Sunday 16 May 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 16/5/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Show on the road

Honk! Honk! It’s day seven of my Italian gran turismo and I’ve just pulled up in front of the Ottmanngut in Merano. In a couple of hours guests will be arriving for the reopening of our little shop in the city’s Obermais district but before I get dressed and start pouring drinks for our subscribers I need to bring you up to speed on the past seven days.

First, a good old-fashioned road trip is the perfect way to give yourself a gentle jolt back onto the road. If you don’t drive then a well-plotted train journey can also do the trick but it’s hard to beat a good set of wheels that allows for vineyard side-trips, extra purchases from favourite retailers and the pleasure of cranking the tunes as loud as you like. On Sunday I pulled out from our HQ in Zürich – destination Como. With Mats in charge of music, navigation and nibbles we were across the border and having drinks at a friend’s house in a little over two and a half hours.

Second, it’s good to return to old stomping grounds to ensure that all’s well in the world while also being curious enough to take a couple of potential risks and sampling new things.

And third, it’s all much easier than you might imagine if you read the fine print about restrictions and keep a keen eye on how fast rules are being relaxed. As Italy is doing away with quarantine restrictions and the outdoor-mask rule will soon disappear, I can highly recommend finding the right touring vehicle and trying the following.

  1. Start in Zürich, if only to understand how inexpensive the rest of your trip will be. As a basic measure, one cappuccino at a good café in Zürich will buy you four in Milan.

  2. Despite the heavy hit that Lombardy took during the pandemic, the city of Como seems to have come through in decent shape. The retail scene looks pretty much the same as it did the last time I was in town and, thankfully, there are very few empty shop units. Fashion retailer A Gi Emme is still working its usual magic for men and women and there’s an outstanding newish addition to the hotel scene. If you’re looking for a hidden escape in the heart of the old town I can highly recommend a long weekend at the Palazzo Albricci Peregrini. Go big on the breakfast (pictured above, left). More on the hotel and the family behind it in the summer issue of Konfekt.

  3. Milan is also in good form. The current curfew is a bit of a downer for the hospitality industry but by day the city is lively, pavements are packed and there’s a sense of optimism that the Salone del Mobile will shift things up a gear come autumn, even if it will be in a more slimmed-down version. Nevertheless, Milan wants to resume where it left off and build on the positive momentum it’s enjoyed since it hosted Expo.

  4. Sirmione (pictured above, right) is a curious little peninsula at the southern end of Lake Garda that’s ideal for a little archi-meets-graphic-design tour. Feeling vaguely like a more northern version of Forte dei Marmi (modernist hotels, perfectly manicured hedges and lots of mid-century metalwork), the town should be sampled now before the Bavarian tour buses start packing out the parkling lots. If you need a simple place to bed town with a good jetty for a morning dip then Aqva Hotel (pictured below, left) should do the trick.

  1. “What’s your favourite hotel in Europe?” is a question I get a lot. While Ett Hem in Stockholm wins in the city category, the overall, top of its game, best in show is Villa Feltrinelli on the western side of Lake Garda (pictured above, right). I’ve been going since it opened 20 years ago and it continues to improve gracefully while also remaining the same. A very difficult act to pull off in hospitality. If you still haven’t managed to check in, try to make a point of it this year.

  2. Here’s one for our female readers. If you pass by Bolzano make sure you stop in to see Charlotte at Victorienne for a serious round of shopping. There’ll be more on her and her boutique in the summer issue of Konfekt as well.

  3. Merano has been our northern Italian outpost for over five years now and we’re back with a whole new setup for this season. Store manager and all-round hostess with the mostest Linda is totally in her groove and she’s brought in plenty of regional treats for the summer. The Ottmanngut, Miramonti, Villa Arnica and Reichhalter are our top tips for a night or a whole week in the region.

Buon viaggio, gute Reise, happy travels.


Welcome home

Restaurant openings have been rather scarce in Toronto during the past year, due to some of the longest city-lockdown measures in North America. But for the team behind Crosley’s, a new dining room in the Little Portugal neighbourhood close to the Monocle bureau on College Street, it has only highlighted the need to be nimble.

“There’s a lot of change happening,” says Myles Harrison, co-owner of Crosley’s, who also acts as its sommelier and manages front of house. “And I like to think on the positive side.” The operation began last summer as a pop-up home dinner service, before the bricks-and-mortar dining room opened in early 2021.

The five-course dinner menus, currently available to take away only, are created by chef and co-owner Joachim Hayward. Dishes change every two weeks and include homely staples such as bouillabaisse, gardener’s pie and plum Bakewell tarts. The vitello tonnato sandwich with veal and tuna is a lunchtime highlight, while freshly-baked sweet and savoury treats can be enjoyed at the handsome walnut countertop, created by designer Ali McQuaid.

“Our goal here is to make a neighbourhood restaurant; we’re not trying to reinvent anything. Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion,” adds Harrison, noting that the typeface used for the restaurant’s cursive logo is styled on his own mother’s handwriting. “The playing field for restaurants has been levelled in a very tough way but there’s also a lot of opportunity out there right now. We’re going to see a shotgun-blast rebirth of restaurants in the city. So I’m confident.” We’ll drink to that.


Great taste

Hospitality is a family affair for Brazilian restaurateur and hotelier Gero Fasano, whose grandfather opened the family’s first restaurant more than a century ago. It’s a legacy that Fasano has built on since 1982, when he took the first steps to reviving the brand that now numbers 8 hotels and 27 restaurants. Here the São Paulo native tells us about his love of New York and his weekend regime.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’ll be at Hotel Fasano Punta del Este in Uruguay, where I have taken refuge during the pandemic. To be honest, I have to admit that my Sundays are very boring, which is how I like them.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I begin my Sundays watching Formula One. Their engines start revving at 08.00 here in Punta.

Soundtrack of choice?
Lots of British musicians – Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros, The Clash, David Bowie, Radiohead – and [Brazilian bossa nova pioneer] João Gilberto.

What’s for breakfast?
I’ll take a cappuccino, please.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Neither. As I said, the perfect Sunday is the one where I do nothing at all.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
If I do exercise on the weekend, it would be a tennis match.

What’s for lunch?
Bollito misto at Parigi, one of our restaurants in São Paulo. It is a traditional dish from Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy, with different types of meats, sausages and cooked vegetables.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
French wine with Italian food.

A city you’re looking forward to visiting?
New York, because it is a very Italian city – and being of Italian descent I can relate to that. The restaurants there are a little bit like those in São Paulo, offering a localised Italian cuisine. It’s part of the reason why it’s common for Italians raised in Brazil to have the Big Apple as a favourite destination. Brazilians were for many years some of the biggest spenders in New York.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
I dream of going back to every restaurant that I’ve not been able to visit due to the pandemic.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
It’s the same every day: a long cold shower and shave. I’ve never used beauty products like perfume in my entire life.

Will you lay out your look for Monday, what will you be wearing?
No – and I’m sceptical of anyone that does. But, as always, I’ll be in a suit.


Thai green curry

Our Swiss chef rustles up his take on a spicy classic with a time-tested, from-scratch curry paste (the time-constrained could use a ready-made option). Serve with rice.

Serves 4

For the curry paste:
1 stalk lemongrass
3 small green chillies
2 green peperoncini
2 garlic cloves
2 shallots
50g galangal (ginger works too)
4 kaffir lime leaves
½ bunch coriander (washed, stalks included)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsps coarse raw sugar
10ml fish sauce

For the curry:
1 stalk lemongrass
1 Thai aubergine
1 carrot
1 pak choi
2 tbsps coconut oil
300g chicken breasts, cubed
250ml vegetable stock
50ml coconut milk
1 lime
½ bunch Thai basil

1. Deseed the chillies, chop roughly and add to a blender jug with finely diced shallots, garlic, galangal (or ginger) and kaffir lime leaves. Cut off the bottom of the lemongrass, peel the outer layers then dice into small pieces. Add roughly chopped coriander, coriander seeds, cumin, raw sugar and fish sauce, then blitz until you have a smooth paste. Voila.

  1. Halve the aubergine, cut the carrots into batons and slice the pak choi into strips. Remove the bottom of the lemongrass stalk, peel off the dry outer layers then bash it with a rolling pin a few times to release its oil.

  2. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a wok or wide frying pan. Stir-fry the chicken cubes for about 2 minutes, then remove and set aside. In the same hot pan, stir-fry the vegetables for about 3 minutes then stir in 3 tablespoons of the curry paste.

  3. Add stock and coconut milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes on medium.

  4. Add chicken cubes and poach for about 5 minutes. Remove the lemongrass before dishing up and add coarsely chopped Thai basil. Serve with sliced lime and rice.


Easy does it

The old cliché about “Southern hospitality” is looking a little threadbare (writes Josh Fehnert). Instead, there are good hotels and less good ones – places that feel of the American South and those that could have sprung up anywhere, from Singapore to San Francisco. The Chloe, luckily, is firmly the former.

Owner and restaurateur Robert LeBlanc tapped interior designer Sara Ruffin Costello to turn the Uptown mansion – built in 1891 – into a smart 14-key hotel. The result? Inky hues, colourful accents and yes, we’re close to the Bayou, so the odd alligator reference to boot. LeBlanc knows restaurants, recruiting chef Todd Pulsinelli for his take on Creole classics in the restaurant, from smoked pork belly with shiso to shrimp étouffée or spicy crab with baked gulf oysters. Yum.

But since you’re in the Big Easy, and so keen on the clichés, you’ll probably want to take some refreshment on the porch (the tiles here date from the 1860s). The cocktail list is accomplished. No mint juleps are mentioned, so plump for a hurricane with rum, passionfruit and a hint of lemon. For those looking to beat the heat, there’s also a pool out back that’s fringed with greenery. The even better news? There’s not an alligator in sight.


What lies beneath

After a long, pandemic-induced absence, we’ve dusted off a favourite feature looking at unusual and unlikely trade fairs around the world – and what’s up for discussion. This week’s date for the diary? The Future Amphibious Force Online Forum, of course.

Defence conferences are more often the subjects of protest than sympathy (writes Andrew Mueller). Nevertheless, coronavirus has been rough on the arms and armour circuit – no vast hangars full of polished artillery, no oleaginous sales reps from companies with euphemistically bland names distributing tank-shaped keyrings.

However, if there is one thing the military realm should be better at than most, it is adapting to suboptimal circumstances. Defence IQ, organisers of this year’s Future Amphibious Force forum, on 18 and 19 May, have risen commendably to the challenge – though you might have to take our word for it as the conference next Tuesday will be a closed affair. By moving the event online, they’ve assembled a cast of speakers that it would be tricky to muster in one room – general-ranking naval and marine officers from the US, the UK, Ukraine, Australia, Colombia, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria and Jordan, among others.

The agenda includes big thinking by big thinkers: vice-admiral Keith Blount of the Royal Navy, commander of Nato’s Allied Maritime Command, will explore the amphibious contribution to joint operations. But there’s also room for the entrancingly obscure (“Modernising The Swedish Marines”; “Exploiting Romania’s Amphibious Potential”).

For these reasons and more, the upshot of the get-together will be worth watching out for. Defence conferences are always interesting because those who speak at them are, by definition, practical people: even if you don’t learn anything specifically from “Peru’s Approach To Bolstering Amphibious Capability” that’s applicable elsewhere, it’s heartening to see the obscure corners trade-fair circuit gearing back up and landing again after a year of radio silence.

For updates on global affairs, pick up the latest issue of Monocle or tune in to our coverage across Monocle 24.


The art of advertising

In the last instalment of our rundown of timeless 20th-century poster designs from our May issue, which is out now, we dip our toe in a Swiss lake, board a riverboat in Japan and take to the skies with a Polish carrier. Stuck up? We’ll take that as a compliment.

Left to right:

The Swiss Region of Kandersteg is showcased in this 1960s print.

A poster from 1964 advertising boat trips on the Swiss lakes.

Swedish radio-maker Radiola enlisted René Ravo to create this design in 1960.

Left to right:

A Japanese poster from the 1930s advertising riverboat trips.

Hiber Maciej’s design for Polish carrier LOT was originally printed in 1961.

For the full rundown of postwar posters plus Monocle’s inaugural Top 50 Design Awards and plenty more besides, buy a copy of our winning May issue of the magazine. Subscribers also have access to our Digital Editions. Enjoy your Sunday.


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