Sunday 14 May 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 14/5/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Dialled in

This week we rustle up a classic Szechuan street-food dish, book a table at Porto’s best new restaurant and check-in at a revamped hotel on the shores of Lake Constance. We also try a smart Parisian stay inspired by its Florida forebear, check in on Estonia’s fight against misinformation and flip out over a fine folding phone. First up, who’s that on the other line? Why it’s our editorial director, Tyler Brûlé.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Baptism of fire

As family outings go, it was hard to beat yesterday’s Blaulichttag (blue-light day) in my village along the lake from Zürich. While I hadn’t marked it in my diary and it wasn’t top of my mind upon landing from Los Angeles, I nevertheless ventured down to Küsnacht’s centre at about midday to support our local emergency and law-enforcement services, and scope out how well my taxes were spent on the construction of its new fire station. Despite the drizzle and coolish temperature, the village was rammed with families walking to and from the action. Those who had already done the tour and demonstrations were walking back to the car park and train station with balloons, streamers and a sense of excited satisfaction. It was hard to determine who was more excited: the dads or the children.

As we approached the new, angular station building, it was clear that the town hall had gone all-out to show that they had spent CHF12m (€12.3m) wisely on the wooden structure. Designed by Moos Giuliani Herrmann Architekten, the façade takes on the tone of a Swedish country house, with its slightly reddish-terracotta hue. It is positioned at the top of a roundabout, with a graphically sharp “Feuerwehr” sign at the front, just in case you couldn’t figure out that all the gleaming yellow vehicles parked behind the glass doors might be fire engines.

As the Blaulichttag is part PR exercise, part recruiting drive, one of the main approach roads had been closed off so that all of the other supporting services could also show their wares and demonstrate how they go about the daily business of putting out oil fires (children were welcomed to assist in putting out stove-top blazes with blankets), donning oxygen tanks and walking through smoke-filled rooms, responding to medical incidents, tackling catastrophes (the civil defence corps have an arsenal of contraptions to deal with anything that nature or various villains might throw at Switzerland) and conducting search-and-rescue operations on the lake.

What 12-year-old (they start ’em young here) wouldn’t want to have epaulettes and a chance to tell drivers what to do?

To illustrate the latter, Seeretter Küsnacht had hauled their flagship vessel, Tina, out of the lake and put her in a sort of dry dock so that families could climb aboard, switch on the lights and blast the horn. Legend has it that the boat is named after local resident Tina Turner because she footed most of the bill for the vessel as a gift to the village and its lake-loving occupants. To ensure that residents didn’t miss out on helicopter landings and the canine commando brigades at the nearby school track, the local traffic cadets were on hand in their bright-orange uniforms and sturdy footwear to control the flow of vehicles and pedestrians. Looking like an auxiliary arm of the cantonal police, what 12-year-old (they start ’em young here) wouldn’t want to have epaulettes and a chance to tell drivers what to do?

Meanwhile in my native Canada (Ottawa, to be precise), a similar community exercise has erupted into a political storm as it was brought to the public’s attention that police were not allowed to attend school days in uniform or pull up in a patrol car. Setting aside what this must do for police morale (“Your badge and hat, constable: a threat to society”), what type of example does this set for youngsters? Don’t respect people in uniform who are there to uphold the law? It also suggests that there is little point in considering joining the police force as even peers in government clearly don’t value the need for people to uphold the basics of a functioning civil society.

As this has clearly come from the “defund the police” school of thinking across the border, it’s worth remembering that Canadians and many other nations (a sizeable constituency of the US included) rather like the idea of police in the neighbourhood, on patrol and on investigations. Perhaps the Swiss Blaulichttag needs to make its way across the Atlantic to re-engage towns and cities, and remind future graduates that donning a uniform and badge is a career to be respected and valued.

Eating Out / Cozinha das Flores, Porto

Regional delicacy

Over the past decade, chef Nuno Mendes has brought a taste of his native Lisbon to London in several restaurants, including a stint at the Chiltern Firehouse and his own venture, Lisboeta (writes Gaia Lutz). This year he’s back in Portugal but not on home turf. With Cozinha das Flores, Mendes’s first restaurant in Porto, the chef pays homage to the richness of northern Portugal’s often-overlooked cuisine. “The flavours are so unique up here,” he says. “The climate is colder and the produce and the way of working with it is entirely different than in the south.”

Image: Luís Moreira
Image: Luís Moreira

That produce makes its way into the menu’s whimsical twists on traditional recipes. One such turn sees Mendes adding prawns to the pão de ló, a Portuguese sponge cake, as a reference to the dish’s history in 15th-century Japan. Eccentricities aside, “the intention is first and foremost to create a dynamic and fun space,” says Mendes. Designed by Space Copenhagen, it features a bar, Flôr, and an Álvaro Siza mural. The Pritzker-winning architect and Porto native captured the lively yet laidback nature of the city through the use of musical motifs. “Ultimately, I would love this to be a place that Portuenses are proud of,” says Mendes.

For more food scoops, pick up the latest issue of Monocle magazine or subscribe so that you never miss an issue.

New opening / Maison Delano, Paris

Atlantic crossing

Bar manager Kevin Eteo Mba is busy fine-tuning one of Maison Delano’s signature cocktails (writes Rooksana Hossenally). Combining Anaë gin, verjuice, ruby port and Jerez manzanilla with flower mead from Mont-Saint-Michel, ginger syrup, a spray of Currach whiskey and spirulina, he works deftly before placing a tumbler on the black granite bar. “That’s the Delano mule,” he says. It’s a reinterpretation of the classic US east-coast cocktail, in a nod to the original Delano hotel in Miami, which has been closed since 2020. Launched by Ian Schrager in 1995, the Philippe Starck-designed beach club was known for its whitewashed palette and Blue Door restaurant beloved by A-listers.

Image: Alex Cretey Systermans

Maison Delano in Paris, a new collaboration between Katara Hospitality and Ennismore (a joint venture with Accor), is far from a carbon copy of the original. The hotel is in a 1734 mansion with all the trimmings: think gilded mirrors, marble fireplaces and ornate frescoes. The 56 guest rooms and suites were designed by Lázaro Rosa-Violán, with views over the interior courtyard or across Rue d’Anjou, on the corner of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. In Dani García’s La Chambre Bleue restaurant, diners can enjoy a paella with a French twist; there’s a cobblestoned courtyard trimmed with awnings and blue touches across the banquettes, window frames and kitchen tiles, including a fresco by ceramics-maker Art Antic L’Alcora in the kitchen.

In the bar, Eteo preps for the night ahead. “I fell in love with the French art de vivre,” he says. This hotel might have Floridian roots and a Spanish-inspired menu but there’s no mistaking its French flair for bringing together ingredients with a certain je ne sais quoi.

Sunday Roast / Xavier Donnelly

Eastern promise

Having worked on various New York hotspots, such as the wine bar Le Dive and the brasserie Deux Chats, designer Xavier Donnelly recently became creative director of Brooklyn-based design and development firm Ash. He talks about a Baltimore weekend trip, iced matchas and Szechuan feasts.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’ll be down in Baltimore visiting the newest of the Ash hotels, called Ulysses. I try to plan work trips so that I can spend the weekend exploring the city I’m going to be in.

Ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle start or a jolt?
Unless it’s a very late Saturday night, I’m up early, at about 06:30 or 07.00. I like to get out and about for a walk or go swimming before my day gets going.

What’s for breakfast?
Small breakfast and a big lunch: some fruit and an iced matcha, please.

Lunch in or out?
Out. Always. If I’m travelling, I always have a long list of restaurants I want to try or see, so I might even do two lunches. If I’m home in New York, I like a long lunch with friends.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I travel too frequently to have a pet. I’ll walk by myself.

A Sunday soundtrack?
I love music but not on Sundays. Can’t explain it. The one song I’ll allow is “Suzanne” by Nina Simone.

Sunday evening routine?
I like to be at home if possible and I usually spend some time sketching or doing light research for whatever project I’m working on.

What’s on the menu?
A Szechuan feast. Delivered.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Cold ‘dan dan’ noodle soup

This Chinese street-food dish lends itself to experimentation and can be served saucy or soupy. Japanese recipe writer Aya Nishimura has created a version that’s best served cold but won’t skimp on flavour.

Illustration: Xihanation

Serves 2


For the soup, part A
2 tsps sugar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbsps tahini paste
4 tsps miso
2 tsps tobanjan (spicy bean sauce)
Pinch of salt
90ml warm chicken stock
300ml unsweetened soy milk

For the minced pork
1 tsp of vegetable oil
150g minced pork
5g fresh ginger, finely grated

For the soup, part B:
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp saké
2 tsps white miso (red miso is ok too)
1 tsp tobanjan (spicy bean sauce)

For the crispy garlic
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsps vegetable oil

200g medium thick dried wheat noodles
2 tsps ground and toasted sesame seeds
2 spring onions, finely diced
1 head of pak choi, halved lengthways and chopped into 5cm lengths
2 tsps chilli oil


  1. To make the soup, whisk the “part A” ingredients (except the soy milk) in a bowl until smooth.

  2. Add the soy milk and mix well. Cover with clingfilm and keep in the refrigerator to chill.

  3. Put the “part B” ingredients in a small bowl and stir until blended.

  4. Heat a frying pan with oil. Add the minced pork and ginger, and fry. When the meat browns, add the mixed part B ingredients and stir fry until the meat has absorbed the sauce. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

  5. Add the garlic and oil to another small saucepan and slowly fry the garlic on low heat for 2-3 minutes until it becomes golden and crispy. Scoop out the garlic, place it on kitchen paper and set aside.

  6. Boil water in a pot and cook the wheat noodles according to the packet instructions. Add the pak choi for the last minute of the cooking time. Once cooked, drain and rinse the noodles and pak choi in cold water to cool, then drain again. Set aside the pak choi. Rinse the noodles again to get rid of any starchiness. Drain completely.

  7. Divide the noodles between two bowls, arrange the pak choi and minced meat on top. Pour the soup on top and scatter some spring onion. Add the ground sesame seeds and crispy garlic on top, drizzle over the chilli oil if you like it extra spicy. Enjoy.

The Stack / Estonia’s media moves

Let’s get real

The Estonian government is stepping up its fight against misinformation by boosting funding for the country’s Russian-language journalism (writes Petri Burtsoff). The Ministry of Culture has granted €1m to be split between four private media companies – financial paper Äripäev, dailies Postimees and Põhjarannik, plus the popular news website Delfi – to bolster their Russian coverage alongside their usual output. About a quarter of Estonians are ethnic Russians: the goal is to provide them with reliable information in their language so that they don’t fall prey to propaganda from across the border. “We’ve banned Russian news channels in Estonia but Russian-speaking Estonians still watch them,” says Katri Raik, the mayor of the eastern town of Narva, whose population is 97 per cent Russian-speaking.

In stark contrast to its neighbour, Estonia has a vibrant media landscape comprising newspapers, websites and TV channels across the political spectrum. In 2022 the country placed fourth out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index; Russia was 155th. “The grant will help us increase the volume of both local and national news in Russian and to not have it behind a paywall,” says Erik Gamzejev, Põhjarannik’s editor in chief. “The problem for private media is that the habit of paying for journalistic content is very low among Russian-speaking readers. When the news is behind a paywall, people often go elsewhere.” Põhjarannik is the newspaper of record for northeastern Estonia, an area with a Russian-speaking majority, and already publishes in both languages. The grant will also help the title issue 50,000 copies of the free Russian-language publication SP Ekstra. According to Gamzejev, there are hundreds of thousands of Estonians who get their news only in Russian. “It is good for the whole society if they get information about local, national and international issues from Estonia’s own media channels,” he says. “It is easier for everyone when the spaces for information have the same content.”

For more media finds, reporting you can trust and stories that leave an impression, subscribe today to Monocle magazine.

Weekend Plans? / Mammertsberg, Switzerland

High ideals

When the lease for Mammertsberg, a Swiss villa near the shores of Lake Constance, became available last year, star chef Andreas Caminada knew that he wanted it. Built in 1911 in the tiny village of Freidorf, the white-washed building, which has six guest rooms, overlooks a panorama of green sloping fields, working farms, blossoming apple orchards and gently smoking chimneys. With its pitched roof, timber frames and colourful wooden shutters, Mammertsberg is atmospheric, traditional and offers a warm welcome from the young team at the front desk. “There aren’t many gems like Mammertsberg,” says Caminada of the inn, which has long been beloved by visitors and locals alike. He didn’t take on the project alone. Instead, the lease was shared with his protégé, Silvio Germann, a former head chef at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Igniv in the spa town of Bad Ragaz, about 70km south of Lake Constance.

Image: Joël Hunn
Image: Joël Hunn
Image: Joël Hunn
Image: Joël Hunn

The chef’s vision is clear: to elevate Swiss cooking while using the best ingredients that the region has to offer. That said, running a restaurant is as much about pleasing the people who arrive as it is chasing an international standard of excellence. So how does Germann (pictured) respond to the area’s more traditional tastes? “Well, I always have bratwurst in the fridge for guests who stay up until three in the morning,” says Germann with a laugh. “But it is not going on the menu.”

Tech Column / Oppo Find N2 Flip

Return to the fold

Illustration: Eugen Fleckenstein

This folding phone from Oppo has a handy outside screen so your photo subject can decide whether they like how they look before you snap (writes David Phelan). It also has a hinge designed to hide the middle crease better. You can set it at various angles – in an L-shape for video calls, for instance. The N2 Flip is one of the best folding smartphones.

For more, subscribe to Monocle today. Have a super Sunday.


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