Sunday 6 March 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 6/3/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Get out there

Fancy a break? This week you’ll hear about Malaysia’s tropical travel bubble in the Langkawi archipelago and the opening of a grand Berlin hotel. Perhaps you’d like to trial a snappy new camera or toast a new restaurant in the heart of Manhattan. Wherever you decide to go, let Tyler Brûlé be your guide.


From a distance

Let’s start by spooling the tape back two weeks, to a time when warnings about being on the brink of war were widely dismissed, Canadian truckers were international headline grabbers and the coronavirus ticker was still keeping a few journos busy in newsrooms.

Ottawa: I’ve come to visit my 103-year-old grandmother from the Estonian side of the family, aunts and uncles, and my friend Mark. When I pull up at uncle Vil and aunt Louise’s house, they’re glued to the TV watching the “breaking news” story of the Ottawa police (and reinforcements) pushing back truckers and affiliated protesters. It’s such a muted, polite and dull affair that it’s a good thing it’s winding down on its own, as in a little over 96 hours it will have been forced from the screens by a bigger global event.

Toronto: It’s been four years since I last visited my former hometown and it’s much the same as I left it, save for more ugly, colossal condo towers and unused cycle lanes. Why have lanes for bikes in the winter when no one uses them and the snow needs somewhere to go? Overall, Canada feels a little coronavirus 0.5 and a bit behind the rest of the world in lifting measures. This too is about to vanish as a topic of daily concern.

Miami: Welcome to the land that ignored the pandemic and has powered ahead. The city and its suburbs are hopping with Brazilians, Colombians, Germans, Canadians, Californians and, of course, New Yorkers. I check into The Surf Club, listen in to the accents ricocheting around Bal Harbour, visit the compound of a friend who has done rather well in the music industry and soak up the sunny energy of the place. Miami’s never been a favourite but 18 hours is too short a time and there’s more to see. Perhaps a larger Monocle contingent will return soon.

The skies have turned heavy to match the mood. I can’t stop following multiple tickers on my phone. I need to catch my flight to LAX.

Dallas: The pilot on our American 777 tells us that a big storm is about to hit but we should touch down before it gets too bad. When we land, Dallas looks like London on a good day: light wind and a chilly drizzle. Nevertheless, schools have closed, businesses have shuttered early and the streets are starting to empty. I make my way to private members’ club Park House for a meeting and it’s rammed with Dallas businessmen enjoying the early start of cocktail hour. Shortly after, I’m on the top floor of The National dining with a fun bunch of locals and there’s still no sign of the storm. Back out on the street there’s a bit of freezing rain – hardly conditions that demand a weather warning. A few minutes later I check into my room, switch on the TV and the screen is lit up with a breaking-news banner: “UKRAINE UNDER ATTACK.” The storm arrived after all. The following morning, Dallas is under the thinnest sheet of ice and the city is deserted. After a night of watching the news and emailing with London I want some life, buzz and morning rush hour. My fast friend Kristie picks me up, we tour the architecturally underrated Northpark Mall (more on this in an upcoming issue) and we’re both feeling a little drained and sad. The skies have turned heavy to match the mood. I can’t stop following multiple tickers on my phone. I need to catch my flight to LAX.

Los Angeles: The city is sunny yet chilly and I make my way to Monocle’s base in Culver City. It’s been a little over two years since I’ve paid a visit. It suddenly feels as though it’s an odd time to launch a book on the Nordics but we press ahead and the evening is a hit. Many Angelenos haven’t been out at an event for two years and much of the conversation centres around “how did we get here?” and “what’s going to happen?” I try my best to enjoy the next two days but have trouble leaving the room as I flip between CNN and the BBC. Los Angeles feels bright and back on form, but look a bit closer and almost every block has three or four vacant shops and crime continues to surge. During an easy lunch with my friend Hanna, a man is pulled from his car and pistol-whipped for his watch – at 15.00 on a sunny Friday afternoon – 100 metres from where we’re sitting. He manages to fight them off and escapes with light head injuries. An awful incident for sure but all rather petty compared to what’s unfolding on my phone screen. LA is not without its high points, however. I got to dine with Miss Japan, had a solid hour to talk about the state of newsgathering with my friend Marc, stocked up on plenty of good titles at Book Soup, enjoyed a tasty breakfast at the super cute Bravo Toast and sat in the car wondering why we don’t have grocery stores like Erewhon’s Silver Lake branch in Zürich – or anywhere else in Europe for that matter.

Swiss flight LX 41 LAX-ZRH: The maître de cabine in charge of the flight is a seasoned pro and has weathered many conflicts and their impact on aviation. He predicts that all air space is going to close over Russia to most Western aircraft and that Europe will do the same. How right he is. As we make our way eastward, Ukraine eventually shows up on the map. Munich, Vienna, Warsaw and Venice are so close to Kyiv.

Zürich: Back at base, surrounded by the European dailies, it’s immediately palpable how far the conflict is from the Americas. I’m reminded of the questions from the party a few nights earlier. How did we get here? Could it be that governments and Western media have spent a bit too much time covering niche issues and political forces, and too little on intelligence-gathering, proper analysis and being out in the field?

Eating out / Lodi, Manhattan

Breaking bread

Midtown Manhattan is always buzzing with people but ask them to recommend a place to eat there and plenty will be stumped. “Many New Yorkers find themselves navigating this part of town and not having a place to go,” says Uruguayan chef Ignacio Mattos (pictured). His latest restaurant, Lodi on Rockefeller Plaza, will surely change that.

Image: Max Burkhalter
Image: Max Burkhalter
Image: Max Burkhalter

The design team, led by Richard H Lewis, Zachary Lewis and Ian McPheely of Paisley Design NYC (who also worked on New York institutions Balthazar and Pastis), took cues from the building, adding elements such as textured walls and a cut-glass chandelier. The gilded interior is lined with marble counters, leather stools and cabinets displaying a decadent assortment of pastries and cakes. Unlike at Mattos’s other restaurants, Lodi’s menu places bread and pastries front and centre. “It was meaningful to me to create a bakery, a place where people can gather,” he says amid the clatter of cutlery. “There’s nothing more noble than bread.”

Way to go / The Langkawi bubble

Splendid isolation

Tourists entering Malaysia must currently endure the hardship of five to ten days in the tropical archipelago of Langkawi before they can enter the rest of the country (writes Naomi Xu Elegant). Coronavirus rules dictate that visitors must choose one of Langkawi’s designated hotels, mostly beach resorts, in which to serve their sunny sentence.

I recently sampled the experience first-hand on my way to Kuala Lumpur and, after a drive-through coronavirus test, was whisked from the airport to my rainforest chalet by my assigned (and very friendly) driver. For the next week I dutifully started my mornings at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, sipping guava juice and admiring the giant squirrels scampering in the trees as families in swimwear nattered about their onward travel plans.

I started taking work calls at the balcony, which was pleasant until a small but vicious gang of macaques clambered up the wooden railing, canines bared: my fault for ignoring the in-room signs warning guests about the marauding monkeys.

On alternating days, either the driver fetched me for a test or I administered one myself and uploaded the result onto a government contact-tracing app. Otherwise – and as long as I was negative – I was free to roam Langkawi. I even enjoyed a great roadside laksa on the recommendation of my lovely driver.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, from where I’d travelled, arrivals are still undergoing a gruelling two-week stint in a sealed room, regardless of their vaccination status or whether they have tested negative – most unable even to open the windows. Given the choice, I’d rather take my chances with the macaques, thanks.

Langkawi address book

Kapal Layar. Net-fresh seafood served oceanside.
2187, Telok Nibong, Jalan Pantai Kok

Bon Ton. Ideal for evening dinner and drinks. Live music on Sunday evenings.
Jalan Pantai Cenang Lot 1047

Rimba at Ambong Villas. Sundowner central, with a great cocktail list to sample as the sun dips into the ocean.
82, Jl Teluk Baru, Mk Kedawang

Unesco Geopark Mangrove Cruise. See the mangroves, caves, karst and beaches by boat.
Jalan Tanjung Rhu

Sunday Roast / Antonia Showering

Different strokes

Fresh on the heels of a barnstorming solo show at Timothy Taylor’s Mayfair gallery, British artist Antonia Showering is fast becoming a darling of the UK art scene and beyond. The London-based painter is known for her distinctive, warm and richly layered abstracts, many of which riff on images of family life and childhood memories of Somerset and the Engadin valley. Showering shares her nocturnal painting patterns, a fondness for riverboats and why she’s always dreaming about the day’s news.

Image: Jake Millers

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday; gentle start or a jolt?
I don’t think any morning should ever start with a jolt. My ideal Sunday begins with a cup of coffee in bed watching Homes Under the Hammer on BBC One.

Soundtrack of choice?
I frequently return to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. I find so much comfort in the melodies.

What’s for breakfast?
On a weekday, I have coffee and a banana. On Sundays, however, I’m much more indulgent. I love Marmite toast with an egg on it. A friend recently introduced adding Marmite and now I’m embarrassed that I ever had it another way.

News or no news?
The BBC’s Global News podcast automatically plays after my alarm, which can be quite dangerous if I accidentally fall back to sleep. Sometimes, the news stories get intertwined with my dreams.

Any larder essentials you can’t do without?
Kidney beans.

A Sunday culture must?
Going to Tate Modern and Tate Britain and taking the River Bus from one to the other.

Who’s joining?
Hypothetically, if we are allowed to bring guests that are no longer with us, it would be my favourite artist, the late Alice Neel, and my childhood chocolate labrador, Casper.

What will we not find on your Sunday table?
No mobile phones, please. Is that what everyone says?

Any Sunday evening routine?
Sunday evening is my favourite time to paint. My work is very introspective, so I don’t like having too many distractions. Sometimes, I paint between 16.00 and 05.00.

When you lay out your look for Monday, what will you be wearing?
Because I’m on my bike a lot and I’m often getting paint on myself, it has to be something practical that I can move around in. But I don’t usually plan my outfits.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Fish-finger sandwiches

Recipe writer Aya Nishimura shares a comforting, homely snack in the form of a homemade fish-finger sandwich with a tart tartar sauce. Remember that the fingers don’t need to be too uniform or neat – placing them within slices of bread covers all manner of sins. Enjoy.

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 2

For the tartar sauce
2 medium eggs
¼ small white onion, finely chopped
30g gherkins, finely chopped
4 tbsps good-quality mayonnaise
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
¾ tsp runny honey
Salt and black pepper to taste

For the fish fingers
325g white fish fillet, such as hake, skin removed
25g plain white flour
1 medium egg, beaten with a pinch of salt
30g panko breadcrumbs
100ml vegetable oil for frying

4 thick slices of soft, white bread

Simmer the 2 eggs in water for 8 minutes. Once cooked, remove and cool under running cold water. Once cooled completely, peel and chop roughly. Mix with the rest of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Cut the fish fillet into finger-sized pieces (approximately 2cm by 10cm). They don’t need to be too neat. Prepare three plates, one with flour, the second with beaten egg and the third with panko breadcrumbs.

Lightly season the fish with salt and pepper, then coat each finger in flour, lift out and shake off any excess. Dip into the egg to coat, then cover evenly with breadcrumbs.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. When the oil temperature reaches 180C, gently drop in half of the fish fingers and fry until golden. It takes about five minutes and you can turn them after about three. Lift out and place on kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil. Repeat the process to cook the remaining fish fingers.

Toast and butter the bread. Add the tartar sauce, place the fish fingers on top, cover with the buttered toast and enjoy while warm.

The Stack / ‘Hype&Hyper’ magazine

East is east

Budapest-based English-language quarterly Hype&Hyper is a magazine and creative studio that spotlights the best design ideas from Hungary and beyond (writes Annabel Martin). For editor in chief and founder, Gergely Fáy, who started the project in 2020, the magazine’s goal is to change the way people think about Hungary and eastern Europe more generally.

“I get the feeling that people have got to know our part of the world mostly through clichés,” he says. “We want to give a new meaning to the term ‘east’”. Cue articles on overlooked figures from history, infrastructure upgrades and imagining a nation state in the town of Visegrád, not to mention interviews, recipes and recommendations. Fáy feels that his work is better served in print than online and plans to extend his love of the physical by opening a shop in Budapest later this year. “I’ve always liked sticking to old-fashioned things,” he says. The March issue of Hype&Hyper is out now.

Weekend plans? / Wilmina hotel, Berlin

Living history

In 2011 architects Armand Grüntuch and Almut Grüntuch-Ernst took the plunge and bought a space in west Berlin’s Kantstrasse area. “When we visited the property, we sensed an ambivalence,” says Grüntuch-Ernst of the former prison that has been thoughtfully redesigned and turned into a 44-key hotel, Wilmina. “There was a feeling of trepidation but the plot also had something enchanted, hidden, almost fairytale-like about it.” The courtyard had been left untouched for decades and, despite the bustling traffic beyond, you can still hear the birds chirping. Visitors enter through the ornate façade of the former Charlottenburg Criminal Court, a Wilhelminian-style building from the late 19th century that now hosts the Amtsalon exhibition space. The hotel itself is located in an L-shaped building clad in red bricks just through a courtyard.

Image: Robert Rieger
Image: Robert Rieger
Image: Robert Rieger

So how could the pair transform a historical building into a retreat without bulldozing or downplaying the past? Luckily, Grüntuch and Grüntuch-Ernst were experienced in dealing with Berlin’s bumpy history. One of their most notable interventions was at Jüdische Mädchenschule, a former Jewish girls’ school in a gallery-laden part of Berlin’s Mitte. They transformed it into a memorial that hosts cafés, restaurants and galleries. “If we hadn’t done that, we probably wouldn’t have even dared to work on Wilmina,” says Grüntuch. One of the challenges in transforming the prison was reversing the antisocial architectural features. “First we had to create spaces where people could gather,” says Grüntuch. “Then we had to open the rooms to the light.” In the wing that used to connect the courthouse to the prison is a restaurant, Lovis, featuring a cosmopolitan menu from chef Sophia Rudolph. “We have learned that the best thing that can happen to a heavily charged place is not to make it a museum, like a piece of dead history,” says Grüntuch. “It’s to make it habitable for the future by integrating it into everyday life.”

For more on this Berlin bolthole and new openings in São Paulo and upstate New York, pick up a copy of our 15th-anniversary March issue, which is out now. Or subscribe today so you never miss out.

Tech corner / Leica M11, Germany

Different lens

On the surface, Leica’s latest rangefinder camera looks rather similar to the previous model, the M10 (writes David Phelan). But inside, things have changed radically. The M10’s 40-megapixel sensor has been upgraded to 60 megapixels. High pixel counts on small sensors are pointless; here, however, light falls on a sensor the size of a 35mm film frame.

Image: Tony Hay

You can also shoot at lower resolutions, which allows you to take shots in rapid bursts for longer. The M11 has both a mechanical and electronic shutter. The latter is faster and silent, making it ideal for street photography à la Vivian Maier. It’s a significantly improved camera that maintains the looks and solid handling that Leica fans have come to expect. It’s well worth snapping up.

Parting shot / ‘The Monocle Book of the Nordics’

Pride of piste

To celebrate the launch of ‘The Monocle Book of the Nordics’, which is out now, we’ve looked beyond ‘hygge’ and ‘smørrebrød’ to select a few surprising lessons we learnt about the Nordic nations while putting it together. This week, writer Zayana Zulkiflee heads to Norway to explore its 6,000-year-old skiing tradition. It’s all downhill from here.

“Norway punches far above its weight in the Winter Olympics, having amassed the most medals in total: 405 including those won in Beijing, 148 of them gold, mainly in cross-country skiing. This comes as no surprise to Norwegians who, as the saying goes, are ‘born with skis on their feet’.

The word ‘ski’ is derived from the Old Norse word for a split length of wood; primitive Norwegian rock carvings that depict skiers date back to 4000 BC. The army developed the pastime in the 18th century and the first public race was recorded in 1842. Stories of heroes gliding through harsh winter landscapes are ingrained in Norway’s consciousness. Favourites include the rebel Birkebeiner skiers, who saved the baby and future King Haakon IV in 1206.

Image: Thomas Ekstrom

The best time to experience the country’s love of the sport is at Easter, when the spring sun warms the slopes enough to swap out Norrøna jackets for T-shirts. If your roof doubles as a jump, even better.

But what happens when the snow melts? Luckily, Norwegians can get their fix with summer skiing on the glaciers or, failing that, strap on their roller-skis and hit the roads.”

For more on design, business, food and fashion from Europe’s northernmost reaches, pick up a copy of ‘The Monocle Book of the Nordics’. Have a super Sunday.


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