Sunday 20 March 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 20/3/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

On the road

This week, our bulletin takes in a visit to a master cheesemonger by Lake Maggiore and delivers a recipe for blood-orange cake. Plus: two seasoned Monocle shutterbugs trade portraits in Berlin, a compact speaker system that hits the right note and thoughts on Hong Kong’s flickering neon signs. First, Tyler Brûlé sets the scene.


Prevailing party

Some people in our company are cleverer than others, particularly when it comes to alcohol intake, tobacco consumption and command of the dancefloor. Allow me to elaborate. As you might have read in our editor in chief’s column yesterday, Thursday night was an evening of grand celebration to mark Monocle’s 15th anniversary with colleagues, collaborators and close friends all gathered at the Chiltern Firehouse. What you didn’t read was an account of what happened after the sensible guests had departed, the bar tab had hit its limit and a more determined group shuffled down the street to the pub next door.

There’s a span of about 90 minutes that is undocumented as I took some of my senior crew for a quick, impromptu dinner in the Firehouse’s restaurant to say a proper thank you for their services over the past 15 years. A few messages I received during this window don’t paint a full picture of what was going on but the tone and typos suggested that a new bar tab had been started, a Zürich-based member of the team might have been evicted for behaving like an alpine whirling dervish and there was an urgent need to come up with an after-hours concept as the pub was closing in 22 minutes. This was the moment at which I asked for the bill, said hello to some friends dining nearby and, by the time I reached the front door, found that some members of my most trusted senior team had disappeared into the night. With our numbers depleted, we ventured down the corner to meet our co-workers to see what form the celebration had taken and whether there was much left in the way of stamina.

Our COO had set up a full bar and, thanks to our solid Kiwi contingent, the dancefloor was in full swing in less than 15 minutes.

Before we could even gauge the situation, the report about the Swiss co-worker turfed out for his loud renditions of “Despacito” had turned out to be true and there was a very real need to maintain the tempo and move to a next venue. I believe that this was the moment at which our COO asked our head of brand if she knew where the keys were to the company wine supply and if there was a way of quickly creating a workable discoteque in our canteen. This is when a little-known special ops unit sprang into action, legged it down the street back to our HQ and set to work. Not wanting to miss how this elite group operated, I joined them as they trotted into Midori House’s courtyard, nodded to our gurkha on duty and set to work pulling out cables, setting up speakers, dimming lights, breaking down tables and benches and generally creating the right atmosphere for a proper little afterparty. In our kitchen, our COO had set up a full bar and, thanks to our solid Kiwi contingent, the dancefloor was in full swing in less than 15 minutes. (If you would like our 10-point checklist about how to create your own disco privé then stay tuned for our July/August issue, when we’ll be addressing the topic of why the world needs to dance and properly let loose.) It was some point after Dua Lipa uttered her last “I’m levitating” and my colleague Nic was holding onto the legs of Emma, who decided that there was a need for handstands, that I felt it might be the moment to take my own leave and let the kids get on with it.

Seven hours later I returned, suspecting that I might see one or two people from the art department passed out on various sofas and a scene of light devastation but order had been completely restored: there wasn’t the slightest whiff of spilled wine or sweaty dancefloor – just gentle hinoki incense. My trusty COO was even on hand wrapping up a call with Seoul. Had she even left or returned to her hotel? We never discuss these things. So here’s the question, dear reader: who’s the cleverer of our lot? The ones who retired early to take on the day afresh? Or those that know how to build and fill a nightclub in 10 minutes flat?

Eating out, part one / La Casera, Lake Maggiore

Daily rind

Eros Buratti has a nose for business, specifically the cheese business (writes Ivan Carvalho). For 31 years the Italian has run La Casera, a speciality food and wine shop on the western shore of Lake Maggiore, where he sells more than 250 cheeses. As an affineur, Buratti works with artisan cheese-makers in Italy and abroad to mature their produce until it is just right. “They bring them to me when they are still young and I ‘raise’ them until they are ripe for ‘graduation’,” says the bespectacled Buratti, who keeps the cheese in a cellar close to his shop.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Cheese from the Piedmont region, such as castelmagno and bettelmatt, has pride of place but you’ll also find varieties such as holzhofer, a raw cow-milk cheese from the Swiss canton of Thurgau, which Buratti keeps for an extra six months, and a taleggio from Valsassina in Lombardy that is aged for more than 100 days. Paired with these dairy delicacies are cured meats from northern Italy served in the shop’s all-day dining room.

To help visitors wash them down, Buratti carries some 1,400 wine labels, including a crisp sparkling nebbiolo from producer Parusso. “I want to surprise and educate people’s palates with truly distinct flavours,” he says. “It’s that simple.”

Eating out, part two / Mariankatu 18, Helsinki

Club together

Mariankatu 18 in Helsinki’s Kruununhaka district was born when a group of residents – rather than restaurateurs – came together after a much-loved grocer closed down (writes Petri Burtsoff). “Most of us had been working remotely throughout the pandemic and really needed a place in which to meet outside of our homes,” says co-founder Laura Kolbe, a Helsinki University professor.

Image: Carl Bergman
Image: Carl Bergman

It looks to have been a success for the 24 founders, whose ranks include the city’s mayor. On a recent morning, it was full of Helsinkians having hearty breakfasts of porridge and jam with bilberries and lingonberries, or freshly baked bread and croissants with cold cuts and cheese. Mellow jazz plays in the background and residents dive into the morning papers in soft candlelight as the sun begins to rise. A few hours later, a healthy lunch consisting of a bountiful salad buffet and tasty salmon soup pulls an equally large crowd. Only a few patrons opt for the takeaway; most choose to linger.
Mariankatu 18, 00170

Kruununhaka address book

Kolme Kruunua
Opened in 1952, this neighbourhood favourite serves pan-fried Baltic herrings, sautéed reindeer and pike perch à la Mannerheim.

Gateau Kruununhaka
This café stocks Finnish pastries, such as korvapuusti cinnamon buns, and traditional breads including saaristolaisleipä (malt bread).

A well-chosen selection of second-hand design and homeware.

Sunday Roast / Russell Norman

Flavour profile

Restaurateur Russell Norman’s eclectic take on Venetian cicchetti helped his Polpo restaurant group become the toast of London in the 2010s. Today the chef and writer runs the Tuscan-inspired Trattoria Brutto, which he opened last year in Farringdon. Here, Norman shares his industrious weekend habits, penchant for markets and pantry staples.

Image: Scott Grummett

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’ll be at home in Blackheath this Sunday. I’ve got a huge celeriac in the fridge and I’ll be making a mustardy, lemony mayonnaise remoulade to go with it. The trick is to slice the root as finely as possible. It’ll be a good opportunity to sharpen all my knives. I’ve just bought a beautiful 1920s French writing desk, so I’ll be laying out all my stationery too. I’m planning to make it a very nerdy Sunday.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday?
A trip to Blackheath farmers’ market. I’ll seek out a good coffee or two and buy the Sunday papers.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
If the weather is dry, when I’m in London, I’ll take Twig (my bedlington whippet) across the heath to Greenwich Park and take in the view from The Royal Observatory.

Soundtrack of choice?
At the moment it’s either Father John Misty, Lianne La Havas or Prefab Sprout.

What’s for breakfast?
A couple of coffees, a pot of Yorkshire Tea and anchovies with chilled butter on cold toast.

Do you have any kitchen essentials?
I get grumpy if there isn’t a scotch egg in the fridge for emergencies.

News or not?
Newspapers, for sure, but no telly or online news. I try not to look at my phone more than I need to.

Lunch in or out?
If I’m really lucky I’ll be invited to a friend’s house but I’m also very happy to cook an elaborate lunch for myself. Even if I’m dining alone, I always seem to cook enough for eight people.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
Tinned anchovies, cannellini beans, onions and at least four litres of backup extra virgin olive oil. I’m always terrified of running out.

Sunday culture must?
Radio 4 is pretty much on all day. A noon comedy – I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, Just A Minute or The Unbelievable Truth – is compulsory. And The Food Programme, of course.

Any Sunday rituals?
I’ll take the dog for a long walk and maybe watch a film in the evening with a Double Decker or a Starbar, if I’m feeling dangerous.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
A small negroni.

The ideal dinner menu?
It has to be comfort food. Lots of roasted vegetables with some guinea fowl or duck and proper gravy. And seconds, always.

Ideal dinner venue?
There are so many in London I love. Madame Pigg in Dalston, Andrew Edmunds in Soho, Quality Chop House in Clerkenwell and Noble Rot in Bloomsbury.

Will you lay out your look for Monday?
I always dress the same. My wardrobe is just full of multiple versions of the same clothes, so no need to lay anything out.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Campari and blood-orange cake

This week, Swiss chef Ralph Schelling shares what he calls a “perfect, sticky, bittersweet” confection made with blood oranges and Campari. While the season for the latter is just getting going, the former are only fresh until spring. You’ll need a springform cake tin that’s about 25cm in diameter for this cake, which goes well served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. “The last time I made this I added three rosemary sprigs on top while it baked,” says Schelling. “The whole thing smelled heavenly.”

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 6

7 blood oranges
350g Greek yoghurt
500g cane sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
250g melted butter
350g fine semolina
100g ground hazelnuts
1 pinch of sea salt
100ml Campari

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grate the zest of 4 of the oranges. In a bowl, combine the yoghurt, egg, butter, semolina, hazelnuts, orange zest, salt and half of the sugar. Pour into a springform pan of about 25cm diameter, lined with baking paper. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a skewer comes out dry.

While the cake is in the oven, squeeze the oranges into a pan with the remaining sugar and Campari, and heat to a boil. Reduce by half until you have a thickened syrup.

Prick the warm cake across the surface with a toothpick and pour the syrup over it several times until it is well absorbed.

City unpacked / Hong Kong neon

Glow up

It was a Frenchman who first developed neon-tube lighting in 1910 – and the illuminating idea quickly spread from Parisian opera houses to New York cinemas, before arriving in Hong Kong in the 1920s (writes Naomi Xu Elegant). After the Second World War, Hong Kong’s population boomed and business flourished. Soon, signs popped up hawking jewellery, tailor-made suits and fishball noodles. By the 1980s, the city was aglow.

Smouldering signs jostled for attention down thoroughfares including Nathan Road, jutting over shopfronts in shining, serried rows. Today, though, about 90 per cent of Hong Kong’s neon signs have disappeared since the technology’s heyday. The remainder are clustered in neighbourhoods such as Sham Shui Po or nightlife hubs such as Wanchai, though a few can still be found as far afield as the sleepy beach town of Sai Kung.

Image: Kenneth Tsang

In the past 20 years, the government has tightened safety regulations and removed signs that are deemed too big or hang too far over the pavement. That, combined with the advent of cheaper, mass-produced LED technology, has led to the disappearance of neon signs from Hong Kong’s streets.

“When I was a child, the dim sum shop had a really big neon sign; the classic green and red,” says designer Jive Lau, who teaches neon workshops at his small Kwun Tong studio, which he opened in 2020. “It was remarkable.” Chan hopes to one day stage an exhibition of neon signs, from the collection of heritage group Tetra Neon Exchange. M+, Hong Kong’s museum of visual culture, has also amassed a significant collection of signs and a younger generation of neon artists is keeping the tradition alive. “People, especially the youngsters who didn’t have the chance to experience the magical streetscapes that I grew up with, will be able to appreciate them.”

Tech corner / Ruark R5 audio system

Setting the tone

British audio-maker Ruark is already admired for its radios and wireless speakers (writes David Phelan). Now it has included something in its R5 system that’s becoming increasingly rare: a CD player. The R5 has the brand’s usual circular control panel, complete with a tactile volume dial. There’s also a round remote control that’s small enough to use comfortably but big enough to be difficult to lose. Though the R5 is a single unit, there’s a decent amount of stereo separation and the audio is superb, as is the build quality.

Image: Tony Hay

In terms of connectivity, the R5 offers DAB and FM radio (as well as online stations) and it works as a Bluetooth speaker. It allows you to easily tap into music services such as Spotify or Tidal via an app. The audio system is an all-rounder, with big-room sound and small-room dimensions. Ruark has also launched a special Made in England edition of the R5 with a walnut cabinet. The components are hand-assembled and tested at the company’s headquarters in Southend-on-Sea in the country’s southeast. Just 35 of these special-edition models were released to mark Ruark’s 35th anniversary.

Parting shots / Monocle photographers

Calling the shots

To mark Monocle’s 15th anniversary, we asked 14 faithful photographers in seven key cities to shoot a portrait of one another and share insights on the importance of visual storytelling, being present and the craft of photojournalism. In 2007, magazine sales were dwindling because of a perceived lack of enthusiasm from readers. “Really?” our founding team wondered. Might that not be because many media owners were snipping back commissions, cutting budgets and using image agencies instead of taking their own photographs? That’s why from issue 1 to issue 151 (which is on newsstands now), we’ve believed in sending photographers to get the stories worth covering (and, where possible, shooting on film). It’s why every issue is stuffed with original reportage and fresh ideas. Now, are you ready for our close-up? Here we meet Felix Brüggemann and Robert Rieger (pictured, from top) in Hansaviertel, Berlin.

Image: Felix-Brüggemann, Robert Rieger
Image: Felix-Brüggemann, Robert Rieger

Felix Brüggemann
Shot by Robert Rieger on a Plaubel Makina 67
“You’re going to hate what I’m telling you,” Monocle’s creative director Richard Spencer Powell said to Felix Brüggemann more than a decade ago. “But I think you’re best when you shoot boring things.” What Powell meant is that the self-taught photographer has the unique capacity to capture the beauty of the everyday. “I go somewhere with the camera,” says Brüggemann. “And then see what is there at that moment.” Simple, eh? For his first assignment in 2010, Monocle dispatched him to Istanbul to shoot an Expo on the Princes’ Islands in the Bosphorus, a job he still remembers fondly. “It was one of the most beautiful stories I did. I was completely taken by the place, capturing everything with my Pentax.” Since then he has shot countless stories for us. “There aren’t many media outlets that produce everything for themselves with this clear visual language and vision,” he says. “And contributing to that is a huge privilege.” Nowadays, everyone can take a snap with their phone so the creative decision-making process is more important than ever. “I’ve always looked at Felix’s pictures and thought, ‘Wow, that’s where I want to go,’” says Rieger. Despite a 21-year age difference, the two became close friends after attending a photographers’ meet-up in Berlin. “As a photographer, you’re often a lone fighter,” says Brüggemann. “So to have someone else to talk to about it is great.”

Robert Rieger
Shot by Felix Brüggemann on a Rolleiflex SL66E
There are few people in the world who are able to bring to life portraits of people as easily as images of buildings and interiors but Robert Rieger is one of them. “It’s a combination that is hard to come by these days,” he says. “Either you shoot architecture or portraits. It was important to me that both get the same attention.” Rieger initially studied graphic design before becoming a picture editor and then a photographer. “Robert has a fantastic eye,” says Felix Brüggemann. “With simple means such as framing and light, he produces exquisite shots.” Rieger shot his first story for Monocle in 2017 about Berlin’s newly opened Orania hotel. “But the coolest assignment was definitely shooting Air Baltic’s Airbus A220 fleet,” says Rieger. “Because the airport was so small, we were granted access everywhere, even in the cockpits – and I got to fly the simulator afterwards.” Rieger is an avid plane- and trainspotter. He says he’d most likely be a train conductor at Deutsche Bahn if he weren’t a photographer. But for now he’s happy with the profession. Today, Rieger is one of the most sought-after photographers for hospitality projects in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. But no matter how challenging the shoot, he says that nothing beats flicking through a freshly printed magazine. “I rarely shoot analogue so I never have photographs in my hands. It’s great to see my photos in print as the paper brings in a whole different level.”

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