Sunday 15 March 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 15/3/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Ahead of the curve

It’s been a week of very early starts, a few late nights, packed restaurants, many bottles of good Swiss white (yes France, yes Italy – the Swissies do make good wine!) and lots of conference calls – but also just as much time out on the road. If you’re reading this in the Apac region or North America then the past seven days might have been a bit scratchy but here in the heart of Europe it’s been a very bizarre mix of rough and serene. Let’s rewind the tape.

Monday. The day started at 04.00 in a very comfy bed at Ett Hem in Stockholm. Ninety minutes later I was asking for a pillow, having boarded an Air France Airbus A319 down to Paris. “Sorry sir, no pillows due to the virus.” I found this an interesting comment as it revealed what we’ve long suspected about in-flight pillows. Yes, loyal customer, you’re drooling into the same pillow that someone else was slobbering in on the inbound leg just an hour earlier. The rest of the day was enjoyed at a leisurely pace as business seemed to have more pauses thanks to cancelled appointments and calls. At a meeting overlooking Place Vendôme, the pace and setting was so civilised that it could have easily gone on for five hours if the CEO had summoned the maison’s chef to fix us something. A very useful lesson in quality over quantity when it comes to the appointments in one’s diary.

Tuesday. This was the highlight of the week. A not too early start, a meeting at a creative agency with a talent for doing good hospitality projects and then being introduced to Clark – a semi-energetic Basset Fauve de Bretagne. As I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect pooch for a while, this sturdy French breed has now gone to the top of my list.

Wednesday. Back in London the streets were a bit quieter and the first batch of our big new book on Japan was being cracked open for all to see. All going to plan, we’ll start our book-signing tour over the coming weeks and no, it won’t be kicking off in the US – see below. If you’d like to pre-order a copy of The Monocle Book of Japan, which goes on sale in May, drop us a note here.

Thursday. This day was something of a blur thanks to another 04.00 start to catch the 06.00 Swiss flight back to Zürich. Ouch! Most of the ride out to the airport was devoted to trying to decode the US travel ban. For all of you who’ve been enquiring about the LA, New York and Denver dates, these are now on hold. We’ll keep you posted. Gate A20 was surprisingly busy at 05.35 – we took off swiftly and the flight to Zürich was sunny and smooth. When I arrived in Zürich I was happy to see that our café was busy and buzzy and, judging by the kissing and handshakes that I noticed on my journey into town, it seemed as though the locals weren’t paying much attention to the government’s warning on “social distancing”. Later that evening, over some fine wine and very good steak, one of the country’s leading brain surgeons gave us his take on why Italy’s mortality numbers are so high. More on that next week – it’s not a topic for a gentle Sunday.

Friday. Beep! Beep! The day kicked off with a spin around Seefeld in a prototype Microlino. If you’re not familiar with this vehicle, it’s a soon to be launched Swiss car that looks as though it was born in a Japanese animé studio and should have its own TV series. If you believe that cities still need cars but that they need to be the right size, take a peek. And if you want to turn heads about this time next year, get your name on the waiting list.

Saturday. Sakura time came to Dufourstrasse 90 (our HQ in Zürich) with a small spring preview that was limited to the 50 people who were allowed within our walls at any one time. This curious new coronavirus rule also applies to discos – perfect for dancers who like to take up a lot of real estate.

Sunday. If you’re just waking up and want the latest from me and some even sharper minds, then please tune into Monocle 24 for our Monocle On Sunday roundtable from our Zürich studio.


Moveable feast

The rivalry between Toronto and Montréal runs deep (writes Will Kitchens). It spans centuries of historical division driven by language, religion, culture and, of course, ice hockey. But more generous Torontonians will readily admit a few things: Montréal has better nightlife and arguably the best food in Canada.

Last May a piece of Montréal hospitality arrived in Toronto with Zach Kolomeir, former chef de cuisine at Joe Beef, the Montréal restaurant that has built a global following thanks to its cookbooks, straightforward service and hearty menu (think big bowls of spaghetti with lobster and bacon, not tiny gastronomic compositions dwarfed by the plates they arrive on). Kolomeir moved southwest and opened Dreyfus: a dimly lit dining room hidden inside a red-brick terraced house on Harbord Street. “I didn’t open a restaurant because I felt like something was missing here,” says Kolomeir. “It was a place and timing thing.” His girlfriend was beginning her graduate studies at the University of Toronto.

But launching a business in unfamiliar territory isn’t easy. “Coming here and opening my own restaurant, I definitely feared that if it wasn’t busy I’d be that old salty dog who sits at his own bar and drinks all the whiskey,” says Kolomeir, with a laugh. Thankfully, his fears were unfounded. Dreyfus is one of the city’s very best restaurants and Torontonians know it: a table here is difficult to come by these days.

Dreyfus’s success can be chalked up to its own unfussy service and, most importantly, its food. The menu, as in the venue where Kolomeir cut his teeth, is French-inspired. A highlight is the pommes dauphine: fried-potato doughnuts served with sour cream, caviar, shallots, dill, chives and lemon zest. Larger plates – such as lake trout with beurre blanc, trout roe and wilted endives – change regularly. “It’s super simple but the bit of bitterness from the endive with the nice fatty trout and crispy skin work so well together,” says Kolomeir.

Although he’s charting his own path nowadays, Kolomeir’s time at Joe Beef provided a framework for the sort of restaurant he wanted to run – and it’s not for everyone, he says. It’s difficult to understand why anyone wouldn’t enjoy Dreyfus, though the music, lack of a wine list and chatty servers might not suit all. “But that [lack of conversation] is not how we wanted to do things here,” says Kolomeir. “I don’t like it when staff are robots. I like it when they have conversations. I like it when they’re excited about the food that they bring to the table; when they build relationships with customers and those customers come back. That’s just the way I was brought up in restaurants.”


Breathing space

Stirling prize-winning British architect Amanda Levete’s projects include Lisbon’s Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (Maat), and galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. On Sundays, however, Levete prefers to avoid cultural institutions in favour of a trip to a north London bakery, a competitive game of Scrabble and maybe a roast chicken with dauphinoise potatoes and watercress salad. Good call.

Where do we find you this weekend?
At home in north London with my husband Ben. My soul is still in west London though. I miss the Georgian stucco architecture, the squares and Kensington Gardens – I sometimes travel miles just to go to my favourite grocer, Michanicou Brothers, in Holland Park. My heart has moved north into what looks like a regular terraced house from the outside but opens up into a huge, double-height, top-lit space that I designed.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Sunday is my favourite day. I wake early, read the papers in bed, then drive to Le Péché Mignon in Highbury to buy croissants and pains au chocolat. If I’m feeling generous I’ll drop off the same order to my son Josef, who lives nearby – he won’t be awake, of course, but I have a key. I tried living without a car but missed this Sunday ritual too much.

Soundtrack of choice?
Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 4, and Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. But I probably enjoy silence more.

What’s for breakfast?
Papaya with a piece of lime to start. There’s a halal butcher nearby that gets fresh papaya delivered on a Friday so by Sunday they are perfectly ripe. Then pain au chocolat dipped in a bowl of very strong coffee with lots of hot milk, followed by a competitive game of Scrabble with Ben. I’m going through a losing streak at the moment, which I find quite challenging.

News or not?
Yes. I love to read the print versions of Saturday’s FT, the Observer and the Sunday Times.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Yoga and pilates – but I love to run.

Lunch in or out?
Ideally I’ll skip lunch but have a very early dinner at about 17.00. Everyone laughs that I want to eat so early but that way there’s time to walk on Hampstead Heath, watch Josef play football in the freezing cold and chill on the sofa with a book or boxset before I start to cook and open a fabulous bottle of wine. Roast chicken with dauphinoise potatoes and watercress salad is a family favourite.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Organic eggs, tins of Ortiz anchovies and Ventresca Bonito del Norte tuna, unsalted butter, sourdough, unwaxed lemons, flat leaf parsley, mini capers and red chillies.

Any cultural essentials for a Sunday?
Does reading count? Books on the go include [Blake Gopnik’s] new Warhol biography, Life Lessons from a Brain Surgeon by Dr Rahul Jandial and Murmur by Will Eaves. Otherwise I’m pretty happy to have a day off culture.

A glass of something that you’d recommend?
My favourite wine: a Domaine Jean-Paul Jamet Côte-Rôtie.

Ideal dinner venue?
We waited a long time to get a really good local restaurant in north London. Now we have Trullo in Highbury. It’s small and super relaxed with understated design and great Italian cooking.

The ideal dinner menu?
Trullo’s homemade fettuccine cacio e pepe makes my heart sing.

Who’s joining?
David Miliband, when he’s over from New York, for a gossip about politics.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I write long to-do lists on white A6 cards with a 2B 0.9mm yellow Pentel pencil. I feel very unsettled writing with anything else. Then I chuck the cards in my bag and take them to the office the next day – my desk is always covered in them.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I’ll decide on Monday morning.


Tamago sandwiches

Swiss chef Ralph Schelling offers a simple, Japanese-style version of a staple: egg sandwiches. Enjoy.

Makes 4 sandwishes (as pictured)

8 eggs 3 tbsps soy sauce 2 tbsps mirin 2 tsps peanut oil 8 slices of bread 1 tsp mustard


  1. Lightly beat the eggs and add the soy sauce and mirin.
  2. Brush a non-stick pan with a little oil, heat it up and add some of the egg mixture. Flip the omelette and push it to the edge of the pan, add more of the egg mixture and fold the existing omelette into the new one; repeat the whole process 4 or 5 times to make a total of 2 omelettes. Cut each of them in half.
  3. Toast the bread and spread it with a little mustard. Place the omelettes on top to make sandwiches. Trim off the edges of the toast, cut the sandwiches in half and arrange on plates. It’s best enjoyed lukewarm.


Hot to trot

Distance: 2.5km
Terrain: Flat all the way. Pavements come and go but heat is the main obstacle so don’t rush.
Notes: Thao Dien in District 2 is a residential enclave that’s home to Ho Chi Minh City’s growing European diaspora. It has a budding drinking and dining scene, although the wine bars and boulangeries have not changed the area’s beach-village vibe (Korean expats prefer the tidier streets of District 7).

Delays to Ho Chi Minh City’s metro system mean that you’ll have to wait a bit longer before you’re able to take a direct train to District 2. Until then it’s a 15-minute taxi ride (if you're staying downtown in District 1). Ask the driver to drop you off at Pendolasco on Tong Huu Dinh. Residents of Thao Dien are spoilt for choice when it comes to pizza but locals swear by this Italian-run neighbourhood stalwart. After lunch, exit right onto Duong Thao Dien and walk as far as the French-owned Annam Gourmet Market. Tour the high-end food shop for a feel of how quickly this area is hotting up… and to cool down in the well-stocked deli section. Pick up some Vietnamese coffee beans (Mr Viet wins for its packaging) but get a move on because there’s more spending to be done. Exit left onto Ngo Quang Huy, take another left at Duong so 50 and stop at the intersection with Xuan Thuy. Sadéc District is the place to buy Vietnamese-designed homeware; its helpful staff know how to bubble-wrap ceramics for your return flight. You’ll be coming back this way so it’s a good idea to leave the bulkier purchases behind the counter.

With the shopping in the bag (or behind the counter) it’s time for something sweet. Turn left on Xuan Thuy, head across the road and follow the scent of Vietnamese cacao that’s wafting out of the new Maison Marou. Climb the stairs to this café-cum-chocolate factory and order a mocha or, for something a little cooler, try its new ice cream (chocolate flavour, of course). This colourful new building with a double-height ceiling is an ideal spot for reading a book in the afternoon sun. Back on Xuan Thuy, turn right and walk to the end of the street. Along the way you will pass by plenty of District 2 must-tries (including Pasteur Street Brewing and the lovely L’Usine) but we are turning right onto Duong Thao Dien and heading for somewhere that’s distinctly District 2. A seat at Mekong Merchant (pictured above on left) is the best place to observe the daily comings and goings of Thao Dien’s expat community, who pass through this bar and restaurant at all times of the day. Happy hour starts at 16.00 so order a chilled glass of white from the cellar in which new-world wines are well represented.

Continue on Duong Thao Dien and turn left onto Tran Ngoc Dien, heading in the direction of the Saigon river. Walk almost the full length of the road, turning right onto Nguyen U Di. Follow the road until you reach The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre. Established in 2016 by Vietnamese artist Tia-Thuy Nguyen, this out-of-the-way gallery designed by HTAP Architects (which also worked with Maison Marou) represents an important exhibition space in what is still a communist country. A few doors down the road, Restaurant 13’s riverside views are accessed via a lane leading off Nguyen U Di. Elephant ear fish is a Mekong Delta speciality – order a whole one, steamed or fried.

Thao Dien gets lively after dark as residents return home from work. For your digestif, do as the Vietnamese do and order a motorcycle taxi for the short ride back to Xuan Thuy (you’ve earned it in this heat). 86 Proof does a strong pour (cocktail pictured above) while BiaCraft, directly under Maison Marou, stocks the widest selection of regional craft brews. Both are well placed for picking up those purchases from Sadéc District before it closes.


For old tomes’ sake

Inside the Park Avenue Armory, an 1861 gothic-revival building in New York’s refined Upper East Side, people are closely scrutinising display cases and carefully leafing through aged books. Although the large vat of hand sanitiser and the occasional display of elbow bumping are signs of strange new times, the crowd at the 60th-anniversary edition of the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair is strong. So who attends these sorts of shindigs? Anyone from the casual, curious punter to the avid collector who’s looking for a very specific Victorian cookbook (and, on the last day of the fair, actress Jennifer Lawrence was there too).

The antiquarian market, which focuses on old or rare books, has proven robust in the face of economic fluctuations. This is largely because the prices charged attract serious collectors. There’s also a hint of nostalgia here: plenty of booksellers specialise in children’s books. At this year’s show, for example, a signed, first-edition, first-print of The Very Hungry Caterpillar was waiting to be gobbled up for $22,500 (€20,250).

Organiser Sanford Smith proudly says that the New York event is the best of its kind in the world. And it’s certainly international, attracting sellers from Buenos Aires, Geneva, Toronto and even Cirencester in the UK’s West Country. On our rounds we spotted a beautiful 1933 Harry Beck poster for the London Underground, the last photos taken of Ernest Hemingway and some eye-catching book jackets by underrated modernist graphic designer Edward McKnight Kauffer. There’s plenty of life in old books.


Reporting for duty

The TV channel and media platform CNN Brasil launches today, complete with offices in Rio de Janeiro and Brasília as well as reporters based in New York, Buenos Aires, Washington and London. The news brand, which will have about 300 journalists on its roster, hopes to reach an audience of 60 million – its social-media platforms have already attracted more than one million followers ahead of launch. Brazil faces many challenges – political, economic and social – so here’s hoping that its latest media brand can shed some light on proceedings by focusing on these issues. Given president Jair Bolsonaro’s blustering challenges to the media, clear and authoritative reporting has never been more vital. Time will tell if that’s what CNN Brasil can offer.

The cancellation of Canada’s Juno music awards ceremony, which would have taken place today, shows that not even sparsely populated Saskatchewan is safe from coronavirus concerns. Although the event has been postponed, we saw the shelving as an opportunity to highlight the Canucks’ knack for catchy pop. Yes, Bryan Adams and Avril Lavigne were nominated for awards but so were a new crop of exciting singers and songstresses who we’d suggest you listen out for. Lennon Stella’s toe-tapping “La Di Da” is already a favourite on Monocle 24 and is tipped to win the award for single of the year, while flamboyant country-music supremo Orville Peck is always one to add a little theatricality to proceedings – he’s been wearing a mask since well before it was de rigueur.

Municipal elections
School’s out for French students but, at the time of writing, the nation’s local elections are set to start today. They will run until a second round of voting that’s mooted for next weekend. Candidates who secure more than 50 per cent of the vote will win automatically but a second-round run-off will take place to decide between those who don’t reach that threshold. Many will be closely watching the results of the Paris ballot. Incumbent Anne Hidalgo, the city’s first female mayor and a capable steward of the French capital since 2014, was seen as a shoo-in for re-election but has lately been run close by former justice minister, Rachida Dati. Keep an eye on Monocle 24 and the Monocle Minute for all the results and analysis. Oh, and have a great week.


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