Sunday 17 April 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 17/4/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

All in play

Our Easter Sunday special includes a retail resurrection in Madrid, a go-to for ‘yoshoku’ in Berlin and some pink-tinted French cider to sip as the weather improves. We also hear a Hong Kong auctioneer’s idea of a revivifying weekend, turn our hand to a sticky Greek recipe and check out an unusual check-in at the former Nintendo HQ in Kyoto. But first, our editorial director has a few observations from Portugal.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

State of a nation

01. Hot dish
I didn’t expect to start the week being introduced to a new top 10 dish. But there I was in the dining room at the JNcQOUI Club in Lisbon staring at the menu and not knowing where to focus. “Might I suggest my father’s favourite?” said one of my hosts. “He claimed that it was the perfect cure for a hangover but it also works if you’re not hungover.”

“Tell me more,” I said, glancing around at the elegant guests nodding and waving in our direction.

“It’s very simple: pan-fried steak done quite spicy, scrambled eggs and rice. That’s it.” After a few prawn croquettes and some wine from my hosts’ vineyard, the dish arrived with considerable fanfare and I tucked in. Wow! Don’t be surprised if you see JNcQOUI Club on the shortlist for our restaurant award reboot.

02. Tap, take two
A few years ago, Monocle awarded Portuguese flag carrier Tap Air Portugal the title of “most handsome cabin crew”. And on the evening of the ceremony, the airline flew in a proper deployment of its most dashing men and a few pretty women. Since then, Tap has had more to worry about than maintaining flights manned by well-turned-out crew. Routes have been cut, services reduced and there’s a general sense that the airline isn’t doing its bit to reflect the positive buzz and momentum around Portugal as a whole. Where to start? How about getting Catarina Portas, of A Vida Portuguesa fame, and architect João Pombeiro (he’s just redone the concept for bakery chain A Padaria Portuguesa) and let them loose on aircraft interiors, menus, lounges and more? Portugal helped to map much of the world; their flag carrier has every opportunity to step it up.

03. Your place in the sun
Remember a time when you used to be able to pick your poolside neighbours based on the newspapers and magazines they’d leave on loungers to mark their stretch of sunny territory? Daily Mail, Closer and Hello! meant too chatty and frozen daiquiris far too early in the day. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Der Spiegel usually guaranteed silence and the odd stern look. And Le Figaro and Côté Sud was often a sign that you might end up with neighbours who’d send a glass of rosé your way after lunch. As newspapers have largely disappeared from the hotel offering and magazines rarely appear in lobby gift shops, it’s now sunscreen and tote bags that are social markers. But what does one make of Piz Buin SPF 15 and a cotton tote from Bershka? Or even Ligne St Barth baking oil and a knock-off Dior shopper? It’s too little information to work with if you’re going to commit to a day under cloudless skies and be within brushing distance of the next basting body. On a positive note, Reid’s Palace in Madeira still offers to print or fetch your dailies of choice. More hotels might want to reintroduce such a service.

04. Driving change
While we’re on Madeira, a little taxi story for you. I hailed a cab, we all piled in and 10 minutes later we pulled up in front of a house I’ve had my eye on. After a quick inspection, we piled back in and the driver turned around and said, “Very nice house. I love the style. Are you thinking of moving here?” I explained that a full move was a bit of a stretch but I liked the island and that I saw a lot of untapped potential. As we wound our way back down the hill, he explained that he had just graduated from university, decided that a career in physical education wasn’t for him and that he loved driving a taxi. “There’s no stress,” he told us. “You meet lots of people and, to be honest, I see myself doing this for the rest of my life.” The hospitality industry needs tens of thousands more with such an optimistic and realistic disposition.

05. Frame of reference
And, finally, a wind storm has wrapped up since I started writing this column. It’s sunny but crazy windy and the sea is crashing over the rocks. For the better part of the morning a couple in their early sixties, who are late to the influencer plague, have been staging a photo shoot. She’s all wraps, tankinis and reflective sunglasses; he’s all zipped shorts, 4WD action sandals and long-lens camera. She thinks she might be the embodiment of Gisele and he Herb Ritts. They’re creating shadows, not respecting the privacy of fellow guests and asking for a rogue wave to sweep them out into a far-off shipping lane. Portugal’s top hoteliers might want to take the lead and stop falling for the influencer guff of offering a free night’s stay in exchange for followers. Herb Ritts would have been super annoyed if he was still with us.

Eating out / Dashi, Berlin

Mix and match

The dining table might be one of the few places left where cultural exchange – an influence from here, an ingredient from there – doesn’t immediately result in squabbling about cultural appropriation. People simply eat the food, call it “fusion” and clear off. The evidence? Take, for example, the delightful new Berlin restaurant Dashi. Founded by German-raised, Vietnamese-born friends Thu Thuy Pham and Thao Westphal, it offers a riff on yoshoku: a Japanese take on Western food that became popular in the 1940s and spawned a generation of dated but delightful canteens.

Image: Caroline Knihar & Vian Nguyen
Image: Caroline Knihar & Vian Nguyen

Dashi has seized on this idea and reimported this sideways look at “Western-style” fare – think fluffy pancakes, croquettes in gravy and a cherry-topped melon cream soda – to a hungry Mitte milieu that’s far too cosmopolitan to question its provenance. Danish studio Mentze Ottenstein obliges with a neat, woody fit-out that should win over any doubters.

Bottoms up / Galipette cider, France

Tickled pink

Britain’s southwest might think of itself as the home of scrumpy but northwestern France has a long, bibulous tradition of creating sumptuous cidre. Galipette (the French word for “somersault”) was founded in 2017 by three Scandinavians who fell head over heels for the ciders that they found in Normandy and Brittany. Having removed the sweeteners and artificial colourings, they teamed up with Les Celliers Associés, an apple-growing co-operative set up in the 1950s, to source the juice that is fermented, filtered, bottled and branded in charming 330ml brown stubbies.

Image: Tony Hay

For their next trick, the trio have added a peachy, pink-hued rosé to their existing line-up (a brut, non-alcoholic and organic takes) – the result of a serendipitous experiment with red-fleshed apples. Cheers to that.

Sunday Roast / Jonathan Crockett

Priceless moments

As the Asia chairman of auction house Phillips, Jonathan Crockett is a familiar face at the firm’s contemporary art sales in Hong Kong: gavel in one hand, signature gold pen in the other. The Oxfordshire native moved to Hong Kong in 2009 after starting his career with Christie’s and Sotheby’s in London. Here he tells us about swimming in the sea, slow cooking and his love of hot sauces.

Where do we find you this weekend?
The south side of Hong Kong Island, Shouson Hill. The beach is down the road and up it is a country park.

How do you like to begin a Sunday: a gentle start or a jolt?
I like to spend two or three hours doing a trail run or some ocean-water swimming. Lie-ins aren’t possible with two young children in the house.

Your soundtrack of choice?
I listen to news podcasts when I’m walking the dog but when I’m running it’s usually electronic music. I’m a big fan of Daft Punk and U2. “With or Without You” is my all-time favourite.

What’s for breakfast?
Always the same: three boiled eggs and a bowl of broccoli. But I might embellish that with some berries. I started this a year ago, after going on a health drive to get myself back into shape.

News or not?
The FT Weekend in print, delivered to the door. I set aside an hour just before lunch, usually when our youngest son is asleep. It’s one of the things that I do religiously.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Walking Ruby, our five-year-old black labrador. Once I went to visit a client in the hope that I’d walk away with one of his paintings for auction but instead I walked away with his dog. She’s perfect for young kids and my wife, who isn’t a dog person.

Lunch in or out?
Dinner is our main meal. I love cooking with a slow cooker, so before I go running, I will prepare all of the ingredients and shove them in the cooker for eight hours. Osso buco is one of my favourites.

Who’s joining?
On Friday or Saturday, maybe a group of friends. But Sunday is family time so it’s just us.

Any larder essentials that you can’t do without?
I’m something of a chilli addict. Our fridge probably has 10 different types of chilli sauce inside, ranging from Tabasco and XO sauce to sambal oelek. Also, coffee beans, dark chocolate and Marmite. Marmite on toast is a big thing for me and my eldest son.

Sunday culture must?
Classic FM.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
I love the English sparkling wine Nyetimber. I also like the Italian sparkling wine Franciacorta. My wife is more of a red-wine drinker so if it’s not a celebration we’ll open a bottle of cannonau [grenache] from Sardinia.

Sunday-evening beauty or betterment routine?
I try to call my parents or siblings in the UK. That’s for the betterment of our relationship. It’s difficult right now, not being able to see the family [due to coronavirus restrictions in Hong Kong]. I really miss them. In terms of my appearance, I go to a barber in Central: Fox and the Barber.

Do you lay out your look for Monday? What will you wear?
If I’m meeting clients, I’ll have a double-breasted suit on. I’m into Ring Jacket, a Japanese brand that The Armoury sells in Hong Kong, and Ascot Chang shirts. For marquee auctions, I’ll wear a red tie for good luck.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Honey-baked feta with almonds and dill

This week’s recipe is as simple as they come: a tangy feta starter or side that’s roasted with herbs, nuts and a sweet honey topping. Enjoy.

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 2-4 as a starter or part of a meal

200g feta cheese
1½ tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsps clear honey
2 tbsps almonds, sliced
½ tsp dried oregano
2 tbsps dill, roughly chopped

Toasted flatbread, to serve


Preheat a grill to 180C. While you wait, pat the feta cheese dry with kitchen towel and drizzle ½ tbsp of the olive oil on a small baking tray. Place the feta on it.

Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil on top and pour and spread 2 tbsps of honey all over the cheese, making sure that it’s completely covered.

Place the feta under the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the baking tray and scoop out some hot honey and oil with a spoon; pour this over the cheese. Scatter the sliced almonds around the cheese.

Put it all back under the grill for another 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it as it can burn easily.

Add the flatbread to the grill in the last few minutes of cooking time.

Scoop the baked cheese onto a plate and spoon the caramelised honey and olive oil mixture, as well as the toasted almonds, from the baking tray and drizzle over the cheese.

Scatter the dried oregano and chopped dill on top, then drizzle the remaining honey on top. Serve with the warm flatbread.

Weekend plans? / Marufukuro, Kyoto

House of cards

The art deco architecture of Marufukuro hotel makes it a rarity in Kyoto but its history is equally intriguing (writes Junichi Toyofuku). The four-storey structure was built in 1930 by entrepreneur Fusajiro Yamauchi, who founded the company that is now Nintendo, and sat unused for more than half a century. While many old properties in Japan have been demolished and turned into apartments or carparks, the family that owns this one teamed up with Tokyo-based hospitality firm Plan Do See to bring it back to life as an 18-key hotel. President Yutaka Noda commissioned Tadao Ando to preserve the structure where possible, only replacing what needed to be. The exterior has stood the test of time and the property stands out in this otherwise quiet, residential neighbourhood. When you walk through the entrance doors, 1930s details, from glass and tiling to marble, set the tone.

Image: Yoshitsugu Fuminari
Image: Yoshitsugu Fuminari

The hotel takes its name from Marufuku, a Nintendo company that manufactured and sold hanafuda playing cards (“ro” means tower in Japanese). The four buildings are aptly named after the four suits of cards. The guest rooms are designed within the original layouts of the property. The Heart building, the former residential quarter, features a Japanese suite with a newly built outdoor bath and a traditional tatami room with elaborately carved wooden transoms and shoji paper screens. The Marufukuro suite sits on top of the Spade and Diamond buildings. The library-cum-bar is designed by architect Makoto Tanijiri of Suppose Design Office and open only to members and guests. Nestled at the back of the premises is Carta, the hotel’s restaurant, named after another old Japanese card game. Kumamoto-based chef Ai Hosokawa took charge of everything, from the interiors and crockery to the seasonal menu. Judging by the restaurant’s impressive attention to detail, she’s not playing games.

Sound decision / Apple Homepod Mini

Whole new ball game

When Apple released the compact version of its Homepod smart speaker, the €99 price tag was a pleasant surprise (writes David Phelan). But this was Apple, a company known for its premium pricing. So how good could it be? It turns out that while it doesn’t quite match the audio quality of the original model, which has been discontinued, the Homepod Mini offers a powerful, clear sound with a decent tone. Playing music is as simple as activating the device with your smartphone. Its size, comparable to that of a flattened baseball, offers no indication of how big its sound can be.

Image: Tony Hay

Put two together in a stereo pair and the music will easily fill a large room. Smart speakers do far more than just play music, so with the magic words “Hey, Siri” you can set a timer or ask for the weather forecast. The Homepod Mini originally came in grey and white. Now, however, Apple has decided to add some colour and the discreet-blue, fiery-orange and Easter-chick-yellow options are delightful.

Retail survey / Madrid

Sunny outlook

Our April issue, available now, includes a rundown of the thinkers, developers and entrepreneurs who are bringing our high streets back to life after a difficult couple of years. Here we drop anchor in Madrid to see how a new generation of homeware shops is helping to foster a community, celebrate the city and spell success for bricks-and-mortar retail.

Plaza de Olavide is the beating heart of Madrid’s Trafalgar neighbourhood. It’s about as postcard-perfect as the Spanish capital gets, with a fountain at its centre, surrounded by tree-shaded terraces. On a side street adjoining the square is Hecho, a homeware shop that was launched last spring by a team of six architects and designers. The shop is attached to a studio space that the founders share and stocks a mix of big international names, such as Hay and Ichendorf Milano, alongside home-grown brands including Santa & Cole. Hecho also collaborates with small Spanish makers to produce collections, including hand-embroidered tablecloths and textured glass dinner plates.

Image: Victor Garrido
Image: Victor Garrido

“For us it was really important for people to be able to come into the shop so they can see and touch the objects,” says co-founder Enrique Ventosa. “Everyone was telling us that we should open an online shop first but we decided to do it the other way around. So far it has been great. We sell much more through the [physical] shop than we do through our website.” For Ventosa, changing consumer habits since the pandemic began have helped to boost business.

An increased interest in provenance is something that shopkeeper Pepa Entrena has noticed. She founded homeware shop Cocol in 2017 on the edge of another of Madrid’s idyllic squares, Plaza de la Paja. The shop is a celebration of traditional Spanish handicrafts, stocking everything from woollen blankets from Cádiz to ceramics from Jaén. “People have started questioning more where things were made and who made them,” says Entrena. “Rather than having six identical glasses from Ikea, they’d rather have one handcrafted piece.” Another of the city’s most successful homeware shops is Casa González & González. From Japanese zinc buckets to ostrich-feather dusters from South Africa, every product in the shop is labelled with its country of origin.

“Our stock is both utilitarian and aesthetically beautiful,” says María Rosa González, an art historian who founded the shop with interior designer Javier González (pictured, with María Rosa) in 2017. “What really keeps us going as a bricks-and-mortar retailer is that people enjoy visiting the shop and having us explain the stories behind the products.”

For more on retailers who are rethinking and reviving our cities, pick up a copy of this month’s issue of Monocle. Better yet, give yourself or someone you care about an Easter treat and subscribe today. Have a super Sunday.


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