Sunday 20 June 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 20/6/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


See the light

On Thursday Monocle’s annual Quality of Life issue will be arriving on newsstands and sliding through letterboxes. (Note to postal staff: please handle with care as this issue is a little chunkier than usual.) It’s landing just in time for the start of holidays, longer-haul flights and earlier escapes from the office. With our annual ranking of cities at its core, we’ve rejigged our metrics and approach to assessing the urban environment. Along with the usual benchmarks around education, security, global connectivity and green space, we’ve also taken a view on how liberal cities were during lockdown and also looked ahead to gauge how they might fare as measures are relaxed and borders reopened.

When I cracked the spine of an early copy that landed in Zürich on Tuesday morning I was feeling good about the issue: happy cover, gentle pace and a good line-up of advertisers. (Just in case you’ve been worried about the state of the printed word, I’m happy to report that our summer issue has the highest ad revenue in five years – a very good sign that budgets are bouncing back and that there’s a confident streak in the market.)

Back home I had dinner and, as the sun dipped, I wandered down to the little park near my apartment for a dip. As the temperature was hovering just below 30C, there were a few locals still stretched out on the grass. Towels, Birkenstocks, hats, house keys and phones were all neatly stacked here and there on the concrete swimming deck by owners who were out for their ritual, pre-bedtime swims. I took the plunge and swam out to a nearby sailboat, then made my way back to the deck. As others dried off and picnics were packed away, I felt a little uneasy. It wasn’t water in the ear or a post-dinner cramp but it was definitely something physical. What was it? I glanced around. At the far end of the lake the sky was pinky amber and in the other direction, towards the Alps, there was the makings of a storm. Could it be a change in pressure? I pulled my T-shirt over my head and when the collar dipped below my nose, it hit me.

It was the light coming from a post near the water’s edge. I gazed up to the source, turned around to look at the lights along the road and then squinted upwards again. The lights had been changed. Where once there was a warm and welcoming yellow glow, a panel of blinding LEDs were now beaming down to ensure that all passersby get a good look at anyone who might be peeling off for a late-night dip. I walked closer to inspect further and, as I had to shield my eyes to look at the arrangement, I had to wonder whether this was a missed metric. Quality of light as a key factor in quality of life? How was this cold, hard lighting setup an improvement on what was warm and welcoming before. Yes, yes, I’m sure that it’s much more energy efficient but is this really the best the community could do? Was it not possible for the supplier to offer something more glowing and also fitting? And what about the insects and birds? And the obliterated night sky?

In a week when China could send three astronauts to a new space station in the heavens, how is it that we can’t come up with lighting systems for communities, offices and residences that aren’t just focused on cooling the planet but also enhance our mood and don’t make us feel as though we’re under surveillance or being interrogated by Mossad? Time for civic leaders, the people at Philips and Osram, and restaurant and hotel managers to pick up a copy of Junichirō Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows and embrace the subtle and serene. Failing that, dimmers on everything.


Summer in style

Have we introduced you to Monocle’s fetching sister publication? With good humour, an exacting eye and a brave spirit, Konfekt is a thoughtful quarterly that celebrates understated glamour, seeks out lesser-known stories and opens closed doors. This week marks the launch of Issue 3, in which we take to the plains of the Camargue with cowboys and queens as our guide, discover the women in Izmir keeping Sephardic cuisine alive and spend a long, hot weekend in Cádiz.

There is also plenty to buy, see, cook and covet, plus recipes and recommendations. Buy a copy today or subscribe so you don’t miss out, and sign up to our fortnightly newsletter Konfekt Kompakt. It’s time we got acquainted.


Rising sun

Nestled in Wan Chai, not far from Monocle’s bureau and shop, The Hari hotel opened in late 2020 and brought with it one of the city’s best new Japanese restaurants.

Perfect for a casual business lunch or dinner date – and relishing the fact that restaurants here have remained open throughout much of the pandemic – Zoku’s smart decor matches the simplicity and sophistication of the fare. The miso-marinated Alaskan black cod is a must-try.


Drop in

Housed in a charming hanok (a traditional Korean house) in the Jongno-gu neighbourhood, Bar Cham is an intimate cocktail bar where Lim Byung-jin makes his one-of-a-kind cocktails from traditional ingredients.

Each drink riffs on a region of South Korea, from Yeoju and Damyang to Hamyang and Jeju Island. We recommend Jeju, one of the house’s signature cocktails, which mixes ripe tangerines with umami notes from traditional Korean flower liqueurs.
+82 2640 24750

Subscribe to Monocle’s Digital Editions to read 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 guide to Seoul.


Chef’s table

Italian chef Rosa Vanina initially joined French architecture firm LAN’s team to create meals for its in-house cafeteria (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). It wasn’t long before the team decided that her food was too good to keep to themselves. Last year, Vanina and the team opened Pianoterra, a ground-floor restaurant beneath the 11th arrondissement studio. It has since become popular for its rustic, simple and sumptuous Sicilian food. Here, Vanina holds forth on picnics, plonk and her favourite beach restaurant.

Where do we find you this weekend?
In the mornings I go to the market. I love seeing what’s available and feeling the energy of the sellers. If I’m with my children by the afternoon I’m either at the rugby pitch supporting my eldest or at a park having a picnic.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
On days when I’m full of energy the ideal day starts in a swimming pool for an hour of breaststroke. On other days it’s breakfast on the terrace.

Soundtrack of choice?
To start the weekend: Andrea Laszlo de Simone, Le Volume Courbe and Ennio Morricone.

What’s for breakfast?
Coffee, coffee, coffee. And bread and butter, with wild-blackberry jam from my father’s home near Etna.

News or not?
Yes. On the weekends I love listening to the news on the radio. On other days, I typically read the digital version of Le Monde. Having a reliable source is important to me.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I prefer the cat-cow pose.

Lunch in or out?
Out, but it’s not a must. I prefer somewhere on the quieter side with pleasant surroundings.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon – you can do so much with them.

Sunday culture must?
I’m really passionate about cinema, and I find Sundays are a good day to introduce my children to the classics because you can take your time. I also really miss exhibitions, concerts, theatre and going to the opera.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Domaine Belluard’s Brut Zéro from Savoie.

The ideal dinner menu?
Sea urchins, spaghetti with bottarga then rum baba.

Ideal dinner venue?
The lido at Pecorini A Mare on the island of Filicudi, in Sicily. It’s a wild and beautiful place.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I eat early, drink a little, smoke a little. Then I go to bed early, having already decided what’s on the menu for lunch the next day.

Will you lay out your look for Monday? What will you be wearing?
A long skirt from Cristaseya, a white T-shirt and chef’s shoes.


Lobster rolls with brown butter

As with all sandwiches, this will only be as good as the filling you find, so get the freshest lobster you can. You can vary the recipe by omitting the mayonnaise for a lighter taste or toasting the roll for added crunch.

Serves 4

2 tbsps salted butter
230g lobster meat, coarsely chopped
50g mayonnaise
1 tsp sriracha sauce
2 tbsps celeriac, finely diced
4 soft brioche buns
1 tbsp pickled lemon, finely diced
1 tbsp chives, chopped
2 tbsps fried onions (available from most Asian supermarkets)
Lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

  1. Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat until it begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma (be careful not to let it burn). Take off the heat and set aside – you’ve made brown butter.

  2. Add lobster meat to the pan until it’s heated through. In a bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the sriracha sauce and celeriac, and season with salt.

  3. Cut buns in half (not all the way through) and use a pastry brush to add a little brown butter to the inside of each bun before placing it in the oven for 2-3 minutes.

  4. Remove the buns from the oven then fill them with the lobster meat, seasoned mayonnaise, pickled lemon and crunchy onions. Top with chives and season with a little lemon juice and serve.


Settle in

“The villa seemed to be waiting for us,” says Carlos Couturier, co-founder and managing partner at Grupo Habita. “It was left exactly as it was originally conceived; everything from the old lamps to the bookshelves and original windows were in place. We had to buy it.” The Mexican hospitality brand’s latest property, the sea-facing Baja Club in the coastal Mexican town of La Paz, occupies a mission-style villa dating from 1910. From the street, the building’s stucco walls, amber-glazed doors and windows with ornate cast-iron grills give it a timeless feel. Grupo Habita has restored the old hacienda and joined forces with design firms Max von Werz Architects and Jaune Architecture.

The team worked to maintain the appeal of the old property while adding space and bringing the hotel up to date. “One of the challenges was how to build on a site’s rich history and character but also give it a new lease of life,” says the Mexico City-based firm’s Max von Werz. One example of this is in the wide, open-air spiral staircase, which swirls down to the pool and courtyard freckled with frangipani trees, against the backdrop of an original wall hewn from handmade bricks. With a restaurant, bar, spa and courtyard pool, guests needn’t venture too far for diversions either. But as well as the villa, there are plenty of reasons the team chose La Paz as the destination. Despite the town’s unfair reputation for being tourist-heavy it has a number of draws, such as the beaches and the Unesco-heritage islands, which Couturier believes are the area’s best-kept secret. “It feels like a calm fishermen’s port,” he says. “A paradise waiting to be discovered.”

For more travel news, pick up a copy of our July/August issue, which will be on newsstands from Thursday. Here a few highlights we found in La Paz.

Address book:

Jazamango. A restaurant, bakery and organic garden where chef Javier Plascencia serves fresh catches that are paired with sublime cocktails best enjoyed on the venue’s patio.

Doce Cuarenta. For early risers, this buzzy café serves cold brews and cortados as well as smoothies and pastries. It also stocks freshly roasted beans to take away.

To drink:
Hambrusia. One of the town’s hippest and most inventive margarita and taco joints, Hambrusia puts its own delicious spin on classics – try the confit-tuna tostada with wasabi and ponzu.
+52 612 183 1707

To shop:
Étnica, Todos Santos. Browse the beautiful made-in-Mexico kaftans, linen shirts and simple leather goods that are all available to buy at this appointment-only shop.
+52 612 143 7585


Character building

If you’ve ever found yourself bemoaning your lot in life then spare a thought for the woebegone slaves who helped to hump five million tonnes of sandstone, granite and limestone into place to construct the Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt about 4,500 years ago (writes Josh Fehnert). This literally monumental achievement is the starting point of Barnabas Calder’s perspicacious new book Architecture: From Prehistory to Climate Emergency, published by Pelican.

For millennia this pyramid was the tallest building on Earth and a testament to the power of the pharaoh who commissioned it – but it can also be used as a rather emphatic yardstick of how burning fuel has helped canny humans to unleash once unimaginable energy to fly, build and make – and more recently to harm the environment. For instance, the energy used to construct the pyramid at Giza (78 million days-worth by the author’s reckoning) can today be comfortably consumed in a year by a large American family (as in seven people, not three with wide waistbands).

Yes, we’ve become rather better at lugging stones, steel, bricks, brackets and glass into place – or worse, if you start to realise that this energy use comes with a climatic catch. It’s this refreshingly counterintuitive view of architecture as energy use (and buildings as emblems of what the architects of the time had at their disposal) that Calder employs as his lucid history wends its way from tusk-and-hide shelters past temples and churches to the Le Corbusiers and Calatravas of the world.

As the subtitle suggests, there’s a heavy climate change-shaped cloud over the narrative. But, crucially, there’s also hope, optimism and some solutions worth heeding. Calder argues that today, more than ever, we need beautiful buildings that help us live better – and to retrofit what we already have rather than always building anew. Today, 40 per cent of greenhouse gases come from the construction and running of buildings – that needs to change. But it’s not all bad. After all, you can count your lucky scarabs that you’re not stuck working for Pharaoh Khufu after all. Have a super Sunday

Images: Stephanie Fuessenich, Rena Effendi, The Social Food, Ana Hop. Illustration: Xihanation


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