Sunday 29 November 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 29/11/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


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In a gentler, friendlier world I’d be much happier if you were reading this column on a crisp stretch of newsprint rather than a backlit screen. While I’m all for convenience and speed, wouldn’t it be an altogether more elegant start to your Sunday if you could spread out a sharply designed front page across the breakfast table or crack it into position while enjoying the sunshine at your favourite café? Over the past few years, Monocle has experimented with various newspaper formats and frequencies including Alpino, Mediterraneo and other seasonal outings. We’ve done luxurious, sheet-fed tabloids and multi-section Berliner-format editions, and along the way we have found dedicated fans who’ve asked us to, for example, produce a global weekend newspaper or swap the main monthly magazine for a slimmed weekly.

For the moment, such ventures aren’t in the 2021 editorial plan but a conversation with someone in the business of news distribution last week got me thinking about an opportunity that might present itself sooner rather than later. “I’m not sure how much longer there’ll be pan-European English-language newspapers on the weekend,” he said in a somewhat deflated tone. “Weekday papers have already disappeared from many markets across the continent and I could see one of the two weekend publications shutter its remaining European print operations over the coming year.”

“That’s surprising,” I countered. “I’ve noticed that Saturday and Sunday newspaper sales have actually increased significantly at our kiosk in Zürich over the past nine months. It also strikes me that plenty of people want to get away from their screens and dive into a newspaper on a weekend.”

“I agree,” he said. “And while we have seen some sales lifts, there’s a view that we can no longer make this work.”

I hung up from our call feeling thoroughly depressed. Could it really be the case that newspaper racks would soon be missing such important daily journals?

Not long later my mood took a turn. If this was soon to be decided in a board meeting in a far-off city, did it offer the possibility to fill a gap? And if so, what form might such a title take? Subsequently it will come as no surprise that my office is now filled with paper samples, layouts, dummy mastheads and the other trimmings required to get a sharper view of what shape a new weekly might take – and how it might be distributed to eager readers.

At the time of tapping out this column (Saturday, midday, Central European Time) we’ve landed on a format that we think just might work and also reach letterboxes (yes, physical ones) in a timely manner. It’s a little experiment that will hopefully lead to bigger things and from Monday we’ll start pulling together the debut edition.

We didn’t start the year thinking we’d be launching a thick glossy like Konfekt (the debut edition touched down from Hamburg yesterday; you can order your copy here or find it on newsstands from 9 December) or taking a weekend edition into print format but that’s what happens when you find openings in the market and have a supportive, hungry readership. From next week, you’ll be able to order a special holiday edition of this new bulletin – delivered to most territories served by reliable postal services. More soon.


Sticking it out

When the second wave of coronavirus hit Oslo this autumn, Christian Bielke of graphic design company Bielke & Yang felt an icy chill down his back (writes Thea Urdal). The independent design studio had survived the first set of restrictions in March but now its friends and clients in another vital industry – the restaurant trade – were feeling the bite.

“It’s very unfortunate how some industries have been hit incredibly hard by this pandemic,” says Bielke. “The government relief funds are a start but they’re vague and blunt. We need more direct action.”

That direct action for most means cash. Bielke & Yang decided to use the tools it had to hand to design 14 pastel-coloured stickers, each adorning gift cards that can be spent in independent restaurants to help keep them afloat and encourage people to invest now in meals that they’ll eat in the future. Norwegian illustrators pitched in but there was also help from further afield, including Montréal-based Nicole Kamenovic.

“I actually thought that Nicole’s illustration was so lovely that I got it as a tattoo yesterday,” says Bielke. “It just reminded me of myself: a little gourmand with a snappy cap and a wine bottle under one arm, hoping for better days.” The open-access design project can be used in other markets to help tide struggling restaurants over. Let’s hope that it sticks.

Image: Stephan Lemke


View from the top

Christoph Hoffmann is co-founder of 25hours Hotels, a hospitality brand with outposts across Europe. As CEO he’s responsible for the expansion of the group (a new berth in Dubai will open soon) and development of the brand. Usually his work involves a lot of travel but, when not on the road, Hoffman can be found at his chalet high in the Swiss Alps. From there he tells us why he prefers print and the crusty end of the baguette, and reveals what the future of hospitality should look like.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I have the perfect hideaway in the Alps. It’s in a high mountain valley above beautiful Saanen.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt? A nice run or bike ride in the crisp mountain air, followed by a sauna and a good read.

Soundtrack of choice?
The new Carla Bruni album. It makes you dream of summer, the beach and of having no worries. I’ve also found a nice Spotify playlist called “Travelling Without Moving”, which I like to listen to while I prepare dinner.

What’s for breakfast?
I’ve found the perfect muesli, which I prepare the night before – that way it’s well soaked. I always add a bit of double cream. I’ll enjoy it on the east-facing terrace where, together with the cows and goats, I greet the sun when it climbs over the mountain top.

News or not?
Printed news. Even though Die Zeit is published on Thursdays, the content easily carries through the weekend, while Süddeutsche Zeitung is a nice mix of up-to-date content and more timeless subjects.

What’s for lunch?
I won’t have lunch but I will have an early dinner at my favourite restaurant in Saanen, called 16. It’s run by brothers Nik and Simon Buchs, and has two locations. Its main restaurant is what the future should look like: everything produced in the kitchen comes from two or three valleys around the village.

Larder essentials that you can’t do without?
Goat’s milk from the farmer next door and a bit of Cailler chocolate before going to sleep.

Sunday culture must?
There’s a late-night cultural programme on [Swiss broadcaster] ARD called Titel Thesen Temperamente [“Title Theses Temperaments”] or TTT for short. From highlighting new trends to providing advice on which exhibition is a must-visit, the topics are inspiring. I like Max Moor, the presenter who is the soul behind this weekly production.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
There’s a wonderful red wine called Haiku by Castello Di Ama. One glass might not be enough. Its vineyard in Chianti is to die for; it has a wonderfully unpretentious restaurant.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
Epicure at Le Bristol in Paris. Every dish there is a revelation but it would only be half as good if it wasn’t for the crazy yet very professional waiting staff. Through them I learned about “quignon de pain”, which is the crusty end of a baguette. It’s essential to ask for since it helps to soak up all the wonderful sauces.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
On Sunday evenings, if I’m not on the road, I sometimes like to take it easy and follow an almost nostalgic routine. I watch German crime series Tatort, followed by the talk show Anne Will and then TTT.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
Not while I’m in this valley. I almost always wear my favourite lederhosen here.


Kakiage don

Kakiage, our recipe-writer tells us, is a type of tempura – a light Japanese batter. It’s normally made with shredded vegetables and seafood (particularly prawns) coated in a light batter and deep fried. Add rice if you’re planning to make a meal of it. We’ve also added aonori, a seaweed powder, which is available in most supermarkets or Japanese food shops. You could also blitz a sheet of nori into powder in the food processor but don’t worry if you can’t find it – the recipe works with or without.

Serves 2


150g Japanese short-grain rice (often sold as “sushi rice”)
175ml water
100g prawns
100g butternut squash or sweet potato, cut into 5mm matchsticks
1 medium carrot (about 100g), cut into 3mm matchsticks
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 tsps aonori powder
400ml sunflower oil
75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1.5 tsps baking powder
180ml ice-cold water

For the sauce:
150ml dashi stock. (If you are using powdered dashi, dissolve it in hot water. Or if you are using a dashi pack, which is available in teabag form, soak in water, bring it to a boil and let it infuse for a few minutes. The method and quantity varies depending on the brand so follow the packet instructions.)
4 tbsps soy sauce
1 ½ tbsps mirin
3 tbsps light brown sugar

Optional extra:
Shichimi togarashi powder, a Japanese seven-spice mix and great pantry staple


  1. Wash the rice in a sieve over a bowl, changing the water a few times until the water runs clear. Drain in the sieve to remove excess water and leave it for 15-30 minutes.

  2. Place the rice in a pot (ideally cast iron). Add 175ml water, cover with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as you hear a vigorous boiling sound, reduce the heat to very low and cook for 11 minutes. When the time is up, keep the lid on and leave to steam for a further 10 minutes. Then fluff the rice lightly with a wooden spoon. Put the lid back and keep warm.

  3. As the rice is cooking, prepare the sauce. Place all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat and set it aside in a warm place.

  4. Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot. Put prawn, squash, carrots, onion, aonori powder and 2 tbsps of the flour in a bowl, and toss lightly to coat all of the ingredients.

  5. Sieve the rest of the flour and baking powder into a bowl, then add the ice-cold water. Use a whisk to mix very lightly. It doesn’t need to be incorporated perfectly so don’t worry if there are a few lumps.

  6. Test the oil temperature by dropping in a small amount of the batter. If the batter sinks a little then floats to the surface of the oil quickly, it is ready (180C if you have a thermometer).

  7. Coat a large metal spoon with oil then scoop a quarter of the mixture into a loose fritter and drop gently into the oil. The mixture tends to split up, so carefully use the spoon to keep it together until the mixture is half-cooked and set. Repeat with the rest of the mixture (another three fritters/kakiage). Flip each fritter after 1 minute and cook on the other side for 1 minute until all are cooked. When each kakiage looks crispy and golden, lift it out with a slotted spoon and place it over a metal rack, lined over the kitchen paper.

  8. Heat the sauce. Divide the rice between 2 bowls, drizzle over a bit of sauce, then place 2 kakiage fritters in each bowl. Pour over more sauce, sprinkle with shichimi togarashi and eat immediately.

Image: Alex Cretey Systermans


Rising to the occasion

In the second of a series of stories featured in our new edition of The Forecast, we make for northwestern France to hear how an honest and interesting hospitality businesses is thriving.

If there’s a time of day that best encapsulates the spirit of D’une île, it’s the morning (writes Annick Weber). Come 08.30, the half dozen or so tables at the inn’s communal kitchen are laid out with pots of homemade jam and butter, while the aroma of coffee wafts through the air. As the first guests trickle in for breakfast, staff in linen aprons pull out loaves of golden brioche from the oven, which they serve alongside eggs from a neighbouring farm.

“We have borrowed from the codes of classic hospitality,” says co-owner Théophile Pourriat. “But our vision is more relaxed: we simply host the way we like to be hosted ourselves.” While a lot of care is put into offering a personalised service, D’une île is doing away with many amenities traditionally associated with hotel stays, such as a luggage porter or zippy wi-fi; even mobile-phone coverage is unavailable. True to the inn’s rural setting – in the Perche National Park, a couple of hours west of Paris – the 10 guest rooms feature the type of rustic décor that reflects an urban sensibility without clashing with the historical facets of the former 17th-century farmhouse. “We like to describe D’une île not as a hotel but as our maison de campagne,” says Pourriat.

Together with his business partner Bertrand Grébaut, Pourriat is perhaps better known in hospitality circles as the co-founder of Septime, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris’s Rue Charonne. Branching out from drinking and dining wasn’t something that the duo had previously given much thought to. But after staying at D’une île for a number of weekend breaks, they took over the venture in 2018.

All ingredients on the menu at D’une île are sourced from Normandy, with a large part of the fruit and vegetables grown in the on-site garden, and fish coming from the Chausey Islands. Kitchen staples such as olive oil and lemons are replaced by Perche rapeseed oil and vinegar, and bread is baked fresh daily. “Whether this is the future of hospitality is unsure, as I think there will always be space for palacial hotels where everything is available at all times,” says Pourriat. “But for us, this close-to-nature approach represents who we are.”

For more in our series on intrepid innkeepers, plus a raft of tips for the year ahead, ‘The Forecast’ is out now.


Honoured guests

Taking design cues from 1970s lakeside life in Austin and Barton Springs, this new property from the Bunkhouse group is made primarily from timber. The 89 bright and breezy rooms have concrete floors, built-in walnut beds and colourful Spanish tiles, all connected by walkways across a lush landscape. There’s a terracotta terrazzo bar and a vast sunken pool for those hot, sticky southern afternoons, while the restaurant, Summer House on Music Lane, emphasises smoke and grilling, Texan-style. Hotel guests are encouraged to take part in nature walks.


Still the best

Thailand’s Central Group is reopening the doors of its original outpost on Bangkok’s Charoen Krung Road (writes Nina Milhaud). Popular for its stellar selection of foreign magazines, books and records, the 1950s shop was a favourite among Thais seeking a taste of Western culture. Seventy years on, Central: The Original Store is built afresh into a five-storey multipurpose space reimagined by Belgian architect Vincent van Duysen. “This project is extra sentimental because it is where it all began,” says Khun Barom Bhicharnchitr, Central: The Original Store’s managing director and the fourth generation of the Chirathivat family behind it. “We wanted to do something that pays homage to its history but that also resonates with today.”

Thumb through the colourful postwar magazines, books and curiosities in the shop or enjoy a cup of locally roasted coffee and a Thai breakfast at the house café. The second floor has a members-only library with more books dedicated to the history and know-how of retail. Hungry? Book a table at Aksorn on the top floor of the building to try specialities from the 1950s by chef David Thompson, who has updated recipes from his collection of vintage cookery books. We suggest that you spend the evening crossing the courtyard and sitting down at the jazz bar that’s housed in the rustic rear building. And for a nightcap, head over to the more intimate Audiophile bar on the second floor for late-night revelry featuring the house’s vast vinyl collection.

Illustration: Akira Katsuta


Smarter than the average bear

When it comes to bear sightings in Japan, 2020 has been a bumper year: there were 13,670 recorded between April and September alone (writes Fiona Wilson). In October, a bear was holed up in a shopping centre in Kaga for 13 hours; another attacked a man just as he was about to take a hot-spring dip in the mountain resort town of Minakami.

Experts are putting the brazen ursine behaviour down to a poor acorn harvest and a new generation of bears who simply aren’t afraid of people. The animals are settling in forests on the edges of cities, where they get used to the tooting of car horns and soon graduate to browsing on the high street.

In Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, the bears have been getting a little too close for comfort and fed-up citizens in Takikawa have had enough. In an unusual move they have erected a bizarre-looking robot wolf, complete with fangs and red eyes, that roars and shakes its head if it senses a passing animal (or human, presumably). Although laughably unconvincing, it is by all accounts keeping the bears at bay.

From the concrete confines of central Tokyo it’s easy to forget just how wild Japan can be. It turns out that there are more than 70 other robot wolves protecting crops from rampant deer, boar and bears up and down the country. It’s a bracing reminder that nature is only too happy to take over if we turn our backs. Have a great Sunday, and take care if you go down to the woods today.


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