time to read and then on Sunday there’s sometimes a lull. Usually I’m at the dinner table at home on a comfortable chair with my feet up. Right now, I’m reading La Mer à l'envers, the latest book by Marie Darrieussecq, a French author who I like very much.

A glass of something you’d recommend? It’s always hot here so I enjoy my southern French apéritif, Ricard. I grew up in the Armagnac country so I will also have my glass of brandy after lunch.

The ideal dinner menu? By Sunday evening it’s usually hit that lazy stage. Either there are leftovers or we’ll have a referendum and the kids will vote for pizza. Sometimes we’ll go out, sometimes we’ll get delivery. It often depends on whether it’s raining outside.

Ideal dinner venue? Laziness prevails. Something nearby and convenient.

Who’s joining? Just family. Me, my wife and my two daughters.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine? I’m 45 and I don’t think I own any cosmetics or creams for my face. I’ve got wax for my beard but that’s about it. I don’t spend a lot of time looking at my face in the mirror.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing? Having nice expensive clothes disappears very fast in Saigon [Ho Chi Minh City]. It’s always hot and people don’t pay much attention to what you’re wearing so the attention you pay to yourself also goes down. It’s a really interesting phenomenon; it’s like a loop that feeds itself. I’m quite happy to be relaxed but when I go to Paris I will pull out a jacket and nice shoes. Here it feels as though fashion is something that happens elsewhere.


Crab toast with lemon aioli

Swiss chef Ralph Schelling shares a secret time-saving snack that feels fancy but takes mere minutes to make. Perfect for those in a rush or reluctant (let’s call them crabby) cooks. The only ingredient you’re not likely to have to hand is the crabmeat but a quick trip to your fishmonger will soon sort that. Enjoy.

Serves 4 as a snack

1 garlic clove, diced 3 tbsps olive-oil mayonnaise 1 lemon 4 slices of bread 5 tbsps of olive oil 350g cooked crabmeat (white and brown) Bunch of chopped dill Toasted chilli flakes Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 175C. To make the aioli, add the diced garlic clove to the mayonnaise with the juice of half a lemon and grated zest, then set aside.
  2. Brush the slices of bread with olive oil and put them in the oven on a baking tray until they’re crisp (about 10 minutes).
  3. Season the crabmeat with the remaining olive oil, salt, lemon juice, dill and toasted chilli flakes.
  4. Spread the spiced crabmeat evenly on the toast, add the few remaining drops of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and serve with the lemon aioli.


’Bourne ultimatum

Distance: 5km
Terrain: Flat and easy-going with a spot of urban greenery in a charming public garden.
Notes: The former industrial neighbourhoods of Collingwood and Fitzroy in Melbourne’s inner-north are just a short ride from the city centre. They offer a welcome break from the bustle of the CBD’s streets.

From Melbourne city centre, take the number 86 tram from Southern Cross station to Rose Street, where you’ll disembark. On the pavement off Rose Street you’ll see the tables and chairs outside a locals’ favourite, Breakfast Thieves, which is a café housed in a one-time chocolate factory. Plump for a quick coffee to-go (we want to get going). Turn back and go west along Rose Street and then take a left at George Street, walking a block to the Centre for Contemporary Photography (pictured, on right). Here you can immerse yourself in Australia’s best photo gallery. The centre has five exhibition spaces and features a range of works from emerging and established artists; the current highlight is a collaboration between German jeweller Karl Fritsch and New Zealand photographer Gavin Hipkins.

After a wander you’re sure to have worked up an appetite, which means that it’s time for Australia’s favourite meal: brunch. To get to Collingwood’s best spot, continue south along George Street for a couple of blocks before taking a left at Johnston Street and then a right at Smith Street. Walk for a block and you’ll find Alimentari. This café-cum-deli plates produce-driven dishes in comfortable surroundings. For brunch try some of the mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Feeling energised? Good, you’ll need that to peruse the neighbourhood’s best shops. For great one-off items cross the road to Modern Times’s showroom (pictured, on left), a space that features a selection of restored vintage furniture carefully matched with contemporary Australian art and design. Then head south along Smith Street (drop into the Happy Valley bookshop on the way), before turning right and heading west along Gertrude Street. Here you can pick up new and used vinyl from Northside Records, and then continue onto clothing shop Handsom, which stocks small-run, sustainably made collections.

Continue west along Gertrude Street towards Carlton Gardens at the end of the street. This oasis of urban greenery is part of the parklands that surround the charming Royal Exhibition Hall. It’s a seemly spot in which to bask in the sun before wandering north past the Melbourne Museum to Moor Street at the park’s north-east corner. Continue down Moor Street for a few blocks until you reach the Napier Hotel. Stop for a drink here – it wouldn’t be a day out in Victoria's capital without a beverage at one of its old boozers – before heading north along Napier Street for five blocks for another swifty in the Napier Quarter. This wine bar, which serves great snacks and mains with a good wine-list, is tucked away on a pretty, tree-lined backstreet. Now it’s time to round out your little tour and satisfy your sweet tooth by picking up a scoop (or three) from Girls & Boys around the corner on Rose Street. Expect a queue but, just like your explorations around Fitzroy and Collingwood, it rewards the effort.


Peak performance

It’s no secret that New York’s buzzy Hudson Valley is the go-to spot for New Yorkers seeking to escape the city (writes Will Kitchens). “But a lot of upstate properties follow the template of what upstate is supposed to look like: plaid, wood, fish and game,” says Robert McKinley, who designed Kingston’s Hotel Kinsley, a two-hour drive north from New York. This is a more contemporary vision of upstate accommodation: think tin ceilings, stately fireplaces and Scandinavian furniture.

Unlike most 43-room hotels, Hotel Kinsley isn’t easy to spot. It’s spread across four historic buildings, which date back to the 19th century. The first – a former bank – opened in June, with the remaining three to follow by early 2020. It houses 10 guestrooms, a sauna and Restaurant Kinsley, the latest opening from the James Beard award-winning restaurateur Taavo Somer, who is best known for Freemans in Manhattan.

Hotel Kinsley is proof that reinvigorating a once sleepy town doesn’t require a facelift. “The way the buildings are spread out actually forces you to walk through the most beautiful parts of town,” says McKinley. “For a long time Kingston wasn’t paid much attention but there are lots of restaurants, bookshops and shops coming to life now. This hotel has been a big jumpstart for all of that.”


Disaster relief

What should fashion do when the world is a mess? Such was the conundrum facing designers at the recent autumn/winter 2020 edition of Paris Fashion Week (writes Jamie Waters). The mood was decidedly odd in the French capital, where 10 days of shows round out the womenswear season (following New York, London and Milan). Paris boasts the most impressive schedule of the four fashion cities, yet this time its peerless mix of luxury houses and dynamic young brands took a back seat to talk of that dreaded virus. On the front rows air-kissing was even more distant than normal or, better yet, replaced by a wave from afar. There were spare seats at some shows and the showrooms dotted across Le Marais were eerily empty (plenty of editors and buyers either didn’t come at all or left early).

On the runways, though, there was electricity. Although these collections presumably weren’t created with coronavirus in mind, there are plenty of other troubles for designers to draw upon: climate change, rising nationalism and so on. Here, there are two ways you can go. You can do what Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia did and, by dressing models in pointy-shouldered coats and capes and sending them down a water-soaked runway with fires blazing on screens overhead, conjure an atmosphere of such menace that you send chills down viewers’ spines. Or you can embrace cheerful escapism, à la Hermès, whose show, with its abundance of white garments accented with bright colours, was a breath of fresh air. Or Miu Miu, where Miuccia Prada looked to the 1920s and 1930s with crinkled-satin dresses and a fun cabaret vibe. The most powerful fashion shows should comment on our times, whether by offering up a mirror to reflect the horrors or suggesting a soothing balm.


Full story

Two key book industry events slated for next week have been cancelled as a precaution against coronavirus but publishers could yet be turning a page. Though the London and Leipzig book fairs won’t take place as planned, there’s good reason to believe that those in the business of making media, film and fiction will do well from so many people staying indoors – and seeking a little diversion from the dreary headlines. Companies such as Netflix have already seen a bump in share prices as users sign up, snuggle up and stay put.

With some light relief in mind we’ve also spotted two French comedies that land next week. Le Bonne Épouse (How to Be a Good Wife), directed by Martin Provost and featuring Juliette Binoche, is an amusing and thoughtful tale about a woman coming to terms with the expectations of conjugal life in the 1960s. Meanwhile, Une Sirène à Paris (A Mermaid in Paris) tells the tale of an unwitting Parisian who falls in love with a mermaid on the banks of the Seine. Such a synopsis could prove to be a folly in an English-language film but, somehow, the cinematography and lightness of touch keep the plot swimming along at an even and entertaining clip.

Next Saturday is White Day in Japan. One calendar month past Valentine’s Day (on which, Japanese custom dictates, women provide men with chocolate), men traditionally return the favour by offering their dearly beloved a sweet treat in the form of marshmallows. So what ancient belief and symbolic rite gave rise to this hallowed ritual? Well, the origins of the tradition are rather less romantic than they might appear. The annual love-in was actually created in 1978 by Japan's National Confectionery Industry Association. Sweet idea, really. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


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