Sunday 18 December 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 18/12/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Sleigh bells ring

This week we’re feeling rather festive with shopping stop-offs in São Paulo, San Sebastián and Genoa. Plus, Jennica Shamoon Arazi of the Marbella Club hotel shares her ideal winter weekend itinerary, a panettone recipe with a twist and a Christmas playlist. First up with news of Monocle’s Tokyo Christmas market and much more besides, it’s our editorial director, Tyler Brûlé.


Miracle at 34,000 feet

You might recall an early Monocle fantasy where we conjured up a full name, livery and service concept for a new global carrier dubbed Nippon-Nordic Airlines (NNA) – complete with a special-edition poster for our most committed aviation geeks. The idea, loosely based on Finnair’s business model, was to connect the top-of-the-world nations with speedy polar flights on spotless aircraft, with Scandi-Nippon cuisine, chic uniforms by top Tokyo ateliers and the best in Japanese service. When we unveiled the concept, many Monocle readers were wondering when and how they might sample this airline and whether we’d shopped around a business case to potential investors. But given that we’re running a media enterprise and not an airline, we had to inform potential passengers that flying NNA would have to remain a fantasy.

On Thursday I boarded a Swiss flight from Zürich to Tokyo. When we jogged south to avoid Ukrainian airspace and followed a track that vaguely resembled the Silk Road, I was reminded of Nippon-Nordic Airlines and of why it was a good idea that might need to be pulled out of the drawer and refreshed. As I was heading eastbound to host a Christmas party for readers, clients and colleagues at our Tokyo bureau (after a three-year pause), I was trying to get myself into the mood but there was little in the way of music, drinks, dishes or scents to make me feel like this was a special time of year. Of course, Zürich Airport was all twinkling trees and fairy lights but our 777 was missing a sense that the world was on the move for one of the biggest travel periods of the year, built around the greatest religious-cum-marketing event ever created.

A Christmas-shopping safari linking Copenhagen, Chicago and Tokyo would be one of Nippon-Nordics most popular routes across the December period

A very good glass of red and an excellent fondue (yes, Swiss do a good fondue at 10,000 metres above the earth) made things feel somewhat seasonal but, as I peered down at the Bulgarian coast, I was thinking about how NNA would be the airline that you’d want to use to fly Copenhagen to Fukuoka, Vancouver to Tokyo, Berlin to Osaka – particularly during the Christmas crush. Imagine a Japanese bossa soundtrack of The Carpenters’ classics on boarding; a very, very gentle waft of frankincense in the air; bowls of clementines and pepparkakor for the taking in the galleys; special-edition Baumkuchen served for dessert; and rather than a dull duty-free trolley, a proper rolling Christmas market, with treats created by Svenskt Tenn, Beams, Topaz of Norway, Shiseido and countless others. Indeed, a Christmas-shopping safari linking Copenhagen, Chicago and Tokyo would be one of Nippon-Nordics most popular routes across the December period.

Many airlines used to have a strong appreciation of the Christmas season. It was a spirit that created a sense of occasion for airlines, allowed for a change of pace and really did put some joy into flying. Today many carriers have killed off Christmas on board their aircraft, while happily doing as much marketing as possible to get passengers to fly home for the “holidays”. At NNA, it would be glögg and smooth jingles all the way – quite simply, passengers would love it. And for those travellers not into the Nordic/Japanese take on Christmas onboard NNA’s A350s? Easy! There’s always Emirates.

I’m now in Tokyo and if the “hej, hej” greetings used by hosts on J-Wave radio and the visual-merchandising themes at Isetan are anything to go by, the Japanese are ready for an extra jolt of Nordic tradition. Hopefully the arrival of the new year will also allow Japan to shake off its lingering coronavirus compliance hangover and rediscover its genki side.

Shopping / Genoa

Top of the shops

Image: Gaia Cambiaggi

With its fetching logo and interiors with teak detailing and 1930s custom furniture, Pescetto is the place to procure smart menswear and womenswear, including plush sweaters in Shetland wool and Kiton suits. The real treat is the upstairs collection of never-worn vintage clothes for sale from the likes of Drumohr, Hermès and Burberry. It’s hidden away from prying eyes so be sure to ask. “Designers from Milan come here to do research and television producers ring about buying pieces for period shows,” says fourth-generation owner Alessandra Pescetto (pictured).

Sunday Roast / Jennica Shamoon Arazi

Weekend treasures

Jennica Arazi is the owner of the historic Marbella Club hotel in Andalusia (writes Claudia Jacob). The second generation of her family to run the business, she has modernised the 1950s property in recent years without erasing its most impressive qualities. Here, Arazi, who divides her time between London and southern Spain, tells us about her favourite antiques market, a secret shakshuka recipe and her weekend rituals.

Image: Claire Menary

Where do we find you this weekend?
Rolling around the South Downs in West Sussex. Or maybe heading down to the south of Spain to check up on the Marbella Club, with a quick trip up the coast to the wild beaches of Tarifa.

What’s your ideal way to begin a Sunday? A gentle start or a jolt?
A gentle defrost with a steaming cup of black coffee in bed, please.

What’s for breakfast?
My husband’s secret shakshuka recipe never fails to get me out of bed.

Lunch in or out?
Ideally alfresco and on a beach or in a country garden.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
Borrow a dog and catch up with friends over a long walk.

A Sunday culture must?
Treasure-hunting in the aisles of the Petworth Antiques Market and scouting around stately homes such as Charleston Manor or Parham House for interior-decoration inspiration from the past.

News or not?
A good podcast with my coffee and, of course, the latest issue of Konfekt.

What’s on the menu?
My husband’s French onion soup and something made with fresh ingredients from our vegetable garden.

Your Sunday-evening routine?
A Notting Hill dinner with the kids before the craziness of the next week sets in.

Your favourite thing to do in the festive season?
Playing backgammon with the family around the roaring fire in Rudi’s at the Marbella Club, preferably gorging on truffle croquetas and a large glass of Pago El Espino from Cortijo Los Aguilares in Ronda.

The best and worst presents you’ve received?
The best was a coffee machine; the worst was a beach towel. Funnily enough, both came from my brother. It’s an annual competition to see how right or wrong he can get it.

Recipe / Ralph Schelling

Panettone French toast with orange and persimmon

“The egg-and-milk mixture needn’t be sweetened: the panettone will do that,” says our Swiss chef, Ralph Schelling. “I also use the sauce for crêpes. I simmer it in a pan and warm it up, then flambé with orange liqueur for some theatre.”

Image: Lukas Lienhard

Serves 4


For the oranges and sauce
15 oranges (or clementines)
4 tbsps cane sugar
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 scraped vanilla
2 persimmons, peeled and cored
50ml olive oil
Sea salt

For the French toast
2 eggs
100ml milk (or full fat cream)
3 tbsps cherry liquor
3 tbsps butter
400g dried panettone
Crème fraîche (optional)

First, the oranges and sauce. Peel eight of the oranges and set aside.

Squeeze the juice from the remaining oranges.

In a saucepan, cook the sugar to a very dark caramel. Add spices and deglaze with some orange juice.

Reduce liquid to about a third of what you started with.

Remove the spices and pour the liquid into a tall container. Add the persimmon and blend in the olive oil with a hand blender. Season with salt to taste.

Set aside with the peeled oranges to be assembled later.

Now for the French toast: whisk the ingredients for the egg mixture together.

Break or cut the panettone into pieces; more chunks than slices. Dip in the egg mixture. Wipe off excess and fry in the hot clarified butter for about 2 minutes a side.

To serve, arrange the oranges on plates, two per portion, then cover with the persimmon sauce. Add the panettone.

Finish with a dollop of crème fraîche if you want to.

For the full rundown of Ralph’s festive feast, plus plenty of food and hospitality finds, pick up a copy of the bumper December/January issue of Monocle. Or subscribe today so you don’t miss an issue.

Playlist / Christmas songs

Tinsel tunes

Born in sunny São Paulo, Monocle’s senior correspondent (and our ear to the ground on all matters musical) Fernando Augusto Pacheco has whipped up a special pre-Christmas playlist this week. Here’s his take on getting into the spirit.

“I Was Born on Christmas Day”, Saint Etienne
Yuletide goes disco when this British trio is involved.

“Christmas Time Is Here”, Vince Guaraldi Trio
An elegant US jazz classic.

“Julefrid”, Harpo
Sweet, folksy Swedish number.

“Boas Festas”, Maria Bethânia
An ode to the holidays – but make it tropicalia.

“Sleigh Ride”, The Ronettes
The irresistible and unsurpassed rock’n’roll jingle.

“Feliz Navidad”, José Feliciano
The ultimate trumpet-fuelled cheese-fest.

“Santa Baby”, Kylie Minogue
No other version comes close.

“Winter Wonderland”, Helene Fischer
Germany’s schlager queen brings lashings of good cheer.

“Christmas Eve”, Tatsuro Yamashita
The uncontested sound of a Monocle Christmas.

“Bianco Natale”, Irene Grandi
Italy’s honey-voiced songstress with a sassy cover.

Weekend plans? / San Sebastián, Spain

City of stars

Nestled on Spain’s North Atlantic coast, San Sebastián offers its residents easy access to both golden beaches and verdant hillsides. The Basque city of 180,000 people is best known for its bustling cultural scene and plentiful culinary delights: not only is it home to a major international film festival but it also has the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants per capita, including several with three stars. Beyond culture and hospitality, a dynamic network of science and innovation businesses is now setting up shop here too. The result is a city that strikes a good balance between the arts and technological innovation. Beyond the food front, there’s great shopping from family-owned leather brand Box, hat-maker Casa Ponsol and Perfumería Benegas.

Image: Salva López

For a rundown of the best second cities in which to put down roots or to make a break for in the New Year, buy a copy of our annual lookahead ‘The Forecast’ for our annual Small Cities Index inside. Or subscribe so you never miss an issue.

The Stack / Livraria da Travessa, São Paulo

Page turner

Charming independent chain Livraria da Travessa started life in 1975 when Rui Campos opened his first bookshop in downtown Rio de Janeiro under the name Livraria Muro. The company got its current name in 1986 and its shops have since become a mainstay for Brazilian readers. For its 12th outpost, the brand decided this year to expand its foothold in São Paulo, where it already had two smaller shops, by taking up a spot inside renowned shopping centre Iguatemi.

Image: Carmen Campos

Architects from studio Bebo, who have been working with the chain since its first opening, were once again put in charge of designing the space. The result, set across two floors divided by a lithe mezzanine, feels much bigger than the floorplan suggests. Still, there’s room for about 50,000 titles on the shelves, ranging from fiction to philosophy and politics. Though this isn’t the largest location for the Travessa group, it has proved successful: Campos says that the demand has been three times higher than in their other Paulistano shops. The secret? Campos believes that the appeal lies in the friendly, approachable atmosphere. “I want people to play with the bookshop,” he says. “But I have to say that keeping this messy, playful look is actually really hard work.”

​​Make my day / Japanese shopping

Wrap it up

Image: Yoshitsugu Fuminari

Great wrapping is standard in Japanese shops but Itoya has taken it to the next level. At the stationery firm’s multistorey Ginza shop, star wrappers such as Sayaka Takagi (pictured) can turn their hand to anything from classic Christmas wrapping to the more traditional mizuhiki style. When it’s done as beautifully as this, even the humblest of presents will stand out under the tree. Have a super Sunday.


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