Sunday 4 October 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 4/10/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Walking on sunshine

If you’re starting your Sunday working through your diary and wondering what to do next weekend, I already have it sorted for you – it goes like this. First, some good news: the weekend is going to start on a Thursday, at a boarding gate flashing “Last call for Athens”. From there you’re going to board an Aegean, Lufthansa or Swiss flight and in less than three hours (I know, I know, you may not live in the heart of Europe but just play along) you’ll be walking off an Airbus, hopefully skipping the pop-up coronavirus testing bays and looking for a driver with a Four Seasons sign. Twenty-five minutes later a very tall Austrian named Hannes will be greeting you and showing you to a funked-up 1960s bungalow and you’ll be at the start of the perfect, late-summer Med long weekender. I know all of this because, at long last, I’m taking what resembles a proper summer holiday – and all the better that it’s at the start of Q4.

Things got off to the best possible start on my arrival in Athens as the second that I stepped off the plane a Monocle reader bound for Bavaria wished me a good morning and a good stay in Greece. As he’d read last week’s column he enthusiastically passed on some culinary and cultural tips but what were the chances that he’d be at the very same Schengen gate for his departure and my arrival? No matter, it proved to be a tone-setter for what was to come.

Also, what were the chances that the former GM of the Park Hyatt Tokyo (the hotel where I’ve clocked the most nights) would now be running the show at the Four Seasons Athens property? As much as we credit good design, sound architecture and star chefs for creating and building buzz for a property, nothing beats a capable GM to ensure a good stay and maintain standards. Working with an already outstanding piece of real estate also helps.

Friends who stayed at the Astir Palace before the Greek government sold it and the Four Seasons took over the management speak of a faded, somewhat forgotten architectural gem. The good news is that the good bones remain intact, the F&B offering has had a serious upgrade and the designers didn’t go too crazy trying to please Gulfies, Russians or others in search of added gloss and unnecessary sparkle. While I’ve only been here a few hours, I can already recommend it as it’s perhaps the best resort-hotel on the Med that also boasts a capital city on its doorstep and an airport less than 30 minutes away. For the moment, Greece is trying its best to stay on top of infection rates and keep parts of its tourism industry open. Long may this continue. The mayor of Athens promised Monocle that summer is going to run for another full month, so you’ve got a couple of weekends left to juggle the diary, monitor your tan lines and plan for a weekend of long morning swims in the Med, late afternoons scented with warm cypress and Santorini whites to drink. More from this corner of the Med next Sunday.


Café society

Higashi Nagasaki in Tokyo used to be an under-the-radar residential area but the opening of Mia Mia has put it firmly on the map (writes Junichi Toyofuku). The café-cum-bar, open since April, is a dream come true for Rie and Vaughan Allison, the Japanese-Australian couple who run it. Architect Rie has turned a former women’s boutique into a charming space, while her coffee-expert husband has assembled an impressive offering of beans, cups and music.

But what customers are attracted to most is the pair’s warm hospitality. “Greeting people with a big smile, having a good conversation and introducing them to others is what I’ve always loved doing,” says Vaughan. “I’m so happy that I’m able to foster all of that now at our own little space.” The neighbourhood used to host several ateliers and young artists, and that open-minded spirit is still in the air. “We felt that the area had a potential to create a new flow of people and a place for cultural interactions,” says Rie. The Allisons have certainly found a strong audience in their community. What a winner.


Open to interpretation

Craftissimo is up to something crafty (writes James Chambers). The bottle shop in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan neighbourhood has been popping pale ales throughout the pandemic, exempt from government-mandated closures by virtue of being classified as a shop rather than a bar – a distinction that translates to no indoor seating or air-conditioning. Customers buy drinks from the fridges and congregate outside in loose groups of two, four, eight or whatever number is currently stipulated by the physical-distancing rules. Stools are provided and there’s even a handy loo (this doesn’t make it a restaurant, mind you).

Bottle shops were a welcome way for people to unwind in Hong Kong this summer, although not everyone has been sharing in this good cheer. Regular bar owners, whose venues have only just been allowed to reopen after another two months of coronavirus-related closures, must be eyeing Craftissimo and its ilk with envy and rethinking their own business models; opening anything with indoor seating at this point would take plenty of Dutch courage.

A similar trend can be observed in the food industry. Whereas dine-in restaurants have struggled to survive due to high overheads and half the usual number of tables, popular bakeries and hole-in-the-wall pizza joints have queues lining up around the block. Popular outlets are scouring for new sites among the boarded-up restaurants of Soho, providing much-needed employment for interior designers as well as underemployed service staff. Takeaway businesses cater well to Hong Kongers’ tastes – and can make use of their homes and offices when a table is called for or the weather turns – but the F&B industry cannot survive on “grab and go” alone. When the tourists finally come back, this outgoing city will need proper bars and restaurants to be fully open for business. Until then, fancy a crafty one?


What’s cooking?

Ethiopia-born Marcus Samuelsson moved to Sweden with his adopted parents and attended cookery schools there and in Switzerland and Austria before arriving as an apprentice chef in New York in the 1990s. His soulful food quickly turned heads and made him a regular on the celebrity-chef circuit, not to mention earning him an invitation to cook for Barack Obama at the White House. The co-founder and head chef at Red Rooster in Harlem, Samuelsson is currently guest-editing Bon Appétit magazine. Here he talks about weekend itineraries, his grandmother’s well-stocked pantry and why he and his wife both wear the trousers in their relationship.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’ll be in New York with my son and wife. We usually go to Central Park for a wander.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or with a jolt?
It’s always with a jolt. My son is everywhere and full of energy; once it’s 05.45, we’re off. I’m not given a choice; it’s the reality of having a four-year-old.

What’s your soundtrack of choice?
I’m listening to Prince’s Sign O’ The Times. I’ve always been a fan of Prince and this album is special.

What’s for breakfast?
I have breakfast with my wife, my sister-in-law and my son. We’ll have a smoothie, fresh fruit – cucumber, pineapple, apple – and the homemade bread that my wife makes. The simpler the better. Good ways to improve any breakfast spread are by using homemade pumpkin-seed butter, Ethiopian berbere (a spice blend) and Ethiopian awaze (sauce made from berbere and bird’s eye chilli). I’ll have Ethiopian coffee as well. It’s a luxury to wake up to these flavours.

What news do you wake up to?
I’m all over the BBC app and The New York Times, of course. I listen to [New York Times podcast] The Daily while cooking breakfast. In the afternoon I listen to Swedish news as well.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I don’t own a dog. My wife does yoga but I don’t myself, though I do a lot of stretches. Being a chef, my body always aches.

Any other exercise to get the blood pumping?
I gravitate towards any outdoor exercise, so I go for a run in the park beside my house.

Do you have lunch in or out?
Lunch is very fluid. Some days I’ll eat a bowl of grains while taking my fifth video call in a row. Right now, I’m starting press for my forthcoming cookbook The Rise, closing the holiday issue for Bon Appétit and building a pop-up at the Whitney Museum. I’m having a lot of conversations with art directors, designers and other chefs. I’m privileged to do that work but lunch is sometimes an afterthought.

Any larder essentials you can’t do without?
I can’t go without the larder essentials that grandma used to keep at home: her pantry was always packed with food for an entire winter season. When she was low on pantry items that meant that she still had three or so jars of everything; she always had chicken fat, pickled herring, pickled mushrooms and lingonberry.

A glass of anything to recommend?
In the morning I’ll have a glass of fruit juice. That’ll pick me up and I’ll include every fruit – strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and pears, then I’ll squeeze a tonne of lime, citrus and pineapple – and off I go.

What is your ideal dinner menu?
For me it has to do with seasonality and region. It’s important to choose the food based on the place: if I’m in Harlem I want to eat, feel and taste the migration. If I were in Sweden, I’d have herring with fennel and peanut potatoes.

A favourite venue and who would be joining?
With my family or any other dinner guest, my favourite venue is always outside – whether I’m beside a winery, an ocean or urban chaos.

Do you have a Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
Sundays are tricky because my mood is linked to how well Arsenal do once the football results are in. I suppose if they win, that’s my betterment routine – my mood is very dependent on it.

Do you lay out your look for Monday on a Sunday evening?
No – my look is a five-second decision. If I have a big meeting, maybe I’ll ask my wife. We also sometimes mix our clothes up, so much so that I end up wearing her trousers and shirts quite often...


Chicken caesar salad

Plenty of words have been scribbled extolling the virtues of adding different ingredients to a caesar dressing (Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce? Garlic? Anchovies?). In truth, a little experimentation is key. Our Swiss chef and recipe writer Ralph Schelling opts for mustard, gherkins and caper berries for a sauce with kick, heat and a sumptuous salinity.


For the sauce:
100g mayonnaise
40g parmesan
1tsp English mustard
1tsp caper berries
2 small gherkins and 2 tbsps of gherkin juice
50ml single cream
Salt and pepper

For the salad:
2 roasted chicken breasts
2 large lettuce heads, roughly cut
Juice and zest of half a lemon
2 hard-boiled eggs, crushed
8 slices crispy bacon, crumbled
4 tbsps Panko breadcrumbs or croutons
Extra parmesan to serve


  1. Mix sauce ingredients in a blender and blitz for a few seconds to form a thick dressing.
  2. Cut the chicken breast into 2cm strips. Mix with the salad leaves and the sauce, and flavour with lemon zest and juice.
  3. Season to taste and arrange on plates.
  4. Top with eggs, bacon, croutons and parmesan shavings and enjoy.


Bright lights, big city

On a tree-lined street in the leafy residential Condesa neighbourhood sits Casa Dovela hotel and apartments, set in a 1930s California-style building. Abandoned for more than 20 years, it has since been restored to its former glory with the help of French architects Emmanuel Picault and Ludwig Godefroy. The three full-service apartments are decked out with Mexican design, such as wool rugs woven by artisans from Oaxaca and clay floors. For breakfast, croissants and conchas (sweet bread rolls) are procured from nearby bakeries and a chef is available for those who’d like to dine in their spacious suites. For the more adventurous types, some of the city’s best sights and restaurants are only a short stroll away.


Tame that tune

Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest that you suddenly become that person who brings a guitar – or a bassoon – to a party (writes Carlota Rebelo). But I do want to set the record straight: although learning how to play an instrument might seem like an activity for those seeking a crowd’s admiration, it is in truth one of the most introspective, personal activities you can add to your routine. There is something oddly rewarding about playing your guitar out loud (even if it’s out of tune) like nobody’s listening – when, in fact, no one is. We all feel connected to music and, whether you fancy percussion, wind, brass or strings, being able to play a few notes of any instrument will take your mind off the day’s troubles and help you to focus intensely on the task at hand, if not get carried away with it.

It’s never too late to start and although some instruments might be easier to learn than others, there really isn’t a “right” one to get you started. Though, for your neighbours’ sake, bear in mind that certain wind or percussion instruments can be rather annoying for those who happen to live in close proximity. What’s important is that you choose something that will ultimately make you happy. I would be lying if I said that the process isn’t frustrating at times – you won’t become the next Jimi Hendrix overnight – but building patience is also a good exercise. Through repetition you’ll be tinkling along to your favourite tunes in no time. Perhaps you’ve been left scarred by those primary-school music lessons when, as a child, you had to jostle with a recorder. But there is more to life than high-pitched, off-key notes – and you’ll need less practice than you think to find that out.

If you’re thinking of changing your tune and slowing down a little then we’d prescribe a copy of ‘The Monocle Book of Gentle Living’, in which a version of this piece appears.


Root planner

Increasingly focused on the domestic market, Switzerland Tourism has created an endearing new online source to help users map and identify the nation’s trees as the seasons change (writes Carlo Silberschmidt). The foliage tracker takes its data from the weather experts on Swiss national television and is updated weekly with information on which larches look best and when the beeches will be putting on their best red leaves for autumn. Cynics might suggest that it’s just a ruse for vain Instagrammers to get the best pictures of themselves posing and pouting – but we think that it’s a rather charming way to showcase the Alpine nation’s bountiful and beautiful flora. If it works (and let’s face it, there’s more in the way of a captive audience during these locked-down times) it could encourage some visitors to visit the valleys and mountains outside of the usual winter and summer peaks. Have a great Sunday.


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