Sunday 6 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 6/11/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Let the good times roll

This week we review a smartly designed sushi spot in Brisbane and visit an escape from the hustle and bustle of New York. Plus: a sunny weekender in Palma, a recipe for ‘spaghetti alle vongole’ with white wine and ‘bottarga’, and a work perk in Mexico City that entertains the supernatural. First up, our editorial director, Tyler Brûlé.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

And the survey says…

It’s been a little more than six months since I last touched down in the US and there’s much to discuss. Or is there? One of the most striking things about crossing the Atlantic and finding yourself in polite company is how measured and cautious conversations are – particularly among new acquaintances. A bit further down the page I’ll share a couple of stilted exchanges from the past couple of days. But before that, as I’m in the land of the game show, why not a little word game to get things going on a Sunday morning?

STARCH. Does anyone know what’s become of good old shirt starch in a spray can? It seems to have completely disappeared from the supermarket shelf. You may not have noticed because if you like your shirts starched, you send them out or you’ve simply moved with the times and opt for a more rumpled, lived-in look. Anyway, I wanted to give the collar of a jacket a little extra life with a good blast of starch and ducked into a sprawling branch of Publix (a US southeast grocery chain) in Miami Beach. First, are US grocery stores still caught in the 1970s? This branch of Publix looked somewhat new-ish on the outside but the layout, the checkout set-up, the graphics reminded me of being in a Safeway with my mom in 1976. Anyway, after 10 or so aisles, I found the section devoted to detergents, fabric softeners (what is the point of this category?) and a massive shelf of “fresheners”? Somewhere amid all the different scented “fresheners” (a creation for garments that can’t be laundered and for people who refuse to use dry cleaners), I thought I might find a simple can of starch and I’d be on my way – but no such luck. Back in London a few months ago I tried to do the same at Waitrose and was advised, “Oh no, no, no. You won’t find that on the shelves any more.” Did I miss a health warning about the dangers of starching garments? Could it be that all the equipment required for putting starch in a can is still deployed in case we might need more ethanol to scare away coronavirus in mid-December? Anyway, the jacket looked fine on the night but I think crisp is due for a comeback, so I’m betting on a starch surge.

TICKERS. On Friday a number of global news outlets launched “live tickers” on their websites as Elon Musk announced redundancies. Seriously? Is this what passes for news? Does such a story warrant red banners and blinking fonts? Or is this what happens when once sensible newsrooms now run off the chaff of social media. Here’s another word: SAD.

MOONFALL. Flying long-haul offers a good place to see all kinds of films that never made it to cinema and are buried by streaming companies. After watching The Eyes of Tammy Faye (excellent), I decided I needed something fast-paced and a bit silly to fill the remaining five hours of my flight to Miami. I’d never heard of Moonfall and I’m not a big fan of Halle Berry but the wine on Swiss was good and what could be more exciting than the moon going off course and potentially colliding with Earth – particularly in 2022. After 10 minutes I was hoping that I’d soon nod off but as Chinese conglomerate Tencent were somehow involved in the production, I was keen to see how the PRC might be portrayed in all of this. And sure enough, dear reader, as mayhem spread across the world – looting in London (this might happen soon enough anyway), villagers swept away in Bangladesh, panic in Japan – you never saw so much of a glimpse of what was happening in China. Why? Because they were all locked down in their sprawling cities dealing with coronavirus and blissfully unaware that the world might be faced with an even greater threat than four cases of the virus in a city of 30 million. Headline: you don’t need to see this; I watched it for you.

NILE. Not the river running through Egypt but Nile as in Rodgers, the producer, composer, Monsieur Chic. He performed on Friday evening in Miami for Chanel’s cruise event and… Wow! What a talent; what a back catalogue. The US should take a lead from Japan and create a space for living national treasures; he’s one, for sure.

DISCUSSION. It’s an increasingly foreign concept in the US. Unless you want to look in the mirror and talk to yourself out of fear of saying something out of fashion, funny or simply honest among people you don’t really know. It’s all quite odd and concerning. Stay tuned to Monocle: we’ll have more on this topic with Der Spiegel’s US bureau chief quite soon.

Check-in time / Aman New York

Silence in the city

This urban retreat is a discreet affair in the vein of the Aman brand’s original Amanpuri, which opened in Phuket in 1988. Manhattan, however, is a long way from the Andaman sea. On entry, you will find open fires, water features and an outdoor terrace with vast lounge chairs, bonsai trees and a fountain (though no amount of trickling water can drown out the hooting horns of the New York traffic). There is a measure of silence inside though, notably in the 83 suites filled with furniture in muted tones. The large bathrooms have freestanding oval tubs and louvred-panel doors that make the rooms feel palatial. The sense of space throughout is very welcome, especially in tightly-packed Manhattan.

Image: Robert Rieger
Image: Robert Rieger
Image: Robert Rieger

Working with the confines of the original Crown Building, built in 1921, architect Jean-Michel Gathy created double-height ceilings throughout. The atrium and lounge on the 14th floor are presided over by a dangling, knotted auburn sculpture made from paper and bamboo by artist Peter Gentenaar. Occupying three floors, the hotel’s spa has a 20-metre pool, a pilates studio and a shop stocking Aman clothes, leather goods and herbs. For those who want a taste of city life there’s the Jazz Club, a speakeasy. Two restaurants – Arva, an Italian by chef Dario Ossola, and Nama, where omakase-style fine-dining plates are served either at tables or along a hinoki wood counter – will tickle most palates.

Eating out / Sushi Room at The Calile

Raw beauty

“When the opportunity came, it just made sense,” says Simon Gloftis of his new restaurant, Sushi Room, in The Calile hotel. The first things that you’ll clock are the dimly lit but beautiful interiors by Brisbane-based architecture studio Richards & Spence; they include a 9.3-metre-long hinoki counter propped up with black limestone. The result is subtle but striking, with a menu dedicated to sushi and sashimi featuring decadent toro caviar and lobster tempura (and no Kewpie mayonnaise to be seen). “Chef Shimpei Raikuni doesn’t let his ego overtake the quality,” says Gloftis. “It’s about beauty in simplicity.”

Image: Cieran Murphy

Sunday Roast / Hania Rani

Mixed-up weekends

Since releasing her 2019 debut album Esja, the Polish-born pianist, composer and singer Hania Rani, who splits her life between Warsaw and Berlin, has performed across Europe, the US, Japan, Russia and more. Here, she tells us about her favourite Polish food, an unusual market in St Petersburg and the joys of living life without routine.

Image: Travis Trautt

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’m in Berlin for a little performance with my friend and long-time collaborator Dobrawa Czocher, a wonderful cellist. I usually work on weekends. When you’re a musician, the weekly schedule is the wrong way around and most of my work happens closer to Friday and Saturday.

Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
A gentle start. It takes me a lot of time to wake up. The must for any start to a day is a coffee – usually a homemade filtered version, which is not too brutal but still gives me a bit of a caffeine kick.

What’s for breakfast?
I like Polish products such as fresh bread, butter, white cottage cheese and seasonal vegetables, as well as French or Scandinavian pastries, like buns or croissants, and granola with yoghurt. My favourite is the one with olive oil, honey and salt. I make it using a recipe by Danish chef Frederik Bille Brahe.

Lunch in or out?
It depends. I travel a lot so spending a bit more time at home when I am back is always a huge comfort. I love to cook for other people or with their help. I don’t have much motivation when I’m cooking alone.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Both. But I love to walk and I’m happy that my sound engineer, Agata, who usually joins me on tour and during my travels, shares the same interest.

A Sunday soundtrack?
Something new and fresh. I am not an amazing music researcher because I’m forced to listen to my own music on most days. The rest of my time I dedicate to silence and the sounds of nature.

Sunday culture must?
When I’m abroad, especially in a new place, I try to find a local market. I remember one many years ago in St Petersburg. Between the sellers’ stands were countless Russian babushkas selling whatever they were able to grow in their gardens. It was a mix of pictures of Stalin, fresh cabbage and vintage cars; it was the weirdest combination.

News or not?
Not. I don’t follow the news too much. Usually it comes to me anyway. I trust the stories of locals rather than the newspaper headlines but, of course, I follow a couple of sources that I find reliable.

What’s on the menu?
The list of things that I cook isn’t long but I am a master of pancakes (both sweet and salty versions), lasagne and a couple of nice pastas, pumpkin soup with a base of coconut milk and some typical Polish comfort soups, such as tomato or another made from pickled cucumbers.

Sunday evening routine?
I can’t really say that I have a routine. My favourite plan is no plan.

Do you lay out an outfit for Monday?
No, never. Monday is usually a day off for me so my outfit is nothing special.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Spaghetti ‘alle vongole’ with bottarga

A homey, comforting dish with beautifully saline bottarga (cured fish roe). You can buy bottarga from quality fishmongers or a powdered version in many delis; it’s also widely available at online grocery shops and keeps well in the fridge. This dish combines it with sweet, tender clams tossed in spaghetti with a white wine sauce. Buon appetito.

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 2

600g clams
500ml water
15g sea salt
200g spaghetti
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100ml white wine
30g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
10g bottarga
Salt and pepper


Wash the clam shells, then place them in a shallow tray. Mix the water and sea salt in a bowl and stir until dissolved. Pour the salt water over the clams so that they release any sand. Cover with a tea towel and leave for at least an hour; this can be done overnight in the fridge but keep them at room temperature for at least an hour before you prepare the dish.

Boil plenty of water with a generous amount of salt in a large pot. Cook the spaghetti for a minute shorter than the packet instruction.

Gently heat the oil and garlic in a frying pan until the garlic starts to turn golden. Turn up the heat, add the white wine and drained clams, and cover with a lid (ideally a glass lid so you can keep an eye on the clams).

When the clam’s shells open, remove them from the pan and place in a separate bowl. If you don’t have a glass lid, remove the lid from time to time and remove any opened clams. This will prevent the over-cooking of clams; they have a small amount of meat and are easily overdone. Discard unopened or broken shells.

Once the spaghetti is cooked, add it to the frying pan with a little bit of pasta water. Tip the chopped parsley and stir well, allowing the spaghetti to absorb the sauce, which should be thick and glossy.

Divide the spaghetti between 2 bowls and sprinkle with crushed black pepper. Remove the outer membrane, generously grate the bottarga over the pasta and serve immediately.

Weekend plans? / Meem Townhouse, Mallorca

Small wonder

Mallorca has much to recommend it and the small town of Sóller in the northwest of the Balearic island now boasts a smart new hotel to use as a base for exploring. Meem Townhouse has seven suites huddled around a courtyard in a building dating from 1800.

Image: Pernilla Danielsson
Image: Pernilla Danielsson

Studio Al Cuadrado Arquitectura is behind the sensitive, neutral-hued fit-out, which pays respect to the original structure, keeping plenty of exposed beams and original doors, while making the most of the building’s high ceilings and extensive natural light. The interiors have been created by a who’s who of Spanish brands, including tiles from Mallorcan firm Huguet, furniture from Valencian manufacturer Expormim and tasteful textiles from Nanimarquina in Barcelona – all worth putting on your shopping list. You’ll leave feeling as beautifully restored as the house itself.

Tech corner / Nomad Base One

Weight off your mind

Wireless charging is extremely convenient: when your phone is juicing up, you no longer need to unplug it to check something; you can just lift it off the charging pad (writes David Phelan). The only problem is that since Apple introduced magnets to ensure a secure and strong connection, these pads have tended to stick to the phone when it is picked up.

Image: Tony Hay

That is until Nomad’s beautifully crafted and, above all, heavy charger came along (it weighs 515g). However quickly you grab your phone, the Nomad pad stays put. It has a metal chassis, glass charging panel and rubber base, so that it doesn’t slip, and you can choose between a carbide, silver or limited-edition gold finish. Note that Nomad does not supply a charging plug and the Base One needs a 30W adapter as a minimum.

Parting shot / Mystic motivator

Written in the stars

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 company in Mexico City that hired an in-house astrologer to consult on problems cosmic and quotidian.

Image: Ana Hop

“One day at a party, I met a tarot reader and said, ‘Do you mind coming into our office and doing a team reading?’” says Adolfo López Serrano Reyes, founder of Mexico City-based PR firm Base Agency. “I thought that the company needed a bit of a boost.” His idea proved providential: when the reader came to meet his staff last year, she drew cards that encouraged greater openness and better communication. Her perspective – supernatural or not – helped to dissolve tensions that had built up.

The team of twentysomethings had grown quickly in the preceding year, expanding from seven to 22 members of staff, which had brought its own problems. Reyes soon had two astrologists-cum-tarot readers on retainer; employees can now see them for some analysis whenever they sense a cosmic need. In part, he compares this perk to having a therapist at hand. “It really motivated our team,” he says. “I understand that they have personal things that they’re going through and being able to talk to someone helps.” Reyes does not wear his beliefs lightly. Even before the clairvoyant hires, Base would tailor its output to the astrological Good Timing Guide, which tells you whether it’s a propitious day for tough conversations, taking action or, perhaps, doing nothing at all. “I can be spiritual but I can also be very sceptical,” he says. “We started timing our work with moments that felt good and when our intentions matched what we’re seeing in the calendar.”

Clients, he says, responded well to this quixotic yet, in its own way, structured approach. And Reyes takes hints from the in-house astrologist no less seriously. In spring 2022, when he was advised by the stars to be more receptive to other energies and opinions, he brought on a new partner to help run the agency – and he hasn’t looked back since. “The partnership? It’s going great.”

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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