Sunday 23 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 23/10/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Weekend retreat

We let off some steam with an unexpected work perk in Finland, check in to a smart new stopover in Berlin and fill up in a new restaurant in Milan. Plus: we get New York-based artist Shantell Martin’s Sunday itinerary, peek inside an artsy inn in Margate from the smart souls behind Frieze and tuck into a warming onion soup. First up, Monocle’s editorial director Tyler Brûlé.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Notes from the road

This Sunday we kick things off with a few key datelines to bring us up to speed, set things right and then consider a few issues and incidents. We start in West Africa.

Dakar, Senegal. The last time I was in West Africa was the summer of 1990 when I was on assignment for Channel 9 Australia in Abidjan. Two weeks ago I touched down in the Senegalese capital on a slightly different assignment (not covering a civil war this time) and was struck by how disconnected the EU/US narrative is from what’s happening in the less-developed corners of the world. While governments and corporations bang many of us over the head with endless sustainability, charging-station and battery-operated narratives, I sat in Dakar’s traffic contemplating whether the world’s major corporations have given up on diesel-addicted nations and have decided to pursue closed economies that focus their messages on people who can drive battery-powered Volkswagens, live off wind power and even find a bit of adventure in a winter with a reduced power supply. Does it really make sense to force Europe, North America and parts of APAC into high-speed transformation mode while much of the world’s most-populated corners are still half a century away from steady electricity supply, let alone having properly functioning infrastructure for traffic management? Corporate boards and government cabinets need to move out of liberal-populism land and focus on some hard facts that go far beyond the borders of daily life in Berlin and Basel, and gluing yourself to roundabouts in the UK. If we really want to be inclusive then let’s start applying the same rigour outside the comfort of semi-functioning liberal democracies.

Gate 73, Zürich Airport. It’s Friday evening and everyone is so excited about a sunny weekend in Athens that all passengers have lined up extra early for the flight. At the front of the queue is an agitated gentleman and his long-suffering family. He’s upset about one of the group having to be downgraded and is causing an enormous fuss. He’s from the masker-sanner tribe and wants everyone on board to wear masks – and he has enough alcohol swinging from his specially fitted shoulder-strap dispenser to take the airliner out of the sky. Before he sits down he has yelled at all of the crew and, before long, has delayed the flight by a good 30 minutes. As this is Friday in Europe, we miss our takeoff slot and we’re now an hour delayed. The poor crew try their best to get a handle on the antics but their options are limited because the iPad doesn’t have a chapter devoted to highly strung abusive assholes. As many members of the world’s senior (over-55) cabin crew have been paid off and sent for early retirement of late, we’re now left with junior staff with little in the way of life experience to deal with such situations. Digitisation can do a lot for efficiency but any COO, CFO or CTO who thinks that a screen and some stock solutions can replace years of experience on the front line should be sacked. Had this carrier had some seasoned adults at the gate and onboard, all would have been dealt with elegantly and discreetly. Instead, the two-hour flight was tense and – no surprise – everyone had to wait while the deranged passenger was greeted by blue flashing lights. Headline: pensioning off experienced staff is a fatal false economy. Also, it’s not very inclusive!

Voula, Greece. It’s official. I’ve spent the past two summers surveying the best food concepts across the Med and the Greeks win hands down for understanding how to deliver modern wine, food and coffee shops. France and Italy do a solid job at traction but it ends there. Spain is good at big concepts of scale but fails when it comes to modern and specialist. Portugal has some bright ideas but it’s not on the Med. If you’re seeking property that comes with inspiring food retail nearby, look south of Athens. Top marks to Oak, Ipirotissa and Faidon’s.

Dallas, Texas. In a little over two weeks the Monocle crew and a host of super speakers will be touching down in Dallas for our first-ever US conference. If you want to know where you should be opening your new retail venture, why you should be investing in an apprenticeship programme, how the Mexicans are mastering hospitality, what the future of luxury retail is going to look like and how to have a very good time in the US Southwest, then saddle up and join us in downtown Dallas for good conversation, inspiring ideas, stiff cocktails and some proper fun! Find out more here.

We’ll close with a question. Hasn’t the QR code run its course as a fixture of daily life? Isn’t it time to get back to printed menus? Do I really want my room-service menu in QR form? Is the in-flight entertainment really going to be that dazzling by scanning the code? And is the wi-fi even working on this flight? Let’s park the nonsense sustainability guff that QR codes are good for the environment as they save paper and have low environmental impact. From my calculation, my mobile device needs to be charged and runs off a network, the QR code is powered by another network and requires power, and so too do the countless other networks involved in getting a coffee to my room. With a potentially cold winter ahead, I’d be firing up the presses. Now!

New opening / Fort Road Hotel, Margate

Art of relaxation

When the opportunity arose in 2018 to renovate the run-down Fort Road Hotel in the English coastal town of Margate, Matthew Slotover, co-founder of Frieze magazine and its namesake art fairs, property developer Gabriel Chipperfield and artist Tom Gidley didn’t drag their heels. For Slotover, who also co-owns London restaurant Toklas, the worlds of hospitality and art are not so dissimilar. “I’ve noticed that many artists take food seriously as a craft,” says Slotover. “You can create something fantastic from basic materials.”

Image: Dan Wilton
Image: Dan Wilton

Plenty of luxury hotels have made a show of expensive artworks in their lobbies but at Fort Road the relationship with art is more meaningful and discreet. The inviting sage-green restaurant is dotted with pieces by the likes of Tim Noble, Cherelle Sappleton and Mercedes Workman. A bespoke mural by Sophie von Hellermann leads to the basement bar, where a signature neon scribble by Margate native Tracey Emin announces “More Love” over a cosy alcove (pictured). “There are no price tags,” says Slotover. “But if someone really fell in love with a piece, we could talk to the artists and arrange something – but that’s not part of the business plan.”

For more on the world of innovative hospitality, pick up a copy of ‘The Entrepreneurs’, which is out now.

Eating out / Horto, Milan

Top of the world

Ascend to the top floor of the newly minted Medelan building and you’ll find Horto, a fine-dining spot with a greenery-filled rooftop terrace that looks out towards the Duomo di Milano. Overseeing its food direction is Südtirol’s three-Michelin-starred Norbert Niederkofler. The immaculately arranged plates make creative use of ingredients sourced from within an hour of Milan – bread from Isola’s excellent Tondo bakery, freshwater fish from Lake Iseo, rice from Giussano and more. Expect tasteful staff uniforms and characterful decor: the floors are made from old vinegar barrels, for example. Milan has a bankable new place to eat.

Image: Mattia Parodi

Sunday Roast / Shantell Martin

Line of best fit

Shantell Martin is a British visual artist renowned for her monochromatic line drawings, not to mention a choreographer and songwriter known for her live performances (writes Claudia Jacob). Dividing her time between the US and UK, Shantell’s weekends are seldom the same. Here, she tells us about a beloved Italian restaurant in New York, her Sunday morning playlist and a favourite homemade granola recipe.

Image: Manolo Campion

Where would we find you this weekend?
You will find me in The May Room on Governors Island, New York, at my exhibition, Our Lady Star of the Sea, which runs until 30 October.

Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
If I’m in New York, I will have a slow start: I’ll watch TV or do something a bit lazy in my pyjamas, then eventually make my way out into the world. If I’m near a beach, I’ll get up earlier.

What’s for breakfast?
Homemade granola with yoghurt. I throw a load of frozen berries in there too. I make the granola with oats and I add some quinoa (white or black), hemp seeds, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, vanilla extract, syrup, olive oil and, sometimes, goji berries or dates. It takes one hour to bake and cool, with 5-10 minutes of easy prep.

Lunch in or out?
Out. I don’t really cook. Usually, I’ll walk somewhere and try something new. Lunch is when I feel most adventurous.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Apple cider vinegar, with either warm or hot water.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Stretching is important, so downward dog.

Sunday culture must?
I take some time off to relax and avoid my emails.

What’s on the menu?
Misirizzi in New York is my favourite restaurant. It’s one of those menus where everything is good.

Do you lay out an outfit for Monday?
I wear the same thing all the time. I have a uniform – a black t-shirt and shorts or pants – so I don’t need to decide.

Shantell Martin’s essay on why she draws is part of ‘The Monocle Companion: 50 Ideas to Improve Your Life’. Buy your copy here.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Onion soup with gruyère croutons

This week our London-based chef and recipe writer offers a stirring recipe for a French classic including a few slugs of brandy and a hint of soy sauce for extra umami.

Serves 2

30g unsalted butter
750g onions, sliced 5-7mm thick
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Bouquet garni (3 sprigs each of flat leaf parsley and thyme, 1 of bay)
2 tbsps brandy
150ml white wine
500ml good quality beef stock
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
5g chives, finely chopped

For the croutons
4 slices of baguette
60g gruyère cheese, finely grated plus extra to garnish

Melt the butter in a medium-large pot over low heat, add the sliced onion, garlic, bouquet garni, 1 teaspoon of salt and stir. Cover with a lid and cook until it caramelises. Stir every 10 minutes to prevent burning. It takes 60-70 minutes to get a deep golden colour.

Preheat the oven grill to 220C (200C fan).

Once the onion mixture reaches the desired colour, discard the bouquet garni. Add 1 tablespoon of brandy and the wine and bring to the boil. Add the beef stock, then reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of brandy, soy sauce and season with salt, if required.

Toast the baguette on both sides, sprinkle the cheese on top and grill until the cheese melts.

Pour the soup into bowls, adding the extra cheese and cheese croutons on top. Sprinkle on freshly grounded black pepper and the chives. Serve immediately.

Weekend plans? / The Château Royal

Modern bohemians

“Berlin is no longer just a budget-flight destination,” says Moritz Estermann who teamed up with restaurateur and art collector Stephan Landwehr and Icelandic chef Victoria Eliasdóttir, to open The Château Royal hotel. If there’s anyone in Berlin who knows how to draw a crowd, it’s these three: Estermann ran Grill Royal, the star-studded steak parlour co-founded by Landwehr, where Berlin’s boho crowd indulge in debauched evenings. The Château Royal project is all about tying together loose ends. The hotel stretches over a complex of listed buildings dating from between 1850 and 1910 and a new one designed by David Chipperfield Architects. The new rooftop annexe hosts big and bright suites, while other guest rooms feature bay windows, corridors, alcoves or anterooms in various formations. Interior designer Irina Kromayer and her colleagues Katariina Minits and Etienne Descloux drew on materials that were popular in Berlin’s 1920s bohemian heyday, such as marble, herringbone parquet, oak, nickel and handmade craquelé tiles. “Here there are great high-end hotels but the city lacks relaxed and nifty places that are not so stale and stiff – and not part of a chain,” says Estermann. His solution? “It all comes down to one word: hospitality.”

Image: Robert Rieger
Image: Robert Rieger

Berlin address book:

Café Einstein
Austrian restaurant famed for its schnitzel and Tafelspitz.

Grill Royal
Known for its steak, oysters, contemporary art and parties.

Smart wine bar with a cellar of 4,000 wines and superb food.

Room of Silence
This sanctuary within the Brandenburg Gate offers respite from the hustle of the city.

Street with numerous galleries, including the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, whose director helped to curate the art in The Château Royal.

For more of The Château Royal and 10 timely new hotel openings, pick up a copy of our November issue of Monocle. Or why not subscribe so you never miss an issue?

Speakers’ corner / Ruark Audio R2 Mk 4

Small wonder

UK brand Ruark is known for its beautifully crafted audio equipment, especially radios (writes David Phelan). The fourth-generation model of its R2 speaker has had quite a design update: a handsome slatted-wood grille sits beneath the clear colour display. What hasn’t changed is Ruark’s circular controller, which is simple and satisfying to use. There’s a DAB radio and the speaker can stream from Spotify Connect, Deezer and Amazon Music.

Image: Tony Hay

The Bluetooth connection lets you link up with your phone or tablet (and you can charge your device from it too). Though compact, the R2 can fill the room with crisp sound. It has a pleasant tone, robust mid-range and powerful bass. There are two lacquered finishes: espresso and light cream.

Work perks / An office Sauna

Bare essentials

What comes next for business and the way we work? ‘The Entrepreneurs’ is our annual magazine dedicated to answering the big questions surrounding your professional life. Expect ideas, inspiration and savvy suggestions. For a taste of what to expect, here is one story about a Finnish firm that rewards its staff with some steamy moments.

Image: Juho Kuva

Having a place in your office where employees can get together in the nude and hang out during working hours might sound unwise to some, but in Finland – a land with more saunas than cars – such spaces are a common company perk. Many Finnish businesses renounce perks that are common elsewhere, such as long holidays and discounted lunches, in favour of giving their staff the chance to sweat their stresses away whenever they desire.

Located on the top floor of a six-storey office building in Helsinki city centre, technology company Reaktor’s sauna is accessible to staff members and their families. “Sauna not only relaxes you and diminishes stress but also serves an important social purpose: as a place where people gather together,” says Reaktor’s talent growth lead, Aini Leppäkorpi. Reaktor’s wooden sauna is heated to 80C and the space fits up to 15 people at a time. After sweating profusely in the steamy space, staff can often be found relaxing on the expansive outdoor terrace overlooking the city or perusing the adjacent lounge’s ample drinks offering to replace lost fluids. For an international company with 650 employees from various countries around the world, experiencing the in-house sauna is a rite of passage into Finnish culture that leaves some new starters more than a little surprised. “It takes some getting used to, seeing people walking around the office wearing nothing but towels,” says Leppäkorpi, laughing.

For more from the world of start-ups, success and succession, buy a copy of our business-minded magazine ‘The Entrepreneurs’ now.


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