Sunday 24 May 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 24/5/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Flying visit

It’s been a delightfully social week here in Zürich – in no small part because Wednesday marked a reunion with the colleagues that keep our businesses ticking over. With the threat of a 14-day quarantine in the UK on the horizon (now confirmed to start on 8 June), I decided that it might make sense to find a window for the top team to get together; I immediately set to work to figure out how you get three people from London and one from Berlin into Switzerland. As the Confoederatio Helvetica is all but closed to cross-border workers, closest family members of citizens and residents, and special medical or business cases, it’s not exactly a simple case of having your colleagues rock up for a meeting. After a few enquiries with the appropriate authorities, it was soon clear that getting the London crew in was going to take some precision timing, appropriate sequencing and just the right tone in letter writing. With the help of my assistant Linda, a backing act from our security correspondent, my doctor and friends at the nation’s flag carrier, we were able to assemble the required signatures and stamps to ensure smooth travel from Heathrow to Kloten. Along the way we were warned that it would still be down to the officers on duty to make the final call on entry/no entry, so I waited somewhat anxiously for my phone to ping just after 21.30 with an “all clear” message from my colleague Ariel.

The following morning we assembled at Monocle’s HQ on Dufourstrasse for a quick coffee and a brisk morning walk through the woods and some of Zürich’s more established residential districts. As I’ve worked with most of my senior team for anywhere from 15 to 23 years, these past two months have marked the longest period of separation both professionally and socially. As we’ve also been living very different lockdowns, I felt that a little urban hike would be a good way for everyone to catch up on the past weeks before settling down to look at financial forecasts, group structure and new projects for the months and years ahead. Under perfect skies we wandered along gurgling streams, admired elegant homes backing onto vineyards, said “hello” to the sheep and shared stories that never quite found time to be squeezed into daily conference calls. After 90 minutes of chatter and observations we were back at base and it felt like we had all been on an extended summer holiday rather than scattered around London, the English countryside, the heart of Berlin and Zürich’s Kreis 8.

While we agreed that much of our various management and project set-ups functioned better than expected thanks to various digital wing-wangs, we also agreed that business is not won over a video conference; company culture cannot be built over a webcam; and that there’s a certain efficiency that comes with reading the curl of a lip or the slight arch of an eyebrow.

Mission accomplished, we ventured out onto the streets and met friends, clients and contributors over rosé and Swissy bites. “It feels like a normal day,” said Ariel, who runs our agency business. “Look at the crowd out here.” Up and down the sidewalk, people were chatting in small groups of four or five (all roughly in step with Federal guidelines), enjoying drinks and savouring the decadence of freedom. After dinner at our local Italian we said our goodbyes and the next morning they flew back to London. They had enjoyed an advanced sampler of what easing feels like and how quickly the world can get its groove back. I miss them.


That’s our type

Global newsstands need improvement, so we’re delighted to show off a benchmark refurb from a neighbour and friend in London’s Marylebone. Shreeji Newsagents on Chiltern Street has kept the neighbourhood informed and entertained since 1982 and still stocks 500 publications, from the niche to the well-known.

The fetching fit-out comes courtesy of new partner Selected Works LTD, which has transformed the interior with fitted wooden cabinets, plenty of natural light and all the magazines you can imagine. There’s also an onyx-topped island for cakes, pastries and coffee but rest assured: it still sells chocolates and the usual newsagents fare too.

The space behind the shop – once a proprietor’s residence – has also been rethought: it is now a smart reading room. The best news? Monocle friend Sandeep Garg is still running the show, as he has for the past few decades. There’s no one better to guide you through the tower of titles on show. Oh, and here’s the headline: this is what newsstands should look like.


Help in the kitchen

Just a few months ago, Michael Lennox (pictured, left) was focusing his attention the three restaurants he owns in Atlanta, including Ladybird (pictured, right), that form his Electric Hospitality group. He wouldn’t have thought that he would soon be running a nonprofit instead. But the normally buzzing Georgian capital with a thriving culinary scene isn’t as humming as it once was (writes Ed Stocker). Although Republican governor Brian Kemp has recently reopened the state – allowing restaurants to host 10 patrons per 300 sq ft (28 sq m) – many establishments have chosen to stay closed, including those that Lennox owns. Yet rather than sit around and wait for the pandemic to pass, Lennox formed ATL Family Meal. Its aim? To help the thousands of hospitality workers who are out of a job and struggling to make ends meet. “We know how to cook food and we know how to deliver it,” says Lennox. “Let’s cook food and deliver it to the people in our hospitality industry, who typically would be feeding others on a daily basis.” ATL Family Meal is now delivering 6,000 meals a week to hospitality workers – an act of solidarity in a decimated industry.

Using his contacts and what he jokes are the “foggy legal capabilities” that he learnt during a brief stint as a lawyer, Lennox’s nonprofit has grown and is increasingly ambitious. Other establishments and individuals have joined in or donated resources, including award-winning Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins. Lennox hopes that ATL Family Meal can now play a key advocacy role and start a conversation with civic leaders about the long-term sustainability of restaurants. The challenges are sizeable but Lennox refuses to be pessimistic. “This is a point in time that’s forcing everyone to get really, really creative and come up with a lot of new ideas and new ways of approaching things,” he says. “I think that, over the next 12 months, we’re going to see tonnes of stuff that you would have never seen before, where the word ‘restaurant’ starts to get very fuzzy and loose, and the four walls of a building is kind of like an abstract concept.” With this in mind, Lennox has some new plans bubbling away for his restaurants – though he’s not ready to reveal them to the world just yet.

Other acts of US gastronomic solidarity:

  1. The critics’ favourite Brooklyn restaurant, Olmsted, has turned itself into a food bank for the neediest.
  2. Spanish-American chef José Andrés has teamed up with Bloomberg Philanthropies to feed medical workers in New York.
  3. Seattle chef Tarik Abdullah has been helping out at Soulful Dishes restaurant, which has converted itself into a community kitchen.


Double measures

Rosa Park launched the biannual magazine Cereal in 2012 (writes Louis Harnett O’Meara). She also founded Francis Gallery in her home city of Bath in 2019. Here she tells us about her hankering for steamed chestnuts and dividing her Sundays between work and play.

How are you finding all the extra time at home?
To be very honest, on a personal level I’ve never been better. On a professional level I’m in two minds because I have two businesses. Cereal, as a travel magazine, has been a challenge – I’m taking things in my stride and taking a pause for now. For the gallery, we’ve never been busier; we’ve had record sales month-on-month this year.

What’s your soundtrack of choice?
Sunday is the one day of the week when I combine work time and personal time 50-50. If I’m working, I’m playing Max Richter or Nils Frahm. If I’m doing personal tasks, such as cleaning, I listen to 1990s hip hop and R&B.

What’s for breakfast?
Just English breakfast tea or an americano coffee, depending on my mood.

What news do you wake up to?
The only news media I consume religiously is The New Yorker. And even though it’s [mostly] once a week, I still find it challenging to keep on top of my reading. The pile of them tends to grow, judging me. I also read the news online every morning with my coffee: The New York Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and the BBC.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Yoga, of course. But I wish that I had a dog more than ever right now. The only reason my husband Rich and I don’t already is because of the amount that we travel. Now seems like a good time to get one but we need to be patient and remember that this is temporary.

Any other exercise to get the blood pumping?
We’ll go for a jog or a long walk, depending on the weather.

Lunch in or outside?
Before lockdown Rich and I never cooked; we would always eat out. Now that’s not an option so we’re cooking all three meals a day. I love it; I’m hoping to keep it up after lockdown. But typically for brunch we go to Cafe Walcot [in Bath] on Sundays.

Any larder essentials you can’t do without?
Yeah, and they’re weird. I always buy packets of steamed chestnuts. I think British people only eat them at Christmas but I have to have them in the cupboard at all times. Also, almond butter; I just eat it with a spoon. And I always have olive oil and sesame oil. The fifth and final thing would be corn thins [popped-corn cakes].

Do you have any cultural essentials?
We have a ridiculous number of books that we buy and don’t have time to read. It sounds silly that I’m buying more than I can read but I have an obsession with collecting rare books. Now, every Sunday, Rich and I pick a book a coffee-table book we haven’t yet read and read and discuss it together. It’s the coffee table books that fall behind on our reading list; you can’t throw them in your tote bag to enjoy on the go.

A glass of anything you’d recommend?
I love Somerset apple juice mixed with sparkling water. I get the apple juice from Landrace, my local bakery.

And what was your ideal dinner menu?
It would always be Korean food, which is impossible because I don’t cook and there’s no Korean food in Bath! But I love Italian: nothing beats a huge bowl of pasta and focaccia.

Is there a dinner venue that you can’t wait to get back to?
I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles and my favourite place for pasta there would be Jon & Vinny’s. Its original location is in Fairfax but the one in Pacific Palisades is where I would usually go.

Do you have a Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I’m currently working with an executive coach on Sundays; and I also always catch up on work on Sunday. It’s nice to work when no one else is working and it means that I get a head start on Monday. Usually there’s a lot of admin, catch-up, replying to emails...

Would you usually lay out your look for Monday on a Sunday evening?
I used to do that when I was a teenager but not any more. I have a uniform for how I dress though: some jeans, a T-shirt – and then out the door.


Mussels with garlic breadcrumbs

Swiss chef Ralph Schelling’s Sunday recipe for mussels is exceedingly quick and simple. You can liven it up by adding clams or other seafood – or give it some heft with a few tranches of fresh bread or pasta.

Serves 4 as a light meal

1.5kg mussels
8 prawns (head on)
100ml white wine
Half a lemon, sliced
100g yesterday’s bread or panko breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons of olive oil
½ pepperoncini (pepper)
2 garlic cloves, diced
25g parsley
Sea salt
Black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Break bread into 1cm pieces and mix with half the oil, the sliced pepperoncini and garlic on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and add parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Clean the mussels and fry them in a pan in the remaining olive oil. Add the prawns to the fried mussels then add white wine and cook covered for about 5 minutes. Discard the still-closed mussels and season to taste.
  3. Arrange the mussels with the stock in shallow bowls and scatter with the breadcrumbs to serve (with a slice of lemon).


Rope and glory

During lockdown, my mornings seem to have become dedicated to observing one particular activity (writes Jamie Waters). I get up and hear the swish-swoosh, click-clack of a neighbour’s plastic skipping rope whirring through the air and smacking onto the pavement. I walk to get a takeaway coffee, passing at least one person’s forehead bobbing above the high hedge in their front yard. In the park, in my very favourite moment of the day, I watch a row of east Londoners bouncing in the morning glow, springing from one foot to the other as though the ground was bubbling with hot lava. In lockdown, people seem to have gone hopping mad; what’s with all the skipping?

Skipping is an activity with two major opposing connotations: childhood and boxers. It recalls both the innocence of school playgrounds and a pre-bout Rocky montage. One morning in the park, I consult a friend for answers; he’s taken up skipping in recent months and is dedicating himself to learning moves such as the criss-cross and the side swing with near-religious fervour. He says that the pursuit of self-improvement is addictive. But isn’t it all a bit uncool, I ask? He points to one guy, who is here every morning. “I want to be like him,” he says. The man is wearing a hoodie and is built like a tank. He looks tough. But the way he’s moving is more reminiscent of a ballet dancer than anything else, such is his agility and lightness. I realise that I also want to be like him. What’s more – his fizzing rope ensures that no one can come within a one-metre radius. A sport for our times.


Love at first write

Dear diary, it’s me again (writes Tom Reynolds). Wow, it seems like a lifetime ago that I dusted you off, pinged open that fetching elastic strap and poured onto your pages back in late March. I’ve been a regular correspondent since then, though, haven’t I?

Yes, we’ve been spending a lot of time together recently – do you also feel a flowing connection? I mean I’ve told you things that I haven’t told anyone. Ever. It might sound strange – and please don’t take this the wrong way – but I just wanted to write “thank you”. What would I do without your linen-bound shoulder to lean on, as dependable as the tides for a scribble at dawn or a jot at sunset?

Sometimes I even let myself imagine that years from now someone might pick you up and discover that our journey sheds light on life during a long-ago pandemic. They might expect insight into what life was like, a poetic retelling of those claustrophobic months – it has only been months so far, right? What they’ll find might disappoint. I’m not sure whether the diarist Samuel Pepys was pondering learning French or how to play the piano as the plague hit or the fire of London burned in the 1660s. From portraits I’ve seen of the great social historian, I’m not sure he was as concerned as I am about his core, upper body or fat-burning workouts.

While he had matters of state to attend to and a city to help rebuild, I have never had fewer things in the diary – no, not you, silly; your swotty cousin in the desk drawer. But don’t worry: when it comes to gathering my thoughts and committing ideas to paper, you – my dear diary – have been more than a passing flirtation. I hope that this doesn’t stay as a lockdown love affair either.


Hedging your bets

So you want a little privacy and somewhere for the sparrows to call home? Then some handsome hedges are in order – and here are a few tips (writes Josh Fehnert). “There’s a New Zealand native called griselinia littoralis, which has a broad leaf in a lovely, light, lime green,” says Peter Milne of the Nunhead Gardener in southeast London. “A very dark green hedge can feel a bit heavy or oppressive.” Aptenia is another bright idea with masses of reddish flowers that start in the summer and give way to good greenery.

Excellent for pollinators, it’s great for marking the season’s change with a flourish of colour – and it’s good for you too. More traditional options, such as privet hedges (beloved by the finicky Victorians), are easy to shape and train; ditto the easy to tame yew if you’re looking for a time-tested option. And when it comes to a trim? “Be careful not to prune too hard,” says Milne, mindful of the clients he’s known who hacked too enthusiastically and were left with bald patches in their hedgerows. “If you take conifers back below the soft foliage, to the woody bit, they often won’t grow back.” Happy planting and enjoy the rest of your weekend.


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