Sunday 22 November 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 22/11/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Lucid streaming

Does this sound somewhat familiar? It’s Sunday, early evening, and you’re shifting down a couple of gears after enjoying a leisurely, “this might be my last semi-sane weekend until January” window. You started by tuning into Monocle on Sunday (of course) and you had a long, decadent breakfast with your favourite newspapers: a section of the FT Weekend that you missed, some long reads from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and, while enjoying your third capp, the cover story from Les Echos Week-End.

Before you pulled on your Tarvas (check them out, a super-cool Finnish shoe brand) for your walk, you filled in some gaps on the bookshelves, moved around some furniture as part of a Christmas-tree rethink and took stock of the pantry to ensure that it’s fully armed for impromptu cocktail events over the weeks ahead. Out on your walk you were surprised by how busy it was in the forest but then why shouldn’t it be packed? The leaves are now at their most golden and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

Now it’s time to plot out the evening ahead. Fortunately, you managed to catch up with an Australian chef earlier in the week in London and he gave you his new cookbook so there’s going to be a fine dinner ahead. But what to crack open from the fridge? Is it a beer-and-bath moment? Or does that come later? Too early for a merlot from Ticino? Given that it’s Sunday and the sun has dipped, you might as well open a bottle of Laurent-Perrier, find your cosy corner and read a little bit. Maybe there’s even time for a little pre-dinner nap.

Thirty minutes later you wake up and the cooking is already underway. It’s going to be a very easy crab pasta for dinner (always, always have six cans of Kamchatka crab on standby in the cupboard), so your job is to select a new wine. What about Austrian? Or maybe something German? What would Monocle’s contributing wine expert recommend? Ah yes, she always did say to keep something from Santorini well chilled in the fridge for just such an occasion.

You decide that dinner’s going to be on the sofa and you might watch Antiques Roadshow. (Countryfile used to be a pleasant hour of escapism until they went overly political and tried to please every possible interest group, losing you along the way.) Now what to watch? You’ve finished with Fauda, Tehran and Nobel, and even surprised yourself by enjoying Emily in Paris. Clicker in hand, you navigate through Amazon, Apple and Netflix and eventually decide it’s worth seeing whether season three of Le Bureau is available in your region yet. A couple of swipes around Amazon start to look promising and it appears that seasons one to five are all available via its Sundance partnership. Perfect.

Time to open up that merlot after all and settle in for multiple hours of French spooks keeping the republic safe from harm. Or not. Even though Amazon has introduced me to Sundance I can’t get beyond the title page and now it’s looking like the evening is completely spoiled, which brings us to an opportunity. Why can’t Messrs Bezos and Cook come up with a subscription service sans frontières for people who live across multiple borders and want to watch and listen to content from all over the world? Yes, yes, I know I could have a VPN service but, given that I’m in the business of selling subscriptions and supporting talent, I would like to pay for this properly. So how 'bout it Apple, Netflix, Amazon and co? Why not a premium, clear-conscience service for Monocle readers, expats, the globally curious and anyone who hasn’t managed to see the last three seasons of Le Bureau? Then again, there’s always mail-order and the DVD player. Cheers to progress.


Southern hospitality

Leopoldo Garcia Calhau brought more than a taste of Alentejo to Lisbon when he opened Taberna do Calhau (writes Ivan Carvalho). The 44-year-old chef dressed up his establishment with marble-top tables, stools and cabinets procured from a shuttered tavern in the region’s deep south.

His cosy 24-seat venue in the Mouraria neighbourhood invites patrons to share inventive yet tradition-minded fare, from pork-cheek Alentejaninha (roasted in the Alentejo style and served with a spicy francesinha sauce) to prawns with finely chopped lupini beans and ceviche-style hake with lemon, olive oil, coriander and egg. “I add contemporary touches but there are lots of homemade references, such as my mother’s walnut pudding recipe,” says Calhau. To drink, natural wine features prominently, including a red blend from Alentejo fermented in amphorae: proof that the old ways have aged well here.
23 Largo das Olarias, Lisbon


Mile high

Fruity, flamboyant and always outrageous, Pam Ann (the flight-attendant alter ego of Australian comedian Caroline Reid) has been shocking television and theatre audiences with her indecorous act since 1996. It’s a career that has seen her travel the world to perform private shows for the likes of Elton John and Madonna, and even supporting Cher. Here she tells us how she has found being grounded. Hint: it involves a potent cocktail of cheap wine, candles and benzodiazepine for breakfast – and then again before bed.

Where do we find you this weekend?
At Palace bar in beautiful South Beach for “drag brunch” – guzzling huge margaritas and ogling hot, sweaty, naked boys.

How are you handling all this extra time at home?
I’ve been creating a brand-new Pam Ann candle and cosmetics line with Pietra Studio.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
A big jolt from my hangover, involving Uber Eats McDonald’s and a huge glass of Coke.

Soundtrack of choice?
The Frankie Knuckles remix of Whitney Houston’s “Million Dollar Bill” played super loud.

What’s for breakfast?

News or not?
No news, just disco music.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Downward dog in a filthy, sexual way, not a yoga way.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
I like to take a walk to the fridge and back.

What’s for lunch?
Vodka soda with a splash of lemon.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
A big bag of Sour Patch Kids.

Sunday culture must?
Netflix surfing.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
I love a goblet of cabernet sauvignon – anything cheap and tasty works.

Your ideal dinner venue?
Miami has opened up, so thankfully we can dine out again. My favourite spot is Cecconi’s at Soho Beach House – on Monday nights it’s half price.

Who’s joining?
Brian Kelly from [American travel blog] The Points Guy and Lauren Foster, my role model and an advocate for trans rights.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I use Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream before bed. And Xanax.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I’ll be wearing my red polka-dot bikini.


Holy trinity

The brief for Monocle’s recipe roster errs on the side of the simple, hearty and soulful so our Swiss chef Ralph Schelling has taken it back to basics with this reliable Roman favourite. As with all such recipes, the ingredients are everything but as today’s dish consists of just pasta, cheese and pepper then we’re insisting that you splash out on the best of each you can find. Enjoy.

Serves 4

350g spaghetti
150g pecorino romano, grated
4 tsps black pepper
Salt to taste


  1. Toast the peppercorns in a pan until they give off a nutty odour then coarsely crush in a pestle and mortar or pepper mill – don’t do it too finely, a little crunch is a good thing.
  2. Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to packet instructions, minus a minute or two to keep it al dente. Pour off the water but keep a big cup (say, 300ml) of the starchy cooking liquid; you’ll need this to bind the mixture.
  3. Put the cheese in a large flat bowl and add 2 tsps of the pepper. Mix half of the pasta water (by the spoonful) with the cheese using a fork or whisk to form a paste and gradually a thick sauce. The pasta water can’t be too hot, otherwise the cheese will clump together.
  4. Add the pasta to the mixture and stir or toss to coat it with the sauce. If the mixture is too dry, add a few tablespoons of pasta water to loosen it up. Add to deep plates and top off with remaining pepper.


Imperfect harmony

In the first of a series of stories featured in our new edition of ‘The Forecast’, we make for Lebanon to see why some honest and interesting hospitality businesses are still thriving.

Sarah Trad doesn’t mete out her hospitality by measures (writes Leila Molana-Allen). It’s a trait that has been passed down by her mother. “She entertained a lot and was always very generous and welcoming,” says Trad. “The house was full of people and parties; it was so alive.” When her mother died in 2013, the grand old Lebanese mountain home that had been the family’s summer retreat since 1985 fell into disrepair.

Trad felt that she had to save it. “Someone once told me that if a house isn’t a home to people, it dies. I could feel the energy disappearing.” She decided to rebuild it as the guest house Beit Trad, an homage to her mother’s legacy as a hostess. Working with Maria Ousseimi, the designer behind Beirut institutions Liza and The Albergo rooftop, the mansion was remodelled and furnished with a mixture of pieces collected by her mother in the souks of Damascus and the flea markets of Paris, and updated fabrics and furniture from across the region. Each of the nine rooms has a unique character; one was once a chapel when the house was briefly used as a nunnery more than a century ago. Trad learned from her mother that an eclectic touch puts people at ease. “Like a Persian carpet, there always has to be one imperfection; seeking perfection can make people feel stiff,” she says. “I’ve learned that the magic of an evening has very little to do with the type of flowers that you put on the table. It’s the mix of people, the interaction.”

Although much of the hospitality industry suffered in 2020, Beit Trad’s fortunes have soared. The house runs on an all-inclusive basis, with sumptuous buffets of home-cooked Lebanese mountain dishes using products sourced nearby and an open bar of wine and free-flowing spirits. The idea is that, with no need to make choices or sign bills, guests will feel at home and relax. “The house mostly attracts people that look like it,” Trad says. “People who are open, who love life.”

For tips on the year to come and our series on intrepid innkeepers, buy ‘The Forecast’.


Mountain range

Swiss wine production is small in scale (writes Chandra Kurt) with vineyards covering about 15,000 hectares: less than half the size of the Champagne region alone. Exports are microscopic by global standards but Swiss wine punches above its weight in quality. Start a cellar with these bottles.

Trocla Nera 2018, Pinot Noir, Obrecht, Weingut zur Sonne
Christian and Francisca Obrecht are stars in the Bündner Herrschaft (in the Grisons canton). The young couple love all things biodynamic and represent the fifth generation of the Weingut zur Sonne. In Romansh, trocla nera means “black grapes”.

Tinello 2018, Cantina Kopp von der Crone Visini, Ticino
This vineyard places great emphasis on being as environmentally sound as possible and promoting biodiversity. This pure merlot has an excellent structure with lots of red-berry aromatics and a minerally finish.

Heida 2019, Visperterminen, St Jodern Kellerei, AOC Valais
The grapes for this heida grow at up to 1,150 metres above sea level. It has a rich scent of honey, peach compote and tangerine.

Aigle Les Murailles 2019, Badoux, AOC Chablais
This is the most famous Swiss wine, and the best vintage of it ever vinified. This pure chasselas with notes of honey, apple and quince has the nickname “lizard wine”, due to its label featuring the creature by Swiss painter Frédéric Rouge.

Omnis Orange Nature, Les Filles Vinifient, Henri Cruchon
This natural wine from the region of Vaud is a blend of gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc and altesse, which is bottled without sulfites or filtration. The result is a rich, funky and aromatic orange wine.

Find out more about our favourite Swiss vintages in Monocle’s December/January issue, out on Thursday.


Given names

Maps are not carved in stone (writes Andrew Mueller). Times change and names can change with them: nobody now speaks of visiting Bombay, Peking, Leningrad or Stanleyville. The names of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide are probably safe for a good while yet – but an intriguing straw has been flung into the wind by Australia Post.

Responding to an online campaign by activist Rachael McPhail, the postal service will henceforth deliver mail addressed with traditional Indigenous place names, alongside the more familiar nomenclature. Australia Post’s website now includes guidelines on how to do this.

For some Australia Post sorting offices this won’t change all that much. When you think of those glorious, gorgeously rhythmic, definitively Australian place names – Tumbarumba, Mullumbimby, Jerrabomberra, Nar Nar Goon – you’re thinking in Australia’s native languages, and thereby acknowledging its history. It will be interesting to see whether Australia Post’s adoption of McPhail’s idea acquires further momentum: if, to paraphrase Paul Kelly’s well-loved Indigenous rights anthem, from this little thing, big things grow. The question it ultimately poses is whether it would really be a bad thing if Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide ceased to be named after a motley assortment of little-recalled British aristocrats, and embraced a more distinctively Australian identity as – respectively – Eora, Woiwurrung, Jagera, Whadjuk and Kaurna.

It is the contention of this Australian, moreover, that Indigenous names are a much under-utilised soft-power asset. More than once while reporting in dicey territory, tension has been instantly defused by scrutiny of my passport, noting my birthplace of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales – or perhaps, I should say, Wagga Wagga, Wiradjuri country.


Strength in numbers

Not far from Bang Niang and Nang Thong beaches on Thailand’s northwest coast, Hotel Gahn reminds visitors to the Khao Lak region that the lauded surf spot has more to offer than natural beauty. With 20 rooms across five stories, the hotel features an outdoor pool, restaurant and coffee bar on the ground floor. Ochre-and-green hand-painted walls and rosewood panelling add warmth to the space, designed by Thanart Chanyu of Studio Locomotive, and a large central table near reception is intended to introduce the welcoming, communal lifestyle at the heart of Thai culture.
+66 90 985 2551


Uprooted ideals

As well as being an emasculating epithet, the term “weed” isn’t as clear-cut as it seems (writes Josh Fehnert). In the garden – as in the jocular, schoolyard-bully sense – its use betrays a rather unkind value judgment: a plant that the name-caller insists is poorly suited to its environment or that has sprouted in an unbecoming manner or place (the indignity). To be clear, some plants are a genuine pain in the grass, especially aggressive non-native ones. But many, dare I say most, are just… harmless. As a case in point, the cheery dandelion is excellent for encouraging wildlife and adored when wafting its mane-like petals in a meadow. But the second it pops up on your anal neighbour’s lawn, it’s labelled a pest: uprooted and abraded.

A Varsovian restaurateur once told me that kale, now a modishly adored, staple middle-class “superfood”, was long used to decorate graves in Poland – people preferred to go hungry rather than eat it. Or the fact that basil is everywhere on Greek windowsills to keep away insects but rarely included in a salad. Some plants adorn flags in one country when they’re rooted out and poisoned in others. It’s often a matter of perspective. Luckily, those old ideas are waning and gardeners around the world are realising that, as nice as Mr Keepclean’s immaculate lawn looks, we need to make room for a healthier mix of plants, flowers and shrubs rather than manicured monocultures. Oh, and we need to stop the name-calling; plants have feelings too. Remember, one person’s weed is another’s cup of tea (literally). Have a great Sunday.


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