Sunday 14 June 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 14/6/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Walking briskly, speaking carefully

On a recent hike down the lake from Zürich I spied some strange poles springing up from a tangled, overgrown stand of trees and bushes. On closer examination the poles had arrays of antennae on top, one had a little microwave relay dish and a slightly taller bowl had a siren atop that looked like a collection of stacked dessert bowls. As I marched closer a weathered, battered metal sign announced that this was a community bunker. While the sign had seen better days, the bunker was clearly ready for action as the grease on the hinges of the half-metre thick doors and metal levers suggested that it had been opened recently. How many people could it fit? Was it stocked with essentials and ready for a more severe form of lockdown? How long could I last in there? A bit further along were other olive-green pipes and vents peeking out of the long grass. This was clearly built to house the whole valley but wasn’t it also a bit of a waste? Couldn’t it have another life beyond being on permanent standby for the end of days?

On my Thursday morning walk I was soaking up the fine mist and the smell of conifers while attempting to make some sense of the morning’s papers. For readers of this column who live outside the English-language world, you’ll know that there’s a certain luxury of thought that comes with being exposed to your local media beyond the Anglosphere. It offers you a different set of headlines, an occasionally wider news agenda and a frequently more nuanced range of opinions. As I made my way up the trail and past the waterfalls I was reminded of what my colleague Andrew said a few months ago about a time for anger. He was referring to how we might reflect on this pandemic and that there’d be a time ahead to ask some tough questions of leaders stretching from Beijing to Geneva, London to Ottawa. Little did he know that lifting lockdowns would also unleash a torrent of emotions from all corners of the world – across a variety of issues and flare-ups – many long overdue, others all in a day of a life lived on-screen. A few weeks ago NZZ, German Switzerland’s newspaper of record, called it when they did a small story about how social media was getting angrier and more polarised as we moved out of “we’re in all in this together” mode. How right they were.

“It’s impossible to have a reasonable discussion around any topic these days.” These were the words from a CEO of a major Swiss-based multinational a few days ago. “PR teams are so terrified of social media that you become frozen if you have to make a statement because terminology changes by the moment and there is a faction out there to pounce on your every word. In the end, you’d rather not say anything.” As we discussed this, we moved on to the danger that comes when everyone expects solutions and comments within hours – particularly when they’re hounded by those who are too quick on their keyboards. “It’s destructive when a communications team feels it needs to respond within minutes and ends up unravelling the reputation of a business that’s taken half a century to build,” he said. Nuanced conversations rarely happen in a short blast of hastily fired characters. Meaningful change requires meaningful dialogue, compromise and kindness – not quick fixes or hasty condemnation.

Monocle has long argued that the digital tools at our disposal demand a serious rethink about how we not only use them but also how we conduct ourselves in society. Is it appropriate to publicly shame people because they’ve used terminology some have deemed out of fashion? That depends on the degree of the infraction and intent but surely more could be achieved (and more constructively) with a quiet, private word? Likewise, why do some corners of society shut down discussion and won’t hear explanations? Could it be because they don’t really want a dialogue? Because it takes too much effort, demands critical thinking and maybe even forgiveness?

Amid all of this, one thing is for sure – discussion shouldn’t go away, nor should it be driven underground and into the shadows. Which brings us back to those bunkers. With so many decommissioned civil defence bunkers across Switzerland reconfigured to host massive servers that help support the world’s social media players, perhaps it’s time for a rethink. Many Swiss-based organisations are dedicated to resolving international conflicts and seeking peaceful outcomes. A good start might be the foundation of a digital disarmament policy and shutting down those servers. Maybe those sound-proof, signal-proof rooms could be transformed into fora where people can express their points of view, face to face, not shielded by a device – all in the comfort of knowing that what they say won’t be taken out of context, disseminated or distorted.


Cold snaps

What do the contents of your fridge reveal about you? Luckily, whether your shelves are lined with sugary sauces and mass-market condiments or foraged herbs and homemade kimchi, most of us won’t invite a photographer to scrutinise them (writes Josh Fehnert). That said, Chefs’ Fridges is both the name and premise of writer Adrian Moore and photographer Carrie Solomon’s second book on the subject. Published by Harper Design, it’s stuffed with recipes and ideas from 35-plus chefs (from queens of comfort food to Michelin-starred maestros) who are based across the Americas and Europe.

So did the authors suspect their subjects of fudging the food on show and cleaning up for the camera? “We had the impression that some of the fridges were curated before we arrived but they always represent a personality,” says Moore, a sometime Monocle contributor who’s also concierge at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris. “Take Daniel Boulud – he’s an amazing chef and then you got the biggest fridge in the entire book. He’s got caviar and tins of black truffles. It’s a perfect reflection of his personality. Then you’ve got chefs such as Mason Hereford from New Orleans, who was voted as having best restaurant in the US a few years ago. He does things that might be considered junk food, such as boloney sandwiches, but he uses artisanal bread-makers, purveyors of vegetables and cold cuts and things like that. It’s quite funny – I think he had Spam in the fridge. He was the only chef to have Spam in the fridge.”


Looking ahead

Monocle’s editors are hard at work crossing i’s and dotting t’s (and yes, crossing their eyes a little) over the final proofs of our sunny, summery July/ August double issue. You can expect to find out about outposts of outstanding urbanism, see the best city architecture and hear views about what makes a city tick from everyone from leaders and planners to gardeners and wine-makers. The updated on-sale date for this issue is 2 July. Not a subscriber? Then sign up today and have every issue delivered straight to your door. Oh, and if you’re craving a little face-to-face interaction then you’ll want to sign up for our St Moritz summit The Chiefs from Wednesday 16 to Friday 18 September for some bracing Alpine air and far-sighted views on the future of everything from global affairs to businesses.


Savour the day

Born in Kenya to an Indian family, Ravinder Bhogal was an award-winning food writer in London before opening her Marylebone restaurant, Jikoni, with husband Nadeem Lalani in 2016. Anyone who’s stopped by the peach-hued plot on Blandford Street for a spiced scrag-end pie or kuku paka will know that you don’t need to fully understand the mix of South Asian, Middle Eastern and east African flavours to know that you’re enjoying it – and that you’ll be back. Last week the still-shuttered restaurant launched a London-wide delivery box service called Comfort & Joy and, pleasingly, every order fulfilled will also result in a meal being donated to someone vulnerable in the UK capital. Here Bhogal talks fish fingers, fiction and a singular sartorial suggestion.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt? Sunday is sort of for idling, I think, so I like a bit of a lie-in. I love the smell of fresh flowers and at the moment I’m obsessed with peonies. There are peonies everywhere.

Soundtrack of choice? I’ve got into various podcasts but I absolutely love The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast. I’ve also been listening to a collection of Margaret Atwood’s short stories, called Stone Mattress. They’re a real treat.

What’s for breakfast? I like to make a traditional Sunday breakfast from childhood – I grew up in a Punjabi household – which is parathas. They’re like a stuffed flatbread that’s fried on a sort of cast-iron griddle. It’s so meditative rolling and kneading the dough, then making the filling. I’m quite untraditional so normally you’d find peas, potatoes or cauliflower inside but I've got into kimchi and a really sharp cheddar.

News or not? Sunday is all about the supplements really. I particularly like the FT Weekend so I find myself deep in a newspaper. I love print.

Walk the dog or downward dog? I wish I had a dog – I’m obsessed with dogs but because of the amount of time that I’m away I can’t have one. So I prefer to go on a really lovely brisk walk, either listening to music or my short stories.

What’s for lunch? I love entertaining and having people over for Sunday lunch but equally we discovered an amazing pub before lockdown called The Three Oaks in Gerrards Cross [a town to the west of London]. You’re driving a little bit out into the country but the food is exceptional.

Larder essentials that you can’t do without? Spices are like the backbone of my cookery and without them my food would be like elevator music, just completely monotone. I couldn’t live without my spice stocks. I made a rhubarb crumble recently and added pink peppercorns and Sichuan peppers in a meringue, which was really interesting.

Sunday culture essentials? Yesterday I re-watched the film I Am Not Your Negro based on the writing of James Baldwin. I also read a really moving, heartbreaking piece that he’d written in 1962 in The New Yorker. They republished it last weekend. Reading it was just so sharply depressing because it could have been written yesterday. Things just haven’t changed and that does make me feel really sad but his writing is just so beautiful and his diction is so eloquent that I find him completely inspiring.

A glass of something you’d recommend? I’m obsessed with a female wine-maker called Elisabetta Foradori. She makes biodynamic wine and is a real woman of the land. The wine is the colour of sunset and there is something so generous about the taste of it. The person who first served it to me said that it’s made by a woman in Trentino in Italy. It’s just a beautiful wine.

What’s for dinner? People get scared when cooking for me and I don’t know why because I’m really the least fussy person. You could make me a fish finger sandwich frankly and I’d be very happy. But I do actually love seafood and Italian food.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine? It’s a very traditional thing that my mother introduced me to as a child. You take yoghurt, gram flour and a tiny pinch of turmeric, mix it all together and put it all over your face. You just leave it there for like a face mask. You always have to be very careful with the amount of turmeric – otherwise you could end up looking like a Simpson.

Do you normally lay out your look for Monday? What would you wear? My Mondays normally start with a bit of admin because the restaurant is closed on a Monday. When I visited India there was a shop that had all these amazing silk kaftans, which I absolutely love wearing. My husband always says, “Oh, you’re wearing a bedsheet again,” but they’re just so comfortable. Monday is a very easy dressing day.

Ravinder Bhogal’s cookbook, Jikoni, will be published by Bloomsbury in July.


Asparagus carbonara

Our recipe writer offers a simple riff on an Italian classic that’s unctuous, eggy and deliciously rich.

Ingredients (serves 2):

10 asparagus spears, each cut into 3 60g prosciutto ham 1.5 tbsps olive oil 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 3 medium organic egg yolks (keep the egg whites for omelettes or meringue) 80g parmesan, finely grated 20 turns of crushed black pepper 200g spaghetti Extra parmesan, black pepper


  1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat; lay the slices of prosciutto in it without overlapping. Cook until dark and crisp then flip and repeat. Once cooked on both sides, remove from the pan and lay on paper towels to drain the excess oil.
  2. Add a half tbsp of oil and chopped garlic to the same pan and heat until golden in colour.
  3. Bring water to the boil in a large pan, add salt and spaghetti. Cook to packet instructions.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, tip in the cooked garlic, egg yolks, grated parmesan and crushed black pepper. Add 2 tbsps of starchy pasta water and mix until everything is incorporated.
  5. Add asparagus to the pasta and water for the last minute of its cooking time. When it’s cooked, drain the water and add pasta to the dry pan. Add the egg-yolk mixture and leave it to stand for one minute.
  6. Mix thoroughly with tongs to make sure the cheesy sauce coats the pasta evenly. Break the crispy prosciutto roughly and mix into the pasta. Save a few pieces to garnish.
  7. Divide the pasta into two wide, deep bowls, sprinkle crispy ham on top, sprinkle extra cheese and black pepper. Serve immediately.


Market leader

Rewards for being back at the office don’t come much tastier than BaseHall (writes James Chambers). The smart new food hall has just opened in the formerly unremarkable basement of Jardine House, a 1970s office tower in Hong Kong’s business district. The atmosphere is best described as white-collar street food, bringing together nine of the city’s best F&B operators in one place. Designed by Limehouse, BaseHall has a market feel with touches of vintage Hong Kong (check out the shutters on your way in). Communal seating harks back to the way we used to eat our lunch in Hong Kong until earlier this year and the split-level space is ideal for large groups of shouty colleagues who can’t decide on what to pick for lunch: rotisserie chicken by the Sheung Wan yakitori specialists Yardbird; burgers by Wan Chai’s Honbo; or veggie wraps from Soho’s Treehouse.

Korean and Vietnamese options add an Eastern flavour alongside the standout winner of the best-named restaurant (perhaps ever): Return of Lemak. Singaporean chef Barry Quek, formerly of Beet, is the man in the kitchen, cooking up Southeast Asian Peranakan dishes such as laksa and, of course, nasi lemak. BaseHall opens until late – the coffee-to-cocktail bar is staffed by the Mandarin Oriental – and landlord HK Land has promised that the house DJ will play Mark Morrison’s 1990s classic hit at least once every evening.


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