Sunday 6 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 6/8/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Keep it cool

This week we escape the city heat of Madrid with an excursion to the Abadía Retuerta, a vineyard and hotel that you’ll be pleased we told you about. Our editor Josh Fehnert shares his thoughts on the perfect city, plus we’ve also asked our favourite Athenian bookshop to recommend some beachy reads and created an iced tea recipe to quench your thirst. But first, Tyler Brûlé has the latest from Monocle’s summer gathering in Merano.

The faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Life of the party

I’ll start this Sunday column with a huge thank you, danke schön and grazie mille to all the Monocle readers who travelled from near, far and very far for our annual summer party at our shop on Dantestrasse in Merano. What started many years ago as a little gathering of a few locals and holidaying regulars with a couple of bottles of Forst on ice has now become a much bigger operation, with our dear Linda overseeing a party that now attracts 200 people from as far away as Dubai, Seattle and Miami. There are many elements that make a good get-together (wines from Kellerei Bozen and focaccia prepared by Martin in the pop-up field kitchen all help) but in the case of our Merano event, it’s the collision of locals who pass by the shop daily, occasional regional visitors who might come down from Brixen or Sterzing and then all the readers from Munich, Berlin, Zürich and Milan who are spending a few days at hotels like the Miramonti, 1447 Reichhalter, Ottmanngut or Bavaria. If Monocle is defined by a specific set of geographies, then Südtirol has had one of the most profound impacts on how we look at everything from entrepreneurship and community to architecture and national identity. The neighbourhoods of Fukuoka, trails above Vals, streets of London’s Marylebone and Kreis 8 in Zürich have all had their influence but there’s something enduring about the region’s hold that informs so many aspects of what makes a story or product right for Monocle. If you pop by our shop in Merano over the coming weeks, you’ll sample a small edit of fine garments from our Bavarian friends at A Kind of Guise and, Linda, given a half chance, will ensure that you try on a loden vest with tiny embroidered flowers from Rier – two labels that have a strong sense of place and commitment to quality that goes beyond logos and luxury trickery. As there’s a good chance that you’re already tweaking your post-summer schedule, here are two more dates for the diary. From 31 August to 2 September, The Monocle Quality of Life Conference will take place in Munich. You can find full details on the event on the Monocle shop. And on 30 September, our Herbstmarkt (autumn market) will bring together the best in design, fashion and food from Mitteleuropa at our HQ in Zürich.

Coming back to the topic of gathering a good crowd, I need to take you poolside at the Villa Arnica in Lana – just down the road from Merano. This wonderful set-up is part perfectly appointed guest house, part pared-back hotel where everyone seems to know how to behave impeccably. On a sunny Saturday, there are couples scattered about the lawn – many with dogs – and it is almost silent. No one speaks above a whisper, phone calls are taken far away in the driveway and all are happy to enjoy the sun, a Weisswein spritz, a newspaper and a good book. It might sound serene and simple enough but this is a delicate exercise in the power of strong social capital bolstered by a “no children policy”. Kids are most welcome at the hotel’s sister property next door but once inside the grounds of the Villa Arnica, the Germans, Danes, Swiss and Austrians all have an understanding of what makes for a perfect August day under sunny skies – respect for the property and fellow guests, hushed voices and, most importantly, the power of eye contact and saying good morning over breakfast.

This is going to sound properly weird but here goes. A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was more than a little excited about Toyota’s announcement that they would be rolling out their new Land Cruiser and I wanted to be one of the first to purchase one. Shortly after, it was leaked that 1 August was the day of the unveiling and that it would happen at the start of the business day in Tokyo. I’m not sure how it happened but at 02.50 Zürich time, I woke up, wandered into the living room, curled up on the sofa and watched the livestream of the vehicle’s debut.

While I might have been disappointed by the mechanics in my brain that prompted me to wake up, I was not disappointed by the new wheels. Where Land Rover has gone all bubbly and rounded with their Defender, Toyota’s latest take on the smallest of their Land Cruiser family (the model dubbed Prado in many markets) is all sharp right angles and exactly what one of the world’s hardest working vehicles should look like – designed for purpose but also a bit of admiring head turning. Waitlist going to plan, I’m hoping this will be my transport to our event in Merano this time next year. Honk! Honk!

Eating out / Le Foote, Sydney

Making waves

From the Swillhouse group – responsible for surefire favourites, from the Shady Pines Saloon to The Baxter Inn and Restaurant Hubert – comes Le Foote, a new European-inspired restaurant and bar in a former sailors’ tavern. Previously a barren landscape for good food, Sydney’s historic Rocks neighbourhood now has a decent 50-seat dining room that is particularly popular for long lunches (writes Carli Ratcliff).

Image: Kristoffer Paulsen

Le Foote’s walls are lined with art, ranging from the mural by Italian ceramicist Mastro Cencio to the wine bar decorated with work by artist Allie Webb, while the alfresco tables offer a sparkling view of the harbour and that famous bridge. The menu offers Aegean wines, cocktails and snacks (including scallop carpaccio and calamari-and-pancetta skewers). Larger plates look to the grill for steaks and seafood: the octopus comes with potatoes, macadamia nuts and Aleppo peppers, while the swordfish “rib eye” is cooked on the bone and dressed with a tomato piccante. Save space for the lemon-leaf ice cream or, if you have room, the rum baba.

Summer reads / Little Tree Books, Athens

Greece is the word

In the wake of the Greek debt crisis, four couples whose children attended the same school pooled their experience in design, literature, coffee and food to bring some optimism to the capital with this bookshop-cum-café. Little Tree Books and Coffee opened in the Koukaki neighbourhood in 2015, stocking Greek and foreign fiction, as well as poetry. Now run by just one of the couples, the business is open from 09.00 until after midnight, with a schedule packed with talks, literary discussions and live music. To cater to Athens visitors, there is a smattering of English, French and Italian translations of Greek titles covering the nation’s culture. Readers can cool off on the leafy, shaded terrace while sipping homemade sparkling lemonade and snacking on mosaiko, a delicious chocolatey Greek dessert.
Kavalloti 2, Athens

Little Tree’s poolside reads:

‘Aegean Notebooks’
Zissimos Lorenzatos
The essayist’s observations from his sailing trips in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ilias Venezis
A novel following Greek refugees displaced from Turkey during the population exchange that began in 1923.

Stephen Fry
A fresh and clever spin on Greek myths by the British humorist.

For more summery finds and plenty of sunny stories and stop-offs, pick up a copy of our seasonal newspaper, ‘Mediterraneo’, which is on all good newsstands now.

Sunday Roast / Lidiyanah ’Yana’ K

Shaken, not stirred

Lidiyanah “Yana” K is head bartender at Atlas, a cocktail bar housed in a grand art deco space in Singapore’s Parkview Square that is known as the “Batman Building”. It’s routinely ranked one of Asia’s best places to drink (writes Naomi Xu Elegant). Here she shares her go-to cocktail, gentle morning routine and pantry essentials.

What is your ideal start to a Sunday, gentle or a jolt?
Gentle. I usually end my shift at 01.00 on Saturdays, so Sundays are to unwind and relax. I live in East Coast, which is a very chilled neighbourhood. You can go to East Coast Park, you can cycle, sometimes I walk to Marina Bay Sands – it’s far but the sea views are very nice.

Downward dog or walk the dog?
Downward dog. But my cats are against both options.

What’s for breakfast?
Cornflakes with cold milk and a large cup of earl grey tea.

A pantry essential?
Chilli sauce and black pepper.

A Sunday culture must?
Sleep until noon, go on a date with my partner or have a very boozy brunch at Colony at The Ritz-Carlton. I know the bartenders there so let’s just say my glass is always full. And I love the lobster eggs benedict.

What’s on the evening menu?
Sushi or some really good pasta.

A glass of something you recommend?
I highly recommend a sloe gin fizz. It’s my go-to drink anywhere. I like it made with three parts Plymouth sloe gin, two parts freshly-squeezed lemon juice and one part sugar. Shake that with egg white and add a bit of Singha soda water, which is extra bubbly and makes it super refreshing.

Any Sunday evening routine?
I use skincare products from The Ordinary. Then it’s Netflix – right now I am watching How to Become a Cult Leader – and hopefully a very early sleep.

Your soundtrack of choice?
Anything by Tame Impala or Drake.

Will you lay out your outfit for Monday?
No, I’m off on Mondays.

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Honey-and-lemon iced tea

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself somewhere humid this weekend then we have a simple iced tea recipe to help you cool off. “You can make the lemon-and-honey syrup in a bigger batch in a sterilised glass jar,” says our Japanese recipe writer, Aya Nishimura. “It will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks, just always make sure that the lemon is covered by the syrup.”

Serves 2

1 organic unwaxed lemon (approx 100g)
75g clear runny honey
2 English breakfast tea bags
400ml sparkling water
Ice to serve


Wash and dry the lemon then thinly slice it. Place the slices in a glass container and cover them with honey. Toss lightly to make sure that the lemon is evenly covered with honey. Let it sit in the fridge overnight. You can keep this for up to a week.

Put 2 tea bags in a mug and pour in 150ml of boiling water. Cover the mug with a small plate and let the tea brew for about 3 minutes – longer than you would for normal tea.

Fill two tall glasses with ice and pour half of the strong tea into each glass. Add half the lemon syrup and a couple of lemon slices to each glass too.

Pour the sparkling water on top, stir well and enjoy.

Weekend plans? / Abadía Retuerta, Duero Valley, Spain

Drink in the surroundings

If ever an approach to a property set the tone for the experience that lies ahead, it is the splendid driveway leading up to the Abadía Retuerta winery and LeDomaine – the magnificent hotel, bodega and spa that sits within the vineyard (writes Saul Taylor). Just two hours’ drive or an hour’s train from Madrid, Abadía Retuerta is a city break for those craving a proper escape. Located in the Duero Valley, famed for its robust Ribera del Duero vintages, Abadía Retuerta is an estate-based retreat (with butler service) that you won’t want to leave.

The hotel is housed in a Romanesque abbey that dates from the 12th century and was sensitively restored in 2017 by Swiss architect Marco Serra to include 27 guest rooms, three suites, two restaurants, a bar and a peerless spa. Serra somehow managed to retain almost a millennium of tranquillity while adding the luxury that the monks who once lodged here might have missed out on. Meanwhile, the art collection includes ancient frescoes and pieces by modern Spanish giants such as Eduardo Chillida and Joan Miró.

Image: Ben Roberts
Image: Ben Roberts
Image: Ben Roberts
Image: Ben Roberts

Abadía Retuerta recently received its own PDO (or protected designation of origin, a seal of approval from the European Union) and the talented winemakers produce 700,000 bottles a year. Its best labels include the Pago Negralada (tempranillo), Pago Valdebellón (cabernet sauvignon) and Pago Garduña (syrah), with collectors paying up to €870 for new vintages.

Start at the Calicata restaurant and try the tasting bar, wine academy and shop attached where guests can understand the intricacies of the winemaking process over lunch before stretching their legs with a tour of the property. Come evening, Refectorio, the estate’s Michelin-starred restaurant run by chef Marc Segarra, ramps up the drama with guests dining beside a fresco, La Sagrada Cena, which was painted in 1670 while Vinoteca sets a relaxed tone with a menu of refined favourites.

Parting shot / Monocle’s perfect city

Urban dreams

In this week’s instalment of Monocle’s perfect city series imagines what could be done with a little more ambition around retail, how to keep streets clean and quell the rise of questionable street art (writes Josh Fehnert). Welcome to our imagined urban escape, may we show you around?

Market value
As retail rentals plummeted after the pandemic, some canny planners realised that food nourishes neighbourhoods. A good market like ours can do many things, including tempting footfall, making city residents healthier, providing a platform for culinary talent and connecting farm-fresh produce with hungry punters. Some cities renovated older spaces, such as the Mercado do Bolhão in Porto or the revamped halls across Helsinki. But new spaces can also grow in overlooked industrial sites such as Sydney’s Carriageworks. Our market sells produce and has proper on-site restaurants, as well as hosting cookery classes, knife-sharpening workshops and wine tastings.

Shop talk
Done right, retail in the real world is still an easy sell. Our ideal city has plenty of sunny little boutiques stocking well-made wares. The secret? We’ve incentivised smaller spaces with cheaper, more flexible rental agreements so that anyone can afford to set up a small business. If things go well, they can move on up or take another space and employ even more people. If not? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We also give our grants to inspiring young retailers. A few businesses did go big but it was always the point for most to remain small, unique, honest and interesting. We’ve resisted importing a mall or purpose-built precinct for now: keeping our high streets hale and hearty is a priority, which means breaking the hold of chains that pay poorly and don’t fit the city.

Clean sweep
Our well-funded cleaning team keeps the city spick and span but we’ve also invested heavily and taken a position on keeping so-called “street art” off walls, trains and away from public spaces. Why? Despite the estate agent’s arithmetic that graffiti equates to an interesting neighbourhood, it really doesn’t. Not every wall needs a mural. It’s mainly just scruffy. Most of the mindless daubing is thoughtless at best and a nasty surprise for the victim at worst. Our crack team of cleaners are on alert and deal with most issues before the paint dries. We’re not so harsh on the “artists” we catch though: the standard punishment is an afternoon or two scrubbing walls and repainting the work of other offenders rather than stiffing the city or private landlords for the inconvenient.

For more urban fixes, city benchmarks and our 2023 Quality of Life survey pick up a copy of the July/August issue, which is out now, or subscribe today. Have a super Sunday.


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