Sunday 8 August 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 8/8/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Back in town

Good morning, dear reader. I don’t want to rush you so early on a Sunday but we have a lot to get on with, so finish your coffee, put on something presentable and comfortable, and let’s get moving as we have to do a bit of time travel and take a spin around Estonia. Where to start?

Okay, it’s the summer of 1991 and my mom and grandmother have invited me to Estonia to connect with my roots, poke around for some buried treasure (I kid you not!) and celebrate our homeland’s restored independence. I recall flying in to Tallinn on Lufthansa, taking a rickety bus to Pärnu and walking the wide beaches with my grandmother while she told various tales about handsome boys she used to know, where she’d dance the night away and where the linen factory was.

For my grandmother it was an emotional and uplifting trip, while I found it all a bit tough going with too many people on the make, the weight of Russia still pressing down on the country and the pock-marks left behind when an oppressor attempts to eradicate an entire culture. I left Estonia thinking that I’d be back in three or four years to check on how things developed and have a go at looking for the family gold but other countries got in the way (Japan, Lebanon, Switzerland). Still, there I was standing at Zürich airport’s gate 55 last Sunday, watching the monitor flash “final call Tallinn”. As I walked up the stairs to the Swiss A220, 30 years didn’t feel so long ago.

Two hours later, with my mom and Mats in tow, I was walking through Tallinn’s tiny airport with a sense of giddy excitement – in part because the trip wasn’t part of the official summer plan and in part because it seemed rather exotic and still unknown. We drove south to Pärnu to walk the old neighbourhood and also sample the technological hopes and dreams of e-mobility. (Note to readers: e-vehicle × digitally advanced though still developing economy = proceed with caution! While the vehicle was a rocket and comfy on highways and country roads, range and charging are still lacking given how much this form of transport is being pushed.) On Monday we checked in on Mats’s ancestral ‘hood around Haapsalu and then made our way back up to Tallinn for an evening with friends Yoko and Priit. They took us on a quick harbour tour, pointed out Nato’s austere cyber-security command, pointed us in the direction of some wonderful medieval-looking saunas and briefed us on a secret swimming spot, before moving on to dinner in a soaring warehouse.

On Tuesday we wandered the streets of Tallinn’s old town buying linen napkins, towels, placemats and tablecloths in all shapes, colours and sizes. Though the country has done a good job hyping its digital economy, it’s missing a trick promoting made-in-Estonia items that could, with a bit of marketing and branding, evolve into proper global luxury brands. Later that afternoon I sat down with prime minister Kaja Kallas to discuss the topic of the growing digital divide and how to ensure that linen-weavers, farmers and miners aren’t left behind in the race to turn everyone into a fully competent digital citizen. (You’ll be able to read the interview in our October issue or listen when The Chiefs returns to Monocle 24 in September.)

Come evening I co-hosted Monocle’s first-ever Baltic get-together with Yoko. For a few hours, while greeting and meeting and listening to stories of unicorns and angels, first and second investment rounds, start-ups and retiring at 40, I thought I was in Portland or Palo Alto or Tel Aviv. Of the 70 or so guests, all of them certainly had a day job and at least 80 per cent had another project on the go that they all hoped would be the next big thing in tech, sustainability or good old wood. Indeed, the best idea I heard is so good that I was sworn to secrecy with the promise that Monocle will get the global exclusive on this forest venture when it’s released. More from Estonia, Finland and Stockholm next week – including the launch of a much-needed political party.


As easy as...

Will you be ready to hit play when the new term starts in September? OK, thought not, so here’s what you need to do.

Step 1. Book a ticket to The Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Athens. The speakers, our happy team and the city will have you brimming with fresh ideas in no time. Head to The event runs from 23 to 25 September.

Step 2. Make sure you are on the lookout for the forthcoming September issue of Monocle, which is packed with places to visit and projects to fix how we live. Best bet? Head straight to

Step 3. Listen to Monocle 24. The Monocle Daily is our new news show that wraps up the day in Europe and gives you total clarity on the twists and turns of events around the world.

Be ready, get wise, stick with Monocle.


On the mend

A restored 1990s villa on a residential street in Dubai is home to Heal, probably the Emirates’ most charming new café and shop (writes Mehr Shafiei). “When things started opening up again, I was looking for a place with soul and I couldn’t find it,” says owner Mohamed Kharbash. “I wanted to create a café that was down to earth and wasn’t overly fancy, a place where you could come as you are.” Chef Francis Mandilag worked across the Middle East for 10 years before coming on board and insists that “clean and simple food has the power to heal”.

His avocado toast is a hit and the mango milk cake is ordered by the sort of people who photograph food before eating it. There’s also a shop with clothes, hand-made home furnishings and goodies from Emirati designers, which all manage to feel both honest and interesting without scandalous price tags.
30 Al Manara Road, Umm Suqeim 2


Topping off

Chef Elena Reygadas’s (pictured) Rosetta restaurant has been a Mexico City staple since opening in the Roma neighbourhood more than 10 years ago. The dreamy interior looks straight out of a fairy tale, with botanical murals in pastel hues and tropical plants drooping from the rafters. The crowds also come for Reygadas’s pasta and fresh vegetable-heavy dishes that are spun from Mexican ingredients. The three-storey mansion’s newest addition is Salón Rosetta, an intimate new bar on the top floor of the building and a must-visit for those in the capital.

“There’s nothing really like this in Mexico City,” says Reygadas. “People either drink in restaurants or at dive bars.” The elegant new space feels upmarket but unpretentious with curved booths, intricate skirting along the powder-blue walls and vast Chinese-influenced paintings. French doors let in fresh air and the atmosphere of the bustling street below. The menu doesn’t disappoint, with spins on old favourites such as a hoja santa martini made with Mexican pepperleaves. Better yet, it’s two flights down to one of the finest restaurants in Mexico City.

A subscription to Monocle comes with access to our Digital Editions and our editors’ picks of the best new openings from Singapore to San Francisco.


Setting sales

By the age of 30, Diandra Donecker was running one of the most successful auction houses in the German-speaking world. Having joined Grisebach as a photography expert in 2017, she rose through the ranks to become its managing director by 2019. Here, Donecker tells us about the importance of print, busy dinners in Berlin and her budding enthusiasm for Bavarian beer.

Where do we find you this weekend?
At an exhibition here in Berlin, then out to lunch with my friends and their newborn.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Gentle. I need my breakfast, my coffee and my newspaper to start the day.

What’s for breakfast?
Porridge or some toasted ciabatta with a boiled egg or jam.

News or not?
I’m a big news-reader and I love getting papers delivered in the mornings. If I really need to concentrate on an article, especially if it’s on the longer side, I read it in print. When I read online it can feel like I’m rushing.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
I’ve been attending some online pilates and yoga classes but I also like getting up early in the morning and going jogging. It really clears my mind.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Pasta, tuna and chickpeas. You’ll always find some hazelnut chocolate in there too.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
I love wine but at the moment I’m very into beer. There’s a Bavarian brand called Tegernseer, which is brewed by the lakes around Munich.

Ideal dinner venue?
The Paris Bar. Back in the 1980s, artists would go there and instead of paying the bill they would hand in artwork. Now the whole restaurant is filled with art.

The ideal dinner menu?

Who’s joining?
It’ll be my boyfriend, his brother, my sister, her husband and her child. We’ll have friends stopping by for a glass of wine; I always let people know. I could go by myself and end up with 10 people around me.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I like going for a stroll in my neighbourhood before bed. Sometimes, not every Sunday, I do a face mask.

Will you lay out your look for Monday?
Mondays are busy because I have to plan my week, so I tend to go for comfort: jeans, a shirt, a blazer and flat ballerina shoes.


Coffee jelly

Our recipe writer shares a Japanese pick-me-up that’s ideal for warmer weather. This jelly needs to be made the day before and left to set but it’s worth the wait, and the Kahlúa kick and a good strong espresso are vital.

Serves 3

250ml cold water
250ml fresh espresso
35g light brown sugar
2 sheets gelatin
3 tbsps Kahlúa
3 tbsps double cream or vanilla ice cream


  1. Soak the gelatin in the cold water and set aside for 3 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, add the brown sugar to the hot espresso and stir until dissolved.

  3. Drain the softened gelatin sheets and add them to the espresso. Mix until dissolved then add the Kahlúa and stir.

  4. Pour the mixture evenly into 3 glasses with low enough sides for you to eat from. Leave to cool.

  5. Once cooled to room temperature, chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours or ideally overnight.

  6. When the jelly is set, add 1 tablespoon of lightly whipped double cream (or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream) into each glass and serve. Enjoy.


Mi casa es su casa

It’s 1982 (writes Andrew Tuck). Yes, I know you weren’t even born. I am a university student from a modest home who has only been abroad a couple of times but who spends a lot of time daydreaming about the places that I will one day visit and the dapper clothes I will get to wear. And there’s a door that I can walk through that will take me to this imagined future. It’s a magazine shop in London. In my student digs there are fashion publications from Italy and copies of Interview Magazine from the US. Just the other day, in the depths of a crate, I found them all again. On the top of the pile was the April 1982 issue of GQ with Harrison Ford on the cover – not everything changes.

Though that might be a million years ago, today I can still crack open a magazine and see a life that I want; be transported. A winner for me is AD Spain. I found its latest July/August edition a couple of weeks ago while in Palma de Mallorca and kept it untouched until I had time to enjoy it. Some of it’s not for me but there’s always at least one residence with which I can transpose myself into the pictures. I can almost hear the sea and smell a pine breeze as I turn the pages. As someone stumbling to learn Spanish, it even works as a pleasant language lesson. And now, after years of buying the magazine, I have bought a tiny spot in Palma de Mallorca and finally the title offers some practical advice too. There’s just something about *AD( Spain that soothes and entices me like a dip in the Med. It’s that door to another place that magazines should always offer.

For the latest releases and a read on the world of media, listen to our radio programme and podcast The Stack, a dedicated, weekly review of the print industry.


Ship shape

It’s August and Italians like to stick together. That means leaving sweltering cities and heading en masse for the slightly less sweltering coastline. But that doesn’t mean you have to decamp to the beach like everybody else. Fêted Italian boat-maker Riva is floating a slightly different idea. Ischia, an island in the Bay of Naples, has become the latest destination for its foray into hospitality, which can already be sampled in spots from Monaco to Croatia.

Riva has gone big on branded lounges and private dining areas that allow you to sample the allure of life on the waves (think chrome, steel and lacquered mahogany detailing) without ever having to get your feet wet. Ischia’s new opening is a dining space inside the Daní Maison restaurant that does just that, with a special Riva-inspired menu to boot. Set inside a lush garden, it beats a fritto misto at the neighbourhood bagni if you’re looking for somewhere shady to drop anchor.


Going, to extremes

As the world reopens and many eye up a sunny escape or overdue work trip, airport lounges have become like safaris for spotting how travellers (some nervy, some nonchalant) are dealing with the strictures and at times wilful annoyances of travel today (writes Josh Fehnert). On recent trips, our editors have seen some distinct tribes emerge around the check-in desk. Here’s our spotter’s guide to the new holidaymakers.

The hazmat crowd
Recognisable by a commitment to germ-free travel so extreme that their outfit seems more apt for a nuclear winter than a Mediterranean summer, these worrisome itinerants take no chances. Kitted out from head to toe in gear that would survive a severe meltdown (arguably exactly what’s happening), these sorry souls are duly instructed to disrobe at security, an act that rather undermines the exercise.

The harried holidaymaker
Meet just-vaccinated Jorge and his girlfriend Catarina. They just got the jab but they haven’t quite come to terms with all the cross-border paperwork yet, especially as the rules changed on the way to the airport and will again just before they embark on the plane. You’ll spot them thumbing through sheaves of official-looking papers stating that they have indeed shelled out for the PCR test, done the passenger locator form and got expressed written permission from the king of Spain and the Pope, but are still, sadly, missing one crucial bit of bumf needed by the check-in staff and are turned away. Better luck next time, folks.

The back-in-business boss
Already in the groove after a few deal-sealing trips to Frankfurt, Zürich and Rome, this slick customer has his papers in order, a seat at the nose of the plane earmarked and very little patience for the poorly organised pantomime unfolding before him. With a newspaper under the arm and a mask slipped neatly over nose and mouth, he’s proof that the novelty of complicated travel arrangements passes rather quickly.

The garrulous grannies
Long in the tooth but short on commitments, this sun-kissed pair are already on their third holiday, with more planned, and taking things at a rather genteel pace. They’ve also taken time to poke a little fun at the perfectly healthy but rather worried 30-something next to them at departures. Vaccinated back in January, they’ve bounced around continental Europe making the most of the fact that their children and grandchildren haven’t been allowed to leave the country (shame) and had to settle for a soggy campsite at home. Meanwhile, these two are off to Paros (again). Have a super Sunday.


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