Sunday 25 April 2021 – The Monocle Minute

Sunday 25 April 2021 – The Monocle Minute


In crowd

What a difference a few yellow chairs, green benches, mocha and chocolate-brown sun parasols and the return of hundreds of loyal customers does for your mood and your business. Last Monday morning we reopened our seating on the boulevard in front of our HQ/café/shop/Trunk in Zürich (there was a lifting of regulations across Switzerland from the start of the week) and by 8.00 it looked as if this corner of the world was back to its old self. Despite a chilly start, the weather was generally co-operative and the scene on Dufourstrasse reminded me what Mitteleuropa was missing and does very well – it likes to pause, consume coffee, observe, crack open the newspaper (FT, NZZ or Die Zeit, bitte), have a smoke, gossip, order another coffee, enjoy a bit more gossip and take stock of life. Across the week I caught up with the low-key loyals who’ve been with us for the past three years, newcomers who queued for takeaway during lockdown and now feel part of the family and hyper-regulars who can linger at the café for up to six hours a day. Fancy getting to know a few of them? Pull on your apron and let’s go for a little meet and greet.

The film director. He’s got his regular seat (he prefers a bench, back to the glass and with a view to the street), is always full of stories and at least once or twice asks you to lean in because he’s got a naughty opinion about something or wants to tell you something juicy about a fellow guest. He’s always keen to have you pull up a chair and has a little twinkle in his eye that suggests he must have gotten up to considerable trouble in his younger years.

Is that Rafael Nadal? Yes, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Spaniard is staying with the Federers down the lake but this lookalike does not hail from the Iberian Peninsula and may not even be good with a racquet. What we do know is that he’s German, he’s very tanned and he could be Nadal’s slightly older brother. There’s something rather sportif about him, he always has a friendly smile and it feels some mornings as if he’s hosting his own, in-depth morning talk show with other familiar faces.

The chic ex-Swissair flight attendant. We haven’t seen her for a while and she explains that she’s just back from New York, that she’s taken the early retirement package from Swiss and that, given the lack of flights at the moment, she’s not even sure if she’ll get another rotation. This makes me feel sad as I met her on a trip to Los Angeles and she’s the last of a certain generation of flight attendant that we’ll soon find no longer exists in the ranks of major airlines.

The Frenchies. Is Zürich becoming the new Hong Kong for French expats? Could be. Judging by the number of new arrivals with French passports it seems that this little city by the lake is close enough to Paris to feel connected to the Republique but also international and artsy enough to fulfil other needs. The French like their negroni sbagliatos and work in art, finance, film and the white cognac trade. Rumour has it that they also congregate at a very secret spot called Le Bar Titi. It’s not quite as naughty as it sounds, is hard to find, has the most wonderful hosts and boasts a dazzling art collection. Or so I’m told.

The racy ex-Swissair flight attendant. We bump into each other across the street from the café and she tells me that she’ll be over later for drinks on Saturday and Sunday. She’s a pro and is also from another time in the history of aviation. “No one will recognise air travel when we all get back to travelling again,” she says. “It’s only die Kinder flying around now; the people with decades of experience are all gone. Sad for them. Even more sad for the passengers.”

Who’s that smart young family with the four lovely children? Also, who has four children these days other than the super religious? Both good questions but we’re also very, very discreet at Dufourstrasse 90 and can only reveal so much. We know the handsome papa has aspirations of singing stardom. The mama might have plans to open a fish restaurant for people who don’t like fish. Their youngest will one day be one of the coolest young men in Zürich for sure.

The Aussies. What can we say? Good coffee, good Aussie crowd. A couple of them moan that Zürich is not Sydney but we quickly remind them that they can swim in drinkable water and there’s no risk that a sea creature will devour them during a morning dip.

The two stylish ladies. But which ones are we talking about? The Swiss and Italian pair in competing tunics and bangles? The woman with the chocolate Labrador puppy and Scheherazade trousers? The Turkish women chatting and smoking long cigarettes? The blonde American woman who’s often seen with a gentleman who has excellent taste in vintage cars? The Canadians who compare reading notes?

It’s wonderful having everyone back out in the sun and I’d like to say a big thank you on behalf of everyone at Monocle for your support, and for being a part of our business and the community. Cheers to happy days ahead!

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