Sunday 25 October 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 25/10/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


It’s Saturday morning on Dufourstrasse in Zürich’s District 8. If you’re a regular reader of this column then you’ll know that Dufourstrasse is Monocle’s home base. And if you’re a regular from the ’hood (or slightly beyond) then you’ll also know that it’s a buzzy, busy place full of all kinds of people going about their weekend routines. At one end of the pavement are Lycra-clad men clattering around on their cycling shoes while enjoying post-circuit espressos. Next door a family are having their croissants and flat whites and the father is trying to get through the front page of the NZZ newspaper. A bit further along, people are in the queue for takeaway coffees, while just inside the door at Trunk some customers from St Moritz are admiring the goods while their dogs are snuffling around on the sisal hoping that some of those croissant crumbs have blown in.

Spool back a year and it wasn’t quite like this. Sure, it was busy but it’s amazing what a virus combined with recommendations about being in the open-air and some extra tables can do for business. Recently the city of Zürich announced that it would allow restaurant and café owners to keep their extended outdoor-seating arrangements for another year. And after much back and forth it has also agreed that heating concepts are allowed as long as they’re sustainable, don’t produce smoke and are quiet. For the past week this has had everyone who works in the catering business scratching their heads as the city couldn’t point to the existence of such heaters. For a moment there was talk of some magical device that burned eco-pellets and ticked all the environmental boxes but after much searching it was clear that no such machine is on the market.

As the days are now shorter and the temperature is dropping, there’s a very urgent need to find a solution that can keep people toasty in the outdoors rather than huddled inside poorly ventilated spaces. Whereas some countries are fine with electric and gas outdoor heaters, they’re generally a no-go in Switzerland – though there are some blurred lines. As recently as August I was thinking that there would be some easing on gatherings but, with the brakes being aggressively pumped in Bern, I’m now on the hunt for something that will keep our café customers happy in Zürich and London. The current set-up for keeping guests cosy involves loden pads slid under their bums, and woollen blankets. These work fine for now and maybe for part of November but we’re going to need a better solution fully implemented in about two to three weeks.

Any thoughts, dear reader? I’m thinking that a poncho might be the best solution or some kind of cape. Yes, there are those who are worried that they might get infected by a few metres of boiled wool but I don’t think those customers will be venturing out for a coffee anyway, so they’re not my main concern. I’ve contacted our Tokyo bureau to look into some kind of down-filled, demi-sleeping-bag solution but have had no reports back from the factories in Hokkaido. On Friday I spoke to the company that makes sauna tents for the Finnish armed forces and we might be on to something but there’s the question of keeping a tent erect on a pavement. I’m being serious! I spent a lot of time on this topic with the company’s vice-president. As you can tell, things are getting desperate when it comes to keeping a business open while trying to also adhere to federal and cantonal hygiene guidelines. And no – lockdowns, curfews and shuttering businesses are not options, particularly in societies where social capital and trust in government run high.


Glittering Korea

After making a name for himself with Mingles, his two-Michelin-starred Seoul restaurant, chef Kang Mingoo opened Hansik Goo in central Hong Kong (writes Nina Milhaud). The new project offers a radically different take on Korean cookery from what went before. Whereas Mingles was all about mixing Eastern and Western styles with modern techniques (read fancy plating), Hansik Goo goes back to the fundamentals and celebrates a more homespun style of street food with elegance and an enviable simplicity. “I’ve always wanted a restaurant that showcases traditional Korean food,” says Mingoo.

Monocle’s meal starts with bugak, an assortment of light seasonal crisps influenced by Korean temple food. This is followed by the chef’s Korean samgyetang (chicken soup with ginseng), and Mingoo’s take on fried chicken, which is elevated from finger food to fine dining by the accompanying crispy lotus root glazed in a fermented sweet-and-sour yuzu sauce and radish kimchi. “Hong Kong has the right conditions for opening a Korean kitchen,” says the chef. “As an Asian centre of gastronomy, Hong Kong’s eaters have a very good understanding of and interest in Korean food – we could deliver what we wanted.” The jury’s in on Mingoo’s prediction and the verdict from our Wan Chai bureau is extremely positive.


Vivid imagination

Yinka Ilori is a London-based designer who fuses a British upbringing with his Nigerian heritage to create furniture and artworks that are practical, provocative and lively. He founded his eponymous studio in 2017, following a successful pitch to transform London’s Thessaly Road railway bridge with colourful panels, and now works with a team of designers across architecture and interior projects. Here he tells us his weekend routine, about his love of 1990s movies and why Nigeria makes a Guinness to rival Ireland’s.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I love green spaces, so on weekends you’ll probably find me with my family – my partner, mum and dad, my niece – going to a park. Last weekend I went to Kew Gardens, which was amazing. I always want to try to find new parks where we can run around, breathe in some fresh air.

What have you been working on recently?
My first homeware collection, which has been a labour of love over lockdown. It ranges from stoneware plates and bowls to jacquard-weave tea towels produced in Portugal, as well as enamel tea mugs and melamine trays. I wanted a way for my work to make people feel happy and hopeful. That’s what the homeware will hopefully bring into people’s homes – injecting a sense of optimism that we need right now.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I get up at about 09.00 and go for a run; I try to do 5km at least. And then I’ll come back home, have a shower and enjoy a full English breakfast.

Soundtrack of choice?
Headie One’s got a good album out called Edna, which went to number one a couple of days ago. It’s an incredible release. If I’m in my car, I’ll have it on repeat. I’m listening to a lot of Aaliyah lately too. For me, she’s an icon, a legend.

What’s for breakfast?
High Road House in Chiswick does a good breakfast: sausage, hash browns, spinach, fried eggs, brown toast – the full works, nothing missing. I love to have orange juice with it and maybe a green tea.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I was doing Bikram yoga before lockdown, probably once a week. It’s very tough on you: you’re sweating and trying to keep your posture and balance in 40C heat. You test your mind, your body and your soul. Because I’m just trying to get through the class, it’s a good time to switch off and zone out, to think about myself, my body and my breathing – not my next design project.

What’s for lunch?
It’s a combination of two meals. In the afternoon I’ll have a Sunday roast. Then later in the day I’ll go to my parents’ house and end with a Nigerian dish. It might be some pounded yam with spinach and beef, or rice with some coleslaw and chicken – whatever’s mum’s made. I just turn up and she blesses me with delicious food.

Larder essentials that you can’t do without?
I love a stir-fry, so I’ll have some good egg noodles and king prawns. And scallops. I love scallops; they’re expensive so I don’t have them all the time but only when I can I get some good ones.

A glass of something that you’d recommend?
Cherry brandy with ice or a Jameson and Coke. But two days ago I had a Nigerian Guinness, which was just amazing. Everyone in Nigeria loves Guinness – they have their own factory and produce it there, so when you get a Guinness bottle with a red label that says imported [from Nigeria], then you know that you’re in for a treat.

Sunday culture essential?
Films are massive for me. I love movies that take me back to when I was young, like Boyz n the Hood or Passenger 57 with Wesley Snipes. They’re nostalgic for me – easy and cheesy – and I can kind of dip in and out because I remember it. If I’m at my parents’ house, I’ve got no choice but to watch Nollywood movies. We’re constantly laughing about all the stuff that they’re doing in the films; it’s comedy.

Dinner venue of choice?
There’s a restaurant in Fulham called Pitanga. It’s Nigerian but with a twist – you might get jollof rice but they’ve done it as jollof rice-fried balls. It’s just such good food. I’ve been there twice this month and they remembered me the second time and gave me a free meat pie.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I might email my team with what we need to do on a Monday if I’m not going to be in the office. But if I’m honest there’s nothing much that I do. I try to prepare on a Friday so that on Sunday I can chill and avoid that.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
There’s no pre-planning of what I’m going to wear. I wake up at 08.00 and see what’s available in the wardrobe. I’ll shower and be in the office by 09.15.


Swedish meatballs

Our recipe writer rustles up an easy take on a hearty Swedish classic that’s suitable for the cooler days of autumn. The inclusion of mustard and allspice adds depth and flavour. Serve with mashed potatoes and parsley.

Serves 4 (makes approximately 36 meatballs)


30g breadcrumbs
80ml milk
1 medium egg, whisked lightly
400g minced pork
300g minced beef
1 small onion finely chopped
¼ tsp allspice
Salt and pepper, a large pinch each

1.5 tbsp oil to fry

For the sauce:
350ml beef stock
40g butter
25g plain flour
150ml double cream
100ml water
2 tsps Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar

4 tbsps parsley, finely chopped

Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes


  1. In a large bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and milk. When the milk is absorbed into the breadcrumbs completely, add egg, minced pork and beef, chopped onion, allspice and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly until the mixture is incorporated then keep mixing for a further 3 minutes. This will help to make the meatballs tender. Roll the mixture into 36 equal-sized balls (they should be around 2.5cm in diameter).
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook half of the meatballs. Turn them to get a nice and even golden colour; they don’t need to cook through completely, as they will cook further in the sauce later. As they cook, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set them aside and keep warm. Repeat with the second half of the meatballs and set aside.
  3. Pour beef stock in the frying pan and turn the heat on; scrape the burned bits from the pan with a wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and pour the stock into a jug and set aside.
  4. Put the frying pan back over the medium-low heat and melt the butter. Then add the flour and mix to incorporate. Cook for 1 minute, until you can smell biscuits. Take off the heat and add the reserved beef stock, cream and water and bring to a simmer. Add sugar and mustard, stir until dissolved, then add the meatballs. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes. If the sauce looks too runny, cook for a couple of minutes more. Turn off the heat and serve with mashed potatoes, sprinkle with chopped parsley and enjoy.


Chill factor

Tranquil rooftops where you can pass an afternoon with a book and a drink are hard to come by in the Greek capital. So Shila, with its leafy third-floor roof garden on a quiet side-street in upscale Kolonaki is a much-needed addition to the Athens hospitality scene (writes Venetia Rainey). “Our plan is to have dinner parties here eventually,” says co-founder Eftihia Stefanidi (pictured), gesturing at a four-metre-long wooden table shaded by jasmine. “But there are also lots of spaces for just sunbathing or relaxing and reading the newspaper.”

Design-led but laid-back, Shila is just the kind of hotel that you check in to for a night and end up staying a week. The 1920s building has six suites, each with either a private garden or small balcony. Faded oriental rugs and rustic stone sinks are paired with creamy gauze curtains and plush sofas. The custom-made elements, from steel bedframes to wooden cabinets, show the effort that has been put into getting the details just-so. Contemporary Greek art covers the walls and the minibar is stocked with local fare, from Anäna coffee to Kakau Worship chocolate. “The aim is to let people feel something unique,” says Stefanidi. “You often miss the personal touch in hotels here.”

The result of two years of planning and work, Shila is the brainchild of Greek creative director Stefanidi (who has previously worked on events such as Secret Cinema) and New York-based entrepreneur Shai Antebi. The hotel was initially scheduled to open in April 2020 but, as a result of lockdowns, was delayed until June. “We knew that it would be challenging,” says Stefanidi with a wry smile. “But none of us are from a traditional business background – we’re all makers – so we knew that we could make it work.” And they have.


Passing the remote

When news of Netflix producing a video-call-based romcom during lockdown came out earlier this year, the idea sounded desperate but not necessarily terrible (writes Chiara Rimella). At the time I was thinking a lot about how people would want to mark the pandemic culturally. Would audiences want to reflect on their experiences through the lens of grim documentaries, biohazard-based thrillers, long psychological essays?

What a difference a few months can make. Despite being turned around at considerable speed, that Netflix series, Social Distance, has already aged – and badly. Over the course of eight 20-minutes episodes we rattle through all the quarantine clichés: newly single man tries to get in touch with his ex; older man doesn’t really know how to work his camera; a couple question their relationship after spending too much time together. It’s all meant to be relatable but in essence it’s a tiresome re-run of moments that weren’t that enjoyable to live through the first time around. Its earnestness is irritating and the whole thing challenges already stretched attention spans.

So does this mean that pandemic-specific films, series and books are doomed to fail? Another series shot with the same constraints gives me hope for the form. Despite launching in June, Staged, a BBC production that’s also now available on Netflix, is a mysteriously compelling and timely thing. Perhaps it’s because watching it includes peeking into actors David Tennant and Michael Sheen’s real-life living rooms. Maybe it’s because the premise makes the most of the format: the duo (and surrounding cast) play thinly veiled, self-deprecating versions of themselves who decide to continue rehearsing a play during lockdown via video call. Like the text they are meant to perform – Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author – it’s all wonderfully witty and so, so meta. Mostly, though, it works because it’s tongue-in-cheek and actually funny (Tennant is worried about being labelled “cartoonish”; arguments simmer about which actor will top the bill; ego is everywhere). Good scripting can make for great television whatever the hurdles, it seems. Who’d have thought?


Hopelessly devoted

In 2016, Sotheby’s sold much of the late David Bowie’s art collection (writes Robert Bound). The notable thing about it was that it mostly comprised work by less fashionable artists, schools and eras – and none of it was shocking. We shouldn’t be surprised. Like any curious collector, Bowie’s urge to understand a work or an artist was to attain the sort of intimacy that only ownership can bestow. His collection was honest and deeply personal. It was things that he liked, things that reminded him of things. Honesty like this is the key to a collection.

Collections aren’t meant to be tidy résumés. They’re not an application letter to the club secretary and shouldn’t be a statement of intent. If they are then they’re wrong, they’re like lying in your diary – who are you kidding? There are some museum-quality collections about which the owners can’t stop talking as fans, like these paintings could be sports memorabilia. There are also collections that could have been made by an algorithm, that have been put together like a contractual necessity, the Greatest Hits CD, that have no weirdness, no rough edges, no questionable selections.

Collections start as pure interest made actual; they are fascination made concrete, the accidental become material. You can spot the real ones and smell the fakes. The great artist-collectors can also be surprisingly uncomplicated in their hoards: Warhol and his cookie jars; Hirst and his Walter Potter taxidermy; Peter Blake and his… everything.

Collections can be about a desire to see many similar things together or the same thing in different guises – as if to solve the mystery of them, replicate them, marvel at them. What makes us take that pebble from the beach? Keep that archive of National Geographic? They’re nostalgia mixed with a knowing fooling of the self: that this will come in handy, that you’ll refer back to that. At its best, collecting is instinctive, unschooled, innocent. Liking things is fine but good taste often hinders a collection. The spectre of minimalism haunts private collections gone public and this is wrong. A collection is a collision, not a car but a car crash; so it shouldn’t be displayed as if were pristine, with new tyres, for sale. Happily, most people display their treasure troves in their homes, on shelves, in boxes, in bubble wrap in old suitcases. Or they’re just pictures, hung on walls – too many, all jumbled up. But you like them that way and you’re the boss. They say that the key to dancing is to do it like there’s no one watching. Bowie might have practised that in the mirror but not the collecting. He did it just because he could.

If you’re keen to add a version of this essay to your own book collection – alongside plenty of tips for leading a more fulfilling life – then our latest title, ‘The Monocle Book of Gentle Living’ is available now.


Keep your pecker up

If, like me, you popped a bird feeder outside your home earlier in the year, hoping that it would become the tweet of the town, you might still be scratching your head at a lack of uptake from flighty friends – but be patient (writes Josh Fehnert). This milder stretch of autumn, remember, is a time of plenty for the birds when fallen seeds, bugs and grubs are abundant. Your feeder should come into its own as the winter arrives and those food sources dwindle. But just to make sure, here are a few tips for keeping your offerings appetising.

In winter, birds feed twice daily: in the morning and again in the afternoon. Once they clock your kindness they should start adding a visit on their daily rounds. Birds can be rather picky about food that’s not fresh – which does seem a bit rich for creatures that eat worms from dirt – so keep the seed supply topped up and change it regularly. Don’t let fallen scraps build up unless you want crows, magpies, foxes or cats coming around instead of robins, sparrows and dunnocks. High energy, fatty foods are the most nutritious in the colder months but avoid peanuts as they’re a little big for beaky biters and can choke chicks too.

Once you’ve got into a routine of replenishment then don’t mix it up too drastically. Like many of us, the neighbourhood tits and finches have regular eating times and don’t appreciate moving their meal for anyone. So be patient, real tweets travel slower than online ones. I have faith that they’ll reward my benevolence yet – all I want is to offer them a square mealworm. Have a great Sunday.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00