Sunday 7 February 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 7/2/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Brighter days

It’s Friday evening and the sun is just about to dip behind the hills surrounding Zürich. It’s been one of those days on which everyone you encounter is in a tremendous mood. Sunny, crisp days in this stretch of Europe can have that effect in these odd times. And thank goodness.

The day started with a perky diplomat-cum-marketeer from Switzerland’s Department of Foreign Affairs settling into our comfy conference chairs for a meeting that meandered in a most productive manner. Shortly after, a friend from a Basel-based pharma company arrived for a long lunch and we tackled various topics of the day. Why isn’t Switzerland mobilising the military to get vaccines distributed and injected, restoring public confidence? Will business travel bounce back with a vengeance? And will it be another summer of mostly domestic travel?

Shortly after lunch, my French neighbour Solène dropped me a note to see what was happening. A quick scan of my schedule revealed a generous gap between 16.45 and 18.30 and I suggested that we meet in front of our café for drinks and that she should bring along some playmates. Upstairs in the office it was good vibes all round with our COO suggesting an early round of drinks for all colleagues and pages for our upcoming March issue whirring out of the printer and being pinned to the wall. (For the avoidance of doubt, a magazine cannot come together remotely and it’s essential that it’s seen in its entirety, interrogated, reassembled and then sent to print.)

I made my way downstairs at 16.44 to wait for the Frenchies and then remembered that they’ve yet to master the fine art of Swiss timekeeping so I poked around the café, greeted some regulars and straightened the shelves. Back out on the street you could smell the gentle scent of the lake and despite it showing 5 February on the calendar it felt like winter had already bowed out for the year. Solène soon appeared with Larkin (see yesterday’s Interrogator for more on this new neighbour) and Astrid. Shortly after, Henri pulled up on his bike. With the first round of drinks distributed we all agreed that, for reasons undetermined, we’d all had a super Friday – deals landed, businesses established, art sold, et cetera.

Soon our COO (her name is Anna, by the way) and our senior editor Nolan were on the street and the regulars who usually pop in for an end-of-day takeaway espresso were swapping their final caffeine jolt for beers and negronis. Before long there were 15 or so people standing on the pavement catching the last bit of daylight while mingling and chatting. At this point it’s worth pointing out that under current Swiss government public-health measures restaurants, cafés and bars are not allowed to make outdoor seating available to customers (though you can visit a brothel and have your nails done) but we’ve left our benches out nevertheless and fixed little notes to each suggesting that it’s a good idea not to sit on them as the government doesn’t want you to. Initially, I thought our customers wouldn’t pay much attention to the signage but it turns out that social capital remains high in Zürich (or at least with the Monocle set) and almost no one dares sit.

As darkness fell, neighbours Alex and Maria joined and then architect friend Yosuke popped over from across town. The negronis were flying out the door, the conversation was sunny and, after a two-month pause, life had suddenly returned to our little stretch of the city. A police van crept past a few times but they didn’t seem bothered by our gathering and at one point I think I clocked a knowing, approving nod from one officer.

We were about to wrap things for the evening when I spotted a well-attired gent coming our way with a guitar. “Would you play us something?” I asked. “And can I get you a beer?” When I returned with a frosty bottle of Forst he was already seated on a chained-up chair strumming and tuning. “The song is called Sunrise,” he said to our little group, as if it was the most normal thing to be intercepted on the street, handed a beer and asked to perform. Sunrise magically summed up the day, raised the mood and maybe even represented a civilised moment of protest. One thing’s for sure: when all of this lifts, we’ll be launching a special series of Monocle acoustic sessions in Zürich, London and beyond. See you then.


Curry favour

The leafy suburb of Lane Cove on Sydney’s Lower North Shore is home to the newest opening from chef Milan Strbac.

Building on the reputation and menu of his fêted outposts in Coogee and Surry Hills, this latest restaurant is a melting pot of Southeast Asian flavours. Be sure to sample Strbac’s trademark hiramasa kingfish ceviche and the supremely rich wagyu beef rendang curry.


Top grilling

Meret Diener and former Monocle staffer Linda Hüsser first served their impossibly tasty grilled cheese sandwiches at Monocle’s 2020 Christmas Market on Dufourstrasse 90 (writes Carlo Silberschmidt). As of this month, they’ve taken to the streets and are serving from a kiosk window at Olé Olé bar in Zürich (the watering hole itself is currently in enforced hibernation). The pair, who met during their studies at Lausanne’s hotel management school, set about making a comforting best-in-class snack made solely from ingredients sourced nearby. Flour from the city mill in Tiefenbrunnen is transformed into crisp sourdough toast, while the combination of Swiss cheeses add just the right balance of creaminess and tang.

Hüsser and Diener spent last summer preparing the venture by pickling and preserving a selection of toppings, from cherries to apples and plums from Diener’s own fruit trees. The caramelised onions and homemade mustard are superb but it’s the unexpected hint of fruit that elevates the snack from something you’d try once to something you’d schlep across town to taste again. Your charming hosts will also be on hand to dole out a generous glass of Swiss white.

Open in February from Tuesday to Saturday at Olé Olé bar, Zürich.


Thought for food

Hailing from Alberta, Canada, restaurateur and entrepreneur Lindsay Jang moved to Hong Kong 12 years ago with business partner Matt Abergel. She is the co-founder of three of Hong Kong’s best Japanese-inspired restaurants, Monocle favourites Yardbird HK, Ronin and Roti Tori, as well as food shop Sunday’s Grocery and drink brand Sunday’s Spirits. She has also somehow found the time to launch creative communications agency Hecho. Here she reveals a penchant for pizza with pineapple and the joys of clearing the calendar after a heavy night, and sheds some light on her Sunday evening beauty regime.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’ll be at my friend’s house for a barbecue with our children. I try to spend time with family but my kids are at an age when getting them to participate can be a challenge.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I’ve been working on a new fitness brand I’m launching called Family Form, so I’ll wake up for 07.00 and then start work at about 09.00. Unless I’m hungover, in which case I’ll clear my entire calendar and stay in bed all day.

Soundtrack of choice?
My go-to is Lauryn Hill.

What’s for breakfast?
If I eat breakfast, it would be sourdough with either butter and jam or peanut butter. Plus an old-school American drip coffee.

Lunch in or out?
Out. I try to support my friends at their establishments nearby, plus I tend to eat at my own restaurants. Or else Emmer and La Camionetta are my favourite pizza places. I’d happily eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
There’s always enough food in the kitchen to have a taco night. Living in New York for so long and then being in Los Angeles, I miss Mexican food – my favourite after pizza. We bastardise it.

Sunday culture must?
My girlfriend just got a rooftop in Sheung Wan, where we drink wine and talk about fashion, art or whatever is going on. That’s my cultural lowdown.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Sunday’s Whisky mixed with a can of Kimino, which is a brand of flavoured sparkling water from Japan launched by a friend.

The ideal dinner menu?
Pizza again. People reading might lose all respect for me but if it was my last meal on earth, I would order a ham and pineapple pizza with extra pineapple and a stuffed crust from Pizza Hut. I’m not afraid of my suburban roots. If I wasn’t dying, I would say the mortadella and ricotta pizza from La Camionetta.

Who’s joining?
My children, my boyfriend, my sisters, my sister-in-law and probably some people from my neighbourhood.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I like to be in bed early on Sunday. I have an LED mask that I love, so I might take an extra 20 minutes for that before bed.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? If so, what will you be wearing?
No. Never. My motto is to always be ready and for me this means always being ready to exercise. Usually I just open my closet and wear whatever I feel like – it’s usually fine for the occasion.


Spaghetti with ricotta, lemon, bacon and spinach

Entertaining needn’t always be a fiddly affair and this crowd-pleasing one-pot pasta is proof. The smoked bacon and parmesan add a saline touch that’s lifted by the zing of lemon zest and the reassuring addition of creamy ricotta. It might sound unusual to add the bacon and cheese before the water but go with us on this one – and enjoy.

Serves 2


1 tbsp olive oil
250g ricotta
35g parmesan
Zest of 1 lemon
100g cubed smoked bacon
200g spaghetti
½ tsp salt
700ml boiling water
2 big handfuls baby spinach (approx 125g)
Crushed black pepper


A frying pan or pot, with a lid, that is wide enough to lay the spaghetti flat along the bottom.


  1. Put pasta in the pan, then add the rest of the ingredients except the spinach and black pepper.
  2. Pour in boiling water and cover with a lid. Bring it to a boil, then remove the lid and stir from time to time. Cook for 8 minutes, until the water evaporates and sauce thickens – the pasta should be al dente by this time. Add the spinach and stir until wilted.
  3. Turn off the heat. Divide it into pasta bowls and serve with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.


Come on grandma

I can tell you from bitter experience that, contrary to the clichés, not everyone’s grandmother is a gatekeeper of great – or even edible – recipes (writes Josh Fehnert). My thoughts aside, Thessaloniki-based visual communication agency Beetroot has adopted the idea of the loving, dab-handed Greek grandmother to great effect. Cretan food firm Yiayia and Friends (yiayia means “granny”) produces olive oil, sun-dried tomato and onion rusks, and mandarin biscuits, plus plenty of pantry staples besides. Every product’s packaging is colourfully adorned with Beetroot’s characters and available in independent shops around Europe, as well as across the US and Australia.

“Yiayia would never make it through a typical process of marketing or sales rules and consumer research groups,” says Beetroot account manager Konstantinos Poulopoulos, whose firm also created postcards and notebooks to build out the brand. “But it felt really good in our hearts. Like an instinct, dictating that we were on the right track,” he says.

Yiayia and Friends will open a dedicated shop in Thessaloniki later this year and is working on a range of colouring books, aprons and cutting boards, plus an educational programme for children based around a balanced diet, sustainability and eating well. “Nowadays, when a brand mostly lives in a digital world, we felt that the story, the visuals and the values are what’s important for conscious consumers,” says Poulopoulos. Proof if it were needed that yiayia knows best.


Peddle to the medal

While Japan is still agonising over whether to go ahead with its spectacularly expensive summer Games, China is already trumpeting its preparedness for next February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing (writes Fiona Wilson). Tokyo’s gleaming Olympic venues have yet to be used, while China is already showing off such marvels as the National Speed Skating Oval (known as the “Ice Ribbon”) and immodestly crowing that its preparations “have been highly praised by all parties”.

Chinese state tabloid The Global Times also threw its own bucket of cold water over Tokyo’s diminishing Olympic cheer. “Even if every attendee to the Tokyo Olympics has been vaccinated, it is still impossible to create a bubble around the Games, as no current vaccines are 100 per cent effective,” it said, barely concealing its delight at the awkward position that this puts Tokyo in. The Japanese government has been careful not to point fingers at China over the origins of the pandemic – there’s too much at stake economically – and China’s smugness has to hurt.

Japan’s economy has been ravaged by the virus and its vision of a stadium-packed post-coronavirus Games is all but in tatters. Still, it’s not all plain-sailing for Beijing either. More than 160 human-rights groups have called on the IOC to move the games and there are still murmurs about an international boycott – and all that’s before the world evaluates the risk of a mass gathering in China down the line. The race to stage a successful post-pandemic Olympic Games is far from run.


Better connections

The headlines are plastered with stories about how technology firms have fallen short but shouldn’t we also take some responsibility for the vanity and vitriol that can sometimes make online interactions unpleasant (writes Josh Fehnert)? In the second batch of our digital decency initiatives we suggest seeking a better balance – and more responsible relationship – with the technology that surrounds us. Go on, be nice.

1. Watch your tone
Email is an oddly ambiguous way to communicate and passive-aggressive behaviour is quickly amplified if you don’t check yourself. So take special pains to be clear and pleasant. No excuses: no one’s too busy for manners and a little decency can go a long way – we’d all feel less stressed if the people on the other end of the keyboard were more positive, polite and kind.

2. Hold back
Fewer emails will make everyone happier. Everyone’s busy – even more so as our work pursues us into our homes and leisure time. When it comes to work, we all need to think more carefully and ask, “Does that last message need sending?” The office might be paperless but it hasn’t gone away; it has morphed into vast energy-intensive servers packed with useless data, nowhere emails and round-robins that were never opened. So be sparing.

3. Be humane
You’re talking through a phone or laptop, not to one. It’s too easy to forget the human at the other end. Instant messaging is excellent for efficiency but it takes more than a phone in every pocket to overcome our hardwired human (and hard-to-emulate-online) need for trust and camaraderie. Don’t cut and paste a response; say something and mean it. Also, marketeers and mass emailers take heed: there’s nothing less flattering than an automated reply or, worse, a cookie-cutter response with the wrong name at the top.

4. Ask permission
Not everyone wants to be in your home movie, your advert, your brand launch, your family video-call quiz, your panoramic phone shot or your selfie. Spare a thought for the passersby who didn’t consent to star in your self-made, one-person psychodrama. Take pictures and capture the important moments, by all means – but leave others out of it unless they have agreed to a walk-on role.

5. Seek out both sides of the argument
The internet doesn’t do nuance very well – but you can. Algorithms guide us guilelessly to people who agree with us and our echo chambers become ever more entrenched to the point of polarity: we don’t recognise the people we disagree with or the common ground we share. That’s dangerous – and it’s up to us to solve it. You might not get a full concession to your opinions. Bad luck. But the important thing is how you conduct yourself – and when you decide to walk away. Speaking of which, have a great Sunday.

For more of Monocle’s full Digital Decency Manifesto and 50 ideas on how to hit play this year, pick up a copy of our February issue. If you’re having trouble getting to a newsstand you can also access our journalism online with The Monocle Digital Editions.

A different view with David Alhadeff

Perched above the buzz of Beverly Hills sits Casa Perfect, a gallery of contemporary design set in a spectacular modernist home. Its founder David Alhadeff shows us the wealth of remarkable art and architecture that is to be found in the varied neighbourhoods of this sunny city. Monocle Films has partnered with Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau to reveal hidden gems through the eyes of local creatives.


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