Friday 2 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 2/2/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

A sommelier pours a non-alcholic drink at Michelin-starred restaurant Born in Singapore

Image: Born

Hospitality / Andrew Mueller

Creative spirit

There may well be regular readers of this newsletter wincing as they struggle to focus on these paragraphs. Such are the consequences of celebrating the end of Dry January. While we at The Monocle Minute are not judging, Dry January tendency has an inevitably parching effect on the hospitality sector. By the estimates of Alcohol Change UK, a broadly pro-temperance charity, one in six UK adults clambers aboard the wagon during the first month of the year. For restaurants, especially those that are heavily dependent on the riotous mark-ups of wine, this abstemiousness appears to have prompted some creative thinking. Enter the soft-drink sommelier, giving advice about which alcohol-free drink goes best with which dish.

This doesn’t mean that waiters will begin explaining the subtleties of Diet Coke versus Coke Zero. Instead, posh eateries are floating the line that abjuring alcohol is not a restriction but a liberation, opening up a whole new world of taste and texture. Real examples of such tipples include roasted artichoke with pear and dill oil, and iced oolong tea smoked with applewood, for which restaurants charge imaginatively. According to a report in The Telegraph, one Michelin-starred joint in Cambridge is offering a “flight” of non-alcoholic drinks for £42.50 (€49.72). Restaurants, which operate on tight enough margins at the best of times, do deserve our sympathy, especially after these past few difficult years. This is not the same as deserving our custom, however, and charging wine-like prices for cordial-like drinks is going to strike many diners as something of a liberty – especially since they’ll still be sober when the bill arrives.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Ground control: Norwegian F-35As land on a motorway in Tervo, Finland

Image: NATO

Defence / Switzerland

Show on the road

Switzerland’s Federal Council gave the go-ahead this week for the Swiss Air Force to carry out flight tests on the country’s A1 motorway. A part of the road, between Avenches and Payerne, will be closed for 36 hours from 4 to 6 June to test the take-off and landing capabilities of F/A-18 aircraft at improvised locations. But it’s not the first time that the Swiss Air Force has hit the road. In the 1970s and 1980s similar decentralisation drills were carried out with Hunter and F5 Tiger aircraft. In September 2023 the Royal Norwegian Air Force landed a pair of F-35A stealth jets on a motorway in Finland. Speeding fines aside, these tests are crucial steps towards strengthening Europe’s defence capabilities.

Image: Ilan Godfrey

Society / South Africa

Local champions

On the first Sunday of every month in Johannesburg’s Victoria Yards, a plant-filled oasis in the centre of downtown, a market takes place that brings people to the area. The collection of industrial brick buildings, which house shops, restaurants, workshops and an urban farm, has become a beacon of hope in this underserved area.

Hector Mbiga (pictured) is CEO of the Makers Valley Partnership, a social enterprise that has a space in Victoria Yards. “More people are coming onboard, wanting to see the work that we do,” he tells Monocle. This year the market is hoping to collaborate with international corporations to help create more opportunities for local youth through commercial partnerships. It also aims to help mobilise people in the area to take part in this year’s general election, which is set to be an especially pivotal one for Africa’s third-largest economy. “We’re trying to direct people’s awareness so that they can become active citizens,” says Mbiga.

To learn more about Johannesburg’s Makers Valley and read other agenda-setting stories, pick up a copy of Monocle’s February issue, which is out now.

Culture / India

All the write moves

Writers including Pulitzer Prize-winner Hernan Diaz are speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Rajasthan, which runs until Monday. Since its inaugural edition in 2006, the festival has grown from a small-scale regional event into a global literary landmark. As India’s largest and most prominent literature fair, it draws thousands of attendees and features talks by hundreds of award-winning writers. It is also an important hub for publishers and literary agents from around the world to discover emerging Indian authors. This year’s speakers include US novelist Bonnie Garmus, best-selling Indian author Amish Tripathi and award-winning journalist Anjan Sundaram. The festival will also feature installations from Jaipur-based art galleries and three days of musical performances.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Brian Griffin

Photo of the week / UK

Picture perfect

UK-based photographer Brian Griffin has died aged 75 (writes Alex Milnes). Born in Birmingham in 1948, he studied photography at Manchester School of Art, before working with musicians and bands such as Kate Bush, Iggy Pop and Depeche Mode. Griffin is best known for his work on album covers, including the image he took for Joe Jackson’s 1979 debut, Look Sharp! (pictured). “It was the easiest cover that I ever shot,” said Griffin.

Throughout his career, the photographer published more than 20 books, hosted numerous solo shows and shot surreal images for corporate clients and publications such as Management Today. He also exhibited work in galleries such as London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and Reykjavík Art Museum. In 2013, Griffin received the Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society in recognition of a lifetime achievement in photography.

I was lucky enough to work with him in 2018. During that period we often spoke on the phone and would get distracted by discussing his work. He signed off most calls with, “Bye Alex, love you!” His kindness, generosity and passion will be missed.

Alex Milnes is Monocle’s photography editor.

Monocle Films / Affairs

Davos: where are we going?

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos has brought together political leaders, CEOs and scholars to discuss about how to tackle the world’s most pressing issues and move forward. Monocle Films travelled to the Swiss Alpine town to see what 2024 has in store.


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