Tuesday. 24/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

All-time classics

It’s important for a city to have a dynamic food scene but it should cherish its culinary institutions too. Every time I go back to my hometown, São Paulo, I am amazed that many of the places that I visited as a child are still going strong. On my last visit I went to the Pizzaria Camelo in Jardins. Despite being mostly unchanged since it opened in 1957, the place was buzzy and the crowd was a beautiful, multi-generational mix.

There are so many examples of similar institutions in Brazil’s largest city: the wonderful Lebanese restaurant chain Almanara, say, or the delightful Frevo, both more than 50 years old. These are places that my parents used to frequent as teenagers and they remain as cool as ever. For food writer Rafael Tonon, author of 50 Restaurants with More than 50 Years: Five Decades of São Paulo’s Food Scene, the secret is family ownership. “The city’s gastronomic scene was moulded by immigrants,” he tells The Monocle Minute. “From that, many traditional restaurants were born and they still exist, with the same owners.”

São Paulo is not the only city that appreciates its older institutions. But in my other city, London, the situation is very different. It’s an exciting city for food but every week brings news of another old bar, restaurant or deli that is facing closure (Soho’s I Camisa & Son is currently in the developers’ sights). Now that pandemic-related restrictions are behind us, we are seeing a resurgence in the number of new locations. That’s a great thing – but a city without a bit of culinary continuity is one that has lost its soul. Sometimes, what people need is a constant, a place for nostalgia and, most importantly, good food and service.

Fernando Augusto Pacheco is Monocle 24’s senior correspondent.

Image: Reuters

Diplomacy / South Africa

Divide and conquer

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, met his South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor (pictured, on right, with Lavrov), in Pretoria yesterday during his first stop on a tour of African countries. The trip – Lavrov’s second visit to the continent in six months – has been widely viewed as an attempt to curry favour in a region that is divided over Russia’s war in Ukraine. Pretoria has abstained on several UN resolutions condemning Moscow’s invasion, insisting on its neutrality. Despite this, South Africa will host a joint military exercise with Russian and Chinese warships, a move that has sparked outrage among opposition figures and will no doubt anger the West. Though it has few economic ties with Russia today, the country’s ruling African National Congress was unofficially allied with the Soviet Union when it was a liberation movement opposing apartheid. Lavrov’s tour suggests that Moscow is hoping to rekindle the relationship. As he moves on to Botswana, Angola and Eswatini, the West’s leaders will be watching warily.

Image: MCP Foundation

Urbanism / USA

Green light

Atlanta is moving forward with a plan to cap part of the Downtown Connector freeway with a 10-hectare park. The Midtown Connector Project will reconnect neighbourhoods that were divided when the road was built in the 1950s. It is part of a wider move across the US to introduce more green spaces in busy urban areas.

Though the $3.2m (€2.9m) allocated to the project falls far short of the $6m (€5.5m) requested by congresswoman Nikema Williams and the newly elected senator for Georgia, Raphael Warnock – and the full cost is estimated to be as much as $1.2bn (€1.1bn) – supporters of the initiative are confident that they can make it work. “I’m going to continue fighting to see this critical infrastructure come fully to life,” the senator said in a statement. He’s right to be bullish. In a city that lacks green space, it is a cause well worth fighting for.

Image: Basil Stücheli

Education / Switzerland

Stop, look, listen, think

Like most people raised in Basel, Swiss architect Lukas Raeber first learnt the rules of the road in a “traffic garden”: a large, leafy space where children practise cycling on a miniature street grid. So, when the city commissioned him to “energetically renovate” a building opposite one of them in order to expand road-safety education, he embraced the task. Designed by Erwin Glaser in 1970, the centre, which has classrooms for theoretical components, went through many changes over the years – most of which, says Raeber, were not for the best. “We had to return everything to its original state in a contemporary way,” he says. To create an inviting environment, the doors and windows have been painted in playful red and green. Natural light fills the rooms. “A well-lit space helps children to stay focused,” says Raeber. The city now plans to open the centre to the general public. Form an orderly queue at the lights.

This piece features in Monocle’s February issue, which is focused on places that work, from a Moroccan car factory to a floating Rotterdam office. Pick up your copy here.

Image: Getty Images

F&B / France

Sweet dream

For the first time in 16 years, including half a decade as the runner-up, Japan has triumphed in the biennial Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie (“World Pastry Cup”) in Lyon. Seventeen countries were each represented by three chefs: an ice-cream specialist, a sugar expert and a chocolate-maker. They competed over two exhausting days, during which they had to produce 42 tasting desserts and three artistic confections, all while adhering to the theme of climate change.

Japan has its own tradition of wagashi confectionery but the number of top-level cake and chocolate shops in the country has grown in recent years. The competition’s president, French pastry chef Pierre Hermé, who has a big following in Japan, congratulated the winning team on its “attention to detail, perseverance and commitment”. With Japan’s pastry-and-cake industry valued at about ¥2.3trn (€16.5bn) a year, success at the pinnacle of competitive dessert-making could signal a further rise.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Urbanist

Cities at the World Economic Forum

Monocle’s Carlota Rebelo reports on the urban trends at the World Economic Forum that will shape our world in 2023. We hear from Jeff Merritt, Iryna Ozymok, Tollulah Oni, Diane Binder and Carlo Ratti.

Global / Monocle Films

Monocle preview: February issue

Monocle’s February issue is all about celebrating places that work, whether that’s a parliament, home or metro carriage. From a floating office to a school teaching children the rules of the road, we profile the locations that look good and work well for those who use them. Plus: Charleston’s hospitality boom and why you should learn Russian. Order your copy today.

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