Sunday 10 January 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 10/1/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Cabin fever

Knock, knock! I hope it’s not too early to pay a visit but given that we’re a little over a week into this non-new year I figured that it was worth an early check-in to see how you’re doing. Don’t worry, I’m not going to stay for long and I’ve brought some flat whites and cinnamon ding-dongs from our café so why don’t we bundle up and sit out on your terrace, and take stock of what’s going on. I know it’s a Sunday in January and all but given that people can’t really travel anywhere it still seems rather lifeless doesn’t it? There’s a jogger here, a man and his dog there, and a couple of kids on kick scooters – that’s about it. When you look down at the slumbering street, how does it make you feel? Are you enjoying this 10th month of silence in the city? Does the stillness have a certain appeal as a recast version of modern urbanism? Or does the lack of life disturb you? Are you finding the absence of any sort of action more than a little soul-sapping? And if you’re reading this in a place that’s perhaps freer, you must still admit that it’s rather stressful when your local government might impose a lockdown even if just one case emerges in the community – à la Brisbane.

In recent weeks much of the focus has been on the new strains of the virus from South Africa and the UK, with considerable government comms and media time allotted to analysing how much more contagious it is or isn’t and whether the vaccines in the current roster are up for this new challenge. What’s been missing from the government press conferences and news tickers is a focus on the new turn that society’s taking, in response to measures that are difficult to comprehend and rules that no longer sync after almost a year of social, physical, emotional and economic isolation.

On Friday evening a small riot erupted not far from Monocle’s Zürich office after groups of minors started misbehaving and soon got into tangles with the police. Over the past few months the country’s efficient rail system has helped to turn this particular area into a hub for kids to gather because sports clubs are closed, a collapsed catering industry means no part-time jobs and quotas on gathering at home mean that your only option is to converge wherever the trains do. This weekend a new 18.00 curfew begins in the Alsace region of France – no evening walks; stay in until morning. With everything else already shuttered across France, is this really going to make much of a difference? Can young and old accept that another turn of the screw is going to control the virus while they’re further cut off from the welcome rhythms of daily life? The We’re Opening Up movement is calling for a day of civil disobedience tomorrow by the retail and catering trade in many countries across Europe as once-compliant shopkeepers and restaurant owners are seeking compelling evidence that an open outdoor terrace is really more dangerous than a half-packed tram.

As we stare at our hibernating high streets and neighbourhoods, is it not time for health authorities to recognise that chained-up tables and chairs, rolled-up awnings and derelict shops are simply depressing? As we shuffle zombie-like into another year of curbs and empty calendars, shouldn’t we be pushing for more proportionate measures that balance mental health while slowing the virus? If many of the rules we’re living with are little more than guesswork, then isn’t there a case to be made in support of guesswork that also helps to bring people back into the daylight or beneath the glow of a lamppost? Rioting Swiss teens and the rise of disobedient shopkeepers suggest that it’s time for a swift rebalance. The past week has shown how quickly things can unravel.


The inn crowd

At a moment when pubs in the UK are being drubbed by rising rents, moany noise-averse neighbours and the not insubstantial pressures of national lockdowns, it can be odd what makes us miss them most (writes Josh Fehnert). It might be a rumbling tum as you pass a shuttered local, a pang of thirst or just somewhere for rest and, ahem, relief after a long lockdown amble.

For regular Hampstead Heath yompers and residents, and their forebears for more than 200 years, The Bull & Last has long answered such appetites: for Scotch eggs, swift halves and the good-natured hospitality that pubs – and really only neighbourhood ones – still serve. Published by Etive Pubs, The Bull & Last is a handsome new 300-plus page book packed to the rafters with the institution’s just-so recipes (70 dishes for human consumption and a paw-full for dogs). It’s also freckled with recollections and reassertions of the pub’s pivotal role in north London life, particularly thanks to smart renovations by owners Ollie Pudney and Joe Swiers over the past 12 years.

The pandemic has upended countless lives and livelihoods, and The Bull & Last is a potent reminder of what we’ve missed. Unless we safeguard our honest and interesting neighbourhood institutions, we stand to lose more than just a decent spot for a Sunday Lunch.


Bake on

Anne Petersen is a popular author and editor of fetching German-language food and interiors quarterly Salon magazine. Here she tells us about her latest book, Legendary Dinners, which is published by Prestel. She also reveals what she’s been baking, picks a wine to watch and shares items from her reading list.

Where do we find you this weekend?
At home, baking. Over Christmas I made one of my all-time favourites, Basler Läckerli [a traditional, hard, spiced biscuit from Basel].

What have you been working on lately?
I finished my book Legendary Dinners – we are already printing the second edition. It is a blend of recipes with cultural history, a collection of the best dinner parties ever, such as the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier or Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball at the Plaza Hotel.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Everything slows down at this time of year. So I’ll read a few more pages of my books; currently Guestbook by Leanne Shapton and Sebastian Haffner’s Churchill.

What’s for breakfast?
Rye bread with Nutella – only at weekends.

News or not?
Süddeutsche Zeitung on Saturdays. On Sunday I’ll be listening to NDR Info [North German Radio].

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Walking up three floors to throw my daughter out of bed, followed by running laps in Jenisch Park (the oldest landscaped park in Hamburg).

What’s for lunch?
Anything from Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest cookbook, Ottolenghi Flavour.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Fresh vegetables, tonnes of apples and yeast for bread.

Sunday culture must?
I will start reading The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
The 2018 auxerrois by wine-maker Johannes Aufricht from Bodensee. A quite unknown grape, slightly smoother than chardonnay. It’s the same fruit but with tarragon notes and a trace of cinnamon.

A favourite dinner venue?
Schauenstein Castle in Fürstenau, Switzerland. We were lucky to be able to shoot a film there with three-Michelin-starred chef Andreas Caminada for Salon magazine this month. Even if you can’t get there, we captured the atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
Having a hot bath with Frédéric Malle’s Portrait of a Lady foam bath.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
Definitely not. Instead, I think about how I can get dressed up at home. My new floor-length tunic by Russian designer Alexander Terekhov – probably with Chanel pumps. Just for the fun of it.


Parsnip and parmesan soup

This week our Japanese-born recipe writer has prepared a warming winter dish that’s ideal for any remaining parsnips. With the saline tang of parmesan and the crunch of toasted pumpkin seeds for texture, this satisfying soup is best enjoyed with warm bread.

Serves 2-4


600g parsnips – washed, top and tail cut off, chopped into 3cm cubes (no need to peel)
1 whole head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
60ml olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 large pinch of cracked black pepper
1 litre chicken stock
75g parmesan cheese, roughly chopped, plus 25g for parmesan crisps
4 tbsps pumpkin seeds
Warm bread to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Put the parsnips, garlic, onion and thyme in a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss lightly. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until the edges of the parsnips start to brown.
  2. While you are roasting the vegetables, prepare the parmesan crisps and pumpkin seeds. Place non-stick baking paper on a baking tray and grate 25g parmesan very finely over it. Spread it evenly and thinly. Place pumpkin seeds next to the cheese to toast. Put the tray in the oven for 5 minutes, until the cheese melts and crisps up and pumpkin seeds are toasted.
  3. Remove from the oven and set aside. When the cheese crisps cool and harden, break them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside with the toasted pumpkin seeds.
  4. Remove the vegetable tray from the oven. Squeeze the garlic from its skin. Tip the roasted vegetables and garlic into a pot and pour over the chicken stock. Bring it to a boil. Turn the heat to low and cook until the parsnips are soft (around 20 minutes).
  5. Remove the thyme, add the 75g chopped parmesan and blend with a stick blender until smooth.
  6. Sprinkle toasted pumpkin seeds and parmesan crisps, and serve with warm bread.


In good taste

In our Swiss-themed December/January issue, which is out now, we take a culinary tour with chef – and our regular recipe writer – Ralph Schelling. Here are five lesser-known culinary treats and tips for your next trip to the Helvetic Republic.

Berceau des Sens for 
a memorable meal

A smart affair in Lausanne
 with a twist: it’s attached to the venerable EHL hospitality school. Expect to be served and catered for by the crème de la crème of the nation’s hospitality students.

Biohof Las Sorts for ‘Albulataler Bergkartoffeln’
Grown in the sandy soil of the Albula valley, 1,000 metres above sea level, the colourful mountain potatoes here are an unexpected treat that you will surely dig.

Moment for the daily changing menu

This two-storey restaurant in the Swiss capital takes seasonal ingredients and regional specialities to new heights. Great for fans of natural wine.

La Dolcevita for ‘gelato alla farina bona’

Don’t miss La Dolcevita for its ice cream made from roasted cornflour. A tempting Ticino classic that hints at the cross-cultural influences on the Italian border.
4 Via Vincenzo D’Alberti, Locarno

Zum See for rösti or a creamy treat

“Zum See is directly on the slopes,” says Ralph. “It is great for rösti and the classics and has the very best Cremeshcnitte [a creamy puff-pastry dessert].”

For more of the best Swiss food, tuck into our bumper December/January double issue.


Sky-high standards

Travel bans and lockdowns notwithstanding, the hotel industry around the world is still on the move. Set between the 31st and 36th floors of a new 180-metre-tall building, The Tokyo Edition, Toranomon opened its doors in autumn just in time for an unexpectedly quiet festive season. For Marriott International’s first Edition hotel in the capital, Mori Trust collaborated with US hotelier and creative director Ian Schrager, and Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

Schrager has created a green oasis in the lobby with more than 500 plants, while Kuma finished the interior with natural materials and a forest of white oak. The 206-room hotel will have two restaurants, The Jade Room and Garden Terrace by British chef Tom Aikens (both slated to open this year). There will also be two lounge bars, a spa and gym. Just a 15-minute jog from the Imperial Palace, the new spot has great views of the city and is set to be a seemly staging post when international travel and guests return to the Japanese capital.


Cheap trills

When it comes to music, I love a little bit of electro pop, or perhaps some Brazilian bossa (writes Fernando Augusto Pacheco). But we all have our musical secrets and mine is the fact that I quite enjoy listening to yodelling or some light-hearted Schlager (somewhat schmaltzy German pop). For years I’ve secretly browsed through yodelling videos from the Swiss “Queen of Yodelling” Melanie Oesch; check out her “Jodelmedley” – you won’t regret it. When I spoke with Oesch for Monocle 24’s The Briefing in December, she told me that yodelling, a traditional sonorous manner of inter-mountain communication, remains unexpectedly strong in Switzerland.

Perhaps it’s the idea of all that crisp mountain air and the lure of the great outdoors that captured my imagination while locked down in London’s Soho. “Yodel is a philosophy, it spreads joy and good energy, especially in these times,” says Oesch, ignoring the fact that the WHO might frown on this most unusual of mountain chants if practised indoors. Oesch even showed me – on air and with gusto – the different types of yodel she practises, from her speciality (the tongue yodel) to a throatier Tarzan-inspired number, which she warns is quite difficult to do well (full disclosure: I haven’t tried and can’t see the neighbours approving). She and her family group, Oesch’s die Dritten, have just released a new album, Die Reise geht weiter, which is out – and, fair warning, very out there – now. It has my full-throated support.


Counting the positives

It is common among sneering pundits to mock the apparently demented micromanaging that goes into political PR. There are reasons, however, for the interminable meetings and uncountable emails behind the most innocuous of photo ops – as was demonstrated this week in Israel when even the most inveterate stager, Benjamin Netanyahu, was caught out.

Netanyahu wanted to celebrate Israel’s formidable progress in distributing coronavirus vaccines – and not unreasonably. It was arranged for him to pose for a picture with the millionth recipient. It appeared to be an open goal, and should have been a tap-in.

But whatever research Netanyahu’s team did into the lucky recipient – 66-year-old Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin of Umm al-Fahm, a largely Arab town in Israel’s north – was insufficiently rigorous to disinter a picturesque criminal history, including convictions for weapons smuggling and robbery, and 14 years in prison. Awkward.

But it could have been even worse. Initial reports falsely suggested that Jabarin had also done time for manslaughter. In something of an inadvertent lesson in the dynamics of spin, the initial scandal was consumed by the apologies of the media outlets who had inflamed it – and Israel’s millionth vaccination received vastly more press than it would have done had it been administered to some altogether blameless citizen. A victory, of sorts.


Home improvement

Our homes aren’t just buildings that we inhabit, they’re also made by the streets that surround us and the neighbourhoods that ground us (writes Josh Fehnert). For all the pain lockdowns have wrought on urban life, now is a moment for citizens and city planners alike to reconsider how to improve the places we live in – now and down the road. Here’s a wish list of gentle interventions for getting city living back on track in 2021.

1. Deal with density
Too many new-build homes are ugly, charmless glass-and-steel behemoths that were bad when they were planned and seem even less suitable after a year of being cooped up. We need to imagine homes that can adapt, which generations can share and that offer dignity and delight to residents – not simply profits for the developers. Might repurposing some of those vacant city-centre shops and office buildings be a good start?

2. Parks and recreation
Green space is good for us – mentally and physically – but when was the last time your city set out a plan to add to it meaningfully? Some cities are getting better at planting trees (often young and years from providing anything in the way of shade) but we need more pocket parks, public gardens and allotments. Some wildlife and wilderness are reminders of what it means to share space.

3. Cycling and strolling
As people have flown less and shirked public transport, we’ve all practised getting around on our own steam more – and so routes for cycling, walking and better wayfinding must follow to maintain this momentum. The much-referenced Legible London signage scheme (designed by Applied Wayfinding and Lacock Gullam) is still a benchmark but from 2006. Surely it’s time for another phase of putting our feet first. The UK capital did add bike lanes during lockdown but anyone who’s braved them can see the perils of tacking them onto busy roads.

4. Places to replenish
The upside of cleaning up your waterways? It helps urban wildlife to thrive, creates pleasant places to swim, increases transport options, drives footfall and makes areas more attractive. The downside? It takes investment, planning and time. Zürich has crystalline waters by the lake-full and its 1,200 fountains (from the grand to the odd) offer thirst-quenching, face-splashing spaces that help keep residents refreshed – but it didn’t happen by chance. It’s time to splash out a little on those gungy canals, ponds and rivers.

5. Extend an olive branch
Last up, there’s always space for citizens as well as city halls to pitch in on a gentle urban refresh. Placing a few plants outside your home or tending a patch beyond your property is a modest but meaningful act of faith that radiates out and helps beautify and soften streets – a rather fetching concept that the Japanese call jisaki engei. It’s time we took a leaf out of their book. Oh, and have a lovely Sunday.

‘The Monocle Book of Gentle Living’ is out now and published by Thames & Hudson.


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