Photo credit: Dalida
There’s a fair bit happening on the Tel Aviv food scene right now so we took a look behind the scenes to find out the most stylish and exciting places to see and be seen in Israel’s capital.
From farm to table
Photo credits: Claro
Situated in a preserved wine distillery in the Sarona area of the city, Claro is an experiential restaurant, and one of the hottest on the Tel Aviv food scene. Stylish even by Tel Aviv standards, its authentic rustic design uses natural materials including limestone and wood for a warm and inviting ambience. This stylish eatery is the brainchild of visionary foodie Ran Shmulei, Israel’s most respected and innovative chef and entrepreneur and every aspect of the restaurant has been designed with the utmost quality and attention to detail, in order to really immerse guests in the Claro experience.
The restaurant offers Mediterranean cuisine and food based around the concept of farm-to-table eating, i.e. the idea of there being the “least buffers possible” between the farmers and the restaurant. Its ‘specials’ menu changes every other day according to the raw seasonal produce available: at Claro, it is of the utmost importance that the food is exquisitely fresh. Fruit and vegetables play a key role in the farm-to-table dining experience and Israel is world-renowned for its exotic, fresh crops. At the moment, chickpeas are at their best while previous star vegetables have included corn, okra and turnip. Innovative restaurant features include vibrant live music and mood lighting, historic frescoes that line the walls and a fantastic open kitchen in the centre of the expansive space.
The chefs use their impressive talent and experience to create enticing and unusual plates, with twists on classic dishes from across cultures, such as traditional Israeli foods shawarma (kebab-style, slow-grilled meat) and sabich, a dish consisting of pitta bread filled with slow-boiled eggs and aubergine. Through using these methods, the chefs aim to change the feelings traditionally associated with well-known foods.
Cheap, cheerful and delicious
For any visitor to the city, Claro is obviously one of the shining stars on Tel Aviv food landscape and its location in Sarona is steeped in history. As a former German colony, Sarona set a precedent for the modern agricultural settlements across Israel and today it exists as a neighbourhood in its own right with many well-preserved colonial village buildings. The Sarona complex includes a number of other stylish restaurants within the atmospheric old buildings of this former German Templar surrounded by antiques and period architecture.
Sarona may be beautiful but this is by no means the only part of the city where you can enjoy a memorable dining experience. There has been a trend of late towards opening more casual restaurants – those without the high investments and large initial price tag which is so often required in the expensive city that is Tel Aviv. Instead, the focus of the moment is on simple, good quality food. The Bun is located just off the corner of King George and Allenby Streets in a buzzing part of the city. It offers Asian food that is delicious, simple and entirely exemplary of the current Tel Aviv scene where the theme is effortless, minimalist cool.
Dalida is another of the trendiest places to hang out, offering a great party atmosphere, adventurous food and a fantastic cocktail menu. Their chefs use the best of the local crops, with dishes encompassing a range of seafood as well as vegetables including eggplant, corn and zucchini. Dalida’s postcode on Zevulun Street is one of the most fashionable in town, with a location in the southern city neighbourhood of Florentin. This area is like the Brick Lane or Shoreditch of London, where everything is extremely trendy and the crowd is mostly made up of hipsters, musicians, students and artists.
The Brick Lane of Tel Aviv
Florentin is also home to the Levinski Market – a hip hangout with a collection of food shops spread over five streets. The Levinski brings together the best of Tel Aviv food past and present as the assortment of cultures in the city’s melting pot all make an appearance in the diversity of food on offer. This diversity is also reflected in the décor which is modern yet vintage, a fresh yet old style decor with attractive features such as sausages hanging from the ceiling to remind of the abundance of top quality food around. The many food shops located here sell fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, desserts and a whole range of spices, offering the chance to take away a taste of Israel.
The Persian Jewish influence in the market is strong, with a number of restaurants serving authentic food including the permanently trendy Salimi – which has been family-run for three generations. Turkish bakery Penso is also one to thank for the market’s trendy name – their melt-in-the-mouth borekas (savoury pastries) are famous up and down the country.
Over on Rothschild Street, you will find a number of high-class, upmarket eateries with a focus on elegant dining. The Asian-style Taizu restaurant offers an innovative concept menu based on the street food of South-East Asia. Toto is another great choice, offering classic Italian food and a kitchen helmed by acclaimed local chef Yaron Shalev. If Asian food is your style then Thai House, situated just off bustling Ben Yehuda Street, is a Tel Aviv institution offering wonderful Asian fare. Bertie on King George Street is another top-end restaurant; the chefs combine modern techniques with traditional home cooking systems to create Mediterranean-Middle Eastern fusion cuisine that utilizes fresh local foods including olive oil, vine leaves, fish and seafood.
Markets are a common feature of the city and provide some of the most fun ways to sample the best of Tel Aviv food. The Jaffa Port Market is situated in an old warehouse on the seafront – with a gorgeous location, it has the food to match with a range of gourmet offerings including fresh oysters, hummus and sausages. The Farmers Market takes place here on Friday mornings, providing a wonderful opportunity to try the local food while experiencing the hustle and bustle that takes place as everyone buys their food in preparation for the Sabbath (the Jewish holy day of rest that falls from sunset on Friday night until sunset on Saturday).
For somewhere truly local and so good that you may have to wait in a (very) long line, head over to grill restaurant Vitrina onIbn Gabirol St 54. In Israel everyone knows that if it’s worth queuing for, it must be something special and the food at Vitrina is indeed very special. While the sausages are great, the burgers have been named as the best in Israel so they are clearly well worth a try! El Greco in the north of the city offers another memorable experience. This is a cool, laidback and very joyful Greek restaurant is extremely popular with Israelis who come for the traditional music, world-class food and fantastic atmosphere.
Where to Stay
The Norman Tel Aviv is a sophisticated and artistic hotel in the iconic White City neighbourhood. The hotel was created out of two 1920s-era Bauhaus structures and boasts an impressive architectural finish. Indoors, custom 1920s details blend with a contemporary design for a soothing, elegant ambience. Surrounded by art galleries, shops and museums, the Norman’s local neighbourhood is as exciting and beautiful as the hotel itself, all of it located within a vibrant, ever-changing city.