- Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 11/4/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Prime traits

A week in the sun is a very, very good thing – especially when your very efficient assistant ensures that work calls happen either first thing in the morning or end of day; you find out that other good friends decided to book into the same hotel for the same period; the weather never lets you down; and you instantly find a rhythm that allows you to dream about new business ideas, future escapes and the next chapter of that book you’ve been working on for far too long. Long morning walks, longer lunches and hours to daydream also allow for plenty of time to rummage around the cluttered corners of your mind, do a bit of restacking and come to terms with some essential truths.

1. It’s official.
I have a short attention span and it’s something to be proud of. I have come to accept that my life has been marked by passionate affairs with certain enclaves and that these usually turn out to be rather costly adventures. The Sweden years were marked by the purchase of an island in the Stockholm archipelago. The Beirut years found me with an apartment in Achrafieh. And an Easter trip to Südtirol seven years ago turned into a villa in Merano.

In October, a long weekend south of Athens had me looking upwards at all those bountiful, flowering balconies and pondering life in Vouliagmeni. Since then I’ve felt as if I’d bought a lifetime, all-you-can-ride pass on the Greek bus but a week in Spain now has me asking ¿Grecia? ¿Dónde? ¿Qué? I was charmed by the glimpses of modernism in the heart of Marbella, bedtime found me searching for architects to build a small hotel and I was thinking about making that long-promised trip to Galicia. And how did I arrive at this moment of clarity about my extreme flakiness? While shuffling around all those files in my head, a lifetime, all-you-can-ride pass for the Spanish bus was found, crumpled up. I guess it’s okay to come full circle, no?

2. It’s official, part two.
I have a violent streak that surfaces when people use mobile devices at full volume in civilised settings. It’s something I’m really struggling with as I can’t understand why people think it’s acceptable to do a video call around a pool or let their children play video games in a bar with the sound cranked up (why are the children in a bar in the first place?!) – or why a pair of grown men can watch sport highlights in a café and feel that everyone else wants to listen in. It’s a battle I know I’m losing. So far the only treatment is my partner Mats muttering “cool it” as he attempts to calm me down. To date it’s worked about 50 per cent of the time.

3. I have an extreme case of ECD.
If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s only been identified recently and mostly afflicts journalists or those who consume a lot of media. Editorial Compulsive Disorder usually sees the sufferer spend a few minutes scanning a magazine, newspaper or website and then reshuffling the articles into an order by which they will bring the most pleasure, information or annoyance. The article about the removal of historical signage because it might offend future generations becomes a last-read; the feature about a woman who decided to launch an appeal to save the lobby of her building falls among the middle-reads; and the news story about a government minister who wants to do more to ensure more mobility and freedom for young people rises to the top. While this might suggest that I simply like to read the good news first and prefer to defer all that I find negative, there’s a hook.

As I never want to end on a low point, I will always try to find a columnist dispensing a bit of balance or common sense to make me smile. And when this doesn’t happen, I need to put pen to paper. In response to yet another “let’s erase history” piece (in this case about Zürich’s misguided city government), it could be suggested that the only winners from cancel culture will be the branding agencies who will soon be tasked with covering up all Latin-based words or anything related to ancient Rome as that was clearly a civilisation that did more much wrong than good. If they’re so passionate about patching over history then they might want to look at their own brand to start. Zürich is derived from its Latin name Turicum, so surely that also needs to be covered over at some point. As for Latin in the local curriculum, it’s another candidate for the now overflowing landfill of history.


World cup

Franco-Japanese music label-cum-clothing brand Maison Kitsuné has long been winning the approval of coffee aficionados with its string of cafés around the world. It already has three picturesque outlets in Paris and recently added a fourth to the roster, this time in Temple in the 3rd arrondissement.

This latest space boasts a roastery (its only one outside Japan) run by Florian Decousser, who is in charge of preparing beans for all of Maison Kitsuné’s European coffeehouses. Keep an eye out for tasting sessions and workshops when the strictures ease. maisonkitsune.com

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 Paris guide.


Spice of life

Hong Kong’s homegrown hot-sauce market is heating up (writes Nina Milhaud). Yu Kwen Yick chilli sauce has been around for a century and is a favourite with fried noodles and turnip cake. Yet newcomers such as Flagrant Hot Sauce are blazing a new trail.

“We wanted to create an easy east-meets-west sauce with a unique Asian-citrus component,” says Kiyoshi Hoshimi-Caine, whose vinegar-based sauce incorporates Vietnamese fermented chilli alongside Japanese koji and yuzu to create a balanced sweet, sour and spicy condiment. “Our sauce has an Asian spirit but it’s more accessible than traditional chilli sauces,” he says. Another relative newcomer also made on the island, The Chilli Lab’s garlic-inflected chilli sauce is winning fans fast. yukwenyick.com.hk; flagrantsauce.com; thechillilab.hk


Way with words

Poet and writer Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer is one of the most celebrated authors in the Dutch language. With more than 40 titles to his name, Pfeijffer has picked up gongs including the C Buddingh’ prize for his poetry debut Van de vierkante man. He has also gained acclaim for novels such as La Superba, which is centred around the theme of migration in Genoa, where he now lives. Here he tells us about his least-favourite real-estate broker who works next to his favourite coffee shop, and about a local taverna that’s so good it doesn’t need a name.

Where do we find you this weekend?
In my palazzo with a view on the cathedral of Genoa. Actually, now I come to think of it, it’s always the weekend here.

What have you been working on recently?
Recently I have invested all my efforts into putting off writing a television screenplay, which is due in the very near future. When I’m done with that, I’ll have to dedicate myself to putting off writing a new novel, which I promised for the end of the year. In the meantime, I write poetry: a luxury I allow myself only when I have better things to do.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I always do anything in my power to ensure that all my days are extremely gentle from start to finish.

Soundtrack of choice?
Recently I have been obsessed with vocal Italian baroque music: Cavalli, Scarlatti, Arcadelt, Stradella and other names with first-rate snob appeal. I hope it’s not one of the symptoms; one reads the strangest things about this virus.

What’s for breakfast?
Coffee is crucial. I’ve invested the prize money from quite a few literary awards I haven’t won yet into buying myself a good espresso machine. I feed it with love and coffee beans, 100 per cent arabica, from the Pasqualini shop on Via Ceccardo Ceccardi – the same street where the lawyer of the malicious real-estate broker whom I am suing holds office. But that is a different story.

News or not?
As a conscientious citizen of the world, I follow the news scrupulously. In doing so, I regret the invention of the internet, for it would be so much nicer and classier to go down in the morning to the newspaper stand on the square under my house and buy the nostalgic scent of `La Repubblica and Genoa’s Il Secolo XIX instead of shaking my head in anger over the numerous sites I force myself to read.

What’s for lunch?
Lunch in Italy is a ritual more sacred than the holy communion. Often I go out for lunch with my partner, Stella. We’ll enjoy a good simple plate of pasta on Piazza Lavagna or on Largo Pertini in front of the opera house.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
I like to fill our fridge and larder with surprises for Stella, such as the superior extra fondente chocolate of Viganotti. Mostly that, actually.

Sunday culture must?
One of the things I can be envied for, if not the only thing I can be envied for, is that I have managed to organise my life in such a way that it is always Sunday and that culture is not a habit but a necessity, like breathing.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
I cannot wait to sit again outside at one of the little wobbly wooden tables on Vico Vegetti, on the corner of Piazza San Bernardo, where old Maurizio runs a little tavern without a name. It does not need a name. Unlike me, Maurizio does believe in physical exercise. If we are lucky, he’ll have gone up the mountains to shoot a deliciously fresh wild boar.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
Even though I do not have the illusion that they make any difference whatsoever, I use all the creams, unguents and ointments I can lay my hands on, especially when they have argan oil in them, because I don’t know what argan oil is, so it must be the secret of eternal beauty.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I’ll avoid being overdressed, so I’ll just wear one of my Italian suits with a white silk shirt, baroque cufflinks, a Finollo tie with a pin in a design matching the cufflinks, funny-coloured socks (matching the tie) and a pair from my colourful collection of Melvin & Hamilton shoes.


Buchteln with apricots

Our Swiss recipe writer is renowned for his sweet buns. This delectable dessert takes about an hour to rise and another 25 minutes to cook so bake in advance and be sure not to burn yourself on that apricot jam.

Serves 4 as a dessert

25g yeast
100ml milk (lukewarm)
50g sugar
250g flour
1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ tsp salt
½ lemon (organic, grated)
100g butter (liquid)
150g apricot jam
Powdered sugar


  1. Dissolve yeast in milk then add sugar, flour, egg, egg yolk, salt, lemon zest and 50g (half) of the liquid butter. Knead by hand or with a dough hook (considerably quicker) until smooth.

  2. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes until it’s increased in size by 50 per cent.

  3. Preheat oven to 180C. Roll the dough on a floured work surface into a sausage shape that’s roughly 5cm in diameter. Divide into about 15 pieces of equal size. Form a small ball from each piece and flatten slightly. Make a deep dimple and place a teaspoon of apricot jam in each, then seal. Dip in the remaining melted butter. Place in a greased prepared ovenproof dish (roughly 30cm by 30cm). Cover and leave to rise for 20 minutes.

  4. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.



Speakers corner

Audio innovator Sonos has just released its first ultra-portable speaker (writes David Phelan). The Sonos Roam is the size of a water bottle and weighs 430g. It’s a good fit in the hand and rugged enough to survive being dunked in water a metre deep for 30 minutes. You can use it anywhere but as you walk into your home, it switches to your wi-fi network and with the press of a button transfers to your nearest Sonos speaker.

The sound is excellent: rich, vibrant and much bigger than the diminutive size suggests. It can fill a generous room comfortably. It comes in black and white versions. This is also the most affordable Sonos speaker yet – so a few of these dotted around a garden party will work wonders. sonos.com


Wet your beak

Regular guests at the Hotel Wailea, which opened on the Hawaiian island of Maui’s picturesque southern shore in 2008, are by now familiar with the pleasure of unexpected visitors to the hotel’s lobby bar. The most notable among these are the island’s native tropical birds, known to flit in and out of the part-open-air space and nestle on the rafters, high above the rows of libations below.

These feathered fixtures inspired the bar’s recent renovation, which was completed during Hawaii’s lockdown last year. “We wanted to celebrate the open air,” says Marion Philpotts-Miller, whose eponymous Honolulu-based studio, founded in the 1960s, undertook the renovation. “We melded indoor and outdoor in a slightly eccentric way.” The room’s striking centrepiece bar serves a fine cocktail menu, guaranteeing that it isn’t only the avian patrons who are left feeling chirpy.


In good company

In the penultimate part of our series on how to impress in business from our out-now April issue, we plot the merits of pruning, relinquishing control and planning (writes Josh Fehnert). Here’s a rundown of how to stay ahead after the “stay at home” message changes.

Cede some control
There’s a good chance you were already very busy before the pandemic took hold and then took on even more responsibility over the past 12 months. Whether you’ve been wearing more hats at home (teacher, chef and children’s entertainer) or work (therapist, HR professional, customer service and CEO), now is the time for a gentle rebalancing. So what did you learn? Well, Julio in marketing can run a department without you looking over his shoulder the whole time and Jane in sales needs a new challenge. Give people a chance.

On the flip side, some of the drama of the past year might have exposed handsomely remunerated colleagues who were resolutely out of office when the chips were down and work needed divvying up. Ditto the pals who went silent when you couldn’t help them. It’s never easy to say goodbye (or, “Get out”) but, like removing a plaster, it’s best to do so speedily.

Reward loyalty
There’s a fair chance that you learnt who was on your side when things got scary. Who worked harder, dug in, helped out and kept their sense of humour in the office? Which friends were there when they didn’t want to borrow your holiday home? Now’s the time to give back a little – we’ll leave it to you how loudly or quietly you go about it.

Write things down
How many notes, calendar reminders, memos and emails have gone astray since your whole life came to revolve around a phone and laptop? Too many. The simple act of breaking away and jotting a few notes is better for your retention and there’s nothing more satisfying than striking off tasks on a to-do list. Meanwhile, a diary can help you make sense of your day and written correspondence still means more than another bland email. If it matters, commit it to paper.

Plan a retreat
Travel plans are, ahem, up in the air right now – but soon, with a little luck, you might be too. And how useful will it be to actually see those colleagues who’ve been hibernating at home: to find out whose jobs can be done from Timbuktu and those who struggled to run the London office from Los Angeles? This is about the power of face-to-face conversations – without needing to schedule time first. We all need something to look forward to. Also, while we have the diary out, you look like you could use a break. Speaking of which, have a great Sunday.


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