Sunday 19 July 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 19/7/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Everywhere I look

Have you taken a good look around your neighbourhood lately? And no, I don’t mean just a glance here and there. I’m talking about a real hard look and listen where you examine façades (buildings and locals alike), study the trees, tune into the birds and passing conversations and assess the traffic flow. If you’ve been taking the time to do this lately, what do you see? What do you hear? For sure you’re seeing too many facemasks either blowing around or plastered to the pavement. (Note to readers: if you remove your facemask after being in a shop or on a tram please ensure that you don’t just stuff it in your pocket as they have a sneaky way of jumping out.) Balconies and terraces are looking better than ever as many people have had extra time for pruning. No doubt it’s tricky to find a table at your local café as so many people are working from home or spending the holidays in the neighbourhood. Look a little closer and you’ll also see a host of little business opportunities.

When Monocle launched in 2007 we were just finding our groove when the markets collapsed and the financial sector (and more) went into meltdown. While it may not have been the best time to launch a global media enterprise we somehow managed to carve out our space on newsstands and found a voice that resonated with thousands who suddenly found themselves without their security passes to HSBC, Coutts, Deutsche Bank and many more. For many the period marked the start of a great career rethink that sparked the launch of hundreds of ventures that began to fill our pages and even spawned our audio series The Entrepreneurs and its print spin-off.

As I look around the streets that surround our HQ here in Zürich, there’s a certain sense of déjà vu. The circumstances might be radically different but the conversations are starting to sound similar to what I was hearing a decade ago. After the shock of lockdowns, being housebound, vid-con fatigue and the collapse of one’s biological calendar (yes, it’s almost August!), there’s now a shift to identifying where there are little openings or yawning gaps to launch new ventures. Some might be seeing massive opportunities that will demand hundreds of millions to get off the ground while others might have more modest yet still meaningful plans.

At Monocle we’ve used the past few months to ramp up our radio and will soon unveil a new digital project but simple interventions have transformed other parts of our business. The simple addition of a few more chairs and tables on a sunny stretch in front of our café hasn’t just added a few extra francs to our daily takings – it’s nearly tripled our business. Why? Is it because people want to congregate earlier to catch the morning’s first rays? Is it because it frames our part of the street? Or is it a happy accident that our location in a residential part of town means that we benefit from all the homeworkers? I’m still trying to decode exactly what we did to shift business upwards. Maybe we didn’t do anything at all and it’s simply the result of having a geographically confined customer base. Nevertheless, it’s made us think about how we’ll look at new locations and whether our efforts should be global or if there’s more opportunity to expand a bit closer to home in similar neighbourhoods. If you’re reading this and thinking (concerned!) that we’re going to become solely a F&B venture – worry not. This period has also revealed that there’s room to launch an elegant, intelligent new editorial extension over the coming months. More on this very soon.


Restarters’ orders

There was no deviation (writes Robert Bound). As soon as the “back in business” email arrived from The Fordwich Arms I hit reply, begging for a lunch table on the first day of the new era of eating at arm’s length. The menu and wine list were emailed in advance, so that we could scroll on our phones, but we chose our nosh on the day – like in those storied times of yore. The diner, returning to a favoured table after months out of action, might feel a lack of match-fitness but, gratifyingly, the ability to be welcomed, sit down, drink an apéritif and choose what to eat in a lovely room dotted with charming people came flooding back like a skier’s muscle memory. It was a bit like riding a bike, only fun and only as tiring as one’s indulgence in the puddings would allow.

The staff, as on a last visit, gave a minutely arch expression of the seamless service that goes a certain way to gaining a Michelin star (this place has one); so there is a slightly wry but supremely polite take on courtly sensibility but, thankfully, zero bowing and scraping. Punters and servers alike were very much, “Isn’t it just nice to be out?!” Dan Smith, chef-proprietor, was delivering prix fixe, à la carte and tasting menus, ensuring that the kitchen burbled with as much steam and industry as first-day-of-term chatter.

Fordwich classics – such as the starter of duck-liver parfait with cherry, sauternes and warm doughnuts – made me consider single-handedly laying a narrow gauge railway from my house to Smith’s kitchen. Newbies like the “snack” of poached Galway oyster with Muscat grapes, hollandaise and Cornish caviar made me consider adding another couple of carriages and charging (heavily) for tickets. The beef, brill, trout and peach melba tart to finish were absolute wow.

After lunch this idyllic corner of Kent pulled out all the stops too. Along the Little Stour, beside which The Fordwich Arms sits, fish rose to snatch flies from the water, trays of cider were ferried to jolly drinkers in pub gardens and a kingfisher swooped fast and blue through the rushes. One fell swoop and we were back.


Flying visit

Regular readers will know that we’ve long looked to Japan for ideas and inspiration. Earlier this month, we also launched a pop-up shop at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in Terminal 2’s Isetan menswear store. The shop stocks our signature mix of goodies made by honest and interesting brands that we admire, plus a suitcase collaboration made in Hokkaido by our friends at Proteca. You’ll also find the not-to-be-sniffed-at fragrances that have been made for us by Commes de Garçons. It’s not a bad place to pick a copy of The Monocle Book of Japan either, which is brimming with insights into the people, places and products that define this extraordinary nation. You can visit us at Isetan until 28 July – or if you’re staying home, you could always head online to The Monocle Shop.


Salmon with a lemon-pepper crust

This simple salmon dish reminds our Swiss chef of his time in the kitchen at Kunststuben in Küssnacht. There he served it with a crème badiane (cream with star anise). You can try it with green vegetables of your choosing and perhaps a light potato mash.

Serves 4 as a main

800g fresh salmon fillet
2 tbsps black peppercorns
2 tbsps pink peppercorns
2 tbsps mustard seeds
1 lemon (juice and zest)
100ml olive oil
Sea salt, pinch


  1. Clean and, if necessary, bone the salmon fillet.
  2. Coarsely crush the pepper and mustard seeds in a mortar. Mix in the lemon zest, and add two thirds of the olive oil to the marinade. Spread it over the top of the fillet and press the fillet down firmly.
  3. Fry the fillet pepper-side down in the remaining oil over a medium heat. Turn after about 2 minutes and leave to stand in the pan for 2 to 3 minutes, away from the heat so that the fish is still slightly glassy.
  4. Carefully cut into four pieces and arrange each on top of green vegetables or mash, adding a squeeze of lemon juice.


Down to a fine art

Thai curator and author Apinan Poshyananda oversaw the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale in 2018. He returns as artistic director for this year’s edition, due to open in October under the pre-pandemic theme of Escape Routes. Anish Kapoor, Yoko Ono and Marina Abramović are among the artists joining a mix of Thai talent. Poshyananda tells Monocle about his Sunday rituals, enormous family gatherings and enduring connections to the UK.

Where do we find you this weekend?
Between the two most famous heritage temples in Bangkok: the temple of the reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) and the temple of dawn (Wat Arun). Both are on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and they will be the sites for works by Anish Kapoor [during the Art Biennale]. I’m looking at the renovated sermon hall at Wat Pho and working on how to prepare the Kapoor installation, which comprises 5 tonnes of wax coming from London.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Usually on a Sunday morning I will get a chance to listen to some sermons by a revered monk called Ajahn Jayasaro, who is living outside Bangkok. He’s actually an Englishman. I’m not religious – quite the opposite – but to hear him makes you think and contemplate. He preaches every Sunday morning and during coronavirus it’s become a bit of a family routine.

Soundtrack of choice?
I’m relistening to some oldies, such as David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I remember coming across this album in 1972 while at school in Dorset. Songs such as “Five Years” sound so fresh and contemporary. Listening to music has become quite inspirational for my writing.

What’s for breakfast
Congee, some noodles or cereal with nuts and milk. Two or three double espressos would kickstart a good Sunday.

News or not?
Bangkok Post and Thai Rath; one in English, one Thai. Reading the newspapers over breakfast gives time for me to start off the day and absorb information. During the week I miss the process of flipping over the pages and getting that black dirt on your fingers.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I used to have many dogs but no longer. We had one dog visit us a few days ago, belonging to a cousin; it was great. Pets are very important: they calm us down.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Usually I go jogging or fast walking. My house has quite a big garden so we are quite lucky. I go around and around in a circle with no escape routes. Morning or afternoon; sometimes both.

Lunch in or out?
A quick sandwich. I’m trying to look after my diet and keep fit because the Biennale requires a lot of energy. I’m in my early sixties now so my doctor tells me to eat less sugar and drink less alcohol – but after four glasses of wine I don’t remember what he says.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
An early-afternoon sauvignon blanc. Beer-wise, Kilkenny, followed by malt whisky and sometimes a cigar.

Sunday culture essential? I’m currently watching Peaky Blinders. Really, really amazing. I was brought up in England and am fascinated the period between the wars; the intensity of the conflicts between English, Irish and Italians.

The ideal dinner menu?
We have a cook, so it depends on her. She doesn’t tell us what she is doing and we leave it to her imagination and the freshness of food at the market. We know each other so well. She’s been living with us since my son was one week old; now he is 26.

Who’s joining?
My wife, son and, sometimes, his girlfriend. Other times our cousins will join and it could become quite a big dinner. My grandfather had eight official wives, 10 daughters and 10 sons. My mother was one of the 10 daughters, so multiply that. There were some unofficial wives too.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I don’t look after myself that well. Sometimes I’ll look in the mirror and think, “Oh my God, I don’t recognise myself.” So then I’ll put a bit of Nivea on my face.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I’d prepare the attire for a big, official meeting with all my staff and colleagues but it all depends on the Premier League season. Sunday evenings can end very early because I get up in the middle of the night to watch the live football match. I’ve been supporting Manchester City since 1967.


Out to space

The roots of Monte Uzulu, an 11-room hotel tucked into a stretch of Oaxaca jungle along the Pacific Ocean, reach back 20 years. “That was when I started to come here,” says Alan Favero, the hotel’s co-founder and founder and creative director of design studio Taller Lu’um. “Then it was only palapas [open-sided buildings with palm roofs] and a lot of hippies; I was one of them.”

Set to formally open next week, Monte Uzulu is located in San Agustinillo, a fishing village that’s a six-hour drive along a mountain road from Oaxaca City. “It’s protected naturally,” says Favero, explaining that the region has avoided overdevelopment thanks to its geography and regulations: buildings here cannot be taller than two storeys and the Zapotec people who live here have long rejected big hotels.

Monte Uzulu is no big hotel. Only a single tree was felled to make way for the two-storey concrete, earth and lime building. Its environmental footprint is minimal too: the hotel’s thatched roof harvests rainwater for showers, sinks and toilets before that water eventually finds its way to the garden, where chillies, watermelons and papayas grow. Reclaimed wood has even been transformed into some of the hotel’s furniture at the hands of Oaxacans; Favero is also the founder of an NGO that works with traditional craftspeople to help them develop products and reach new markets.

While Monte Uzulu’s modest scale allows it to fit into its surroundings, it’s also proving resonant with Mexican holiday-makers at a time when the hotel’s bigger, boxier competitors are struggling. “Here you have a lot of space and not a lot of people,” says Favero. “I think this kind of place will be the future of the tourism industry for this year – and maybe next.”


Stranger things

Having trouble keeping your indoor plants looking plush? Forgotten about that watering malarkey a few too many times? Then, my friend, you should send in the succulents (writes Josh Fehnert). Yes, these desert-dwelling little lovelies have the advantage of being achingly de rigueur, a relative doddle to look after (read: hard to kill) and truly, deeply odd. Characterised by their plump, fleshy, water-filled bodies and sheer variety of weirdness, succulents vary magnificently from rangy aloe vera to squat, star-shaped echeveria elegans (or “Mexican snowballs”) and Chinese money plants.

Once you’ve graduated from those simple souls you might seek some kicks from the strange ones, including the odd evolutionary B-sides such as lithops, alien-looking affairs resembling psychedelic pebbles from the depths of Lewis Carroll’s imagination (“Curiouser and curiouser!”). There’s the so-called Donkey Tail succulent (sedum morganianum), which looks nothing like a donkey’s tail, or the many hues and forms of the Crassula genus, which are easy to propagate and grow into an army. It isn’t difficult to get carried away.

Whatever succulent you choose, the instructions are simple: keep it well drained in an unglazed terracotta pot with plenty of stones in the bottom and sunlight on top. Don’t worry about watering the plant unless the soil is bone dry and remember to do it sparingly: the roots rot if they’re left in water. So if you’re going through an arid patch in your plant-care routine, select a few succulents that are well suited to such conditions. Stay dry and have a great Sunday.


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