Sunday 22 May 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 22/5/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Flying high

Monocle’s intrepid journalists drop anchor in Japan’s ‘art island’ of Naoshima to check out its newest hotel opening and try something tasty in Milan and Paris. We also whizz through a few highlights of our mobility-themed June issue aboard an Ampler Stellar e-bike and ask why the return to the air has fuelled such poor plane behaviour. First, a word from the pilot, Tyler Brûlé.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Right up our street

Over the coming days, my colleagues will be putting the last pages of our forthcoming July/August issue through the editorial obstacle course that sees articles cut, expanded, gently trimmed, fact-checked, cut again, triple checked and, finally, sent to press. By now you’ll know that our summer double issue celebrates everything that makes urban life succeed and is also the edition where we name our most liveable cities.

On Tuesday I got my first glimpse of the extended shortlist in the very empty TGV carriage that whisked me to Paris. Like most years, we’ve done a remix of metrics in an attempt to open up the top spots. But the problem with these rankings is that the best cities are very difficult to knock out of the top five – no matter how hard we try. When we expanded our HQ in Zürich four years ago, I was quite vocal about the fact that the city was too slow and cumbersome when it came to granting our café team permission to open a sidewalk terrace. With a little pressure, we got there in the end but it was a struggle that created a new metric for our quality-of-life ranking: “ease of opening outdoor space and allowing the F&B sector to flourish”.

Like many cities, the use of outdoor space for drinking and dining became a flashpoint in Zürich as terraces were closed, then reopened, expanded, collapsed and, in many cases, completely rethought. While little good has come from the pandemic period, one bright spot has been Zürich’s enlightened take on how to reboot the F&B sector, while also forcing fresh thinking about what makes a neighbourhood work.

For our little operation in the Seefeld district, this more open approach has permitted us to expand our seating and create a cosier atmosphere for our stretch of the street. In the process, the city’s coffers also fill up as this use of the public pavement comes with a reasonable fee that, when tallied across Zürich, allows the city to purchase some more street cleaners and police vans. Shortly, the mayor’s team will go a step further with its “Mediterranean nights” initiative that will see more than 150 restaurants keep the negronis and spritzes being poured until 02.00 on six weekends a year. While there are many interest groups threatening various challenges, city hall sees this as an opportunity to loosen things at the edges to make the city more attractive for both residents and tourists, while also being more business-friendly.

It’s exactly this type of enlightened thinking that allows cities to rise up our quality-of-life ranking. We still have some number-crunching and debating to do in order to land on our final top 25 cities. But, in the meantime, we put our expanded pavement to good use for the 2022 edition of our Badi Market (pictured) to celebrate the start of the swimming season in the city’s various bathing clubs.

At the time of filing this column (15.30CET on Saturday), Dufourstrasse was in full swing with ice cream being scooped, hats being fitted, sausages being consumed, cocktails poured and books being signed. In about a month, we’ll be doing something similar in London to officially mark the start of summer. But, before that, we’ll be popping up in Paris with a special retail intervention at Le19M to coincide with our Quality of Life Conference. If you want to hear more about the essential forces that make cities and business work in sync, come and join us. You can find more details here. Bon weekend!

Eating out / Tawlet, Paris

Top table

As soon as you walk into Tawlet Paris, the first international outpost of Lebanese restaurateur, social entrepreneur and Monocle friend Kamal Mouzawak (pictured, on right), you notice the large buffet table at the back. On the night that we visit, the table (tawlet in Arabic) is laden with the sumptuous specialities of the Lebanese mountains. Bowls are piled high with pumpkin-filled kebbeh, aubergine caviar, parsley tabbouleh, stuffed Swiss chard leaves; there’s even a lamb stew infused with pomegranate molasses. “When people think of Lebanese cooking, they think of street-food classics such as hummus and falafel,” says Mouzawak, out on the restaurant’s lively terrace with his Afghan hound, Mademoiselle Souk.

Image: Thomas Humery
Image: Thomas Humery

Diners sit at a communal table among shelves lined with bottles of Lebanese olive oil and sachets of za’atar that make the space feel more like a well-stocked kitchen than a restaurant. “The épicerie part of Tawlet is not for decoration,” says Mouzawak. “Anything that we use in our kitchen, we also sell.”

While most of the stock is imported from Lebanese producers that Mouzawak works with at Souk el Tayeb, a farmers’ market in Beirut that he founded in 2004, he also collaborates with French makers. Les ​​Épices Rœllinger created its own take on Lebanon’s seven-spice blend for Tawlet, the halloumi comes from the Laiterie de Paris and much of the wine sold at the épicerie and restaurant is produced by Lebanese-run domaines working in the Bordeaux region. “If a product is good in France, why go all the way to Lebanon to find it?” says Mouzawak.

Kamal Mouzawak is a guest at the forthcoming Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Paris. Secure your ticket today.

Eating out / Goto, Milan

Everyday wonders

The neighbourhood Italian café gets a makeover at Goto in Porta Venezia. In a snug interior complete with a Murano glass chandelier, you can enjoy an espresso made with single-origin Cuban coffee from roaster Torrefazione Giamaica or peruse the fine and fulsome menu, which has you covered from breakfast to aperitivo. Co-founder and Veneto native Giovanni Fiorin, who previously launched pizzeria and cocktail bar Dry Milano, has refreshed the line-up with tasty brioche and organic wine from niche vintners, made with indigenous varietals. The updated menu includes a toasted sandwich of smoked ham and asiago cheese, and the signature pane olio e pomodoro, consisting of bread, extra-virgin olive oil and tomatoes. “In the Venetian dialect, goto is an expression used when people say ‘let’s go’ to the bar for a drink or coffee,” says Fiorin. “I wanted to transmit the idea of something informal and everyday but with a touch of class.”

Sunday Roast / Hanan Sayed Worrell

Mood food

Born in Kuwait and educated in the US, the Abu Dhabi-based food writer Hanan Sayed Worrell describes herself as an international recipe hunter (writes Monica Lillis). She has lived on four continents and travelled extensively, allowing her to move between cultures and cuisines. Her latest book, Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi, is a compendium of the culinary connections that she has made and plenty of tasty stories.

Where do we find you this weekend?
We are celebrating a dear friend’s birthday. I have arranged to host her and a group of friends at Kuv’s Secret Supper Club in Dubai. Chef Kuv is a pioneer of the UAE’s underground dining scene.

How do you like to begin your Sunday: a gentle start or a jolt?
I love to start my Sunday at 08.00 with an hour-long training session at F45 gym in Zayed Sports City. While driving there I get my dose of singer Fairuz on the radio.

Your soundtrack of choice?
In the afternoon I tune in to Abu Dhabi FM to listen to an hour of Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, who is known as the “star of the East” or “Egypt’s fourth pyramid”.

What’s for breakfast?
My husband loves manakeesh, a kind of za’atar flatbread. When the children were young he would go to the bakery early in the morning and bring back a variety of flatbreads. Our dog, Bonita, loved the za’atar ones.

News or no news?
If I am in the car I listen to Dubai Eye, our local news and talk-radio station, and I read our print subscription of The National. For world affairs I read The New York Times, The Washington Post and a combination of news services focused on the region, all at the end of the day. It’s not the best way to wind down for restful sleep!

Any larder essentials that you can’t do without?
I collect olive oil on my travels like some do wine. I have a cupboard with bottles from Greece, Italy, Palestine, Spain and Lebanon.

A glass of something that you would recommend?
A warm glass of water, infused with orange blossom and a sprig of fresh mint.

A Sunday-evening routine?
My husband and I like to end the week on the patio. He will sip his drink and watch a ballgame. I’ll puff on a cigarillo, do Wordle and catch up on some social media.

Will you lay out your outfit for Monday?
Definitely not. I am not a creature of habit. What I wear depends on my mood.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Genmaicha tea flan

This simple flan is made with an aromatic Japanese tea and goes well topped with summer berries. “When I worked at Nihonryori Ryugin restaurant in Tokyo, we sweetened flans with condensed milk instead of sugar, which adds a special touch,” says Schelling. Though we suggest that you use soya milk here, this recipe can be made with most kinds of milk.

Illustration: Xihanation, Mathieu De Muizon

Makes 4 to 6 flans

120g cane sugar
500ml soya milk
2 tsps loose-leaf genmaicha
4 eggs


Dissolve 60g of the sugar in 60ml of water in a small pan and warm over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until you have a dark caramel – be careful not to let this burn. Immediately pour into four ramekin dishes, ensuring that the bottoms are evenly covered. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Now heat the soya milk until it bubbles but don’t allow it to boil. For the best tea taste, Schelling recommends that you aim for 85C. Add the tea leaves, stir and leave to steep for 3 minutes.

Mix the eggs with the remaining sugar in a bowl and strain the slightly cooled, steeped milk into it. Mix well and sieve again, if necessary. Now pour into the ramekins.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Fill a baking tray with water and add to the bottom of the oven to help with steaming. Place the ramekins on a baking tray and cook for 40 minutes. It’s hard to overcook these but keep checking until the flans have a semi-solid wobble.

Remove and leave cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Observation / Aviation

Plane bad behaviour

The world is emerging from a hiatus on air travel but being grounded doesn’t appear to have suffused travellers with gratitude (writes Andrew Mueller). Airlines in the US are logging record numbers of disruptive passengers. Some altercations have involved people whining about masks but others have been more serious, Five-figure fines for violent conduct were imposed on two passengers, one of whom bit somebody.

Such extremes are rare but it can all be avoided by following the golden rule of travel: if any of your fellow passengers notice you at all, you are doing it wrong. As US secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg put it, with commendable terseness, “If you are on an aeroplane, don’t be a jerk.”

For more observations and ideas, pick up a copy of Monocle’s mobility-themed June issue – or subscribe so you don’t miss a beat.

Weekend plans? / Roka, Naoshima

Sea change

Before the pandemic, the island of Naoshima, aka the “art island”, seemed to be on almost everyone’s Japan itinerary. This pine-covered, sand-fringed dot in the Seto Inland Sea used to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors, who would come to see its remarkable art installations and museums, designed by one of Japan’s most famous architects, Tadao Ando.

When foreign tourists do finally reappear, they’ll find a couple of changes: a new gallery by Ando and Roka, an 11-room ryokan that opened this April. Accommodation has long been an issue on Naoshima. Aside from the Benesse Art Site’s cluster of Ando-designed, art-filled accommodation, which are often booked up, there are a few minshuku guesthouses by the small port of Miyanoura, the odd rental and not much else. Roka’s arrival in the sleepy coastal village of Honmura is a welcome addition. Benesse’s Art House project, which has placed contemporary art in some of the village’s old wooden houses, is here; so too is the Ando Museum, which documents the architect’s 30-year commitment to this tiny island.

Image: Ben Richards
Image: Ben Richards

Naoshima address book

Getting here
Most visitors come by boat from Okayama or Takamatsu. It’s a glorious ride that takes less than an hour. Sit on the deck and soak up the sun and sea breeze.

Chichu Art Museum
Rent a bike to get to all of the galleries but this one is particularly outstanding: Ando’s semi-submerged building is home to works by Monet and contemporary light artist James Turrell.

Ishii Shoten
If you’re after a hearty bowl of Kagawa udon, this unfussy place in Honmura hits the spot.
845-1 Naoshima

Kagawa Prefectural Government Office East Building If you’re catching a boat from Takamatsu, drop in on this stellar piece of modernism from 1958 by Kenzo Tange, one of Japan’s architectural greats.

4-1-10 Bancho, Takamatsu

Buy a copy of Monocle’s June issue for the full story. Subscribers can read the full report here.

Tech Corner / Ampler Stellar e-bike

Saddle up

Don’t think of bicycles with motors as cheating (writes David Phelan). After all, they can spur you to hop on the saddle on days when you can’t quite face your commute’s hilly climbs – and it’s better to pedal for some of your journey than none at all. Where Estonian brand Ampler does cheat, however, is by cunningly hiding the battery in the frame, so your e-bike looks just like an ordinary bicycle.

Image: Tony Hay

Best of all, it has a range of up to 100km and takes just two and a half hours to recharge. Ampler offers a wide range of bikes but for a great all-rounder we’d plump for the Stellar, with its step-through frame and relaxed riding position (you sit pretty much upright). It comes with built-in lighting and the latest models have app-controlled anti-theft protection and GPS location. Speaking of which, take some time to get off-grid this weekend and don’t forget to have a super Sunday.


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