In the pink - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 11/10/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Greek gifts

As promised, we’re still in Athens this Sunday, still at the Four Seasons (actually lunching across the bay at Krabo). We’re a bit more tanned and have been firmly bitten by the Athenian bug. And what a handsome, hospitable bug, might I add. The good news about penning a weekly column – and occasionally alerting your audience to your whereabouts – is that you get flooded with tips and suggestions on the food, cultural, retail and real-estate front. Better yet, you often get to meet your readers as they offer up unmissable invites. If last week’s column didn’t convince you to make your way to the Greek capital, here are five more reasons to come here for a few days of lounging and long swims.

  1. There’s a lady walking in front of us. You know her well. She’s the colour of Metaxa and she’s shuffling along atop impossibly tall cork wedges. She’s wearing a mustard-yellow house dress of the sort favoured by similar women in similar neighbourhoods at this end of the Med. You know the cut: it’s essentially a shirt dress with pockets but the sleeves are properly rolled-up, there are sensible slits on the sides and it’s been accessorised with €12,000 in gold chains, medallions, bangles – and don’t forget the massive hoops. She has a towel under her arm, a folded copy of the Kathimerini newspaper, a magazine that looks as though it does a good job stalking former Greek royals and one of those floaty, foamy noodles. If you had to capture a snap of what the good life looks like at 78, this has to be pretty close. She turns off a block or two later, steps down onto the beach and is suddenly chattering to 45 other ladies with floaty noodles, bathing caps and up dos. They’re soon in the water and they wade out about 100 metres. It might be water aerobics, it might be the Orthodox church modernising its outreach or it’s simply what retirement looks like in Vouliagmeni.

  2. The Greeks do good wines. They also do very good wine shops. Oak has an original branch in the city, a new one south of Voula and another one due to open in north Athens pre-Christmas. As concepts go, it’s world-class and feels as though someone’s cousin in Melbourne might have consulted on the coffee component.

  3. Are you watching the new series Tehran yet? (For more, see the current issue of Monocle.) Much of it was filmed on the streets of Athens and will likely lead to more starring roles for the city. The good thing about a financial crisis is that it has the positive effect of sparing cities from too many unnecessary renovations. This means that Athens is full of super shopfronts, tatty façades and original interiors. Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis has a golden opportunity to ensure that this prime vintage stock is preserved and that the city doesn’t become a victim of early 21st-century architectural botox – glass balconies, gloss ceramics, blue lighting et al.

  4. There’s another good thing about a financial crisis, especially when it hits a sunny city with a huge global diaspora. As the Greeks have seen rail services cut, parks shuttered and public services decimated, it’s also allowed for plenty of innovation elsewhere – particularly when it comes to the service sector. A spin around Athens will show plenty of fresh ideas that might not happen in cities where rents are too high and the planning rules plentiful. Greek entrepreneurs have been up and running because they’ve had no choice. This should be a lesson for the rest of us to limber up, find our shoes, get out there and hit the pavement. I get the sense there are going to be a clutch of clever Greek brands and investors that will see this current slump as an opportunity to employ some of their survival skills.

  5. What’s your fantasy? Buying a villa and running your business from the beach? Owning a vineyard? Starting a beauty brand? Owning a textile factory and creating a vertically integrated bed and bath brand? The prices are still right in Greece. Could it be time for a research safari?


Market value

Eight years after closing the last of his eponymous stores, Andreas Feldenkirchen is back with a new retail venture (writes Hester Underhill). Matter Urban Market opens next week in a 1920s former-restaurant building in Hamburg’s Hoheluft-West neighbourhood. It’s an impressive space with a vast glass frontage and six-metre-high ceilings and the newly refreshed interiors are fitted out with pared-back plywood shelving. These are alluringly stacked with homeware and stationery from around the world, ranging from Earl of East candles to Leuchtturm1917 notebooks.

Roughly a third of the space is dedicated to clothing, including Finnish brand Karhu, knits from Dawn x Dare and Swedish womenswear from Maska. “There’s a big demand for physical stores that aren’t high-street brands," says Feldenkirchen. “Shops are places for conversations. They’re places to exchange gossip. We want people to be able to just drop by and have a coffee, to have a chat. You can’t do that on the internet.” Hear, hear.


In the pink

It’s the morning after the autumnal equinox, the day officially marking the onset of the season, when Monocle arrives at The Vandelay (writes Thea Urdal). Heavy rain has been rumbling through Oslo but this neighbourhood brasserie in the relatively new area of Munch Brygge is warm and welcoming, and not only because a pink mushroom-like pillar greets us upon arrival – its colour and shape nodding to the Pink Panther or Barbapapa. The Vandelay – the name is a reference to the sitcom Seinfeld – is spearheaded by three-Michelin-starred chef Esben Holmboe Bang of Maaemo, the formal sister venue next door.

The playful pink was chosen by Holmboe Bang and the menu is a selection of brasserie classics with tasteful additions; the cheeseburger, for instance, shows how informal food can be elevated by a light touch. There’s beef tartare with fresh tarragon, crunchy cucumber with fermented chilli and roasted artichoke cream and freshly churned vanilla ice-cream with a hint of port. “We wanted to create a space that felt lived in, a brasserie in which you can stay all day and that is for everyone,” says Holmboe Bang. “During this strenuous time when travelling, for obvious reasons, is reduced to a minimum, we hope The Vandelay can be a small getaway of sorts, providing both comfort and flair.”


Slice of life

Pamela Yung made a name for herself on New York’s food scene at the Williamsburg restaurant Semilla, which won a Michelin star. The space shuttered after she left in 2017 and Yung is now based in London where she heads up Borough Market restaurant Flor. Recently she spearheaded Flor’s pizza-delivery project Asap Pizza in collaboration with Shoreditch favourite Lyle’s. Here she tells us about jam from Alsace, condiments from Sicily and where to eat well in the UK capital.

Where do we find you this weekend?
If it’s a nice day I like to be outside. I’ll often go for a walk around the park near my house.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Gently. I don’t set an alarm and I like to sleep in.

Soundtrack of choice?
Recently I’ve been listening to some James Blake or often Bob Dylan. Nothing too high energy.

What’s for breakfast?
Usually I’ll just have a slice of bread, lightly toasted with some butter. Occasionally I’ll have some jam; I still have some amazing jam from a trip I took to Alsace last year, which [French pastry chef] Christine Ferber gave to me. She’s the queen of confiture.

News or not?
I’ve been reading the news a bit recently. I switch between The New York Times, The New Yorker and the BBC.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I wish I had a dog – I would love one. And I do sometimes take my mat out to the park and do some yoga.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
I have been a runner in the past but not as much recently. Though I got a new bike over lockdown and have been heading out on it.

Lunch in or out?
If I meet up with people I have lunch out but I’ve fallen out of that routine. Instead, I’ll often have toast or some leftovers from work: preserved aubergine and maybe some dumplings.

Larder essentials that you can’t do without?
Because I have such a good larder, I don’t have to shop much. A favourite is estrattu – it’s basically tomato paste that’s been sun-dried. It has such a strong, sweet, umami tomato taste – it’s amazing. I brought a few kilos back last time I visited Sicily.

Sunday culture essential?
I’ve been reading Sowing Seeds in the Desert by Masanobu Fukuoka. It’s about natural farming and an approach to growing that’s in harmony with nature.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
I have one from Alsace, where I got the jam; a 2017 pinot gris from Julien Meyer. He’s as much a wine philosopher as wine-maker and he uses organic methods of production.

The ideal dinner menu?
I love roast chicken. I remember when I lived in France, we would pick it up from the rotisserie at the market in a bag with all the vegetables inside.

Ideal dinner venue?
Brawn, on Columbia Road in east London, is a favourite. It always has a great atmosphere.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
As often as possible, I like to take a bath.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I don’t plan ahead in terms of dressing. When I’m not working, I just dress comfortably. I have a few comfy pairs of trousers from Evy Lane or Kaarem and typically just wear them with a T-shirt.


Egg involtini with marjoram

Our involtini sound rather sophisticated but are really just a sort of rolled relative to the traditional scotch egg you might find in a British pub. Swiss chef Ralph Schelling’s influence for this meat-minded number comes from the original Sicilian version of the snack, farsu magru, which is made with veal, spinach and sausage meat around an egg. Whatever you call it, it’s comfort food at its finest.


4 x 80g veal steaks
300g sausage meat
1 tsp coarse mustard
100g spinach (dry)
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
25g marjoram
3 tbsps olive oil
Kitchen string

For the sauce:
1 shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
100ml white wine
1 tsp of chilli flakes
1 tbsp of capers
4 large ripe tomatoes, roughly cut (or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes)
2 bay leaves
Black pepper, freshly ground

1. Hammer the veal (with a tenderising hammer or rolling pin under clingfilm) until each cut is 4mm thick.
2. Mix the sausage meat with the mustard. Spread mixture evenly on the veal.
3. Spread spinach onto the sausage mixture then place an egg on each and roll the veal into parcels (or involtini). Tie them firmly with kitchen string and a sprig of marjoram.
4. Dust the involtini in a little flour and fry in olive oil in a high frying pan until browned for around 5 minutes. Set the parcels aside and keep the oil.
5. Fry the diced shallot and garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add white wine then the chilli, tomatoes, bay leaves and capers), and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the involtini to the sauce, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with olive oil.


Inner piece

The bright, high-ceilinged Fernando Pessoa suite at the new Torel Palace hotel in the centre of Porto is covered in hand-carved stucco (writes Debbie Pappyn). Portuguese interior designer Isabel Sá Nogueira left some elements of the old building intact and had others meticulously restored while adding bolder novelties, such as mirrored boxes in which spacious bathrooms are hidden. The hotel in historic Palacete Campos Navarro opened in February and has 24 rooms, including suites named after Portuguese writers. On the ground floor, the restaurant Blind is led by chef Vitor Matos and is a tribute to Saramago’s novel Blindness. The small garden has an outdoor pool with seating suited to a long, lazy breakfast of Portuguese treats – one of which is the courtyard itself.


High note

Singing on your own can be both comforting and liberating, and yet a lot of people I know shy away from having a go, saying that they can’t sing or that they’re are tone-deaf, and providing all manner of similar excuses (writes Laetitia Guillotin). While it’s true that not all of us have Tina Turner’s talent, nor the sexy swagger of Prince, we can channel our inner star – and not just on karaoke night.

So if you’re in need of some extra confidence before you take to the stage solo, make like me and join a choir (physically distanced, of course). There are many kinds. The one I’m in dabbles in pop and rock: we cover Beyoncé, Marvin Gaye and Elton John, among others. No auditions are required: after all, the general consensus is that everyone can sing. It’s a lot of fun but there’s also more to it. Several articles have been published about the health benefits of singing as part of a group, suggesting that it reduces stress levels, releases hormones that increase happiness, enhances creativity and even maintains a certain level of fitness; it has been associated with boosting our immune system too.

Before scientists weighed in, choir singers already knew that there was something special about their hobby. When you sing with others, you sing and listen at once, and tuning in to the voices around you helps to connect your emotions with those of the group. It’s easy to feel as though you’re part of a bigger whole and when you get it right as one unified voice, you might just feel the prickle of goosebumps. Singing in a choir can change your life – for the very reason that it sometimes makes you forget that you have a life outside it, with all its responsibilities and worries. It’s a lifeline that never fails to bring joy, a pitch-perfect way to let go and one I’ll never stop singing the praises of.

A version of this article appears in The Monocle Book of Gentle Living.


All is not frost

Just as you may have found yourself searching out an extra layer to steel you against autumn’s zealous zephyrs, some younger and less robust plants need cover too (writes Josh Fehnert). Any bulbs you’re planning to overwinter outside will need protecting from the frost, and desire clement conditions and respite from that wind. For those of us without the space or inclination for a Victorian orangery, the guts to go full greenhouse or a tomato collection capacious enough to justify vast plasticy polytunnels everywhere, there are simpler solutions: cold frames. These inexpensive, mobile structures – like little clear-sided doll’s houses to pop over plants – offer protection for cuttings and smaller plants from the wind and rain. What’s more, they can be used year-round for jobs from hardening off tender shoots in the spring (no giggling at the back there) to preserving some heat for your late-summer veg and keeping your bulbs from freezing in the deep midwinters. Speaking of which, I’m off to pop another layer on. Have a great weekend.


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