Sunday 31 December 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 31/12/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

Action plans

In this special New Year’s Eve edition of The Monocle Weekend Edition, we share a fresh idea from an entrepreneur who is cleaning up in a new market and a rich cake recipe for if you’re feeling indulgent. Plus: top bottles to buy for your year-end celebrations (or to put in the cellar) and a word with an author on the power of notebooks and committing your thoughts to paper. Speaking of which, if you haven’t made a resolution yet, why not get a jump on the year with a subscription to Monocle? But first, Tyler Brûlé shares a rundown of thoughts with which to ring in 2024.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Over and out

As this is the last column for 2023, I’m going to deliver today’s thoughts, observations and wishes in classic countdown form for our far-flung readers ringing in the New Year. Here we go!

What do you do if you’re a country worried about how you’re going to balance your budgets in 2024 and keep your coffers filled? You might raise taxes (never a vote winner) or you could sell off some prized state enterprises (always looks like a fire sale). Or what about going after all those brands that manage to take your flag, whack it on a piece of sportswear and get away without paying any royalties to the state treasury? After a week in the mountains it’s clear that a few nations are missing out on some serious revenue. The Stars and Stripes, Union Jack, Rising Sun and Norwegian red, white and blue have found their way onto all kinds of garments – some good, most dreadful. While wandering through the village, I wondered whether any nation had seriously gone after a skiwear brand for using its flag stretched across the bum of a pair of ski pants? Part of the problem is that Norway hardly needs the money – ditto Switzerland – so both can’t be bothered. And countries that could use the funds don’t end up emblazoned across the back of a puffa jacket. But perhaps there’s an opportunity in all of this: an emerging nation licences its handsome flag to an Italian activewear brand in search of some hot new stripes.

Speaking of activewear, a good friend in Stockholm decided on no more expensive, plastic winter gear for her kids. Instead, she decided to go for a more cost-saving measure by buying all seven of her brood vintage mink coats – boys included. “They’re going cheap, they’re super warm and everyone looks great,” she explained. “Also, could I be more sustainable? Better on my kids than in the landfill.”

Did you see the news? Monocle’s next major event is going to be its first-ever conference in Asia in the form of the Hong Kong edition of The Chiefs on 27 and 28 March. To register, drop a note to Hannah at

I’ve spent a lot of time reading over the past week. One of the best stories was in the NZZ and focused on the workplace of today versus the workplace of yore. The opening photo showed a gentleman sitting on a Swissair flight with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, most likely reading the NZZ. The article spoke to people born in the 1940s, some still employed in regular day jobs, and asked them what they missed about the old days. The zinger was a woman working for a retailer, who asked why a simple headache demands a day off. “What happened to taking an aspirin and getting on with things?” How’s that for a mantra for a new year in the workplace?

It’s happening! The sneaker trend is finally coming to a halt and proper leather footwear is coming back. Hurray! How do I know this? Part of it is on the street observation in Paris and Tokyo but also the number of readers asking about which brand they should turn to for loafers and brogues. Gents and ladies please take note: Paraboot, John Lobb, Heschung, Alden and JM Weston all work.

“What would I like to see less of in 2024?” you ask. Goodness, great question. I would like to see fewer empty corporate ESG guff and more about what makes companies truly great within their sector and how they plan on being more competitive, innovative and simply fun places to work.

What would I like to see more of in 2024? Faster trains between Zürich and Paris (down to three hours please), more hotel windows that open properly, more proper knobs and switches in everyday life, fewer fiddly screens for simple tasks, more people who introduce themselves properly in casual company and maintain eye contact, and more good local shops for brooms and bulbs, kettles and kitchen towels. Someone is going to bring the corner hardware store back and become a tycoon in the process. Just watch.

I’m looking forward to a bit more time in Paris (is such a thing possible?), exploring more of Portugal, sampling the Tatoï Club in Athens and a couple of roadtrips. 2024 should also be the year for a return to Australia and NZ.

If you have another week off, sample the following. Outdoor lunch at Langosteria is a near perfect set-up when Remo is hosting, Karla is contributing interesting thoughts on comms and Elena is holding court. It’s also just up the slope from our new little Monocle outpost in the heart of St Moritz.

Thank you, merci, danke, obrigado, graçias, arigato gozaimasu from all of us at Monocle for all your support, wishes, ideas and company over the past year. Looking forward to sharing more with you across 2024 and beyond. Happy New Year.

Table to book / Charmkrung, Bangkok

Dishing it out

Curry restaurant Charmgang in Bangkok immediately hit the spot when it opened in late 2019 so the news that the team was cooking up a “Thai tapas bar” had us licking our lips in anticipation (writes James Chambers). Charmkrung, which opened in December 2023 on nearby Charoen Krung Road, is a 60-cover, sixth-floor hangout where chef Jai’s 22-dish menu is intended to be paired with wine.

Image: Natthawut Taeja
Image: Natthawut Taeja

His snacks, canapés and other small plates hark back to the “cookshops” of 1960s and 1970s Bangkok, when Thai-Chinese chefs used their experience of making European food in hotel kitchens to create new fusion dishes for their own small restaurants. Charmkrung doesn’t turn tables and there’s good reason to linger until last orders. At about 23.00 every evening, the kitchen starts making a second menu of dishes (for the staff meal but punters can ask to try), such as pork skewers with sticky rice, papaya salad or congee with pork rib: classic Thai street food in a convivial and comfortable setting. A new banker in Bangkok that you’d best book a table at before your next trip. We have our eye on the corner booth.

For more places to see, eat and explore, order a copy of ‘The Escapist today, or subscribe so that you never miss an issue.

The Stack / Take note

Leaping off the page

Roland Allen had always scribbled in notebooks but his interest in paper was truly piqued when he stumbled upon his grandfather’s diaries. “He had died many years earlier and I didn’t know him well,” says Allen, the author of The Notebook: A History of Thinking on Paper. “Learning about his life before the Second World War made me curious about what it would be like to keep my own diary.”

What began when Allen was 28 years old has since become an obsession, leading him to research the ways in which human thought, education and ideas have been bound up with our use of notebooks. The story that he tells takes us from the earliest Arabic texts and medieval European scribbles to 16th-century Dutch friendship albums, recipes and bookkeeping.

Technology might have changed things but researchers have found that making notes on paper can sometimes be more effective than doing so on a laptop or phone. “You remember things more if you write them down on paper,” says Allen. “You process them better if you’re analysing them in some way.” More complex information could benefit from being committed to paper, he says. “If you’re doing anything creative with ideas, numbers or words, it’s really important.”

‘The Notebook: A History of Thinking on Paper’ is out now. For the full interview, listen to episode 586 of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Illustration: Xiha

Recipe / Aya Nishimura

Fudgey rum-raisin chocolate cake

Making resolutions for the year ahead can be worthwhile but don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way. In that spirit, we recommend this rather indulgent chocolate cake for our last recipe of the year.

Serves 8

18cm springform cake tin

100g raisins
120ml dark rum
150g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa)
125g unsalted butter
150g dark soft brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp sea salt
Beans from 1 vanilla pod (cut pod in half lengthways and scrape out the beans)
35g cocoa powder
30g plain flour Icing sugar
Whipped cream, to serve


Put the raisins and rum in a small bowl and soak overnight.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl (a glass one is ideal) over a simmering saucepan. Once mostly melted, remove from the pan, add the sugar and mix. Let it cool for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan). Add the eggs, salt and vanilla beans to the bowl and beat with a whisk until mixed. Sieve the cocoa powder and flour into the mixture and whisk until incorporated. Drain half of the raisins, add to the batter and mix.

Pour the cake mixture into the tin and bake in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Take it out of the oven and let it cool completely. Then, dust with icing sugar. Serve with whipped cream and the rest of the rum raisins. This cake can be baked a couple of days in advance.

Image: Tony Hay

Fresh suggestion / Selahatin

Fresh start

Swedish-Turkish entrepreneur Kristoffer Vural founded Stockholm-based dental-care brand Selahatin in response to a personal health crisis (writes Tom Edwards). Vural had a stroke in his twenties and, while hospitalised and suffering from paralysis, he developed taste hypersensitivity and began experiencing synaesthesia. Finding the taste of conventional toothpaste particularly unpalatable, he created Selahatin and started crafting more thoughtful, innovatively fragranced products.

“I see every aroma that we make like a painting in my mind,” says Vural. “I’m driven by the creative process. It’s the most rewarding thing. My father came from Turkey and my mother is Swedish, so I have a foot in both cultures. Eastern palates are slightly different – after dinner, you might chew on cloves, ginger or cardamom to freshen up. I thought that it would be interesting to broaden the scope of what is considered refreshing.”

For more on Vural and business ideas for the year ahead, tune in to ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Winter playlist / Songs of 2023

Popping off

It has been a memorable 12 months for pop anthems. Here, the Monocle Radio team chooses a few of its highlights from 2023.

1. ‘eMtunzini’ by Muzi
2. ‘Manodzi’ by Stonebwoy, with Angelique Kidjo
3. ‘Rush’ by Troye Sivan
4. ‘Tension’ by Kylie Minogue
5. ‘(It Goes Like) Nanana’ by Peggy Gou
6. ‘Italodisco’ by The Kolors
7. ‘The Sea’ by Romy
8. ‘Maria Joana’ by Nuno Ribeiro, Calema and Mariza
9. ‘It Girl’ by Associanu, Karma Fields and Kah-Lo

10. ‘Il primo passo sulla luna’ by Laura Pausini
11. ‘Triple A’ by Jubël, with NLE Choppa
12. ‘Amplify’ by Liset Alea, RJLA and Rodriguez Jr
13. ‘Dararí’ by Aitana
14. ‘Flowers’ by Miley Cyrus
15. ‘Jealous Guy’ by The Weeknd
16. ‘Caution to the Wind’ by Everything but the Girl
17. ‘Super Shy’ by NewJeans
18. ‘Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol 53’ by Shakira and Bizarrap
19. ‘Shy Boy’ by Carly Rae Jepsen
20. ‘Pearls’ by Jessie Ware

For more, tune in to Monocle Radio or listen here.

Image: Holly Wales

Top cellars / Three bottles to buy

Raise a glass

Wine expert Chandra Kurt selects some top bottles to enjoy, savour and store for 2024. Here she shares a crisp white, a Mediterranean red and an unlikely Japanese find. Cin cin.

M Chapoutier Chasselas, 2021
Combe Pilate Tain-l’Hermitage, France
Here’s a lovely chasselas from M Chapoutier. Aged in steel vats, it’s a crisp and mineral white with hints of lime blossom and wild honey. An ideal wine to accompany fish or cheese.

Cecchi La Mora, 2022
Tuscany, Italy
The Cecchi family has been making wine for more than 130 years. This bottle, a blend of sangiovese and merlot, is an easy-drinking red with a Mediterranean soul. It’s perhaps the perfect wine to enjoy alongside pizza and pasta.

Yamanashi de Grace, 2019
Yamanashi, Japan
This special discovery from Japan’s Grace winery is based on the muscat bailey A grape, which is cultivated in the Hosaka district. This red has generous aromas of plums and blueberries.

For more wine finds and a read on the year ahead, buy a copy of ‘The Forecast’, our forward-facing magazine about what’s to come. Better yet, subscribe to Monocle today. Have a super Sunday and best wishes for 2024 from the whole Monocle team.


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