Sunday 16 August 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 16/8/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Fine lines

It’s time for a Sunday confession: I’m dangerously close to being identified as a card-carrying, binocular-dangling, collapsible-chair-perching trainspotter. Spool back 45 years (yikes!) and you would have found me on my little two-wheeler, pedalling as fast as I could to greet the stubby diesel commuter train that used to pull into our village station in Hudson outside Montréal. As rolling stock went, it was a bit of a clunker but it was still exciting to see it pull in and out of the station and occasionally give a blast of the horn.

Back home there was a train set that snaked across my bedroom floor. And when my cousins came around for a weekend visit we often played train in the dining room or out in the garden. If you’re bored today and looking for something to do, the game goes something like this: find as many easy-to-carry chairs around the house as possible, cart them outside, then arrange them in whatever configuration you’d prefer for your dream carriage. An elegant Pullman with private compartments will require you to find some cardboard boxes to build the partitions and sliding doors, so perhaps it’s best to start off with a more standard grouping of twos and fours.

Playing train also requires a good wardrobe department for elegant travellers and eagle-eyed conductors. Unsurprisingly I liked to play the train manager. Even though it was the height of summer I donned a long, double-breasted navy wool coat with gold buttons and one of those enormous wide-brimmed military caps favoured by Communist bloc naval officers. On my train, customers were shown to their seats when we pulled into the station, there was a well-stocked buffet car and boisterous passengers were thrown off without the train slowing down. When my younger cousins started to annoy me and break with railway protocol I told them that it was time to head to the sleeping car where they had to silently bed down and not speak. Rule breakers were, of course, banned from the return journey and their money (held in my special shoulder bag) was not refunded.

On Thursday I had to day-trip to the resort town of Andermatt – a little over two hours from Zürich. As I spend a lot of time on Switzerland’s rail network I generally know what to expect when I wander down the platform. Although I’m no fan of some of the newer trains procured by national operator SBB, zipping around the country is usually a pleasant, functional experience. On a good day you still have a fair chance of getting a ’70s carriage with big, comfy reclining seats (securing a whole set of four for yourself!) and enjoying breakfast in a dimly lit dining car. But on this particular Thursday I was greeted by a pleasant surprise on platform 9 – a gleaming new high-speed Giruno!

If you’re a regular reader of our print edition then you’ll know that we’ve been quite excited by the addition of this new train to the SBB line-up as it’s already made more than a few appearances in our pages. Designed and built by Swiss train-maker Stadler to run on longer routes, it’s not quite as angular as the TGV or as extreme as a JR Shinkansen but it still has handsome, high-speed looks that I admired as I walked down the platform. The Giruno has just entered service on the route down to Chiasso in Switzerland’s extreme south, and I felt lucky that my short jaunt would allow me to sample it for roughly 45 minutes before I’d have to connect to a less exciting regional train.

On board I met my three colleagues. While we settled in, everyone took in the fresh surroundings and gave admiring nods at the use of space, the silent doors, the smart seating arrangements and the quality of the air. This being a new train, something had to go wrong – sure enough, a jammed door meant that we were seven minutes late leaving the station and would miss our connection up the mountain. A few hours later I returned to Zürich on another Giruno and decided to sample the dining car with its dark floors and lovely brown-leather banquettes. Although the trains are a bit overlit (what isn’t in modern transport and interiors these days?), Stadler and SBB get full marks from this former, fussy train manager for raising the bar and rolling out a train that you actually look forward to boarding. Boop! Boop!


Capital grains

The bakers at Dalston’s Dusty Knuckle didn’t twiddle their thumbs during London’s lockdown (writes Sonia Zhuravlyova). The bakery acquired an old milk float and transformed it into a delivery service and mobile shop, which now roves the streets in the north and east of the city peddling sourdough, focaccia, sausage rolls and pastries six days a week.

Since launch in 2014, the bakery has been the supplier of choice for top venues including Fortnum & Mason, Ottolenghi, Brat and The Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone. “We started doing home deliveries in early April and were super busy from the get-go,” says managing director Max Tobias. “We were thinking of other ideas and the milk float was a bit of a joke at first. Then I started looking into it and found a guy in Surrey who supplied them.” It felt like a bit of fun – doing something a bit lighthearted, he says. “On the first day we sold out in 90 minutes. People are so happy to come out of their house and chat to their neighbours – it is really nice.”

For more stirring stories about businesses and places on the move, subscribe now in time for our September issue, which is out this week.


If looks could grill

North Rhine-Westphalia might not be the first place you’d look to for a barbecue but this summer’s must-have grill hails from the unlikely city of Münster (writes Hester Underhill). Flammkraft, which scooped this year’s German Design award, is the result of engineers Manuel Lasar and Knud Augustin’s shared appetite for the outdoor pastime but dissatisfaction with what was on the market. The result? A gleaming, stainless-steel grill whose infrared burners are able to reach seriously scorching temperatures of 480C. The device is good for more than just your basic Bockwurst too: every model can be fitted with a pizza stone, rotisserie arm and teppanyaki plate. Finally a product that might have the Big Green Egg’s market dominance cracked. Guten appetit!


Hit the ground running

A coffee roaster by training, Mark Dundon opened Paramount Coffee Project in Sydney’s Surry Hills in 2013. Together with co-founders Jin Ng and Russell Beard, he launched Paramount House Hotel at the same site in 2018, transforming the former headquarters of Paramount Pictures into a fetching overnighter. Now based in Melbourne and running coffee roastery and café Seven Seeds, Mark tells us about the music that relaxes crowds and where to find the best blueberries in Melbourne.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’m at home in Melbourne. Normally at this time of year I like to head to the mountains in New Zealand; we have a little place over there. We’ll go up to the alpine region in Victoria when we can too. We’re into winter here now, so it’s great to get out and have a bit of a refresh.

How are you handling all this extra time at home?
I got back from the US recently, so I had to spend two weeks in our house, which we recently bought. I had a lot of time on my hands but it was pretty quickly taken up with a little bit of home renovation and upgrading – changing a few lights and touching up here and there.

Have there been any positives for the hospitality industry in the past few months?
It’s unusual going into a venue or restaurant and having to distance because usually, it’s that hustle and bustle that everyone really enjoys. In some respects though, it can be great because [with fewer customers] you have a little more interaction with the chef or the server; that’s a positive at the moment.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I usually jump straight into it. I can’t condition myself to lie in, so I’m usually up and on the go at 06.30 on a Sunday. It’s always nice to have a bit of time to get busy, whether it’s cooking breakfast or getting to the market.

Soundtrack of choice?
A friend of mine who was a sound technician said that they played reggae between live sets to calm crowds down. So, recently, I’ve been listening to old-school reggae just to really chill out.

What’s for breakfast?
It’s very varied; this weekend it will be a kimchi-rice thing. A lot of the time I’m looking at what’s happening and what other people are doing. The kimchi-rice idea is from a place in Los Angeles.

News or not?
I do but I’d probably prefer not to; I know that a lot of people have given up on it. But I really need to stay in touch with current events so I can look after employees and make decisions.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I like both. My wife’s a huge dog person, so we’re just about to get one.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
My preferred option is always an outdoor activity: hiking, cross-country skiing, back-country skiing. My family comes from just below the mountains here, so I’ve been skiing for a long time.

What’s for lunch?
Normally I’d go out to a café, have a coffee and enjoy something like a sandwich or a burger.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
I have to have cheese. I have to have anchovies. And fresh market produce; we go to the Victoria Market in Melbourne. It’s nice to be in touch with the seasons and what fruits and vegetables are coming up. I enjoy that process. The blueberries are in now and they’re great.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
I’m always fond of a negroni. But at the moment, I’m drinking this Ravensworth wine called The Tinderry. It’s an interesting varietal: a sauvignon blanc with cabernet franc, which is a really unusual approach.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
Capitano, an Italian-inspired restaurant which is our local. It’s very nice and not over the top; a beautiful place to go into and be looked after.

Who would join?
My wife and my son; we’re a pretty tight family, which is good. I have a few great friends I like to go out with as well. And, if I’m in Sydney, I’d be going out with [Paramount House Hotel co-founder] Russ, if I’m perfectly honest.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
Not at all. And it’s probably fairly evident.

Will you lay out your look for Monday, what will you be wearing?
I do a bit of research in regards to weather, so I’ll have an idea of what to wear. It’s always great on a Monday to feel like you’re coming out of the gun quickly, to deal with the rest of the week.


Beef and potato ‘korokke’

Our recipe for these Japanese-style beef-and-potato croquettes is freezable if you’re preparing them in advance – although be warned, they’re almost too tasty to save for later. Enjoy as a side or a snack.

Makes 10 croquettes

1kg floury potatoes (désirée or maris piper work well)
1 medium onion (175g approx), finely chopped
300g beef mince
Salt and crushed black pepper
1 egg, lightly whisked
30g plain flour
60g panko breadcrumbs
400ml vegetable oil
150g white cabbage, very finely shredded (if you have a mandolin slicer, it would be perfect for this), keep in cold water

For the tonkatsu sauce. Buy it in the Japanese section of large supermarkets or online. You can also make it yourself with this quick tonkatsu sauce recipe: mix 2½ tbsps Worcestershire sauce, 2½ tbsps ketchup, 2 tsps English mustard, ½ tbsp soy sauce and a large pinch of salt.


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C and roast the whole potatoes for 45 to 55 minutes (depending on their size). If you spear the potatoes with a skewer and you can poke through without resistance, they’re ready.
  2. While the potatoes are roasting, prepare the onion and beef mixture. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the chopped onion and cook until it becomes transparent. Add the beef mince, turn up the heat slightly and cook until it browns and is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. Set it aside to cool down.
  3. Prepare the shredded cabbage while potatoes are roasting.
  4. Once the potatoes are ready, take them out from the oven and set them aside to cool.
  5. When just cool enough to handle, carefully peel the skin using a small knife.
  6. Mash them roughly with a potato masher – the mash doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth. Don’t leave the potatoes to cool completely: mashing cold potatoes will cause them to have a gluey texture.
  7. Add the beef and onion mixture to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Divide the mixture in half and then divide each half into 5 so you end up with 10 croquettes.
  8. Form each portion into a flat oval pattie shape.
  9. Heat the oil to 180C in a deep medium-sized pot.
  10. Prepare three plates: one with flour, another one with lightly beaten egg and the last one with panko breadcrumbs. Lightly dust the patties in flour, then dip them in egg and cover with panko. Repeat with the rest of the croquettes.
  11. Once the oil is ready, start to deep fry the croquettes. (Test the oil temperature with a large pinch of panko breadcrumbs. If they spread quickly with fine bubbles, the oil is ready.) Fry them – only 2 or 3 at a time – until golden, say 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Once cooked, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack to drain off the excess oil. Repeat with the rest of the croquettes.
  12. Drain the shredded cabbage and plate up with a croquette, serve with tonkatsu sauce. If you have left over the next day, make a croquette sandwich with the shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce.


Top Côte

This sun-kissed hotel in the seaside town of Juan-Les-Pins sums up the artistic spirit of the Côte d’Azur. Its 29 rooms feature white plastered walls, sandstone, terracotta, cotton sheets and wicker, all blending with objects made by regional craftfolk. The area’s creative pedigree was an inspiration for Parisian interior designer Stéphanie Lizée, who looked to Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau for the sun-and-sea colour scheme. If you’re just passing through, the shady terrace is open to all.


Frontier mentality

You don’t need to be Donald Trump to feel aggrieved by problems with the borders (writes Josh Fehnert). In fact, for the horticulturally inclined, these cultivated edges are the best way to plot spaces in gardens, mark transitions from one zone to another or – at their passive-aggressive worst – to assert our rights to spaces that rub up against our neighbours.

So what makes a good one? This depends on taste but we’d advise thinking about three things: a general theme or colour, some year-round interest and something for the birds and bees to enjoy. You can try planting some honeysuckle or sweet pea (both fulsome flowerers, pretty and beloved of bees) or hawthorn (which grows fruit that the birds will gorge on come autumn). Sedums, big with the butterflies, are low growers and so are good for the front of borders. Bamboo and taller grasses are best for the back to add some height and hide that unsightly hole in the Jones’s fence. Lastly, add echinaceas for a dash of drama; they come in a range of pinks, yellows and russet reds.

Go on, try a kinder take on fortifying the borders. Oh, and have a great weekend.


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