Sunday 26 September 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 26/9/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Honoured guests

Kalimera! Kalispera! We start this Sunday with a scene-setter from the Cyclades. It’s the afternoon after the night before (we’ll come back to this in a moment) and I’m looking out across the Aegean. Today the sea is an intensely dark navy blue with the occasional whitecap and turquoise dapples closer to shore. The sun is hanging a bit lower than the last time I was here but it’s still sharp in the cloudless sky. A gentle breeze is rustling the tall grasses beyond the terrace, in the background there’s a mellow, jazzy station, and close to hand a chilled assyrtiko from Estate Argyros is helping to bring the past 48 hours into focus.

By now you’ll know that we’ve been in Athens for the sixth edition of our Quality of Life Conference and I think I’m having that odd, melancholic slump that hits after being in the thick of hosting a major event. I don’t have enough distance to have a full perspective on how it all went but if the comments from delegates and speakers are a decent barometer then I think team Monocle did a pretty decent job – perhaps the best ever. Athens was a tiny bit chillier than hoped for our welcome drinks and Greece’s coronavirus rules were rather more cumbersome than elsewhere in the EU (don’t you dare go near that dancefloor young lady or shake your bum young man!). But wonderful hosts, provocative ideas and the odd little glimpse into the future made this family outing at the eastern end of the Med the perfect tonic as we slide from quarter three into four. Now, what did I learn?

1. Just when you thought you’d seen it all
Hannah is in charge of Monocle’s events and is already looking forward to a whole series of summits and shindigs over the coming weeks and months. The media conference in London is up next (see here) and then we’re looking at various get-togethers in Porto, St Moritz, Paris and maybe even Cape Town. Hannah has had a busy few months prepping for Athens with our Hellenic correspondent Daphne Karnezis and along the way they thought it would be more interesting to have our editors and speakers gather in a homey setting instead of a restaurant. At first I wasn’t sold on the idea (invading someone’s home, a space not made for 60 people, for a casual Thursday dinner; the complexities that come with catering) but after seeing a few pics and being reminded who the owners were I changed my mind. After a jolly cocktail on the rooftop of Athens City Hall and a sparky 10-point urban manifesto from mayor Kostas Bakoyannis we set off into the night to find our second venue.

One of the most alluring elements of Athens is its density and the scale of its residential buildings. After 10 minutes we found ourselves in a neighbourhood that could have easily been Damascus, Beirut or one of the street settings for the series Tehran (yes, Athens is the stunt double for the Iranian capital in the second season as well). We pulled up in front of a narrow, towering townhouse on our right and warmly lit walled courtyard on our left. Waiters were gliding across the street, drinks were offered as we stepped out of the car, cats paraded back and forth and scooters were trying to squeeze past.

Inside the house, Konstantinos Pantazis and Marianna Rentzou, the couple behind Point Supreme Architects, are waiting to greet us and the house is so familiar, fantastic and kooky that you don’t know whether to request a refill and take it in or demand a full tour before the other guests arrive. Many architects like to claim that they’ve figured out how to build more densely, merge materials and bring the outdoors indoors – but few have mastered all three. I’ve seen a fair few houses in my time but this one was a showstopper in its clever details, smart engineering and complete comfort. Should you be thinking about a little building project in Greece or anywhere else on the Med, this could be just the firm you’re after.

2. A better conversation
Emma Tucker, editor of The Sunday Times, and author Thomas Chatterton Williams would make a good double act on a new series called “Voices of Reason” or something similar. On stage they tackled issues around identity politics, threats to the modern newsroom and the stifling of discussion head-on and created a sense of hope for all in the room. Perhaps most importantly, they reminded those assembled that companies that believe in free speech and diverse opinions should stand up for employees who put this into practice but suddenly find themselves attacked by braying mobs.

3. Silent flight
Heart Aerospace may not be as familiar a name as Boeing or Dassault but, with a bit of lift, its four-prop, all-electric aircraft could be the little shuttle that will soon connect villages and hubs, islands and outcrops with plenty of thrust and top-flight environmental creds. CEO Anders Forslund’s 19-seater has just landed a big order from United and more carriers are lining up to be part of commercial aviation’s next wave of more hushed flying. Five years from now it could be the aircraft that gets you from that underserved regional airport near your weekend house back to your weekday base on a Monday morning. Imagine Sundays fully intact!


On with the show

Copenhagen’s redeveloped Carlsberg district is springing to life, thanks to the completion of the new headquarters for the neighbourhood’s namesake brewery and the opening of several galleries, shops and restaurants. Among the most exciting is Japanese restaurant Kona. Started by Philipp Inreiter, the Austrian-born chef and entrepreneur behind the city’s Slurp Ramen Joint, the two-storey space is designed by Danish studio Archival Studies.

On the entry level is an izakaya-style bar serving katsu-sandos, chicken karaage and yakitori, with yuzu lemonade or Austrian natural wine to wash it all down. Downstairs you’ll find what Benas Burdulis, partner at Archival Studies, describes as “a more dramatic space”. “You have a fixed menu or omakase, which in Japanese means ‘leave it up to the chef’.” The chef in question, Jessica Natali, formerly of Noma and Inua in Tokyo, serves seafood and seasonal vegetables around a horseshoe bar overlooking the kitchen. “Everything from the lighting to the shape of the bar creates a performative space,” says Burdulis. In other words, if you go for a meal, you’ll also get a show.

For more food scoops, new openings and discoveries, check out our new-look Inventory pages in the latest issue of Monocle.


Dine on

Hit restaurant Mary’s has opened in a quiet suburb of Hawke’s Bay on New Zealand’s North Island. “It’s where an elevated diner meets a neighbourhood bistro,” says head chef Casey McDonald. It started as a temporary pop-up called Casey’s Diner, which McDonald opened at Craggy Range winery after New Zealand’s lockdown ended.

When no one wanted it to close, it morphed into Mary’s. Today, the restaurant delivers exceptional fare such as lamb shank crisped on the Josper grill, with creamy peppercorn sauce and buttery polenta. The often-changing menu might include tacos one day and Te Matuku oysters or a comforting gnocchi carbonara on another. One thing that hasn’t changed is how good it all is.


Change of scene

Hiroshi Sugimoto is best known for his long-exposure photography, which expertly and poignantly engages with themes related to memory and time. Over the years, he’s had solo exhibitions at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Osaka, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others, and received awards for his contributions to photography. Here, he talks about life in Tokyo, soba noodles and his favourite whisky.

Where do we find you this weekend?
My studio in Tokyo. We’re still in semi-lockdown here.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
I like to wake up at 05.00 to watch the light of the sky change as the sun rises.

Soundtrack of choice?
Only the sound of silence.

What’s for breakfast?
Coffee, toast and some fresh fruit.

News or not?
No news.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
No exercise. The lifetime guarantee on my joints appears to have expired.

Lunch in or out?
Out, for soba noodles.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Organic rice produced by a farmer friend of mine.

Sunday culture must?
I am working on a book. I find that Sundays are my most productive day.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Mount Fuji water, and Ichiro single-malt in the evening.

Ideal dinner venue?
My home.

Ideal dinner menu?
Home-made tomato sauce, which I make using fully ripened tomatoes that were grown nearby and eat with spaghetti or risotto.

Who’s joining?
My artist and musician friends.

Will you lay out your look for Monday, what will you be wearing?
Jeans and a T-shirt.


Roasted pulpo with bay leaves

Swiss chef Ralph Schelling dishes up a tasty take on oven-roasted octopus with thyme, bay leaves, peppers and potatoes. You can also swap in sherry for white wine or add ripe or sun-dried tomatoes for an extra layer of flavour.

Serves 4

2 red onions, peeled 3 cloves garlic 4-5 medium potatoes 150g celery stalks 8 tbsps olive oil 1 tsp red bell pepper flakes 1 tsp black pepper 250ml white wine 3-4 bay leaves 1 sprig thyme 600g octopus, ready to cook salt to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 160C. Cut the onions into quarters, crush the garlic cloves, peel and coarsely chop the potatoes, and dice the celery.

  2. Heat the oil on the hob in a heavy cooking pot with a lid and sauté the onions, garlic, bell pepper flakes and peppercorns for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Deglaze with the wine and leave for a minute or two to let the alcohol cook off.

  3. Add the potatoes, celery, octopus, herbs and salt, mix and put into the oven covered with the lid for an hour and 30 minutes.

  4. Once the time’s up, remove and plate evenly between four bowls. Season to taste, top with a trickle of the best olive oil you can find and serve with bread.


Living rooms

“I wanted a hotel to reflect the culture of the city, where I could stay for a week or more,” says Eric Jafari, co-founder of Schwan Locke, a 151-room apartment-hotel in Munich designed by London interiors studio Fettle.

The vivid mid-century colour palette and modernist furniture are enhanced by work from artists based in the city. Communal spaces include a lounge, café, bar and gym.


Building on tradition

Celebrated stationery and incense shop Kyukyodo has been a fixture in Kyoto since 1663. Twelfth-generation president Naohisa Kumagai is in charge today and it was the 46-year-old who made the bold decision to rebuild Kyukyodo’s main shop. “I don’t know much about architecture,” he says. “But the construction company took me to see some other buildings and I was very taken by one, which was designed by Hiroshi Naito.” It was a good choice: Tokyo-based Naito has a well-earned reputation for designing atmospheric wooden structures.

Kyukyodo does brisk business and regulars come in for its fine selection of handmade calligraphy brushes, ink stones, notebooks, silkscreen-printed postcards, fans and incense. “We have more than 1,000 products,” says Kumagai. He feels a responsibility to protect the traditional skills needed to create many of Kyukyodo’s products and the livelihoods of those who make them. The new shop has a small garden and a tatami room where customers are invited to sniff (or, as the experts say, “listen to”) incense fragrances.


Stay fresh

To celebrate the September launch of ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’ we’ve selected a smattering of inspiring upstarts and smart businessfolk to spotlight. This week: a Seoul firm that’s here to stay.

Stayfolio is a property platform with a difference. The lettings website, a discerning apartment-rental service for design fans, was launched in 2015 by the founders of the Seoul-based architecture firm Z-Lab: Park Jung-hyun, Noh Kyung-rok and Lee Sang-muk. It features the studio’s growing portfolio of rental projects, from hanoks in Seoul to a farmhouse and caravan park on the southern island of Jeju. Despite a slow period caused by travel restrictions, the company is optimistic about domestic tourism and will be ready for guests when they return. “Seoul is a megacity with 10 million citizens,” says Lee Sang-muk. “It is both traditional and modern, and has magnificent potential.”

The architects redesign and renovate the properties, which are often unused or second homes, and then take charge of the marketing, management and even mood – every address has its own fragrance and music playlist. In return, they take a share of the profits. “Our guests have money to spend but they don’t just like luxury; they want originality and design too,” says Noh. What began as a side hustle has now become a core part of Z-Lab. In fact, Stayfolio has proved an effective billboard for the team’s architectural talents, attracting new commissions for the studio in turn.

For more inspiring start-ups, tips, advice and provocations about making your passion your vocation pick up a copy of ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’. Have a super Sunday.


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