Sunday 7 June 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 7/6/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Mountain time

Good morning! I was all set to tell you about a curious little trend I’ve noticed at our kiosk in Zürich and how magazine-buying patterns (sales of various titles are way up!) look likely to positively affect certain consumer sectors but this is going to have to wait because yesterday my comrade who occupies this same space on a Saturday pretty much promised that I’d tell you about my week getting out and about in Switzerland. So buckle up – we’re off to a remote little valley flowing with dairy delights, roaring streams, fine hosts, naughty goats and plates of tasty schnitzel.

The first time I glimpsed Switzerland’s green lowlands and swaying meadow flowers was through the window of an SBB train in the summer of 1983. It was my first trip to Europe and I was chaperoned by grandmother (she turned 102 on Friday, by the way – Happy birthday Ema!) for a grand tour to visit family and see the sites. When we set out from Zürich this past Monday morning, the sky, fields and rolling hills reminded me of that trip way back in the 1980s. With no clouds and a crisp breeze, the yellows, pinks and various greens were vibrant, the lake dazzling and the nostrils filled with the verdant scents of fresh-cut grass, elderflower and a bit of cow poop. With the GPS set for the village of Vals, it was a quick hour on the highway and then another hour on some windy roads up to the top of the valley and to the front door of Brücke 49. If you’ve been following our pages and podcasts for the past couple of years then you’ve likely heard of this little establishment and its delightful Danish-Swiss owners, Thomas and Ruth. I wasn’t really planning for a Sommerfrische escape but had one of those moments the week before last when my mind wandered up to the Alps, I saw myself hiking and swimming and before long I was chatting to Ruth and booking a room.

When we pulled up to the hotel, the village was deserted so we left our wheels and set off on foot to find signs of life. Was this what a sunny Monday normally looked like? If so, amazing. A quick tour of the village revealed a few locals sitting on their balconies in the sun, Lycra-sheathed cyclists stopping to refill water bottles and donkeys, cows and goats lunching on the slopes above the town. Just beyond the town square a sharp, angular building under construction came into view and we stopped to inspect the stonework. “Funny, it could almost be the work of Kengo Kuma,” I said to my partner Mats. Closer inspection of the information board revealed that this ambitious structure was indeed the work of Kengo Kuma and set to complete later this year. (Sources later told me Tadao Ando is also doing a house up the hill.)

After beers, wine and local meats and cheeses for lunch we met Thomas to check in and got a tour of the property. To call Brücke 49 a hotel both under and oversells it as it’s a collection of three fine structures that stand smartly alongside the river and house a collection of rooms, three apartments, a lovely shop and multiple indoor-outdoor levels and nooks in which to read, tan, nap and sip.

Once upon a time Switzerland was very good at doing cosy but somewhere along the way a combination of too much money and an obsession with hard right angles eradicated the warmth that had defined so much of the country’s hospitality. Fortunately Thomas and Ruth have done their very best to correct this with a mix of Danish and local design, a hand for texture and a firm grip on good lighting. Brücke 49 has all the cues you want from a modest alpine hotel – with rustic elements of Stockholm’s Ett Hem, the simplicity of the Briol and Bad Dreikirchen in Südtirol and plenty of hygge twists that only Danes can deliver.

The following morning we went for a three-hour hike high above the town, took a plunge in a swirling pond beneath a waterfall, watched a baby goat make a hippity-hoppy escape through a fence and saw the sun go down accompanied by a fine Weissburgunder from the other side of the canton.

On Friday Switzerland announced that it will throw open its borders to all EU and Efta countries from June 15. If you need to shake off the funk that’s come with life under lockdown, a bit of Sommerfrische and some time in the Alps might be just the tonic. And in case you missed it, we’ll be hosting our own little end-of-summer retreat a bit higher up in Graubünden in St Moritz from 17 September. You’ll also be able to get some hospitality cues from Thomas and Ruth, who will be part of our panel on how to be gracious hosts. For booking details, contact Hannah Grundy on See you there.


Drive-through zoo

For one group in Toronto lockdown is over (writes Tomos Lewis). The animals at Toronto Zoo are once again preening, roaring and bellowing to an admiring audience following the decision to reopen the site as a drive-through. The 3.4km “scenic safari” allows visitors to glimpse the zoo’s inhabitants – including flamingos, Siberian tigers, black spider monkeys and one-horned rhinos – from behind the wheel of their car.

Many Torontonians guard the zoo, established in 1974, dearly. A plea for funds to supply food for the animals during lockdown, as ticket revenue vanished, raised more than CA$500,000 (€327,000) in a week. Demand for the safari has been intense: the zoo’s website crashed during the initial scramble for tickets.

The tour’s star attraction? No, not Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, the pandas famously cuddled by prime minister Justin Trudeau in 2016; it’s the three-week-old Baby Long Legs, a Masai giraffe calf born during lockdown. We’re all finding our feet.


French fancy

Laurent Bourven founded French clothing label Arpenteur with Marc Asseily in 2011. Based in Lyon, the brand combines a respect for traditional style with contemporary sources of inspiration (writes Nic Monisse). Here, Bourven shares some hot tips on Alsatian food and explains why clothing designers are never happy with their outfit.

Where do we find you this weekend?
Usually, we go out of the city and try to visit friends not far from Lyon or rent a place in the countryside. We really love discovering new areas, usually a small village: there’s always a market with local specialties and it’s a good way to start talking to people there. I’m always amazed at how different lives are, at least in France, between a big city and the countryside.

Otherwise, there’s a big flea market in Lyon called Puces du Canal. Early on Sunday morning you get the best bargains. I always go there to look for books, films and film memorabilia. I’m really into movies. I didn’t study fashion; I studied film and I was working in the movie industry before starting Arpenteur.

How are you handling all this extra time at home?
Both my business partner Marc and I live really close to the Arpenteur studio and, as it’s a big space and it was just the two of us, we could come here every day. It gave us the time to think about how we could see Arpentuer in the future. We want to keep being as independent as possible, work with the best retailers and do things on our own.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Slow start. I like to enjoy music while I’m having my breakfast and really take time to think of what we’ll do during the day.

Soundtrack of choice?
Two different things. An alternative pop-rock band called The Church from Australia from the 1980s, especially an album called The Blurred Crusade – it’s one of my favourites. And also jazz piano player Herbie Hancock and his albums from the 1970s, Man-Child and Head Hunters.

What’s for breakfast?
Petit épeautre bread – a speciality einkorn wheat bread – with salted butter, jam and seasonal fresh fruit.

News or not? I always listen to France Culture; it’s a national radio station dedicated to culture and all the shows are really interesting. You have the news in the morning followed by a show dedicated to history, another to philosophy and a third to economics. I enjoy reading print but radio is definitely a time-saver: it allows me to do two things at the same time.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
My partner Charlotte is really into yoga; I am not. And we don’t have any pets. So, I would say neither of these. I prefer walking.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
I travel by bike, which is good exercise.

What’s for lunch?
Marc’s cousin opened a Japanese restaurant called Mubyotan in Lyon. He had lived for seven years in Tokyo; he wasn’t a chef while he was there but when he moved back, he decided to open his own restaurant. It’s open on Saturdays and Sundays for lunch – that’s not the case with all restaurants in France; some are closed. So we go there.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Cheese. Definitely. I really enjoy tasting new ones.

Sunday culture must?
On Sunday evening I always watch a movie. Lately I have been into Russian films from the 1960s to the 1980s. They’re not the most famous movies but there are very, very talented directors. One is Andrei Tarkovsky and then there are two brothers who used to work with him, Nikita Mikhalkov and Andrei Konchalovsky. My favourite from Mikhalkov is Dark Eyes; and Siberiade from Konchalovsky.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
We have this sweet white wine for apéritif called pineau des charentes, especially from Oléron island. It’s very hard to open a bottle and not finish it.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
There’s a restaurant called Stamtich. It serves Alsatian food – very traditional dishes. They have a dish called flammekueche. It’s a bit like a pizza but the crust is thinner and it’s topped with cream instead of tomato sauce. They have this big fire oven that they cook in and the atmosphere is really great – the owner loves reggae music. So it’s a very nice mix.

Who would join?
We’re friends with local artists, journalists, graphic designers and we really like to go there all together.

Will you lay out your look for Monday, what will you be wearing?
I mainly dress in Arpenteur. It’s really frustrating because, as a clothing designer, I’m never happy with what I choose – I always want to improve things. We’re very critical about what we do and I guess that’s how we move forwards.


Ralph’s Sunday brioche

This buttery beauty of a loaf might need to rise three times to give it the correct texture but it’s makeable in a morning and can be sliced, frozen and toasted. One slice fried in egg or oil also makes for excellent French toast. Now that’s using your loaf.

Makes one large brioche loaf


800g strong white bread flour
35g fresh yeast
300ml milk, lukewarm
4 tbsps of white sugar
2 tsps salt
350g butter, soft
4 eggs

For the egg wash:
1 egg yolk
20ml milk


  1. Combine the yeast, milk, sugar and salt with the flour. Knead for 5 minutes until elastic and glossy.
  2. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Add the butter, bit by bit, and eggs, one at a time, to the dough. Knead for another 5 minutes or mix in a food processor with a dough hook.
  4. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
  5. Grease the loaf tin with butter to stop the loaf sticking and add the dough, then leave to rise (for the last time, we promise) in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  6. For the egg wash, mix the additional egg yolk with milk and apply it to the top of the loaf with a pastry brush just before it enters the oven. Bake for 45 minutes and leave to cool in the tin before turning out and tucking in.


The Arp

City beaches. These are the places that I long to return to when lockdown is lifted in Rio (writes Lucinda Elliott). Not simply for a dip in the Atlantic or to feel sand sticking to sun-creamed skin but, to my own surprise, for the snacks. Brazilians have a serious beach-food culture. I’ve found myself salivating at the memory of smouldering queijo coalho espetinhos: grilled cheese cooked on a portable barbecue and served on skewers. Vendors swing the mini grill around and around to cook – or char – what’s on the sticks, with a dedication that’s almost verging on theatre.

After satisfying my craving when the beach reopens, I’d head to The Arp before sundown. It is one of the only dining spots in Rio where you can be shown to a table directly from the sand; a casual all-day bar and restaurant whose privileged position at Arpoador – a small rocky outcrop where Ipanema meets Copacabana Fort – is the envy of any maître d’. I enjoyed my last (for a while) caipirinha here the night before the city shut down. If enforced bar closures have taught me anything it’s that I can’t mix a decent drink. Whoever is joining me will be characteristically late, common among Cariocas, so I’d wait with a mimosa mixed with urucum, a reddish-orange seed that’s native to the Amazon. Infusions of Brazilian fruits and peels have been cleverly introduced to the drinks menu.

Out on the terrace, I’d choose grilled octopus for my main course, with a generous side of eavesdropping on diners and passers-by. The place is part of a family-run hotel, so it manages to maintain a low-key cool but also attracts some of South America’s cultural glitterati with a set of smarter dishes such as scallops, cavatelli and fresh fish. People plot business deals, wedding proposals and political manoeuvres – all while dressed in sarongs and swim shorts.

Lucinda’s order:
Grilled octopus
Couscous salad
Sweetcorn cake with guava jam
Urucum mimosa
Caipirinha (or two)


Complaint logged

I think I’m about to snap. Not another buff workout junkie gurning and suspending himself on one of my lovely lower branches. Oh god, now the porky park-goer is thrusting backwards and forwards like… I shouldn’t say. Now, I know I am just a common ash but there is no reason to treat me like a cut-price climbing frame. I’m not communal gym equipment, you know.

London’s fitness classes and gyms have been shuttered for months now and the saps who once paid handsomely for training have now turned to the trees for exercise – and not in a good way. Me and my buddies in Regent’s Park are feeling the strain.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a visitor and branching out is in my nature. But I was thinking more of a friendly squirrel tickling my trunk or a tittering wren taking refuge in my canopy. I hadn’t bargained for this breed of broad-shouldered gym bunnies, climbing, pulling and plucking me bare. My bark is battered and my lower branches are leafless and bald.

To add insult to injury I heard one of them complaining about their roots showing the other day. The cheek of it – lockdown has been hard on us all. So next time you’re trying to trim your trunk, spare a little thought for the tree you’re tugging on. We have a saying around here: leaf well alone.


Faith and the patriarch

For anyone of faith, Sundays will have been especially challenging in the past few months (writes Christopher Cermak). Churches and other religious institutions are not only places for many to renew their faith each week but somewhere to reflect and relax. And so it was especially gratifying that Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, granted Monocle a rare interview for the June issue of the magazine.

Though I’d initially hoped to visit the Istanbul-based patriarchate in person, I found myself deeply moved by His All-Holiness’s words from afar – words of comfort and motivation to push through the hard times for Christians, non-Christians and non-believers alike. “What is at stake here is not our faith but our faithful; not God but the people of God.”

Bartholomew I, known as the “Green Patriarch” for his outspokenness on climate change, has also worked hard to reconcile the various Christian denominations over the past three decades. In our interview, he counsels all of us to leave behind our more selfish inclinations – “each of us has a social responsibility toward our neighbours” – but it’s his final message that is the most hopeful of all. “Never before in history have human beings had the opportunity to bring so many positive changes to so many people simply through encounter and dialogue. Ours is not only an age of isolation and division, it is also an age of communication and communion.”


Dealing with the grass

Sure, gardening is physically and spiritually nourishing but what is it without the bared fangs of rivalry (writes Robert Bound)? Take the lawn, or “the grass” as I have to call it because of its compact proportions (in fact, I should call it “the dandelions” and be done with it). There I am waving a hose around, trying to make it look a little less like Arizona as my neighbour glances over approvingly. Next day, a sprinkler plays on his grass. Fine. I needed a sprinkler anyway but can’t get the same one so I invest in the sort of thing that the Lawn Tennis Association baulks at the cost of. Take that, buster. Or not: it’s got too much welly and soaks everything in sight. My neighbour glances over, disapprovingly. Next day, my other neighbour has had her gardener (la-di-da) set up a sprinkler similar to my Centre Court bastard but with a more subtle throttle and it gently waters her thirsty meadow (don’t laugh at that). I look on, enviously.

Days go by and Sprinklergate simmers down. Chatting outside, my neighbour arches an eyebrow and very clearly hints that I’m growing marijuana on the porch. On the verge of correcting him I think, “No, that’s OK. He’ll want some of that later.” Come Friday he’s there with a parcel and I offer him a pot with a few scented leaves. I get a thank you and a wink and I’ve never seen a man happier to be given some Greek basil in my life. I love gardening.


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