Sunday 23 August 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 23/8/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


High praise

It’s Saturday morning high up in the Engadine, the sun is shining, the air crisp and the warm scent of black larch hangs in the air – tingly, damp, clean, dense. We’ve just emerged from a refreshing morning swim across the lake. Nearby, eager picnickers have already staked out their territory by lighting campfires at 09.00. My mother never fails to comment on the piles of wood that are stacked close by for everyone to use and restocked daily by the local rangers. “Imagine if they did this in all the parks in Canada,” she likes to say. And she has a point. Would it work in Canada? Would it work in Ireland? Would people respect the concept? Abuse it? Burn the surrounding forest down? At this point a Toyota SUV belonging to the St Moritz police department slowly rolls past to ensure the day is getting off to a good start. The officers nod and smile in our direction and rumble off along the path.

We could hang around but we’re on a mission, so we dry off, jump in the car and continue down the valley to the village of Sils Maria. Ten minutes later we pull in front of the Giovanoli sport and fashion shops. From the street, Giovanoli’s outlets don’t make too much noise – all sober signage and low-key windows framed by unremarkably solid Swiss architecture. Inside it’s a rather different story. In the main shop devoted to men’s and womenswear there are clean expanses of wood and stone, and rails merchandised by Giovanoli’s favourite palette of navy, greys and various weaves of beige. My colleague Ariel tries on some outfits and my mother goes for some sandals.

On a nearby table there’s a small mountain range of cashmere, tweed, boiled wool and crinkly cotton. A sales associate is rushing back and forth to the stockroom, taking various items towards a voice in the dressing room. Although I can’t see the customer, I know that she’s a Giovanoli pilgrim – in part by the range of garments that she’s selected, in part by the attention she’s receiving. Milan, Munich and Zürich are all close by but this is one of those shops that demands you make the journey up the mountain to enjoy its selection from the likes of Salvatore Piccolo and Sofie D’hoore. As a regular customer from Zürich puts it: “They’ve got you for life after you’ve been once or twice and they know what you like. Also, there are few distractions – you’re up in the mountains, there’s no rush and you walk out feeling as though you’ve had to consider what you’ve bought.”

Two days later we’re in the Frauenschuh shop in Kitzbühel and the same scene is playing out. Outside, the thermometer is creeping towards 30C but inside the rails are elegantly stocked with everything a man or woman would need to look chic in mid-January. All around, staff are tending to another group of pilgrims who’ve clearly made the trip to the Austrian resort for a serious retail hit with a bit of hiking on the side. A few hours later I compare notes with my crew and although we’re not so amazed by the quality of the buying and the passion of the customers (they go hand in hand), we are amazed by the remarkable salesmanship. And therein lies a little clue as to how retail is going to have to evolve in stores large and small: the fine art of knowing how to sell will become more important than ever.

Online retailers might have deep-pocketed, dedicated customers, while luxury mono-brand shops might talk-up high-spending tourists, but they don’t have pilgrims. With many cities challenged by the lack of people working in the towers that are adjacent to main shopping districts (see my colleague Andrew’s column on this topic in yesterday’s Weekend Edition, it’s going to be down to the pull of sharp retailers and evangelical pilgrims to shape a fresh future for how we consume, come together and cement our communities.


Kindred spirit

Distillers of cachaça, a traditional Brazilian spirit, are turning their hand to a different centuries-old tipple: gin (writes Lucinda Elliott). Founders Alexandre Mazza and Arturo Isola saw an opportunity to use botanicals that are native to the tropical rainforest in their Amázzoni brand. “We’re bringing distinctly Brazilian flavours such as cacao and waterlily seeds to the Old World spirit for the first time,” says Isola. “And we’re proud of driving the craft-drinks revolution.” Together with a young set of bartenders, the brand is transforming cocktail orders up and down Brazil, and showing that the country no longer needs to import the spirit. Fresh water from the Paraíba Valley is integral to Amázzoni, which is produced in copper stills at the largest distillery of its kind in Latin America. Other cachaça plantations have taken note – 16 of them have already started producing gin.

Find more food scoops in Monocle’s hot-off-the-press September issue.


Seat at the table

Born and raised in Singapore, Elizabeth Haigh moved to London to study architecture but changed tack mid-course to try her hand at cooking in 2011. Not a bad idea, as it turns out. Haigh won her first Michelin star at Hackney’s Pidgin in 2016. Never one to settle for long, she co-founded her company, Kaizen House, in 2017 and has since been making Asian-inspired fare at her Borough Market venue, Mei Mei. Here she recommends an Austrian rosé, an Australian skincare routine and a British roast.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Definitely relaxed – it’s my day off so I lie in as long as my son permits me.

Soundtrack of choice?
Howling just released a new album, Colure, which I think is great – it’s another moniker for Frank Widemann, one half of the DJ duo Âme, working with Ry X. Plenty of ambient electronic sounds and dreamy singing.

What’s for breakfast?
Sausage bap. We go to The Coach [in Marlow, Buckinghamshire] for breakfast – you can get a Michelin-starred full English breakfast there for about £14. Absolutely delightful. And the bloody mary is great too.

News or not? I try to switch off on Sundays because during the week I’m always checking the news. I stay away from my laptop and phone as much as I can until Monday.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
No way, no pet. But Riley, our kid, takes us out for a walk. And I’m not one for yoga.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Being a restaurateur in this climate does enough to get your blood pumping. We used to play squash but being a head chef and restaurateur is enough cardio for me. If I had to do it, I’d go for a run.

Lunch in or out? Out. We go to The Beehive in White Waltham or Ye Olde Crown Rayleigh. They have amazing outdoor spaces – The Beehive looks out over a cricket pitch. We even got to enjoy watching a match there once. We had to make sure that nothing was flying towards our table though.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
I always have a variation of beef dripping or fats and stocks from cooking earlier in the week. That’s a great basis for a good dish such as some roast potatoes on a Sunday. Oyster sauce is another one I need for stir-fries.

Sunday culture essential?
We can’t put a film on for too long without our toddler switching the channel. But I love short stories, such as You and I Eat the Same [by Chris Ying and René Redzepi]. It’s about food and different cultures, the way that people approach eating and dining. When I finished writing my cookbook it was nice to read about it all – how migration has made food better.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Winifred Gut Oggau. It’s an Austrian skin-contact natural rosé wine and it’s just delicious.

The ideal dinner menu?
Sunday is a roast, always: roast beef or sirloin, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and carrots with leeks.

And ideal dinner venue?
Elliot’s in Borough Market after work – it has good alfresco setting with a great selection of wine and super friendly staff. We’ve grown to be good friends with them through lockdown. They do these amazing cheese puffs with a silly amount of truffle oil; and anchovies on toast and lots of butter.

Who’s joining?
I tend to take the team out after work, they’re very hard-working. We’ve had a few nice lock-ins once the diners go home.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
Our bathroom is an Aesop showroom as my husband is Australian. So we take good care of ourselves. And perhaps an Epsom salt bath.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I set out my son’s outfit but not so much mine. That way it’s not so much of a panic in the morning


Coconut banana fritters with caramel sauce

Our Japanese recipe writer suggests working at speed to avoid a sticky situation when preparing these fruity fritters.

Serves 3-6

6 ripe bananas
2 tbsp rum
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
50g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 medium size egg (separated, yolk and white)
50ml ice-cold sparkling water

For the sauce:
100g caster sugar
45g salted butter – cut into chunks
60ml double cream
Large pinch of salt

For frying:
500ml oil

Vanilla ice-cream to serve


  1. Firstly, make the caramel sauce. Melt the sugar in a small pan over a medium-low heat. Once the sugar has melted and turned a deep golden colour, take off the heat quickly and add the butter. Mix with a wooden spoon. When it’s incorporated, add the cream and salt, put back on the heat and mix until completely smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Cut bananas in half and splash with rum.
  3. Put the desiccated coconut in a small frying pan over a medium-low heat, toast until it turns golden (but be careful it doesn’t catch and burn). Set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep, medium-size pot. Prepare a wire rack over a tray and remove ice-cream from the freezer. Make sure you have a scoop ready.
  5. Mix the plain flour and baking powder in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white with an electric whisk until it holds its shape when you lift the whisk.
  6. Lightly beat the egg yolk and pour into the bowl with flour in it, then add the ice-cold sparkling water. Use a whisk to incorporate but try not to overwork. Add the egg white and use a whisk to gently incorporate it. From this stage, you need to work quickly to get the best result. Dip the bananas into the mixture to coat them. Lift each banana with a fork, gently drop into the heated oil and deep-fry until the batter turns a light golden colour. Lift with a slotted spoon and place the banana on the wire rack. Repeat with the rest of the bananas.
  7. Reheat the caramel quickly. Divide the fritters between plates and drizzle the caramel sauce over them. Serve with vanilla ice-cream and toasted coconut. Enjoy while warm.


Picture perfect

Founded in 1762, the Virginian town of Charlottesville has oodles of history but until recently it lacked a design-minded stopover in which to lay one’s weary head (writes Ed Stocker). That all changed with the opening of the Quirk Hotel, which joins its sister property in Richmond. It’s a new-build that has been constructed around two 19th-century homes in which art is very much to the fore – there’s even a contemporary art gallery in-house.

The 80 rooms feature colourful, abstract headboards designed by Kiki Slaughter, artwork (of course) and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Those after a food and drink fix won’t be disappointed. Alongside a cigar lounge (well, this is Virginia), there’s a rooftop where Italian rustic fodder is served, a lobby bar and a ground-floor café. Not quite enough for you? Try the seasonal fare at the all-day Pink Grouse. 499 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA, +1 434 729 1234,


Dive right in

Travellers puzzling over where to jet to for a late-summer weekender now have another reason to opt for Geneva. This week the city’s tourism board launched a gift-card scheme for those staying two nights or longer. The canny idea offers a CHF100 (€93) sweetener to spend in a range of hotels, restaurants, cafés and bars. If you’re game then we’d suggest a lake-facing room at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, then a stroll for a bowl of agnolotti in the art deco dining room of Café Léo. It’s not on the gift list but don’t miss a dip at the Bains des Pâquis (pictured): at CHF2 (€1.86) for adults it’s proof that a Swiss sojourn needn’t break the bank. Go on, splash out.


Can you dig it?

Gardening is by its very nature a hopeful act (writes Josh Fehnert). It’s an act of faith, an implicit hope that the seeds you sow will nudge up through the seemingly dead earth into leafy life. It’s inherently positive because you always need to plan ahead. Now’s a good time to eye up your perennials (from agapanthus to delphiniums and primroses) and decide whether you should divide and cultivate. The benefits of division are twofold: it allows the parent plant to grow more healthily and vigorously and creates new blooms to further adorn your space or gift to others. It’s a job to do while the soil is still dry enough to work and after your plants have flowered and the roots are growing anew. Some plants are trickier than others but the technique is fairly uniform.

Hoist your herbaceous perennial with a garden fork and tease the soil from the roots, being careful not to damage them. Divide the base into two clumps (either with your hands or with a spade or sharp knife for tougher customers). Replant one with a little fresh compost or rich soil and take the other half to plant in pastures new: then water both to help them settle into their new, well, digs. Have a great Sunday.


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