Sunday. 3/4/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Where next?

Hop on board: we’ll be stopping off at a well-stocked Paris café and a bounteous Los Angeles grocery shop, before venturing out to the forests of New South Wales to wind down at a smart new hotel. Plus: South African comedian Loyiso Gola’s big weekend. First: Mr Brûlé with some notes from St Moritz.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

New heights

It’s Saturday morning up here in St Moritz and winter has put in a chilly, snowy last-minute appearance just as the season officially comes to a close. By the time you read this, terrace furniture will be stacked up, kitchens shuttered and ski lifts switched off, as hotel staff shift south to start warmer seasons around Positano, in Mykonos or on Lake Como. It’s been a while since we’ve done a Monocle Weekender (a semi-structured boutique gathering of readers, editors, entrepreneurs and provocateurs) and an eager and interesting crew of 50 of us have set up a base at Super Mountain Market on via Somplaz, for 48 hours of discussion, skiing, walks, broadcasting and very fresh air. Here are a few early highlights.

1
Suvretta House has had a couple of walk-on parts in the Monocle story. In the comfy chairs of the hotel’s lobby, various ideas have been cooked up that later became core elements of our brand. On Friday afternoon, Lakestar was wrapping up its Alpine summit while Monocle attendees arrived from points all over the globe. While chatting to my colleagues Anna and Andrew about Monocle’s next stage of growth, the firm’s Mika Salmi passed by to say hello and offer up a few snippets from its gathering of investors and founders. One Finnish founder had just made many billions by selling his food-delivery business to a US player in the same sector. Hmmmm… Could Monocle do the same by delivering magazines, excellent coffee and fine goods atop bicycles or via drones?

2
A few hours later, we were putting the finishing touches to the space at Super Mountain Market and our guests were starting to arrive. But where were my colleagues Desi and Raffi? “There was a problem with Swiss customs and the books for Saturday’s reading needed to be signed for and released,” explained Hannah, our co-ordinator in chief. Shortly after, Desi and Raffi pulled up in Desi’s dad’s boxy, black Volvo 1990s estate. It’s a fine-looking car and reminded me of similar wheels my mom had at the time. I get aerodynamics and efficiency but it’s hard to beat a handsome auto with sharp right angles.

3
While chatting to a Dutch architect who is based in Berlin, we exchanged notes about the Hauptstadt. “The general feeling is that it’s currently a bit like Springfield without the Simpsons,” he said. “Cultural life has generally evaporated, the nightlife has been decimated and the politicians don’t seem to care or really remember life before coronavirus. It’s all rather odd and there’s no sense of urgency to correct things.” As he’s not exactly fresh out of architecture school, I suggested a change of scenery. “You do know that Zürich is Berlin for people over 40?” I said. “You can find nightlife and naughtiness if you look for it and the airport is the closest thing you’ll find to Tegel but with global connections.” I have a sense that he’s already looking for office space.

4
We have many stars in the Monocle galaxy but of all of our crew, people have been happiest to see Linda Egger, who runs our shop in Merano. As guests arrived from various corners of Switzerland, the US and the Gulf, it’s Linda who got the biggest hugs and kisses. As soon as we wrap up in St Moritz, Linda will head back over the Ofenpass to reopen our Südtirol outpost for the summer season. We’ve got a series of plans for the coming months including a summer party on 1 July; please mark it in your diary. If you need any help with hotels, just drop us a note at info@monocle.com.

5
We anchored an hour of our Saturday show from the shop (with the odd little technical hiccup) and it was wonderful trying out the format in front of a cosily packed live audience. Time to take this concept out on the road for the summer? Maybe we could get one of VW’s new camper vans and do a European series jumping from one little spa town/beach resort/alpine retreat to the next. We’ll be discussing Europe and its place in the world with the author Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer on Monocle on Sunday, so please tune in.

Finally, before signing off, a thank you to the gentleman who’s been keeping this column accurate and grammatically correct almost since launch. Alex Briand is off to the world of podcasting. Merci, Alex.

Eating Out / Café Compagnon, Paris

For all seasons

Charles Compagnon (pictured) spends his weekends roasting coffee at a country house in Courances or heading down to the Beaujolais region to tend to his small vineyard, Domaine Charmetemps, before taking the goodies back to his three Parisian cafés. His latest venue, Café Compagnon in the French capital’s 2nd arrondissement, connects the dots between his many pursuits.

Image: Alex Cretey Systermans
Image: Alex Cretey Systermans

“I wanted Café Compagnon to be rooted in the life of the neighbourhood,” he says. While the ever-changing lunch and dinner menu is full of crowd-pleasers – duck terrine, burrata and the signature Venezuelan chocolate tart – chef Geoffrey Lengage’s food is inventive enough to impress clients with the likes of seaweed and kohlrabi ravioli and roasted octopus with kumquat-infused black rice. The founder’s hands-on approach also comes through in the café’s design. Furniture and interior designer Gesa Hansen, who is also Compagnon’s wife, kitted out the sprawling space with custom-designed corkscrew-legged tables, burgundy Pierre Frey banquettes and oak-hued sculptures, inspired by the work of Compagnon’s artist grandfather Carlos Ferreira de la Torre.
groupe-compagnon.com

Retail survey / Erewhon, Los Angeles

The goods life

Monocle’s April issue, which is out now, includes a bumper retail survey profiling the top shops and streets that are reviving the art of the sell. It’s been a torrid two years for the high street but there are hopeful retailers setting up in cities from Bangkok to Zürich. This week we stop by a smart development in Santa Monica that shows there’s still room for a neighbourhood grocery shop.

It’s 11.00 on a sunny morning at Erewhon, an airy Los Angeles grocery shop that’s bustling with a post-yoga crowd. Its director, Mike Bowen, takes a moment to admire the latest batch of sea-moss gel. “You can eat it just as it is,” he says, holding up a pot, which we’re told is a hit with customers and goes well in a salad. Only in LA could a niche grocery named after a satirical utopia from a Victorian novel become a retail sensation. Michio and Aveline Kushi set up Erewhon in 1966 as a stall in Boston, selling macrobiotic and organic foods.

Image: Adam Amengual
Image: Adam Amengual

The brand opened a shop in LA, which was snapped up in 2011 by entrepreneurs Tony and Josephine Antoci, who caught the broader consumer wave of “eating clean”. There are now seven Erewhon outposts around the city, with three more due to open by next summer. “I’m inundated with calls from mayors who want us in their cities,” says Yuval Chiprut, its head of development. Many of Erewhon’s customers come for its prepacked daily meals and meticulously sourced ingredients. The grocery’s aisles are festooned with hand-painted signs detailing, for example, exactly where a certain kombucha came from. It can be easy to smirk at the LA-ness of Erewhon. But for all that, it feels like a proper grocery shop: one that’s suitable for the weekly shop and not just a fad health-food outlet.

For more kiosks, department stores and developments to watch, pick up an issue of Monocle’s April issue today. Or become a subscriber so you don’t miss an issue.

Sunday Roast / Loyiso Gola

Funny bones

South African comedian Loyiso Gola rose to fame as the host of the country’s most popular satirical talk show Late Nite News and was the first African comic to have his own one-hour Netflix special (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). Here, he sings the praises of American gospel, weighs up morning kickabouts and confesses to always having three bottles of chenin blanc on standby. Cheers to that.

Image: Ben MacMahon

Where do we find you this weekend?
Flying to Cape Town from London for work. I’ll also be spending some time with my mother.

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday: a gentle start or a jolt?
If I’m in London, I always start by playing a game of football with friends. In Johannesburg, it’s basketball.

Soundtrack of choice?
Really spiritual gospel music, preferably by Mahalia Jackson. Not that I’m a Christian or churchgoing person; it’s a habit I got from my parents.

Lunch in or out?
If I’m in London, a roast. In Johannesburg I have a friend who lives five minutes away from me and she always cooks. After lockdown, I went to eat at her house. It was the first time we could interact with other people after four months and I had the most delicious meal.

Any larder essentials that you can’t do without?
A good variety of spices.

A Sunday culture must?
The documentary Amazing Grace, which captures the recording of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel album. It’s on Amazon Prime.

Ideal dinner venue and menu?
Dinner? I never have dinner on Sundays. I just eat so much during the day. Sometimes, I might have leftovers.

A glass of something that you would recommend?
I start my day with coffee. But South Africa is a wine country, so I’m always recommending some great bottles too. I always have at least three bottles of chenin blanc chilling in my fridge for a Sunday lunch.

Any Sunday evening routine?
My Sunday-night routine involves the NBA. In America, the games usually start at 15.00, which means I’ll be watching at 21.00 in South Africa.

When will you lay out your outfit for Monday? What will you be wearing?
I go with the flow; I don’t have to wake up on Monday and do stuff.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Shiratama dango cake and sugar syrup

Japanese chef Aya Nishimura rustles up a dish of shiratama dango, a dessert similar to mochi. This recipe makes around 24 balls that go well with fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream, and drizzled with kuromitsu (brown-sugar syrup). Enjoy.

Serves 2

Ingredients
For the sugar syrup:
50g dark muscovado sugar (or any dark brown sugar)
50ml water

For the shiratama dango:
115g shiratamako flour or glutinous rice flour
100ml lukewarm water

To serve
6 strawberries, quartered
2 scoops of vanilla ice cream

Method
1
Put the sugar and 50ml of water in a small pan and warm over medium heat, stirring from time to time until the sugar dissolves and the liquid thickens to a syrupy consistency (about 4 to 5 minutes). Set aside to cool.

2
Put the flour in a mixing bowl, add 90ml of the water and mix until it comes together. If it looks dry, add the remaining 10ml of water gradually; you might not need all of it. The dough should come together easily and look smooth and pliable. Knead to make it into a small, smooth ball.

3
When the dough is ready, divide into 2 equal-sized pieces. Then use your hands to roll each piece into a long, thin log of about 24cm. Cut each length in half, then cut each of those 4 pieces equally into 6. You now have 24 pieces of dough with which to make the shiratama dango.

4
Roll each piece into a ball and use your index finger to make an indentation in the middle. This helps to cook the dango evenly and prevent the middle of the cake from remaining doughy.

5
Boil water in a large pot. Fill a large bowl with cold water and some ice cubes. Drop the dango into the pot and gently stir to prevent them from sticking to each other or the bottom of the pot. Cook until the dango floats to the surface of the water, then cook for a further minute. Scoop the dango out with a slotted spoon and gently slide into the ice-cold water. Let them cool down completely.

6
Take the ice cream out of the freezer to let it soften, so it’s easy to scoop. Prepare the strawberries. Drain the dango and divide them between two serving bowls. Arrange strawberries and a scoop of ice cream on top of the dango. Drizzle with the sugar syrup and serve.

ayanishimura.com

Weekend Plans? / Osborn House, Bundanoon

Room to breathe

On a pilgrimage to the forests of New South Wales about 10 years ago, Sydney-based restaurateur Adam Abrams decided that Bundanoon would be perfect for his move into hotels (writes Carli Ratcliff). “On a map, I drew a circle around Sydney that stretched to just two hours by car,” he says. “I wouldn’t drive more than two hours for a weekend trip so why would a guest?” Over the following two years, Abrams stayed in every hotel, motel and guesthouse within that radius until he found Osborn House.

Abrams knew right away that he wanted to work with Linda Boronkay, Soho House’s former design director. “I’d stayed in hotels that she designed and a mutual friend put us in touch,” he says. “Her first question was, ‘What’s your style?’” His answer was: “Boronkay.” The designer brought in Alan McMahon of Mac Design Studio to partner on the project. With 15 guest rooms and seven cabins, the hotel offers a unique interior behind every door.

Image: Terence Chin

The combination of masculine and feminine extends to the public areas, including George’s Bar and dining room Dinah’s, named after the founding couple. Executive chef Segundo Farrell’s menus draw on produce from nearby farms and techniques that he learned while working alongside his mentor Francis Mallmann. “The landscape is perfect for us to use fire and Francis’s techniques,” he says. “We couldn’t do what we do here in a city.”
osbornhouse.com.au

Tech talk / Invoxia Smart Dog Collar

Best in show

Pet technology is increasingly big business and several manufacturers have already released GPS-based dog trackers (writes David Phelan). That said, the sight of pooches sporting them is still rarer than a well-behaved puppy. But what makes French firm Invoxia’s Smart Dog Collar unique is that it comes with sensors that take biometric measurements and can give early warning of illness, especially heart-related conditions.

Helpfully, it monitors the dog’s respiratory and heart rates without the need for electrodes. A persistently high resting respiratory rate can indicate heart issues, so the collar’s capacity to spot anomalies is potentially life-saving, not least because the monitoring is continuous. Invoxia worked with vets to ensure that the software can detect disease early. It can also measure the dog’s response to medication and its rate of recovery following surgery. The collar recognises regular activities and can differentiate between walking and running. It also tracks how often your dog is eating or drinking – even how much it is scratching. There’s an accelerometer, GPS tracker and buzzer too, so you can locate your dog when you can’t see it – though that rather defeats the point of a game of hide and seek, doesn’t it?
invoxia.com

Parting shot / Monocle photographers

Contact prints

Monocle’s bumper March issue includes an Expo feature on the art of photography. We asked 14 of our favourite shutterbugs across seven cities to shoot portraits of one another and tell us a little more about being a photographer in the age of the camera phone. Ready for our close-up?

Elisabetta Claudio (below)
Shot by Luigi Fiano on a Pentax 645Z
A native of Puglia, Claudio moved to Milan when she was 19 to study design and was drawn in by the wealth of visual imagery on the Italian newsstand. “There was no social media then,” she says. “You had magazines: Vogue Italia, the French and Italian editions of Photo, and The Face. There was still a clear boundary between high-end photography and commercial work.” Claudio soon delved into the medium and began work as a portrait photographer for titles such as L’Uomo Vogue. She’s an admirer of Juergen Teller and even uses the same Contax G2 camera as he does. She likes to blur the lines between art and fashion, and is not a fan of set-ups that feel too manufactured or posed. She recalls a Monocle assignment at the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, which serves as France’s embassy to Italy. She was given free rein to photograph guests at a function to celebrate Bastille Day, shooting with a flash in an overexposed style. “I think I was the only accredited photographer,” she says. “There were dignitaries, clergy, officers, aristocrats. It was something out of a Fellini film. I looked for those ironic moments: barefoot socialites, people with two melting ice-cream cones in hand, going behind the scenes with the caterers. We are obsessed with beauty; everyone has a smartphone to record themselves looking perfect. I wanted to find moments when I could tell a different kind of story.”

Image: Luigi Fiano, Elisabetta Claudioluigi
Image: Luigi Fiano, Elisabetta Claudioluigi

Luigi Fiano (above)
Shot by Elisabetta Claudio on Contax 645
Luigi Fiano’s exposure to photography came after a stint working at an advertising agency. “Magazines such as Monocle were on my radar as this was the world I was surrounded by,” he says. “At that point I was already passionate about photography and reportage.” Fiano is very precise in how he works behind the lens, carefully observing his surroundings and waiting patiently for that perfect instant when things fall into place. One recent assignment for Monocle found him in Valletta. He sized up a park in the Maltese capital that was bathed in a gorgeous morning light, which brought out the yellow hue of a stone archway. And then he waited. As if on cue, a gentleman stepped into view. “It’s that perfect alchemy when things enter into the frame and everything just clicks.” He snapped a photo of the individual, who stands with his back to the camera, to create a memorable shot. “That’s the challenge we face now,” he says. “Many spots that we visit for work have been captured a million times by people armed with mobile phones. The challenge is to find your point of view. Photography is not linked to the instrument. It comes down to your particular gaze.” Fiano is adept at helping strangers to relax. “I am quite timid so when I have a stranger before me we are on equal terms,” he says. “I try to get them to reveal a side of themselves that is intimate and that engages the viewer.”

Become a subscriber to support our journalists and photographers, and never miss an issue of the magazine. Oh, and have a super Sunday.

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