Sunday 7 March 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 7/3/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Loaded questions

It’s been a while since I’ve hosted a Sunday morning quiz so why don’t you settle in properly before I fire off the questions. Go fix (or order) another coffee, make another round of toast, let the dog out, send the kids down to the shop for the papers and maybe switch on Monocle 24 so you can catch up with this column’s audio sibling. If you forget how this goes, it’s all pretty straightforward. I’ve prepared ten questions and all you need to do is come up with the sharpest, wittiest answers and send them back to me.

The best answers will be published in a special edition of this dispatch next Sunday and the prizes are as follows: third prize is a monogrammed set of Leuchtturm1917 x Monocle notebooks in three useful sizes; second prize is a copy of The Monocle Book of Italy; and the top prize is, wait for it, a chic luggage combo (our special-edition Ace wheely cabin case and accompanying tote) for all that travelling you’ve been dreaming about for the past 12 months. Ready? Remember to keep answers short and sharp; the contest closes at 19.00 CET on Monday and you can direct your answers to me at Here we go.

  1. If you’re a resident near Hyde Park in London or spend much time in an urban environment where horses can clatter down the street en route to use urban green spaces you’ll be familiar with this little tableau. It’s Saturday morning, you’re out walking your dog and a couple of horses pass by on their morning trot. They’re majestic, they’re gleaming in the early spring light and all the morning activity has made their tummies active. As they’re about to cross a main intersection the one in the lead gently lifts its tail and then leaves a steaming mountain range of horse dump across four lanes of a busy street, saving a little extra for the sidewalk. As an obedient, civic-minded dog owner you look on in slack-jawed amazement, clutching your little red poop bags. Why do dog owners get fined for not cleaning up after their pooches but horse-owners are exempt and can let their steeds dump away with great delight?

  2. After a year where many have existed on a diet of extreme binge viewing, why hasn’t someone created a premium viewing-sans-frontieres service, which recognises that many people have bank accounts outside the countries where they reside, might have temporarily relocated to (are stranded on) the other side of the world or simply want to watch something in a language that might not be on offer in the place they happen to call home? Please note that recommending a VPN service or breaking the law does not count as an answer.

  3. Is it okay to wear high-waisted, rib-cage-skimming denim if you’re male and over 30? Even over 20?

  4. What’s the name of our editor in chief’s dog?

  5. Bonus question: what’s the breed?

  6. I’m told that Tesla’s vehicles are a joy to drive but why are they so uncomfortable for passengers? (Please note: if you disagree with this truth, you’re disqualified from the competition.)

  7. What happened to the kale boom? Are there millions of hectares of empty fields? And what about all those skipping ropes that were purchased about nine months ago?

  8. We’ve heard a lot of “the home office is here to stay; the traditional office is dead”. In ten words or less, what would a typical Monocle response be to this?

  9. Why is our London hub called Midori House?

  10. Finally, Monocle is lining up its next Quality of Life Conference. Where’s it taking place?

Winners will appear here next week.


Use your loaf

The furutsu sando (fruit sandwich) has been a staple of Japanese coffee shops and convenience stores for years (writes Fiona Wilson). At its best, the combination of crustless white bread, sweet cream and sliced fruit can be as light and fluffy as a cake. And now the snack has gone upmarket at Fruits and Season, a new shop in Tokyo’s Ebisu neighbourhood that uses only top-drawer fruit from Daiwa Supermarket – the originator of the new-wave sando – in the city of Okazaki in central Japan.

The menu features regular and seasonal fruits; this month’s in-season offerings include juicy jutaro citrus from Shizuoka and succulent yayoi hime strawberries from Ibaraki prefecture. Instead of the often sickly-sweet cream filling, Fruits and Season uses a homemade, low-cal, soy-milk alternative. It’s great, but not cheap: a set of four pointy and picturesque sandwiches will set you back ¥4,320 (€33). Despite the price point, there is no shortage of takers: the queue of young patrons extends down the quiet street from morning onwards.


Haute comforts

Friendly service and homely flavours are elevated to fine-dining heights at O’neul (which translates to “today”) in the Dongbinggo-dong area of the South Korean capital. The restaurant seems to soothe the senses and the simple dishes complement the airy, unadorned space.

The lack of attention-grabbing décor means that you’re free to focus on the flavours. Exceptional ingredients benefit from extraordinary care in every dish. The yukgaejang, a rich beef soup, is simmered for 12 hours and the house kimchi has been fermented for years, not months. Leave room for the ssuk tteok waffle, a chewy rice-cake hybrid that’s tinged green with mugwort.

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Sense of taste

Eric Vallat has had a storied career working with luxury labels. In roles as varied as president of Christian Dior Couture Japan and managing director of JM Weston, he’s overseen the growth of major brands in Asia and Europe. Now at the head of French drinks group Rémy Cointreau – beloved for its namesake Rémy Martin cognac and Cointreau liqueur – he proffers some tasteful tips on aperitifs and reminisces about dining while perched on a sand dune.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I am in Paris this weekend dealing with budgets. But I was lucky enough to spend a recent weekend in the Alps, Nordic skiing. It’s a good way to refresh and to energise.

What have you been working on recently?
I advise an automatic-watch brand that I invested in a few years ago, which was founded by a friend I met when I was living in Japan. I also try to write a sonnet every Sunday.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
The ideal start is a one-hour jog, listening to a podcast about history before a well-deserved shower and breakfast. It can take place anywhere but the best place to jog is Bassin d’Arcachon in the southwest of France.

Soundtrack of choice?
Currently it’s “Kisses Back” by Matthew Koma. You can find me singing it aloud in my car or on my bike on the way to the office.

What’s for breakfast?
I often skip breakfast and replace it with a 10-minute stretching session – some might call this yoga – then a fresh fruit juice.

News or not?
Sometimes. Over the past few months the pandemic has been overwhelming. It is such a drama that it deserves this coverage but I do feel the need to skip the news from time to time.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
I run at least twice a week. And when I am not injured – which is less and less as I get older – I play tennis and participate in triathlons.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
There are many. Cointreau for a nice summer margarita – or any time. A Chassagne Montrachet white burgundy or J de Telmont champagne as an aperitif. Côtes du Rhône red wine with a meal. And an old Mount Gay Rum or a Rémy Martin XO on the rocks for a treat after dinner.

Sunday culture must?
I am fond of books on history, be they novels, biographies or essays. I am currently reading a book about “Putzi”, or Ernst Hanfstaengl, known to be a pianist for Hitler before becoming a special advisor to Roosevelt.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
I’d recommend a glass of Octomore from the Bruichladdich distilleries. It’s astonishingly smooth and subtle for one of the most peated whiskies in the world – if not the most. And for the ultimate treat, a glass of the Louis XIII Cognac.

A favourite dinner venue?
La Coorniche. Decorated by Philippe Starck and located on the highest sand dune in Europe, in the South of France, this restaurant offers the best view I have ever seen. That or any terrace in Paris, no matter the restaurant.

Will you lay out your look for Monday?
On Monday I will be wearing a brown jacket, a blue turtleneck and corduroy trousers, with sneakers.


Lemongrass and coconut soup

This restorative soup is an excellent starter for preparing the palette. It takes just a few minutes to rustle up and half an hour to simmer. You could also add lemon leaves, coriander or a fresh lime for flavour, or even bulk out the recipe with extra greens, seared tofu or chicken to turn this into a warming lunch. Enjoy.

Starter for 4

2 small shallots
100g sweet potato
2 tbsps coconut oil
3 stalks of lemongrass, cut
20g galangal
2 tbsps Thai curry paste
300ml vegetable broth
500ml coconut milk
½ chilli pepper
2 tbsps soy sauce


  1. Roughly chop shallots and peeled sweet potato. Sauté in the oil in a pan on a medium heat with the lemongrass and galangal for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add Thai curry paste and sauté briefly before adding the vegetable broth, coconut milk and chilli pepper. Let everything simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
  3. Remove galangal and chilli pepper, and discard. Blend the soup finely with a hand blender, pass through a sieve then season to taste with soy sauce. Serve warm in small bowls as a tasty starter.


Aiming high

Martin Ramstrup rarely misses his mark. The former Danish shooting champion came to the island of Bornholm more than 10 years ago, and when its oldest hotel came up for sale he transformed it into a tranquil, 33-key escape.

“I want to share my passion for travel, nature and adventure in the guesthouse’s redesign,” he says. Terraces face the splendid Baltic coast, while the interiors are all wood-burning stoves, comfy leather chairs and vintage bric-a-brac. Best enjoyed with a candle-lit Danish dinner.


Cure and simple

“How do you want to feel?” is the slightly nebulous first thing you’re asked when you step into the new Herbarium Officinale shop in Vienna’s 1st district. This might put you on the spot but unlike the doctor’s stock opener, “What seems to be the trouble?”, the greeting is not an invitation to recite a list of grievances but rather a chance to find out what you might be missing. You’ll doubtlessly reply that you’d like to feel better in some way and although it’s not a pharmacy, the shop’s wide range of herbs and organic goodies – powder, capsules, teas or tinctures – can help improve your health, according to co-founder Richard Lanczmann (pictured, on left).

The ingredients come from around the world before being mixed and prepared on-site to Herbarium’s recipes. “We believe that herbs should be brought back to the centre of society. They are so useful; they do so much good.” For that purpose, Lanczmann picked a location in the very heart of Vienna – on the Hoher Markt with its historic art nouveau clock – assuring a high footfall from curious passersby. Occupying a grey area between strong chemical treatments and airy-fairy cures, Herbarium’s products aren’t an alternative to medicine but can help everyday issues from poor sleep to bad digestion. There are also products for boosting the immune system. “People call them ‘little’ problems but they’re not little,” says co-owner Sophie Huber.

Lanczmann has also made a point of installing a small café at the entrance of the shop where customers can try many of the products available, or ask for tips. “In a pharmacy, you usually want to leave as fast as you can. But in Herbarium we want our customers to stay as long as they want and to feel welcome.” Maybe there’s a cure for retail hidden in here too?


Parting shot

Nobody likes a queue jumper, least of all when such a creature is barging to the front under cover of elected office (writes Andrew Mueller). It ought, you might think, to be axiomatic that any leader of a country rolling out a coronavirus vaccine would make a point of waiting their turn.

Some have. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said that she was not a priority, and deferred to nurses, cleaners, security guards and others running a greater day-to-day risk of infection. Others, intriguingly, have not been so magnanimous.

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, is among the few people in his country to have received a jab. Malaysia’s prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, made a point of being the very first in his. In these and other similar cases, they said that they were setting an example and demonstrating that the vaccines were safe – although, such is the tenacity of anti-vax dingbats, it would be astonishing to learn that a single mind had been changed.

That this is a difficult judgement to make is illustrated by the case of Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, who is having a few pesos each way: he initially said that he would take the country’s first vaccine, in public, but has since said he’ll wave through more vulnerable workers.

Elsewhere, it has been the stuff of outright scandal. Argentina’s health minister, Ginés González García, resigned last month when caught allegedly prioritising associates. And in Lebanon there has been justifiable outrage that politicians apparently incapable of fixing anything else have proved agile at helping themselves to vaccines. On that note, have a lovely Sunday.


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