Sunday 4 April 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 4/4/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Coastal service

Buenos dias y felices pascuas! Yes, dear reader, today we’re in Spain (Marbella to be geographically precise) and there’s much to report after just 24 hours on the ground. But let’s start at the beginning – at a somewhat busy Zürich airport.

Friday, 9.25: Zürich airport feels a bit like it would on a quiet Wednesday morning in March 2018. The economy check-in queues are busy, there’s a sense of purpose among the passengers (we would like to drink and dine under sunny skies in the great outdoors, bitte!) and if flights aren’t bound to multiple destinations in Egypt then they’re off to Palma, Barcelona, Gran Canaria, Madeira and Lisbon. It’s very clear: the world is ready to travel.

9.45: It’s time to board and it’s perfectly smooth and orderly. No checking documents, passports, proof-of-negatives papers or Spanish travel forms. Everyone on the Swiss A320 is in a good mood and it could have been the codeine cocktail I’d just taken, but I think that 85 per cent of the passengers even made an effort to get dressed up. Are we about to witness a new golden era in travel? If so, I’ll take it.

12.15: We’re on the final approach to Malaga. It’s windy, the A320 is being jolted to the side a bit but the touchdown is gentle and the processing of passengers by medical authorities is swift and orderly. It helps that there are only two flights – ours and one from Frankfurt.

13.30: It’s lunchtime at the hotel, so who’s in the house? A good portion of Paris’s 16eme are poolside – Macron’s latest lockdown was clearly not so appealing. Then there are a lot of Spanish visitors from outside the region, a few Germans and more French.

15.00: The Spanish know a thing or two about engineering a good promenade, so we set off for a walk to Puerto Banús, especially since I’ve forgotten my computer cable and need to visit El Corte Inglés (more on this in a moment). It’s incredibly windy with small sandstorms blowing off the beach and pathway and into your face. Indeed, it’s so blustery that I think a few tiny dogs and children might have flown past. It also creates a confusing picture for Spain’s new mask regulation, which now requires you to cover your face regardless of whether you’re in a packed precinct or all alone on the beach. It’s no surprise that the tourism industry is up in arms about these rules – they’ve come in just as the season is about to start and, like so many rules imposed over the past year, are blanket in nature rather than targeted.

15.55: “Where are all of Europe’s gangsters and their girlfriends?” you’ve been wondering. They’re all here, in their matching white tracksuits, over-inflated trainers, over-inflated boobies (and that’s just the boys) and walking their pitbulls. Thankfully the prehistoric-looking pooches also need to wear masks of the muzzle variety.

17.00: If El Corte Inglés had a bigger international reach it would surely be the country’s best soft-power export. At a time when retail is trying to figure itself out and department stores are being decimated in many markets, El Corte Inglés reminds the shopper of gentler times in consumerism. Men in well-cut suits look after you in the electronics department, knowledgeable staff in the sports section try to upsell you on a better Adidas trainer and the housewares department is full of items you need for daily use. And then, of course, there’s its amazing grocery business. Yes, it helps that it’s a monopoly but being a bit sleepy and old school is no bad thing.

21.45: The dinner scene is in full swing at The Grill at the Marbella Club. The terrace and dining room are packed: it’s all hugs, kisses and handshakes; it’s tables of friends and families and the lighting is warm and glowing. It’s something to aspire to – social, boisterous, fun and with a good soundtrack.

22.15: We’re still in the restaurant, tables are coming and going, and I notice it’s a tale of two fabrics among the patrons. Men and women of a certain age (45 plus) are in linen blazers, shirts and scarves; anyone under 18 is only in sweat fabric. All around are youngsters in track suits with Givenchy or Nike across the bum, Balenciaga or Harvard across the front and the dreadful posture that often accompanies clothing with too much give. Parents be warned: next stop is a pitbull for a graduation gift and a daughter whose best accessory will be an electronic tag.

Saturday, 10.30: Vende! Vende! Vende! The commercial real-estate scene is pretty grim in the centre of Marbella – seemingly every third café, bar or shop has been closed. In their place are hastily opened barber shops (is a red, white and blue pole the new flag for money laundering? The new version of the nail salon?) and Chinese-run shops selling lacy and stringy tat for tourists that are unlikely to return for many seasons.

11.25: On my way back to the hotel from my Marbella tour I survey a well-manicured but desolate boulevard – good architecture, sunny balconies and plenty of room for an urban rethink. What an opportunity! Should the city be thinking about attracting a new generation of talent? One that can work from the city year-round, regenerate the city’s core and wean itself off low-margin tourism?

It might be worth popping down and taking a peek.


Culture club

At this restaurant opposite the Prahran Market, Israeli chef Rotem Papo’s menu draws on North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences to create a polished take on his home country’s cuisine.

For starters we’d suggest the house-made hummus served with smoked paprika oil and wood-fired Iraqi laffa bread. Follow it up with a “reuben-style” brisket, sauerkraut and pickled chillies.

Subscribe to Monocle Digital Editions to access the latest issue of the magazine, our back catalogue and regularly updated tips for exploring key cities – such as this editor’s pick from our Melbourne guide.


Creative license

Toronto-based musician and multimedia artist Maylee Todd tends to spend her weekends like her weekdays – working on compositions or art projects. With a new record set to be released later this year, she explains why a soundtrack by the late Japanese composer Hiroshi Yoshimura, the occasional hike into the countryside and a generous splash of soy sauce are the ingredients for an ideal Sunday.

Where do we find you this weekend?
This weekend I will be at my home in Toronto, which is also my creative space. I will most likely be making music or world-building for my next art project.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Sundays are similar to my weekdays. I’m always creating and I wake up at about the same time every day. I am trying to enjoy my weekends more, finding ways to decompress from life as a project-based artist, which is quite different from a nine-to-five.

Soundtrack of choice?
I love listening to ambient music; it’s such a beautiful way to relax. I really like Hiroshi Yoshimura’s album Green.

What’s for breakfast?
Breakfast on a Sunday is granola with fruit and a cup of coffee. But if I had it my way, it would be hash browns every day.

News or not?
On a Sunday I try to chill out away from the news. I find the flux and the high contrast of news cycles to be a bit of a whirlwind of emotions – and that can take the energy away from being creative. But it’s important to be informed; I tend to prioritise news during the week.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Downward dog, without question. I meditate every day. It’s so important for me to create a space in my mind, to practice being present and self-aware. I’m finding it harder to focus these days with all the distractions pulling my attention, which can sometimes run on loop.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
On Sunday I typically keep things relaxed but if a nice hike somewhere presents itself, I’ll definitely get out there and explore.

What’s for lunch?
If my partner is around then it’s going to be something special, like a big batch of Japanese curry. That usually means days of yumminess.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
I can’t go without a good soy sauce; I think of it as the blood of everything I am.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
Jeez, I can’t wait for the ramen spots to open up again. My favourite is Kinton in downtown Toronto. I am super excited to eat its ramen and octopus again.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I just got into a skin routine. Before, I’d just go to bed with a dry face. Now it’s retinol and moisturiser by The Ordinary, to keep things fresh.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
Lately, I’ve been Steve Jobs-ing it, meaning I wear all black, along with a construction jacket. I typically wear bright colours and patterns but over the past couple of years, I’ve been wearing black to keep my choices limited. The construction jacket was given to me and I’ve attached a kind of symbolic meaning to it. It somehow reflects me and my work being “under construction”, as well as the major changes happening right now.


Torta di pane

This classic bread cake from Ticino is an excellent sweet snack. Make sure you have a springform tin with a diameter of about 22cm. Our Swiss chef insists that this cake tastes best if you let it rest for a day, so that it becomes nice and moist. We weren’t as controlled in our consumption as Ralph.


250g bread from the day before
100g amaretti biscuits
1 pinch of salt
1 vanilla pod
700ml milk
Oil and flour for the pan
100g butter
150g sugar
75g cocoa powder
100g pine nuts
100g light raisins
100g candied orange peel
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp ground cloves
1tsp nutmeg
3 eggs
20ml grappa


  1. Preheat oven to 180C.

  2. Chop the bread into small 1cm cubes and crumble the amaretti. Combine in a large bowl and add salt. Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Heat both with the milk. Pour milk over bread, mix and let soften a little for 5 minutes. Remove the pod and discard.

  3. Cover the closed springform tin with baking paper. Brush the pan with oil and dust with flour. Melt butter and set aside to cool a little.

  4. Finely mash the bread mixture with a fork then mix in the sugar, cocoa powder, half of the pine nuts, raisins, candied orange peel, cinnamon, clove powder and nutmeg.

  5. Mix butter with eggs and grappa until well blended. Fold into the bread mixture.

  6. Pour the dough into the prepared tin. Sprinkle remaining pine nuts on top. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour. It will be done when a skewer comes out clean. Let it cool a little, remove from the tin then tuck in.


Back allium

Spring means that chefs across the temperate northern hemisphere are busy prepping their Bärlauch (also known as Ramsons, or “ramps” in the US). Wild garlic is a relative of the onion and its long green leaves are a favourite in restaurants and delicatessens throughout Europe and North America. It often ends up in pesto with pasta but in Europe you’ll spot it peppered in anything from cheese to Spätzle and sausages.

If you’re keen to try your hand at cooking with the stuff then a few handfuls go a long way. Though you could head to the woods around town in which it grows, it’s not that distinctive so you can leave that bit to the experts. And how to prepare it? Well, it works raw (but washed), blanched or sautéed with a little oil or butter and salt as a side. The season is short, mid-March to May, so keep your eyes peeled.


East is east

Sicilian shutterbug Mimi Mollica turned his lens from documenting the effect of the mafia on his native Sicily to recording the everyday street life of East London, which he’s called home for more than 20 years (writes Josh Fehnert). Mollica’s new book East London Up Close, published by Hoxton Mini Press, is a collection of snaps: of melting ice-lollies laid to rest on concrete corners, stretched-out sunbathers, hungry-eyed pigeons, gaudy plastic bags and disorientating half-face portraits, taken between 2014 and the start of the pandemic.

The overall effect is like that of a collage of East End life filled with intimacy and immediacy: ideas which feel rather far away to many after a year of lockdown. “This series is a collection of impulsive visual clues that make up a mosaic of East London and the way it feels on the streets,” says Mollica. “The area grew on me and gradually I felt increasingly happy to live here. The lockdown for me has been a chance to spend time with my family, recharge and reflect on my personal and professional life – the neighbourhood helped me through the process.”

Amid the grime depicted by cigarette-ends submerged in puddles and rum bottles in hedges, there is optimism too – “the crocus of hope” as Boris Johnson recently and risibly dubbed it. In Mollica’s work this takes the form of flowers blooming among the kerbside cider cans, smiles curling from the corner of mouths and a hand clutching a bible or polishing a hubcap.

There’s summer in these pages too: another ice cream, this time laced in raspberry sauce, the late-day light on a pale shoulder and rays reflected in sunglasses on a forehead. There’s hope among the inequality and privilege, and maybe a promise too. There’s a suggestion that the artful chaos of everyday interaction will be there when that mob of people re-emerge onto the streets of London – and elsewhere – blinking in the for-now-unfamiliar light of freedom.;


Here to stay

One of the Swedish capital’s newest hotels, Villa Dagmar is located in the heart of well-heeled Östermalm. With 70 guestrooms and suites, and adorned in a mix of hand-picked classic and contemporary furniture, the space includes a flower shop and spa in which to unwind at the end of the day.

The newly revamped restaurant, headed up by the chefs behind the Michelin-starred Aloë, serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes made with fresh Swedish produce and a welcome line-up of refreshing cocktails.


In good company

Our just-out April issue suggests some surefire ideas for changing your business for the better, being brave and taking action (writes Josh Fehnert). Here are a few to get you started.

1. Expand and explore
Counterintuitively, now is an excellent time to double down on a bigger space, a few ambitious hires or even your first overseas office. There are good deals to be had while confidence is shaky and ground to be made up while competitors are playing it safe.

2. Ditch the ‘out of office’
This is both a simple setting and a nod to a more profound philosophical switch. If someone is reaching out to you for help, guidance and advice then an automated “Not now” sets entirely the wrong tone (now and as the world reopens). We’ve all spent too long staring at screens and talking to machines – a human touch will serve your business well.

3. Invest in a space worth returning to
Video didn’t kill the radio star and video calls certainly haven’t sunk the need for a nice office to escape to. Actually, they’ve revealed the horror of sharing a boardroom with a baby. A forward-looking fitout means spaces for working creatively, eating together and enjoying the breeze – which will also help to tempt talent to your workforce.

4. Define your own values
It’s great that you attracted those smiley investors early last year, less so that they wanted to pull the plug when the going got tough. If you’re still seeking funding, now’s the time to bring in family, friends and genuine partners, not VCs who are out to flip the firm. Success in business isn’t selling up, it’s about running a venture you’re proud of – and for long enough to pass on to enthusiastic offspring. You decide what success looks like, remember.

5. Define your own values 2.0
Then stick to them. Very few companies set out to ruin the world and equally few to change it entirely for the better. If you’re flogging clothes or making furniture then be honest and transparent about your shortcomings and proactive about what you can do better. Consumers are smarter than most marketeers give them credit for. Just because you say your sleazy PR firm helps people “communicate” or your greedy oil conglomerate “gives back” doesn’t make it so. Do your best and be honest – it’s all anyone can ask. It’s a lesson that cuts both ways, from business to leisure. Have a great Sunday.


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