Sunday 28 November 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 28/11/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Jump on board

Stops on our journey this week run from a plentiful food shop in Beirut, to Odense, Denmark’s newly buzzing third city, and over to Lima, where star Peruvian chef Virgilio Martínez mixes a simple, revivifying cocktail. Plus: a snapshot of Dubai’s remarkably recent history and why wine might be good for your skin after all. But first, a word from Tyler Brûlé.


Korea best

Good morning, guten Morgen, bonjour. We start this last Sunday of November with a few bits of essential housekeeping. First up, last week’s competition. By now you have probably read or heard that my travels took me to Seoul (more on this a bit further down the page) and I’m happy to report that we sent out seven signed books to the clever chaps (sorry ladies) who managed to be the first to guess that it was the South Korean capital where my Finnair aircraft touched down. Also, we’ve taken on board the feedback from the Americas about our competition being rigged in favour of the Apac region so next time round (next week) we’ll be taking all the correct answers and then doing a draw.

The second bit of business concerns Santa, reindeer and superior retail. It was so good seeing so many readers and listeners at our London Christmas market yesterday, particularly after a two-year gap. The full Monocle crew is on hand again today in London before packing up and heading to Zürich next weekend. If you’re around Marylebone, please swing by and we’ll sign books, serve up raclette and happily enjoy a mug of Glühwein or two.

And item three this morning is about the return of a much-missed title from our editorial lineup. At this very moment a series of files are being uploaded by our printers in Konstanz and, by the middle of the week, Monocle’s winter newspaper will be coming off the press. If you’d like to secure a copy you can order one from The Monocle Shop later in the week, and you’ll be able to find it on newsstands in key alpine resorts and Monocle shops around the world. Now, onto Seoul.

For the better part of a week I’ve been offering up mini slideshows to friends and colleagues who are keen to see what’s happening on the other side of the world. If you manage to pass by one of our Christmas markets I’ll be more than happy to give you a special viewing. In the meantime, here are a few key headlines from my 72 hours in Seoul.

1. The Hyundai
The newest department store from the South Korean group is a must-visit for anyone interested in where the world of retail might be heading. The overall experience is so sharp and smart that it’s a masterclass in branding, interior architecture, clever merchandising and superb service all under one massive roof.

2. Parc
This tiny, cosy institution in Itaewon offers up home-made South Korean classics all inspired by the owner’s mom’s recipes. The crowd is a handsome mix of funky locals and the odd overseas adventurer.

3. Casper
Hyundai’s compact new addition to its lineup has all the right angles and cute styling it needs to turn into a cult design classic. I spied an olive-green model in front of the company Motorstudio in Gangnam and was tempted to stuff it into my tote bag. It’s not quite that tiny but close. In case you’re hoping to put one under the tree, for the moment they’re only available in the South Korean market.

4. Arthur & Grace
In the market for a new attaché case or leather golf bag or easy Boston bag for weekends? Arthur & Grace is a Seoul-based bag brand that has exactly the right good looks to become a proper luxury export. You’ll be seeing a lot more from them in the pages of Konfekt and Monocle over the coming issues.

5. LG Signature OLED R
You’ll know that I’m not the most teched-up editor at Monocle and that I rarely get too excited by gadgetry (I often write this column on a Blackberry) but LG’s Rollable TV is truly something to behold – in part because it disappears so daintily. For all of us who can’t bear the sight of a living or hotel room dominated by a hulking flatscreen, this clever invention is a saviour for interiors around the world. While not exactly inexpensive, it deserves a Nobel-style award for restoring dignity to well-designed interiors.

Food scoop / Feryal, Beirut

Family of spice

Despite its fertility, Lebanon has long relied on imported produce; some 80 per cent comes from abroad (writes Leila Molana-Allen). Over time that has led to a downturn in demand for Lebanese ingredients and, as the market has dwindled, the country’s rich culinary traditions and production practices have fallen into jeopardy. Before the advent of the country’s current financial woes, the Taha family saw this gap in the market as an opportunity to do good.

The mission became more urgent as the Lebanese pound went into freefall and unemployment rocketed. But according to Kamel Taha, founder of Beirut food shop Feryal, there is a slither of silver lining for the country. “Now people are looking local again, both because they can’t afford imported goods and as a way of making an income,” he says. “We’re seeing many more families and producers returning to these traditional methods of production.”

Image: Maria Klenner

The shop is in Beirut’s upmarket Ashrafieh neighbourhood. It is a softly lit, welcoming affair of pine and pistachio-hued walls. Surrounding a thick stone table carved into a relief map of Lebanon are stacks of burgundy-bright sumac from the southern borderlands, scarlet spicy harr paste from the mountains to the north and the apricot blush of orange-blossom water from trees that overlook the waves of the Mediterranean. “Every product really tells the story of a village, a terroir,” says Taha. “It’s tens of hundreds of years of stories, of recipes, of know-how being passed down.”

For more on the year ahead and our Beirut correspondent’s full report (in which we meet the lively Lebanese makers who stock the shop) pick up a copy of ‘The Forecast’, which is out now.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Chicken karaage

This week our London-based recipe writer rustles up a refined Japanese take on junk food: crispy twice-fried chicken. We’d suggest serving it straight away with lemon wedges and a cold beer.

Serves 2-3

600g chicken thighs with skin on and bones removed, cubed into 4cm pieces
¾ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp white pepper powder
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
20g ginger, finely grated with the juice squeezed out (discard the leftover pulp)
1½ tbsps water
1 tbsp soy sauce
100g cornflour
350ml sunflower oil

Put the chicken pieces in a bowl, add salt, pepper, garlic and ginger juice, and mix well. Add the water and soy sauce, mix again and let it marinate for 30 minutes.

Once the chicken is marinated, start to heat the oil in a medium-sized pot. While the oil is heating up, coat the chicken with 80g of the cornflour, in a tray.

The oil temperature needs to be 160C for the first frying. If you don’t have a thermometer, test with a piece of bread: if it browns in 30 seconds, it is ready.

Just before you are ready to fry, add the remaining 20g of cornflour to the tray and coat the chicken again. This will make the chicken extra crunchy.

Drop 4-5 pieces of chicken carefully into the oil and cook for 90 seconds, then turn and cook another 90 seconds. Remove the chicken from the oil and rest on a wire rack. Cook the rest of the chicken in batches.

Once all of the chicken has been fried once, turn the heat up to 180C. Test the oil temperature again: if bread browns in 15 seconds, it’s ready.

Fry the chicken a second time, for 1 minute on each side, in batches. Remove from the oil and place on the wire rack. Serve warm.

Sunday Roast / Virgilio Martínez

Centre of attention

Virgilio Martínez’s cooking is inspired by the flavours and ecosystems of his native Peru (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). At his Lima restaurant Central, dishes are often brought to life using ingredients gathered from the country’s rich variety of microclimates. Having opened his first restaurant outside Peru in London’s Fitzrovia in 2012, Martínez now also runs joints in Covent Garden and Dubai’s City Walk. Here he tells us about driving to the beach, neighbourhood cafés and a refreshingly simple pisco.

Image: Ken Motohasi

Where do we find you this weekend?
I live in Barranco, a beautiful neighbourhood in Lima. There’s been a rebirth of coffee shops here recently, which I’ve really been enjoying. I also like going to the farmers’ market because I know a bunch of my producer friends will be there. It’s nice to chat with them and get the best products for home.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday?
We drive to the beach on Saturday night so we can wake up there in the morning.

Soundtrack of choice?
I like indie rock but my wife prefers salsa, so it’s a mix of the two.

What’s for breakfast?
Bacon and eggs. We like sourdough too. And a cappuccino; I drink three to four a day.

News or no news?
No news. I feel so disconnected from my friends and family between Monday and Saturday, so I’ll catch up with them on Sundays.

Any larder essentials you can’t do without?
Sourdough, ham, cheese, tinned fish – I like to keep it simple on weekends.

A glass of something you would recommend?
Pisco, with some ginger ale.

What will we not find on your Sunday table?
To be honest, the food that I make at Central. I’m so connected to that food; I eat it every day. When I’m at home, I like to disconnect. Aside from that, there’s nothing I don’t eat. I’m not that serious about food.

Any Sunday evening routine?
Going to bed when I feel tired; I fall asleep in 10 seconds. That said, I’ve been struggling with sleeping because of jet lag and stress. Maybe I shouldn’t be drinking four cappuccinos a day.

Weekend plans? / Odense

Happily ever after

Denmark’s long-snubbed third city was once a byword for decline. Now a new museum dedicated to the city’s best-known son, Hans Christian Andersen, is helping to tell a more positive tale. The museum hopes that, as well as celebrating the author and his work, it will have positive knock-on effects for this compact city of 200,000 residents. “This is the big reboot,” says creative director Henrik Lübker, on a tour of the €54m site as it nears completion. “We want to create something that’s as much for adults as for children, which will help people to rediscover the Andersen whom they thought they knew but didn’t.”

Much is riding on the museum, which, according to Lübker, is expected to attract some 200,000 visitors a year to the city, including – coronavirus permitting – more Chinese visitors. (Andersen has been popular in China since at least Mao Zedong’s time.) The vast complex, designed by Kengo Kuma and Yuki Ikeguchi, is as much a landscape as it is a building. Most of its exhibition spaces are below ground; above these is a garden of meandering paths, hedges and trees.

Image: Jan Søndergaard

“In the past few years there have been wonderful changes in Odense but it has been developed with real care for the old city,” says Dina Vejling, owner of a leading ceramics gallery that represents 70 Danish artists. Vejling’s gallery and event space is next to Brandts Klaedefabrik, a repurposed factory that is now a cultural centre with a contemporary art space and photography museum. Brandts has helped to broaden the appeal of Odense beyond day-tripping Andersen fans. “In Denmark, there used to be a saying: ‘It’s gone all Odense,’” says Vejling. “That meant that a place was in decline. But it’s totally changed now.”

Odense address book

Storms Pakhus
A smart street-food market.

Founded by two Danish chefs with international pedigree after stints in Copenhagen, Sydney and New York. Book ahead.

First Hotel Grand
There’s space for smaller, more interesting hotels in the market but this one works well for now.

Brandts Klaedefabrik
The Danish Museum of Photographic Art, opened in 1987, is dedicated to shutterbugs.

Dina Vejling
A craft gallery of Danish ceramics on Brandts Passage.

Helmer Design
Mia Helmer’s city-centre gallery is packed with vintage Danish furniture and lighting.

For more, pick up a copy of Monocle’s November issue.

Book club / ‘Off Centre / On Stage’ by Todd Reisz

Sands of time

Made to accompany a moving show at Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, these images from 1976 to 1979 were taken by two architects who never meant to make their snaps public – let alone the subject of a thoughtful exhibition (writes Josh Fehnert). Whether they meant to or not, the shutterbugs have captured a moment in Off Centre / On Stage: Dubai Scenes From the 1970s.

Image: Tony Hay

Writer Todd Reisz’s silvery prose weaves together the unfamiliar images of half-built high-rises seen from the prow of sand dunes, eerily unpeopled landscapes as well as reassuringly bustling scenes of cargo being loaded onto boats in Bur Dubai and Deira, and even some rather modern-feeling greening projects, parks and street life. All this didn’t happen long ago but it seems a world away. Maybe that’s why it’s so wonderfully rewarding to ponder.

Parting shot / ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’

Looking after number one

To celebrate the launch of ‘The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs’, we’ve selected a smattering of inspiring start-ups and smart business folk to spotlight. This week we hear from author Anna Codrea-Rado on being your own boss and how to wield power once you’re in charge.

“In 2016 I was sitting in a basement office fantasising about a different working life. Back then, I worked for a digital magazine in Brooklyn and I loved what I did but I hated how I was doing it. I was expected to be at my desk at the same time every day, which also happened to be the same time that the rest of the city was expected to be in their respective offices. So I battled commuter crowds on stuffy subway trains that often broke down. In the office, I sat a few seats away from a guy with a very loud phone voice whose main job, it seemed, was talking on the phone. Struggling to get my work done in the circus of the open-plan office, I asked if I could work from home one day a week. My request was denied.

I blamed everything wrong with my job on bad bosses. It was a boss, after all, who took my flexible working request to their boss, who duly turned it down. It was a boss who set a rigid working hours policy. And it was a boss (no doubt from a private office) who decided that staff should sit in an open-plan layout. So I stopped working for other people and started working for myself. I’ve now been my own boss longer than I’ve been anyone else’s employee. It turns out I’m terrible. Sure, I finally approved my work-from-home request but that’s where my compassion ends. I’ve not checked in to make sure I’m taking my holiday days. I’ve forced myself to work when I’ve been sick. Nothing is ever good enough for me. I’m a tyrant.

Being self-employed has made me confront my messy relationship with my work. I derive a lot of fulfilment from what I do but I’m also aware of how much of my self-worth I wrap up in it too. I’m enmeshed in my identity as a journalist, not knowing where my job ends and where I begin. I work hard to prove myself – to whom or what I’m not even entirely sure. Looking back now, it was perversely comforting having the spectre of a bad boss to blame for my frustrations when really I was causing my own problems.

The secret of the trade when you work for yourself is that you’re not just the boss, you’re the whole business. You’re the CEO, employee, head of HR and chief financial officer all at the same time. It’s a very chaotic working environment but it’s also within your power to change the things that aren’t working. And if you want your boss to get off your back and give you a break, it’s on you.”

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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