Sunday 13 February 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 13/2/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Talk of the town

We stop first to refuel at a new Nordic café in Tokyo before heading to London’s Whitechapel Gallery for a chat with its director Iwona Blazwick and over to San Francisco for a retail tour. At the end of the journey we peek at a new Paris hotel from our February issue but leading the march is our editorial director, Tyler Brûlé.


Scene stealers

If you like to start your Sundays with a gentle tease, then how about clicking here for a proper Dansk tickler. Yes dear reader, Borgen is back on TV screens from this evening with season four but only for those with access to Danish state broadcaster DR. Sorry, Netflix can’t help you tonight, unless of course you’ve never watched the series and want to settle down with the first three seasons. And in case you’re not already hooked, Borgen tells the story of politician Birgitte Nyborg, her rise to power and all the players who help and hinder her along the way. The new season puts Greenland in the spotlight and casts a Danish prime minister who looks remarkably close to real-life statsminister Mette Frederiksen. Nyborg takes the post of foreign minister and if the trailer’s anything to go by it shifts from a cosy, quirky look at Danish-style politics to more of a pacy thriller set at the top of the world. I’m picturing the entire tiny kingdom rushing through the aisles of Irma over the coming hours to stock up on essential ingredients, uncorking the red and then gathering in front of the TV for what will likely turn out to be one of Denmark’s biggest viewing evenings of the year.

In the contemporary world of overly cautious, ass-covering media, ‘Rita’ shouldn’t exist.

Earlier in the week I rewatched the past five episodes of Borgen season three, hoping that DR would launch the fourth in sync with Netflix but it was not to be. I decided to stay in Denmark however and returned to a series I started sometime last year and drifted away from due to sunny skies and summer travel. If you’ve skimmed past Rita during your screen-scrolling it’s well worth committing to the full five seasons. Originally aired on Denmark’s TV2, it tells the story of plucky, horny, drinky, smoky school-teacher Rita and her run-ins with overly righteous parents (yes, such creatures really do exist), misguided pupils, scheming administrators and her own disjointed family (yes, such a thing also exists). In the contemporary world of overly cautious, ass-covering media, Rita shouldn’t exist as it veers very far outside of what we now see as social norms in Australia, the UK and even nearby Sweden. One can imagine in the not-too-distant future that New Zealand might call for a ban on such a series because the main character not only enjoys a good smoke during recess but also chooses to do so on campus in full view of her pupils. Or maybe new environmental legislation in Canada might make it an offence to poke fun at heavy-handed climate activists (stay tuned to the last episode and you’ll get my drift) and such scenes might need to be deleted.

Created by writer/producer Christian Torpe, lead character Rita Madsen tramples over all kinds of convention while constantly, if gently, reminding the viewer of the very real challenges that come with being a teacher in today’s hyper-sensitive/everyone-on-the-lookout-to-be-offended/zero-forgiveness society. TV2 should be applauded for commissioning the series and Netflix for keeping it on air (hopefully in all markets) because at its core the series takes us back to the fundamentals of what public education should be in a functioning liberal democracy. Going to public school exposes you to diverse ideas and opinions; it’s a place where a wealth of views should be discussed and analysed, where learning social codes is key and you’re taught how to think, not what to think. Now go out and find a country that’s still working to such a curriculum. If you know of such an exotic place, drop me a note at

Landing Gear / Finnair’s next moves

Business prospects

Finnair’s ambitious refit of its long-haul aircraft, which rolls out in the coming months at a cost of €200m, is a big bet for a brand that is largely known for its Nordic conservatism (writes Gabriel Leigh). Premium economy (pictured, top) is getting a rejuvenation that will improve comfort but it’s in Business Class (pictured, bottom) that Finnair is making its biggest statement. Unlike a standard Business seat on other major airlines, Finnair’s new version has no option for reclining. Instead, the seat is padded on two sides and comes with two oversized pillows, so you can make yourself comfortable in a variety of ways instead of always facing in one direction. A leg-rest pops up to create a continuous padded surface. “The idea is that it’s a living space more than an aircraft seat,” says David Kondo, who led the design process in collaboration with Collins Aerospace and London-based agency Tangerine.

Image: Carl Bergman
Image: Carl Bergman

Finnair is a popular choice for long-haul business connections between Asia and Europe. Its rollout of refurbished aircraft is a show of confidence in travel between the two continents that has been re-emerging in 2022. “This is in some ways the rebirth of Finnair,” the airline’s CEO Topi Manner told Monocle for the forthcoming 15-year anniversary issue of the magazine. “The pandemic has taken a big financial toll but we are committed to improving the customer experience. That we have made this investment amid the pandemic speaks volumes to the degree of our commitment. And we feel that the timing is right.”

For the global print exclusive on Finnair’s fine new service and plenty more besides, subscribe to Monocle today so you don’t miss our bumper 15th anniversary issue.

Eating out / Fuglen, Umegaoka, Tokyo

Fourth time around

The fourth Tokyo outpost of popular Norwegian café Fuglen opened recently in Umegaoka, a residential neighbourhood near Hanegi Park (writes Junichi Toyofuku). “We wanted to create a place where locals can enjoy our coffee daily,” says Kenji Kojima, director of Fuglen Japan. “We like slightly quieter locations off the beaten track. And, especially in the pandemic, we wanted to offer a space for people to relax.”

Image: Fuminari Yoshitsugu
Image: Fuminari Yoshitsugu

With its warm wooden interior and cosy furniture, the café has quickly found a thirsty audience. “We have many familiar faces already,” says manager Kai Koto. “Some stop on their way to work, while others come after dropping their children at nursery.” The outdoor seating is a great pit stop for dog walkers too. “The Hanegi Park outlet strengthened our confidence,” says Kojima, who is planning Fuglen’s first branch outside Tokyo in Fukuoka later this year.

Sunday Roast / Iwona Blazwick

Spring in the step

London-based Iwona Blazwick has overseen Whitechapel Gallery’s renowned exhibition, education and commissioning programmes for more than 20 years. The curator and critic tells us about trouser suits, Vivaldi and where she buys her favourite sourdough.

Image: Christa Holka

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’ll be at Whitechapel Gallery placing more than 100 works of art from around the world on the subject of the artist’s studio. It’s the highlight of being a curator.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Attempt to sleep in and then take a leisurely graze through all the unread newspapers, art and literary mags piling up on my kitchen counter.

Soundtrack of choice?
I love the sparkle of Max Richter’s version of Vivaldi’s Spring.

News or not?
The news is so depressing. I find myself often escaping to the arts, interiors and travel sections of the papers.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
A hearty walk with my partner, friends and spoodle [cockapoo, if you prefer] up and down Hampstead Heath – an oasis of wilderness in London.

Lunch in or out?
We favour a brunch – usually smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and a smattering of capers.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Sourdough loaf from Bread by Bike and jams made by friends who have country hideaways.

Sunday culture must?
This Sunday I am heading to the William Morris Gallery for its celebration of the Polish arts and crafts movement.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Chilled Italian rosé for a mellow start.

Ideal dinner venue?
The Wolseley. It’s glamorous yet soothing at the same time.

What’s on the menu?
I cannot resist a schnitzel.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
On the couch watching a great movie. I’ve just rejoiced in the genius of Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God.

What will you be wearing on Monday?
A trouser suit will do. It’s practical for installing a show and taking meetings but has the potential to be glammed up with jewellery for an exhibition opening.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Ralph’s soda bread

This week the Swiss cookery whizz shares the simplest recipe imaginable for a loaf of tasty soda bread. Easily achieved in an hour, this recipe can be amended and tweaked to taste. If you don’t have buttermilk then full-fat milk with lemon juice will suffice. This bread goes particularly well slathered with jam.

Illustration: Xihanation

Makes one medium loaf

950g wholemeal flour
50g oat flakes
18g salt
18g baking soda
50g date syrup (honey or agave syrup work too)
50g olive oil (or melted butter)
1 litre buttermilk

Preheat oven to 220C and line a 21cm by 11cm by 6cm loaf tin with greased baking paper. Stir dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl until combined; then add wet ones and mix into a smooth dough.

Add the mixture to the loaf tin – don’t worry that it’s not full; it’ll rise a little. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce heat to 200C and bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack, then serve warm.

House News / 15th-anniversary issue

Golden age

Monocle’s bumper March issue of the magazine is out on 24 February and marks 15 years of independent journalism, intrepid reportage and eye-opening photography.

Under the covers, we ask tough questions about France’s future in the wake of the Bataclan trial, visit the most important organisation you’ve probably never heard of in Jamaica and suss out a sunny residence in São Paulo. Not to mention plenty in the way of inspiration, ideas and recommendations.

Go on, help us celebrate, sign up for fresh ideas and support our editors, journalists and photographers. Subscribe today so you don’t miss an issue.

Retail Safari / San Francisco

Buyers’ market

With no single central retail district per se, shopping in San Francisco generally means a little bouncing between neighbourhoods. Even though it’s still February, we begin at March, a glass-fronted home-and-kitchen shop in Pacific Heights. Inside the airy white-tiled space are long wooden tables laden with ceramics, baskets and vases, as well as larder items such as jam for the home cook. Clothing shop 45r and design store The Future Perfect are also close by.

Image: Aaron Wojack
Image: Aaron Wojack

A 10-minute drive south in Hayes Valley is True Saké, an intimate blue-fronted bottle shop filled with tall shelves, fridges and a wide table displaying a varied selection of rice wine. A few doors down is Reliquary, for vintage and modern clothing and accessories, such as beautifully knitted hats and hand-poured candles. Another 10 minutes south in the Mission is Monocle favourite Heath Ceramics (pictured, top), a lofty showroom right next to its factory, where shoppers can peek into the production process. The California brand has been crafting dinnerware and tiles since 1948. Next door is Heath Newsstand, where magazine lovers will find a selection of independent (sometimes hard-to-find) magazines, as well as accessories such as woven socks, pens and seasonal blooms.

For a post-shopping snack and glass of wine, Tartine, a bakery known for open sandwiches on slices of sourdough, is a few steps away. Last up is a trip to map and print specialist Schein & Schein (pictured, bottom) in North Beach.

Weekend plans? / Bulgari Hotel, Paris

Treat yourself

Designed by Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel, Bulgari’s new hotel on Paris’s avenue George V offers 76 guest rooms, including suites full of Dedar fabrics, cashmere blankets and art by Gio Ponti (writes Karine Porret). Naturally, it also features a spa and pool.

At Il Ristorante, chef Niko Romito has 58 covers indoors and 40 more in the garden. He dedicated a year of research to perfecting the crumb on his veal Milanese and it was certainly worth it. The hotel’s sprawling penthouse, with terraces and a garden, occupies the top two floors, offering panoramic views of the city.

For more fresh openings plus reports on everything from the frontline in Kyiv to our humour special, pick up a copy of our February issue, which is on newsstands now.

Book Club / ‘Modern Buildings in Britain’

Familiar façades

Plenty of fuss is made in the world of architecture over grand, statement buildings – the kind that might one day grace the cover of a travel guide or become an enduring national symbol (writes Alex Briand). But thought is less often given to those monuments to the everyday that surround us; those that make up the fabric of the city itself. Modern Buildings in Britain: A Gazetteer by Owen Hatherley is a new, 600-page chronicle of the UK’s tower blocks, railway stations, carparks, bridges, shopping centres and university halls of residence. These are the structures that sprung up in the 19th and 20th centuries, first to meet the ambition of the industrial revolution and then the cash-strapped but hopeful postwar rebuilding of cities flattened by bombs.

Image: Michael Bodiam

Brits from Shetland to St Ives can flick to the entry on their neighbourhood to find an insightful, wittily recounted and often reverently photographed entry on structures that they might walk past every day. (My closest, Walthamstow’s Central Parade, is “the 1950s modernist/nostalgic mashup at its most gleeful”.) There are no cathedrals, opera houses or Pritzker-baiting behemoths on these pages. But the buildings that do warrant a place have a proudly pedestrian beauty whose stories deserve equally to be told. Have a super Sunday.


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