Sunday 18 April 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 18/4/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Waking up

I spoke to my mom the other day (she says hi by the way) and we caught up on various goings-on in her corner of Toronto: people who’ve not left their apartments in a year, poor leadership on the part of the provincial and federal governments, and the general state of the neighbourhood. Fresh from a walk around the local shops, she said it felt like every second business had closed down for good and she wondered what was going to happen when the city managed to get back up on its feet.

It’s a question many of us are pondering as spring 2021 is turning out be considerably less sunny than the 2020 edition, with many corners of the world still enduring strict lockdown measures and once-buoyant neighbourhoods starting to unravel as greenery shrivels, bored youth get creative with spray-cans and many legislators fail to recognise how important a lively street is to not just economic but also mental health. Okay then, what are we going to do about it? Is this really time for a great rethink? Or should we focus on just getting things up and running again and leave the philosophising for a later date?

If you passed by our operations in London last week or Zürich yesterday and (even today) you’ll know that we’re working at speed to crank things up a notch and make our neighbourhoods as perky as possible. This has meant multiple visits from our friendly florists (more on them in a moment) to get the plants and trees looking their best, new window displays, refreshed graphics and some additions to our menus and product mix. (Achtung, Swiss subscribers! You can come by Dufourstrasse 90 in Zürich for a free Cüpli any evening this week.)

The past year has taught us that we need to hustle and be ready to transform a café into a mini department store (Zürich), ramp up to become an essential flat-white stop for hospital staff (London’s Paddington) or simply stay the course and be a place where familiar faces can gather for a chat (London’s Chiltern Street). The past year has also taught us that neighbourhoods don’t need complex and costly interventions in order to bounce back. They need government support that simply compensates for enforced measures; sympathetic landlords and reasonable tenants (yes, we’re all in this thing together); and a bit of flexibility as businesses try to find their momentum and locals are reminded that a successful neighbourhood is never silent.

When I look out the front door in Zürich, I sometimes think we have the perfect mix of neighbours to ensure there’s enough traffic and repeat customers. On one corner we have a pizzeria that’s not trying to do anything fancy and it attracts builders, publishers and students throughout the day. Across the way is Martin Grossenbacher Blumen and its beautiful gallery-style space with the best selection of flowers in our stretch of the city. Given the queues and the amount of times I spot its delivery van doing the rounds it’s clear that this is a business that has performed rather well this year. We also have two hairdressers anchoring the other corners and if there’s one other thing we’ve learned this past year it’s that you don’t mess with Switzerland’s hair and beauty lobby, as they managed to position themselves as the “safest” of the country’s service sectors by always being the first to reopen. As for our contribution, we supply the magazines and newspapers, books and stationery, Japanese roll cakes and coffees, and handsome menswear, and act as a hub to bring Seefeld together.

On Monday morning the streets of Switzerland will come alive again when terraces and boulevard seating return after an almost four-month-long pause. It will make for interesting viewing as businesses and citizens alike have become very good at getting around the rules, and are now quite comfy standing and drinking wherever they please. Nevertheless, an added layer of commerce and community is exactly what’s required to get a few more smiles and salutations happening on our streets and people gathering in more dignified settings. So, dear reader, there you have it: the neighbourhood needs to get back to basics and fast. If you need a couple of visual and audio cues to get you in the spirit, can I suggest having a listen to Clara Luciani’s just-released “Le Reste”. It’s already on heavy repeat on Monocle 24 and, if nothing else, it’ll have you considering yellow trousers for your next stride through your ‘hood. All thoughts and suggestions can be sent my way to


Pressing concerns

Many in the UK will be revelling at the reopening of pubs this week (albeit only with alfresco service for now) but it is the soft-drink market, rather than booze, that appeals to Adam Grout and Nadeem Lalani Nanjuwany of Wildpress. The pair, who also run design studio Creative Family, launched their new range of apple juices as the UK was in lockdown. They saw an opportunity to make flavoursome new brews using less-lauded native apple varieties, from late-season bramleys to may queens and Ashmead’s kernels.

The result (with the sort of dapper packaging you’d expect from such a studio) is a range of pressed juices from small orchards across Berkshire, Kent, Lincolnshire and Somerset. The case for such a range is bigger than it seems too: Grout and Nanjuwany see protecting heritage varieties as a way to connect producers to new customers and boost biodiversity, organic farming and protecting the habitats of British hedgerows. Our verdict? Very refreshing indeed.


Bon appétit

This French-Mediterranean restaurant and bar, which has opened in the heart of Sathorn, Bangkok, serves a flavoursome fix of dishes from cheese plates to beef tartare and foie gras.

The unpretentious and hearty cuisine is dished up in a modern setting. Be sure to take a peek at the wine list and cocktail menu while you’re there.
+66 8 4079 8830

Subscribe to Monocle’s 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 Bangkok guide.


City break

Tang-Owen is the former creative director of Hong Kong apparel brand Shanghai Tang, which was started in 1994 by her late father, businessman David Tang. She’s also the co-founder of design studio Thirty30 Creative. Here she sets out her Monday morning look, talks dim-sum Sundays and extends a few ambitious invites for an ideal weekend get-together.

Where do we find you this weekend?
Option A: You will find me and my family on a great beach in Long Ke Wan or kayaking in Sai Kung with friends.

Option B: A pit-stop on the roof of my studio in Causeway Bay. We recently moved to a new space and it’s great to have somewhere to grab a little fresh air above the hustle and bustle of busy Hong Kong.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I try to start with a jolt: a quick run in nearby Victoria Park followed by a coffee, then a trip to the newsagent for the weekend papers and a browse of the magazine selection.

Soundtrack of choice?
My playlist ranges from London Grammar to David Bowie and The Weeknd.

What’s for breakfast?
Chia seeds soaked overnight in soy milk with fresh berries and a dash of honey.

News or not?
I like to catch up on the news over the weekend and find the weekend editions a little easier to digest. The supplements provide a pleasant break from the headline-grabbing content.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
We tend to spend Sunday afternoons with my mother who lives nearby. She has two cheeky little dogs, Ollie (a Yorkshire terrier) and Sophie (a miniature schnauzer) and we enjoy taking them for a stroll in the neighbourhood.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
As often as possible. Whether it is weightlifting with my personal trainer Tim or hitting the gym at the Mandarin Oriental, it is great to start the day with the sense of accomplishment that comes with ticking the exercise box early.

Lunch in or out?
We tend to eat lunch at home on weekends. My son Rocco, who is three years old, enjoys his post-lunch nap so we have a relaxing family time around the table followed by a refreshing siesta. I also take him out for dim sum some weekends for some mother-and-son bonding time. It’s a great way for him to practice his Cantonese ordering and chopstick skills.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
I do have a sweet tooth so there tend to be a few naughty items (think gummy bears). I’m a huge fan of insalata caprese so we often have a good, creamy burrata, lots of fresh basil and a colourful array of tomatoes.

Sunday culture must?
A flick through local and international fashion magazines, and ideally a film after I have put my son to bed.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
A 2017 Chilean Almaviva. My son was born in 2017 so we looked around for a celebratory red wine and this one is truly delicious.

The ideal dinner menu?
A great steak with a green-leaf salad and a homemade carrot cake with a generous amount of icing.

Who’s joining?
Rowan Atkinson, Kate Moss, Kim Jones, Villanelle from Killing Eve, [Chinese artist] Zhang Huan and [singer] Faye Wong.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I will consider the weekend a success if I can round it off with some me-time, a deep hydrating face mask and some meditative music to prepare me for the week ahead.

Will you lay out your look for Monday?
I always prepare my outfit for the next day in advance. This Monday I’m feeling my Alaïa flats, a jacquard-silk dress from one of my collections for Shanghai Tang and a recent T-shirt purchase from local skatewear brand Victoria Hong Kong.


Artichokes with vinaigrette

It’s artichoke season and though these vegetables can be tricky to prepare, our Swiss chef offers an easy option for a smart-looking and tasty starter that can be steamed or boiled. Once cooked, pluck the leaves from the artichoke, dipping the fleshy end into the vinaigrette and pulling away the tender part with your teeth (discard the tough bit). When all the outer leaves are gone you can spoon out the “heart” – save some dip for this bit.


4 large artichokes
50g mustard
10ml white wine vinegar
5g cane sugar
5g salt
30ml mild olive oil
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 red onion, finely diced
2 tbsps chives, finely chopped


For the artichokes:

  1. Cut off the stems of the artichokes half an inch from the stalks. Cut the upper third of the leaf tips with kitchen scissors or a (really) sharp knife.

  2. Place artichokes side by side in a pot, pour enough water to cover them by half and add salt. Put a lid on and bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for between 30 and 40 minutes, depending on size. To check (after half an hour) you can pluck off an outer leaf to taste – when these fall off easily, the artichokes will be done.

  3. Remove the artichoke heads from the pot, turn them upside down and drain. Enjoy lukewarm or cold.

For the vinaigrette:

  1. Mix mustard and vinegar and add the sugar and salt. Slowly add the oil, drop by drop, while stirring with a whisk to make a glossy mixture. Add the parsley, onions and chives and season.


Joys of the season

For us mere mortals, spring is an annual event to be observed (writes Josh Fehnert). But for beloved British artist David Hockney, it seems, it’s a thing to be “done”. On turning 80 a few years ago, the fêted painter decided to “do” the season in Normandy. His stay yielded colourful sketches – many done on an iPad – and lively correspondence with art critic and friend Martin Gayford, which are documented in the pair’s book, Spring Cannot Be Cancelled, published by Thames & Hudson.

What emerges from the writing, snippets and sketches is a manifesto of sorts: a paean to the promise of art and the capacity of nature to heal, renew and offer answers in difficult times. The pandemic took root while Hockney was hunkered down and this adds urgency to the message of optimism, as well as reminding us that we ignore or underestimate nature at our peril. The subjects on every page burst forth like spring bulbs, covering everything from the sight of raindrops on a pond to the work of great artists and the rhythm of daily life – not to mention the French attitude to smokers (more permissive than in “mean-spirited England”, as Hockney puts it).

The book, like the season it depicts, is fundamentally hopeful. The message? That an inquisitive soul can spot a world of possibility in a small plot in northern France – and that you don’t need to be an artist to appreciate it.


Home soil

The bright, five-bedroom Fynbos House is a fine new addition to the Babylonstoren farm and wine estate in Paarl, South Africa (writes Mary Holland). It is centred on a courtyard with a long pool surrounded by rattan daybeds to match the overriding Cape Dutch style. The all-white rooms have pitched ceilings with skylights that gaze down onto four-poster beds.

In the en suite bathrooms, accessed through giant barn-style doors, oversized white tubs take centre-stage. There is plenty of communal space in the house: a kitchen with a long wooden dining table and a glass wall overlooks the courtyard and there is a living room with sleek couches and basket chairs. The front patio spills out onto a sprawling fynbos garden so fragrant that you can almost smell the indigenous plants from the sunbeds.


In good company

In the last of the tips from our out-now April issue, we share some final thoughts on getting your business back on track (writes Josh Fehnert). Here we deal with the gritty subjects of getting together (again), the virtue of a creative side-hustle and the importance of rewarding yourself when it’s all said and done.

Get together
The great lie of technology is that more of it encourages better connections and conversations; it doesn’t, hasn’t and (based on evidence) never will. As the world opens up, we need to see the whites of people’s eyes and rebuild actual social networks – for better business, yes, but also for our own personal fulfilment, sense of camaraderie and collective sanity. Let’s hope that it doesn’t take another pandemic to jolt us into seeing what we’ve been missing out on. Connection is important, human, vital and too often overlooked. So talk to people, seek counsel, partner up, make meetings and join a club.

Have a side-hustle
Like the 2008 crisis before it, the pandemic has made some certainties – from jobs and plans to exit strategies – seem much less assured and less attractive. As a child, did you really dream of orchestrating hostile takeovers or becoming deputy chief of the actuary department? If so, congrats. If not, perhaps it’s time to seek new opportunities and try to start the business you actually want to run instead.

(Actually) engage people...
...and not through likes and impressions (the plunging credibility and waning popularity of the vapid influencers model shows how cheap this really is). Start with your team, neighbourhood, friends and family. Show them that you care and that you’ve got their backs. Remember: five likes from a “fan” on the other side of the world certainly won’t make or break your brand.

See something new
More people than ever before have been confined by travel bans and lockdowns, and that has limited us to tight routines. These are habits that need breaking fast. It’s great that you’ve enjoyed the flexibility of working from home on some mornings but don’t stay cooped up just because it’s cosy: there’s a wide world of opportunities, ideas and adventures out there to rediscover. Your kitchen table will still be there at the end of the day.

Reward yourself
Take stock. Anyone who says that the pandemic hasn’t affected them isn’t being honest. Even if you’ve kept your job, you’ll have been confined and confused, and will have seen many people struggle. Don’t shrug this off; use it to motivate and inform your next move. If it took all of this to convince you that you want to run a travel agency, live in the Azores or come home early on a Friday, that’s OK; it’s time to be brave and act. That said, it could wait for Monday morning – have a super Sunday.


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