Sunday 20 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 20/8/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Outside looking in

It’s the height of summer and you may well be joining us from a poolside lounger by the Med so we’re keeping things breezy. Come with us as we tour an eclectic social club in Marrakech before rounding off our Perfect City series with some fresh takes on urbanism and living well. Tyler Brûlé is on hand to share his notes from the road while we pull up a stool to try Aussie chef Andrew McConnell’s new Melbourne bar and rustle up some comfort food from Japan.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Raising the bar

First, a newsflash for anyone near Zürich this Sunday or next. If you read this before 09.00 CET and feel like a coffee and informative conversation, make your way down to our HQ at Dufourstrasse 90 for an easy, breezy, special summer edition of Monocle on Sunday. My trusty anchor, Emma Nelson, is over from her perch in London for the next two shows and it would be a delight to see you in the audience and have you join us for a bloody mary once we’re off air. If you can’t make it, then do tune in live at 10.00 CET or you can always download the podcast later in the day.

Second, thank you to all who sent such kind words and thoughts to me and my grandmother. She was in feisty form when I went to see her last Sunday and I continue to think about an exfiltration plan to get her out of Canada and to either Estonia or somewhere sunnier.

And third, let’s trek back over some of the ground covered in the past few weeks to offer up a few highlights – and the odd lowlight.

1. The Avenidas Novas district, Lisbon. Two weeks ago, I spent a solid two days (save for a quick dash down to Comporta) pounding the streets of this fine section of solid modernism in the Portuguese capital. While much of the city’s real estate and development heat is focused on Lapa, Alfama, Belem et al, the wide boulevards and elegant apartment blocks of Avenidas Novas are perfect for a little architectural stroll early on a Sunday – and even better if you want to do a bit of mental lifestyle re-engineering.

2. The bar at the Tap Premium Lounge, Lisbon Airport. Portuguese flag carrier Tap’s business-class lounge at their global hub is no beauty and is definitely in need of a makeover (might we suggest Studio Astolfi be given the task) but one thing that it is a leader of in the airline space is running an excellent bar. Instead of self-service, Tap has chosen to have a team of bartenders who take exceptional pride in mixing outstanding gin and port tonics. Here’s hoping Tap finds a good buyer to invest properly in a brand that could be so much more.

3. Lobby zombies, any hotel, anywhere in North America. Is it not time for hotels to take action against the daily invasion of locals who think that hotel lobbies are co-working spaces? While some hotel groups have certainly encouraged this behaviour, it’s time to restore a bit of order and demand that the remote-work crowd ship off the sofas and ottomans and either get back to the homes that they claim to love or, better yet, make a case for working among colleagues in a well-designed office financed by their employer.

4. Pearls on men, anywhere in North America. Allow me to add nail polish, eyebrows that give the appearance of being permanently in shock and glittery gloss on pumped-up lips to the list. Playing dress-up is all fine and well but there comes a moment when a good friend needs to sit you down for a candid conversation and suggest that the aqua-blue varnish and strands of fake Mikimotos might work if you’re 14 but at 27 you just look ridiculous.

5. Swimmable Ottawa. Canada’s capital is finally embracing its shorelines in summer and creating proper places for residents and visitors to jump in for a swim. The recently renovated NCC River House near the city’s Rockcliffe district has re-opened and taken a few cues from Danish and Swiss public swimming clubs. Up next, the National Capital Commission (NCC) plans to tackle Westboro Beach and restore its status as a favourite neighbourhood place to strip off and jump in.

6. Crumbling Ottawa. What do world leaders think when they visit the capital of this G7 nation and have to weave around potholes, bin bags strewn across avenues and observe crumbling sidewalks and infrastructure? Does the city’s leadership not see how shabby it looks? Do residents not care how poorly maintained their roads are? Perhaps it could all be forgiven if they could point to outstanding social care but the amount of white homeless men begging at intersections is also alarming.

7. Montréal on the up? It certainly feels that way. While the city’s infrastructure is also in a worrying state, Montréal feels as though it has got its groove back. Bravo!

8. Larrys, Montréal. If you’re looking for a long weekender before summer’s out, secure an outdoor table at this little institution to sample their funky wines and go crazy with their menu. Afterwards, stroll up to their butcher shop and stock up on their sauces and marinades.

9. Clark Street Mercantile, Montréal. An excellent menswear multibrand shop with cool staff, good local merch and an easy vibe.

10. Sisi & I, on my screen, Edelweiss flight from Montréal to Zürich. Looking for an escape from your streaming loop? Enjoy this little Austro-Hungarian romp.

New opening / Pétanque Social Club, Marrakech

Bowled over

The restoration of a 1930s building – the old site of one of Morocco’s best private members’ clubs – has brought new life to the Gueliz neighbourhood (writes Sarah Rowland). It was discovered by Marrakech native Kamal Laftimi, the restaurateur behind Nomad, Le Jardin, Café Des Épices and art space DaDa.

“This is something we haven’t seen in decades,” says Laftimi. “A place for relaxation and serenity in the heart of the Red City.” Pétanque boasts Moroccan-Mediterranean cuisine, a great bar and a vast garden that’s open to visitors and locals alike. “Marrakech has evolved,” he adds. “It’s home to artists and nomads who bring with them creativity.”

Bottoms up / Apollo Inn, Melbourne

Glass half full

Chef Andrew McConnell and partner Jo McGann’s Apollo Inn is a mere 50 metres from their beloved bar and restaurant Gimlet, the site of one of Melbourne’s first-ever public houses (writes Carli Ratcliff). This intimate cocktail bar has new interiors by Sydney-based design firm Acme and draws inspiration from timeless European bars, with low lighting, wood panelling and a bijou 30 covers. McConnell kept the menu smaller and more rustic; oysters on ice, a prawn cocktail or a classic beef carpaccio are all regular features among the 10 or so regularly rotating dishes.

Image: Jo McGann
Image: Jo McGann

There are four martinis on the menu, while house cocktails include a picon bière (chinotto, blood orange and juniper with French lager), a stinger (brandy and crème de menthe) or a classic champagne royale. “The vision has always been in the back of our minds,” says McConnell. “We wanted to create a place that could happily be the night out or the before or after: somewhere that was more focused on the drinks than the food.”

Image: Thomas Gravanis

Sunday Roast / Andria Mitsakos

Little treasures

Andria Mitsakos may have made her name boosting the profiles of some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and restaurants but her latest project proves that she is more than just good at public relations (writes Hester Underhill). She’s the founder of Anthologist, a company that works with artisans around the world to create design items that she sells from her showroom in a neoclassical townhouse in downtown Athens. Here, she shares the recipe for a perfect weekend: a visit to the flea market and a flick through her magazine collection, washed down with a glass of Greek wine.

Where will we find you this weekend?
At my apartment in Athens, which is at the foot of the Acropolis.

What is your ideal start to a Sunday, gentle or a jolt?
Both. The gentle bit is warm water with fresh lemon juice, a shot of ginger and apple cider vinegar. Then comes the jolt – a double espresso from my local coffee shop with a side of steamed oat milk. Coffee delivery is a thing in Athens, so my morning begins when it arrives with my delivery man, whom I adore. We start the day chatting about the week ahead: weather, politics, life, how we slept and neighbourhood news. It’s my morning philosophy session.

Downward dog or walk the dog?
Neither. I have never been a fan of yoga and I travel too much to have a real pet.

What’s for breakfast?
I have a shot of sea buckthorn and aloe vera juice and maybe a handful of berries and raw cashews. Some goat yoghurt with Parian honey and walnuts if I feel like I need more.

A pantry essential?
Olive oil from Kalamata, capers from Paros and homemade Sri Lankan curry powder, ground by my friend’s mother from Colombo. Not all together of course.

Lunch in or out?
Out. I usually like to meet friends in a tiny kafeneio (traditional Greek coffee shop) for mezze and conversation. Nothing fancy. In the cooler months, I pop in to check Anthologist stock and chat with customers at GB Corner Gifts & Flavors, the retail store at Hotel Grande Bretagne. Then I love sinking into a banquette in their winter garden for a meal. It’s pure grand hotel romance.

A Sunday culture must?
I have visited flea markets ever since I was a child. My great aunt was an antique dealer and my mother is an interior designer. Their genes have dictated my Sundays forever.

What’s on the evening menu?
A puttanesca made with the above-mentioned essentials. I add tuna from Alonissos and more garlic than most people can stand. I use pasta made from Zea, which is one of the oldest grains and was consumed by ancient Greeks.

Who will join?
Usually, a designer passing through Athens, a journalist visiting the city or a hotel industry friend working on a project who needs a sparring partner.

A glass of something you recommend?
I’m partial to a red from Pieria Eratini Winery in Greece’s north or Manousakis Winery from Crete. And once every now and again, I’ll sip a reposado tequila while on a long catch-up call to my best friend Peter in Los Angeles.

Any Sunday evening routine?
Sunday is my creative time. Some of my best ideas are hatched on Sundays. I have an Architectural Digest stack from the early 1970s, an era that has been my latest inspiration.

News or no news?
I haven’t owned a television in more than 10 years. I skim through headlines in The New York Times, Ekathimerini and Al Jazeera.

Will you lay out your outfit for Monday?
If I’m travelling, yes. And it’s always a dress. Usually a vintage Italian 1960-1970s silk jersey (something with a fabulous print) and a Fratelli Rossetti hobo shoe in white or black leather, depending on the season. And I always take an Anthologist bag.

Image: Xiha

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Simple okonomiyaki

This week our Japanese recipe writer shares a classic savoury take on pancakes from her homeland. An authentic version of this comfort food may call for thinly-sliced pork but unsmoked streaky bacon will also do the trick. The bonito flakes and seaweed powder are optional but available at any Asian supermarket and make all the difference.

Serves 3 (one pancake per person)


3 medium eggs
150ml water
75g plain flour
400g soft cabbage (ideally flat-shaped Japanese or hispi cabbage), very finely shredded
9 slices of thinly-sliced pork belly (approx 2mm thick) or unsmoked streaky bacon
1 tbsp of neutral oil such as vegetable oil
120ml Okonomiyaki sauce
30ml mayonnaise (ideally Japanese)
3g katsuobushi (bonito flakes), optional
3 large pinches of dried Aonori seaweed powder, optional


Beat eggs in a jug and mix with water. Add flour to a large bowl and pour in the eggs and water slowly, whisk as you are adding to avoid lumps. Add the shredded cabbage, mix until combined.

Warm a medium-sized frying pan, add ⅓ of the oil and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Pour in ⅓ of the mixture with a ladle and spread till it is approximately 18cm wide. Then lay 3 pork belly or bacon slices across top of the pancake.

Cook for 2-3 minutes over a medium-low heat until the pancake becomes golden, then turn the pancake with a spatula and cook for a further 2-3 minutes with a lid. Remove the lid and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the pork becomes crispy.

Remove the pancake and place on a plate to keep warm, repeat with the rest of the mixture to make 3 pancakes in total.

Drizzle ⅓ of the okonomiyaki sauce onto each pancake. Then try to draw zig zag lines with mayonnaise over the top. Sprinkle with bonito flakes and seaweed powder and enjoy.

Weekend plans? / Hotel San Fernando, Mexico City

Living colour

The 19-room Hotel San Fernando has opened its doors on the edge of Parque Mexico, a lush patch of greenery in the capital’s La Condesa neighbourhood (writes Mary Holland). This newest member of the Austin-based Bunkhouse Hotels group is set in a 1940s block refurbished by the brand in collaboration with Mexico City-based studio Reurbano.

Image: Chad Wadsworth
Image: Chad Wadsworth

The team has enhanced the building’s art deco charms by adding metal panes and stained-glass windows to the shell. Rooms feature pink and green accents and custom wooden furniture by La Metropolitana studio. Elsewhere there are handmade, brightly patterned rugs by Oaxaca-based Enkelt, plus sconces and pendants by Anfora, a ceramics studio from Mexico City. The rooftop bar is the spot for guests to enjoy breakfast and there is a street-facing salon for sipping a rosa mexicana and watching the city go by.

Image: Satoshi Hashimoto

Parting shot / Monocle’s perfect city

Bringing it home

Monocle’s perfect city doesn’t quite exist but if it did, we have a few ideas about how things might run (writes Josh Fehnert). In this final instalment of prompts, nudges and urban wishes, we ask why cities shouldn’t surprise us more, how homes might come in other shapes and sizes, and why being connected (and letting people leave easily) might be the key to making people stay.

The Meanwhile City
What if that car park, derelict space or tyre fire was a pop-up swimming pool, outdoor gym or community theatre? Maybe next month it could be a space for screenings, street food or a flea market? That’s the idea of the Meanwhile City, which came from Petra Marko. It means using spaces before (and as) they’re developed for new uses, encouraging landlords not to chain up, padlock or fence off areas that could be put to profitable new uses. In our ideal city there’s a long list of canny initiatives lined up to add life to forgotten corners of town. Coming up? A summer sauna club.

House rules
Home means different things to different people and families come in all shapes and sizes. So we’ve embraced a range of architectural styles, cherishing what’s there but ensuring that developers don’t skimp on new builds, then disappear once they’re signed for. Our town has a backbone of sturdy brick terraced houses – many with shops below – which have been repurposed to a range of sizes. Elsewhere are newer builds with character, older villas and houses to suit most tastes. Plus integrated social housing, of course.

Better connections
We love our city but the ease of zipping off for a weekend elsewhere or to connect with colleagues adds to its charm. Monocle’s perfect city is served by a brisk, regular express train to our little airport and the zippy connections haven’t gone unnoticed either. Last year we welcomed a record number of visitors (and a little handy investment). Other people, it seems, have been studying our success rather closely. You too might have found some benchmarks, nudges and reasons to reflect on what your own city hits and what it’s missing. Until next time, safe travels. Come back any time.

For more city tips and urban benchmarks, buy the latest issue of Monocle or help support our solution-orientated journalism by taking out a subscription today. Have a super Sunday.


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