Sunday 5 December 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 5/12/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Ring in the season

It’s high time those halls were decked, so join us for some inspiration. This week: our guide to gift-buying in Milan, design maestro Sofie Hellsing on how to festoon your festive fir and Alexa Bruun Rasmussen, head of her namesake auction house, shares some Danish traditions. Plus: snapshots of Ukraine’s more eccentric side and, first in line from our Christmas market, Tyler Brûlé.


Good list

This column is being filed from Zürich at 12.22 Central European Time on Saturday 4 December, under grey skies with occasional downpours and not the slightest hope of sunshine or even a proper snowfall. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When you plan a Christmas market for the first weekend in December in the heart of Europe you’re hoping for a crisp, sunny day with the temperature hovering around zero. When it’s in month 22 of a pandemic, you also hope that the weather-nymphs, Norse gods and Santa all get together to cut you some slack and let a bit of the blue heavens or starry sky shine down.

No matter! The good news is that we’re an agile lot here at Monocle, the market has moved indoors and as I’m typing away in our penthouse, down below there’s much chatter, drinking, purchasing and general merriment. Better still, it will carry on tomorrow with drier conditions so please swing by Dufourstrasse 90 if you happen to be in Zürich. If you do, the following is on offer.

Cashmere, cashmere and more cashmere. Buttertea from the Black Forest and Purest from Lugano are on hand with chunky cardigans, floaty travel blankets and everything else you might need for staving the chill off over the coming months – threatened energy shortages notwithstanding.

Emyun is a kicky little activewear brand from Lausanne that understands the importance of good knits and cuts for making your way around the gym or down the slope.

The clever people from Zürich-based Round Rivers have upped their offer for the winter season. Building on their recycled-fabric project for swimwear – they fish PET bottles out of the Limmat River and then spin them into thread for fabric production in northern Italy – the brand is now producing a full range of quilted winter jackets.

Odur is a tiny fragrance producer from Switzerland that has created a tight collection of scents, which at times have the density of an Engadine forest but can also have the fresh notes of a glacial lake. They’re not easy to come by, so make the pilgrimage.

Our very special 2022 subscription offer is the perfect stocking-stuffer and is the gift that never stops giving. We’ve produced a rather graphic tote with our Nato kit-stitching friends in Bulgaria and subscribers also receive a 2022 diary in a choice of colours, 14 print editions and access to the full digital archive – including our travel guides. If you come by Seefeld we’ll wrap up a starter kit on the spot. If Zürich isn’t so convenient and you’re reading this in Brisbane or Minneapolis today, then check out our subs offer here and we’ll sort you out for Christmas. Also, if you’d like to order multiple subscriptions for the whole family or as corporate gifts, my colleague Holly Anderson will work on a special rate for you. You’ll find her at

And while it’s great having tens of thousands of subscribers around the world, we still very much believe in the importance of a well-stocked kiosk and the power of being able to sample a range of magazines and newspapers. As more independent and chain-operated newsstands pull down their shutters (permanently) or shift away from paper, we’re about to unveil our first Monocle Kiosk in the food hall at Jelmoli department store off Zürich’s Bahnhofstrasse. Stocked with the finest collection of mags, newspapers, fiction and non-fiction picks, as well as daily essentials, this will hopefully be the first of many new outlets designed to offer an elevated printed-media experience. On that note, I need to catch the tram to inspect the construction. You’ll be the first to see pics on Wednesday when we open for business.

Eating out / Hosiló, Reykjavík

Hidden treasure

Because of its unassuming glass façade, you could easily bypass this tiny Reykjavík restaurant without realising what riches lie within. This subtlety is perhaps indicative of the fact that Hosiló doesn’t cater solely to tourists, unlike the Viking-themed restaurants that surround it.

Image: Benjamin McMahon

In 2020, Númi Thorkell Thomasson, Atli Ottesen and Aðalsteinn Ragnar Benediktsson – who previously worked in some of the city’s best restaurants, including French-style bistro Snaps – decided to go it alone and set up shop inside this atmospheric building, complete with its church-like window. Hosiló’s compact menu changes weekly but reliably showcases Iceland’s best ingredients in delights such as baked arctic char and desserts featuring skyr and strawberries.
+354 793 6666

Top of the shops / Milan

Present company

Milan is Italy’s most cosmopolitan city, so you’ll find gifts hailing from near and far. Start in the Navigli district at Tenoha, a Japanese concept store selling stationery, fashion and food from Nippon. Next to the Duomo is the stylish boutique of Argentine perfumer Fueguia 1833, which manufactures its scents in Milan, draws on South America for ideas and uses natural ingredients. Then venture to Brera and the charming shop of fashion designer Massimo Alba, where naturally dyed Italian-made cashmere jumpers catch the eye.

Image: Isabella De Maddalena

In nearby Corso Garibaldi, pop into the shop of Turin chocolatier Guido Gobino for bite-sized heaven; the gianduiotto and cremino dark sweets are a must. Move on to Isola and visit Pijama, maker of soft cases and bags in fetching prints to disguise digital devices. Unwind with an espresso or aperitivo at Goto, Giovanni Fiorin’s contemporary Italian bar, which serves the peerless wine of indigenous varietals from Piemonte to Puglia, along with well-aged prosciutto and parmigiano reggiano. Don’t leave without a house panettone from Modena.

The Stack / ‘Isolarii’

Islands in the ream

Isolarii is a small, subscription-only magazine that deals in big ideas. Still, the premise is simple enough: every two months, co-founders Sebastian Clark and India Ennenga commission an interesting soul from the world of film, architecture or art to share a proposal on how to improve society, be it through the medium of poetry or by delving into the politics of colour.

Past issues include a collaboration between writer Robert Coover and graphic novelist Art Spiegelman; the work of Russian poet Galina Rymbu; and an edition on eating by a Turner prize-nominated Spanish duo, which they called Cooking Sections. The latter project convinced the Tate gallery in London to stop serving salmon, by documenting the fishy ethics of industrial farming.

Image: Tony Hay

Isolarii is Italian for “island texts” and a reference to a genre of small books from Renaissance-era Venice that were each dedicated to a single idea or perspective. The latest issue sees curator Hans Ulrich Obrist unpicking the late French thinker Édouard Glissant’s canny post-colonial cogitations on the idea of the archipelago. Go on, dive in.

Sunday Roast / Alexa Bruun Rasmussen

Fine art

Alexa Bruun Rasmussen is the third generation of her family to work at Denmark’s Bruun Rasmussen auction house, which opened in 1948 (writes Grace Charlton). As the Copenhagen gallery’s branding director and an auctioneer, she is often negotiating telephone bids from around the world in Danish, English, German and French, and is an expert in antiques and silverware. Here, Bruun Rasmussen tells us about her favourite Danish Christmas traditions, creating “tablescapes” with silverware and what she doesn’t want to see on the dining table.

Image: Bruun Rasmussen

Where do we find you this weekend?
At the Trapholt, the museum of modern art, craft and design in Kolding, Denmark. There is a very interesting exhibition about the work of designer Verner Panton happening.

What’s your ideal beginning to a Sunday – a gentle start or a jolt?
A gentle start consisting of coffee, two soft-boiled eggs and time with family and friends.

Soundtrack of choice?
Classical music or anything Abba, depending on the time of day.

News or no news?
On weekdays I read the daily news on my phone but on weekends I prefer print.

Any larder essentials you can’t do without?
I can’t do without butter. I always slather a thick layer on bread.

A Sunday culture must?
Scrolling through all the new design, art and other objects at Bruun Rasmussen’s online auctions. And a long walk with my dog Lobo, a black labrador.

The ideal dinner venue?
At home, where we bake salmon with lots of fresh herbs and set a beautiful table combining tableware from the 18th to the 21st century.

Who’s joining?
Friends, often across three generations.

A glass of something you would recommend?
It would have to be my very own wine, the Alexa Chardonnay 2018 from Stellenbosch, which is a collaboration between me and Mathew Castle from Mats Vineyard. I would also recommend a chardonnay from the Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

What will we not find on your Sunday table?

A Sunday evening routine?
At the moment, I’m watching The Good Doctor on Netflix. It’s inspiring.

What are your favourite festive traditions?
I really enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with friends and Christmas with family. I love the wonderful Christmas spirit. It’s great, especially for children and those of us who still feel young at heart. Oh, and the Danish traditions of dancing around the Christmas tree and playing “find the almond in the rice pudding”.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Sichuan-style chicken

Our London-based recipe writer Aya Nishimura rustles up a toothsome chicken dish with Sichuan chilli, ginger and sesame seeds. Leave a little time for cooling after cooking or prepare in advance and refrigerate it for later. Add steamed rice or cold noodles to make a meal of it.

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 2 as a starter or side

For the chicken:
2 chicken legs (skin on)
1 spring onion
3 slices of ginger

For the sauce:
1 tsp ginger, finely grated
½ tsp garlic, finely grated
1½ tbsps light soy sauce
1½ tbsps black rice vinegar
60ml chicken stock 1 tsp Chinese chilli oil
1 tsp maple syrup or sugar
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
¼ tsp Sichuan peppers

To serve:
2 spring onions, finely sliced
15g coriander, leaves picked, stem finely chopped

Place the chicken legs, spring onions and ginger in a medium pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the chicken to cool in the cooking water.

Meanwhile, tip the Sichuan peppers into a small dry pan and toast them for a couple of minutes. Then crush them finely using a pestle and mortar.

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl, except the Sichuan peppers.

When the chicken is cool, remove it from the water and place on a chopping board. Keep the cooking stock for the sauce. Make incisions around the bones and lift them out without breaking meat. Try to keep the shape whole as much as possible. The bones should come out easily if it’s fully cooked.

Put the chicken skin side up on a chopping board and slice it into 1.5cm pieces, maintaining the original shape, then place on a serving plate. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle the Sichuan peppers, spring onion and coriander on top.

Weekend Plans? / Emilu, Stuttgart

Distinguished for guests

“On returning from various trips to other cities, we felt that Stuttgart had a shortage of unique inner-city hotels,” says Emilia Bräutigam, who decided to change that in partnership with her mother, Petra Luise, and her property-developer father. A stone’s throw from the town hall with its towering clock tower, the hotel opened its doors in September in a 1960s office building refurbished by architects Blocher Partners and Wolf Architekten Ingenieure.

Image: Kai Knoerzer

Petra Luise, charged with the interiors, didn’t want to simply rip everything out and recommission it. “We retained the original 1960s ribbed ceiling and some of the concrete walls,” says Bräutigam. “The unique style came about by mixing the old with the new. We’ve been going to auctions over the past few years and were able to buy classics such as our Knoll marble table in the breakfast area and the daybed in the lobby.” These pieces were combined with Bauhaus gems, vintage finds, custom furniture by Voglauer and lush fabrics and curtains from Jab.

Breakfast is best enjoyed at Fritz, where homemade cinnamon buns and colourful bowls await, while drinks are served at Rooftop Location Lennarts on the sixth floor, which acts as an extended year-round living room for guests, offering views of the Baden-Württemberg capital and surrounding hills. “Our vision is to increase the attractiveness of Stuttgart by offering a place for national and international guests as well as locals,” says Bräutigam.

Book club / Osnovy publishing

Turning the page

From portraits of Ukraine’s female railway employees to a book about its Soviet mosaics, publishing house Osnovy irreverently celebrates the country’s eccentricities. “What we’re doing is important for a positive image of Ukraine,” says Dana Pavlychko, the company’s director.

Osnovy celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. When it was founded by Pavlychko’s mother and Bohdan Krawchenko in 1992, it focused on textbooks and classic literature. After it neared bankruptcy 12 years ago, Pavlychko transformed it into a more contemporary publisher that supports emerging talent. “We’ve worked with some of the best names in illustration, photography and art,” she says.

Image: Tony Hay

Head of a team of 21, Pavlychko is always thinking of how the company can grow. Three years ago she launched the Ukrainian Young Book Design Awards; in November she unveiled a new concept store in Kiev. “We want to show people that a book can be something to really celebrate,” she says.

For more seasonal tips, scoops, reports and recommendations pick up a copy of our Monocle Winter Newspaper Special, which is out tomorrow.

Parting shot / How to dress a tree

Asking fir a friend

Whether you’re putting up a tasteful fir with a few time-tested trinkets or feeling a little more avant garde about your adornments, we have tips aplenty from the owner of an exquisite homeware shop. Sofie Hellsing, co-founder of design shop Artilleriet in Gothenburg, tells us more.

“When it comes to tarting up your tree, more is always more. I love a really magical, Willy Wonka-style tree. At Artilleriet, the team behind the shop put our heads together and come up with a theme for the trees. This year we went with green-glass baubles and star-shaped garland lights from German brand Herrnhuter. At home, it’s important that the decoration of the tree has a really personal feel to it and my children love decking it out with everything from candles to little flags. I draw the line at tinsel.

“We collect a tree from a stall in our town’s main square and then make decorations as a family by melting colourful hard candies to create stained-glass-style ornaments. I would recommend collecting ornaments over the years and picking up a couple of new ones every Christmas. It’s also worth visiting vintage shops to find beautiful old ones. I started collecting baubles when my children were born and some of my favourites resemble famous people: we have everyone from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Barack Obama and Yayoi Kusama.”

For more festive tips, plus our Soft Power Survey, pick up the bumper December/January issue of Monocle, which is out now, or subscribe. Already a subscriber? Why not give a subscription to someone you care about. Have a super Sunday.


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