Sunday 23 May 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 23/5/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


High hopes

When was the last time you flew? I’m not talking about a flight on a highly automated Airbus shuttling from Paris to Madrid, or a Boeing between LAX and JFK. I’m talking about real flying, complete with propeller, super-short take-offs, fast climbs, a connection to the gusts, pressure changes all around and a Monocle editor acting as chief flight attendant – that would be me, by the way.

On Friday morning, a group of Monocle subscribers walked across the tarmac at Zürich airport, climbed the stairs into the cabin of a Pilatus PC-12 and 50 minutes later were on approach to the grass runway at Venice’s Lido airport with me in charge of relaying announcements from the cockpit. “The captain said the airport doesn’t open till 9.00 so we’re going to do a little loop over Venice,” I explained to my passengers while collecting coffee cups, stowing away bottles and taking a generally lax attitude to the rest of the cabin arrangement – seats in recline, some angled outwards, bags resting here and there. (In case you thought I was joking two weeks ago when I said we’d be doing a special archi-tour of the Venice Biennale for Monocle readers, we ended up being over-subscribed.) Two minutes later we made a gentle turn over Lido and the runway came into view. “Oh, you were serious about the runway,” said one of the passengers seated beside the cargo door at the back. At this point, she joined the rest of us as we fixed our gaze beyond the cockpit windshield and watched the pilots guide in for a mattress-soft landing. Moments later we came to a stop in front of the Aeroporto Nicelli’s vaguely fascist terminal building, the captain lowered the stairs and the cabin filled with the scents of freshly cut grass and the Adriatic.

“It feels like we could easily be in one of Italy’s former African colonies,” commented a passenger as he walked down the stairs. “Asmara perhaps?” Swapping hats from chief flight attendant to general manager of ground services, I collected passports, chatted to the tanned gentlemen in charge of arrivals and, less than a minute later, we were striding out of the terminal and heading for the jetty. As we waited for the water taxi to pull up, two ambulance boats sped into the canal, lights flashing and staff at the ready. As patients were transferred into ambulances of the wheeled variety, we were reminded how everything comes with considerably greater complexity in Venice: four or five attendants per boat, and how do they get the ill and injured out of those narrow apartments with cage-style lifts built for one, or only with stairs? Ten minutes later we were at the Giardini and already there were plenty of journalists, diplomats, architects and academics having their third espresso and fifth cigarette of the morning. At the Paradiso, our little group was joined by our editors Nolan and Nic, and after a short briefing and coffees that were far better than what I had to work with in my tiny aircraft galley, we made our way to a series of private tours at the US, Russian and Danish pavilions.

En route to the Japanese pavilion (one of the more clever and moving concepts this year as it dealt with depopulation rather than the more predictable themes of crowding) we bumped into a sizeable delegation from the UAE. Then we had to skirt around a group of secret-service men who’d formed a human wall around a few State Department officials, who in turn were checking out the impressive US pavilion that at first glance looks almost Thai, until the curators explain that it’s a metaphor for US industrialisation, ingenuity and spontaneity.

By late morning the sun was out, the haze had lifted and we opted for lunch at the Cipriani, which ended up going much longer than I’d budgeted for in my schedule. Still, no one was complaining as this was Venice free from jumbo cruise-liners, heaving tour boats and mobs from China wielding selfie-sticks.

Post-lunch was a bit slower for our group. A couple of bottles of Jermann chardonnay can have this effect, when combined with a substantial lunch. The Arsenale offered some more focused themes (an excellent mini expo about Beirut and its historical and future challenges in terms of planning and building) along with some rather abstract expressions that left a few of us bewildered and wondering why they hadn’t used the past year to delete them from the Biennale altogether.

With the immigration office set to close at 18.45 sharp at the little airport, there was just enough time for a quick end-of-day recap with our editors and then it was back across the lagoon and straight onto the plane. I’ll skip the details of the rain we flew into (yes, more real flying!) on approach to Zürich and leave it that we were back on safe ground an hour and ten minutes later. We’re hoping to do more of these as the right events present themselves – in all corners of the world. For more on Venice, please pick up a copy of our special edition newspaper or order here. As ever, all questions and comments can be sent to me at


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 December as a pop-up home-dinner service, before the bricks-and-mortar dining room opened in early 2021.

The five-course menus, currently only available for take-away, are created by chef and co-owner Joachim Hayward and change every two weeks. They include homely staples such as bouillabaisse, gardener’s pie and plum bakewell tarts. The vitello tonnato sandwich with veal 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,” says 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.


Raising the standard

We catch up with the New York-based CEO of Standard International on a weekend away in Austin, Texas. Standard International, which shares an investor with Monocle, is the parent company of The Standard Hotels, Bunkhouse Group and One Night. Lalvani discusses new openings in Thailand, his havanese hound, Oreo, and some tips for drinking and dining in the Lone Star State.

What have you been working on lately?
As you know it has been a hell of a year for hospitality. Thankfully we’re now reopening our existing hotels and designing new ones. Two in particular are opening in Thailand at the end of this year. We’re scouting and hiring people again too, which feels great.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’m in Austin, Texas, where I have a house and our sister company Bunkhouse is headquartered. The weather is beautiful this time of year and the city is vibrant. You can hear live music again, which is a fantastic sign of things to come.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Very gentle: coffee and a newspaper in bed. The weekdays are packed with late nights and early mornings given our growth in Europe and Asia. Sundays are for relaxing.

Soundtrack of choice?
I’ve been putting together a playlist for my wedding in October. It’s a fun process. It’s like building the ultimate four-day mixtape: old classics, discoveries from travels and beach beats (we’re getting married at Hotel Esencia, which is on an isolated beach in the Yucatán).

What’s for breakfast?
Breakfast tacos, of course – an Austin favourite. Chef Rene Ortiz has a restaurant called Fresa’s which is our go-to and right next to our house. Awesome chilaquiles too, which happen to be the perfect hangover cure for a Sunday.

News or not?
I’m kind of addicted to the news. But Sunday is for The New York Times – the hard copy. Not Twitter.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Walk the dog. I have a little black and white havanese mutt named Oreo who came with me this weekend. She loves being out of our New York apartment and enjoying the fresh air.

What’s for lunch?
Clark’s Oyster Bar, another of our Austin favourites. Oysters, crab cakes, mussels, clams and a cold chablis.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Turkish pistachios. My mother lives on the coast in Bodrum, in a beautiful little bay called Türkbükü. These remind me of being there and are the essential snack for lazy weekend afternoons. It’s a totally different flavour to the Persian and Californian varieties.

Sunday culture must?
I love The Tim Ferriss Show. It’s a really long-form podcast. Sometimes three hours plus, so perfect for a Sunday. His guests are interesting and intelligent.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Monkey 47 and Fever-Tree tonic with a dash of bitters and fresh lime. My dear friend and London nightlife impresario Piers Adam gave me the bitters tip. Perfection.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
The Odeon, my local in Tribeca. It has been there for 40 years and is just right every time. They did a spectacular job serving the community throughout the pandemic.

Who would join?
My fiancée, Courtney, although she doesn’t live in New York. My daughters. And Oreo, of course.

Will you lay out your look for Monday?
No. I’ll roll out of bed too early, make myself a cappuccino, throw on a baseball cap and whatever’s around and Zoom on over to Asia.


Prawns with garlic and chilli

Our recipe writer rustles up a classic Spanish starter, gambas al ajillo. The sherry and sherry vinegar add a complexity of flavour but feel free to treat the ingredients list as a guide rather than a rule (and add a little more chilli if you like things hot). Be sure to have some still-warm, toasted bread to mop up the juices.

Serves 2 as a starter, or with other tapas dishes

4 tbsps olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp chilli flakes
250g large prawns, shelled
3 large pinches of sweet smoked paprika powder
1 tsp dry sherry
½ tsp sherry vinegar (optional)
½ lemon
Sea salt and crushed black pepper, to taste
10g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Crusty bread, to serve

1. Put the olive oil, chopped garlic and chilli flakes into a small frying pan and heat slowly to a simmer over a medium-low heat.

  1. When the garlic starts to turn a light golden colour, add the prawns, paprika and sherry and turn up the heat slightly. When the prawns turn pink and opaque and are cooked through (2 to 3 minutes), add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

  2. Pour out into a serving dish (or serve in the cooking pan) then sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve straight away, still warm and without draining the oil. Serve with warm crusty bread to mop the delicious garlicky chilli-flecked oil along with a nice cold drink.


Open plans

The small Japanese city of Maebashi might not feature on many tourist itineraries but if businessman Hitoshi Tanaka has his way, it will soon become a stop for anyone interested in contemporary Japanese architecture. Once a bustling silk-trading centre, Maebashi runs at a slower pace today. But thanks to Tanaka it now has a unique hotel, the Shiroiya, which has been renovated, extended and furnished with loving care over six years by a team led by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto.

“I saw it when Tanaka-san had just bought the property,” says Fujimoto, who has known Tanaka for almost 20 years. “It was a nice, normal, four-storey concrete building – the kind you see all over Japan. From the beginning, Tanaka wanted to renovate, not tear down. My idea was to demolish some of the floors inside, keeping the columns and beams, and making an atrium that would bring in the natural light. It was a way of making a drastic change without losing the spirit of the building.”

Tanaka didn’t want to create a precious “art” hotel; he wanted a living room for the city, where its residents would be as happy coming for lunch as lovers of art and architecture would be to stay. The restaurant, an airy spot to enjoy easy Japanese food – ebi fry (fried prawn), Gunma prefecture salad and the house Japanese curry made with local Akagi beef – is one to book, even if you’re not staying overnight.


Off track

Dressed in head-to-toe navy, Studio Nicholson founder Nick Wakeman is showing us her new London flagship – and making it known that she does not like sweatpants (writes Jamie Waters). “We were very clear during lockdown: we are not going to start peddling shit that you can slob about in,” says the east London-based designer. “It’s not part of our DNA.” Whether boxy linen shirts, loose merino-blend dresses or voluminous pleated trousers in greys, creams and navy, Wakeman creates pieces for men and women that are relaxed but a bit smart, understated yet a touch playful. They can be worn on the couch, out to meetings or on a dance floor.

With many feeling uninspired by slovenly tracksuits but not needing formal attire, demand for these versatile items has been high. Studio Nicholson’s e-commerce and wholesale sales figures jumped by 25 and 40 per cent respectively in 2020 compared to the previous year. “For ages I’ve been banging my drum about having wardrobe items that serve many purposes and that you can mix and match,” says Wakeman.

And now customers can peruse these pieces at her new shop. Set on the corner of Soho’s bustling Broadwick Street, the sun-dappled space is fitted with unusual materials, such as dove-grey rubber floors and furniture by London artisans, including oak cabinets made by Uncommon Projects and a fluffy armchair by designer and upholstery expert Sedilia. It’s a public face for the brand and a blueprint for future openings: 2022 will see a rollout of shops in Asia as Wakeman has just signed a retail and distribution deal with a Japanese company and is finalising details with a South Korean firm. “In my gut, I know we’re on this trajectory,” she says. “In all aspects of the business, it’s kind of working.”

For more fashion finds and spring/summer looks seek out a copy of our immaculately-turned-out June issue of the magazine.


Working order

The past 12 months have seen many best-laid plans scuppered and refocused the attention of some onto pursuing jobs they want in industries they admire (writes Josh Fehnert). So are you game for a change? If so it’s good to remember that entrepreneurship isn’t simply about earning a living; headlines about lucrative flips, floats and “disruptors” belie a more complicated picture.

Instead, running your own business means that you decide what success looks like and ensure that your own values align with the job you do. Despite the snakes and ladders of working life and getting your career going, there are a few simple steps you can take – to look after your staff, step up to new challenges, start a company you can be proud of – and decisions that mean taking a few calculated risks, now and again. Will the future of business be run from bedrooms or boardrooms? In a tailored blazer and a button-down shirt or in pyjamas and sweats? We’ve got a few hunches about all that, so here are a few thoughts to get you started from our out-now issue of The Entrepreneurs.

New horizons
Start something new. What about pets, plants, fitness or bicycle shops? Vinyl records, friendly deliveries, rural hotels or good retail? All experienced growth over the past year but remember to look beyond the pandemic. Select something that will deliver some happiness for years to come. Tweaking winning formulas and brand revivals might work well too.

Smarten up
Overalls or suit? T-shirt or tie? When raising capital and selling your vision, think about how you’re going to make this a success and what success looks and sounds like. How about some lessons on public speaking? Picking up a few phrases in a foreign tongue to show a willingness to talk to your suppliers in Spain? Get off on the right foot with some smart shoes from John Lobb and a Boglioli blazer.

Build a brand
So you’ve realised that “digital” is something but by no means everything. Great. Now you’ll need a deft logo and to take some time to decide what your brand is and what it represents – then stick to it. Too many companies rely on tired copywriting and 10 rebrands in the first five months. Do it right and these building blocks will add up to a firm foundation.

Zoom out
Whether you plump for a shared space or a proper office, our environments shape how we feel – and how people see you. Perhaps you should consider whether you’re being overambitious or if you’re in the right city or nation. How about a nice office in Porto or Athens? Now’s the time to cut a deal with the landlord and think big.

Be resilient
You won’t get everything right – it’s OK to apologise, reframe and regroup. The key is knowing when to step back – from a row with suppliers, an angry and unproductive email exchange or a deal – and to go for a walk. A morning routine can clear your head – play tennis, do a downward dog. There will be setbacks, and you must take care of yourself when they happen.

For more tips, pick up a copy of our business handbook, ‘The Entrepreneurs’, which is out now. Or listen to our radio show of the same name. Oh, and remember to enjoy your Sundays.


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