THE HILTON EXECUTIVE LOUNGE
The morning buffet here is one of the Lounge’s signature features, included in the price of any EXECUTIVE ROOM - and it’s a brilliant first meal for the day.
At pride of place in the centre is the lavish COLD and WARM BUFFET, with a huge selection of hard and cream cheeses, herrings, traditional Israeli foods like hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, wonderful yoghurt and fruit - with fresh vegetables and hot potato dishes for heartier meals.
I love putting together my light selection then sitting back to enjoy it as I take in all the people who are planning their day of meetings or sightseeing; it’s a very cosmopolitan mix of European, Argentinean, Brazilian and Russian guests reading newspapers in every language, and a lively, convenient meeting ground for families from around the world.
After breakfast there is always an open bar, so your family can top up on really good snacks all day - one of the stellar features of life on an Executive Floor.
The real gimmick - perfect for those who always rush to brunch because it’s their favourite menu of the day - is the 24-hour, everyday service; it’s breakfast time at Benedict around the clock. To maintain the illusion, there are always morning papers with your fresh juice and the waitresses greet customers with a hearty "good morning," even at night.
The beauty of Tel Aviv in summer is the perfect balance of relaxation and buzz. One of the best city rituals is to rent chairs at one of the many BEACHCLUBS with full service, where you can bask in the sun while you eat or order refreshments.
On my solo trip in 2008 I joined an old friend at one of the many BEACH BARS on the Mediterranean and we caught up at tables in the shade, enjoying a Greek lunch of Lamb skewers, rice and Greek salad. We drank margaritas and Bloody Mary’s; I’m not really a drinker, but these converted me. I would recommend a stroll along the beachfront during your time in Tel Aviv to try lunch at whatever spot takes your fancy…
This café-biblioteque’ is full of the flavour and bohemian charm that Sheira and I seek out when we travel; once people land here with their book or laptop and a slice of the most amazing carrot cake, they usually while away the whole afternoon. When people meet up, it doesn’t really matter when you get there…
The cosy library, well-worn wooden floors and heaps of old National Geographics are a welcome sign for loafers; it’s full of local writers, students or anyone who has figured out how to spend their day lazing away over a book.
Being a generally outdoor person, I love to sit out in the gorgeous garden and people watch, or update my facebook (there is FREE WIFI). I like the home cooking style of the KOSHER MENU, which can be quite substantial, with fillets and chops, all-day breakfast, or lighter sandwiches and quinoa salad.
I recommend a recovery lunch here after visiting museums like THE PALMACH or coming by on Sunday for the live jazz. From here you can launch into the gritty nocturnal culture of the Sheinkin St Area.
Over the years I have visited this hugely popular cafe for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks - you name it. When looking someone up in Tel Aviv I’ll usually say, let’s meet at Suzanna’s! It’s the perfect spot to stop into for a bite while wandering the spirited NEVE TZEDEK neighbourhood, passing dancers on their way to the theatre or girls doing a whip round of the latest boutiques.
When I was in town alone in 2008 (en route to Petra, Jordon), I reunited with my London friends and went exploring. At about 6 o’clock the 3 of us came to wander these lively streets, which gave us such a charge; and we knew that we would end up on the rooftop bar of Suzanna for great drinks and a mezze plate…
Eating is a central part of Israeli social life and the patio here, overlooking the street and shaded by an enormous old ficus tree and the SUSAN DALAL DANCE CENTRE, seems to be the heart of Neve Zedek. Downstairs diners try coffee and brioche or full-tilt MIDDLE EASTERN SPECIALTIES, like spicy eggplant and kebabs, as well as the amazing, fresh grilled sea bream. But don’t just try one spot. There is an exotic, Ottoman style interior - where hot apple cider and Moroccan Harira (lentil and tomato) soup is served in Winter - and fantastic finger food on the rooftop bar upstairs, which has a relaxed, party atmosphere…
Suzanna constantly changes according to the time of day, and my memories of a quick coffee in the courtyard under giant branches as the large variety of Tel Aviv local personalities stroll by, is one of my favourite Tel Aviv mental snapshots.
A bonus for anyone spending some time having a coffee or meal at Suzanna is its location close to two of the best dessert spots in Tel Aviv. ANITA CAFE, “La Mamma de Gelato” is a little room up the street that serves every homemade flavour of sorbet or gelato in the rainbow, from the pale pink and lemons to the rich red raspberries. It’s a real Neve Tzedek summer ritual to cool off in the heat with a delicious frozen treat, to take a break from shopping and wandering around the busy streets.
If pastries are your sinful pleasure after a meal, there is also the DALLAL Mediterranean bakery café overlooking a little garden across the street. These sweets and savoury bites are exquisite and could be meals in themselves - fruit tarts with kiwi, pomegranate or strawberry, with the lightest, fluffiest crème patisserie; rugelach, mini carrot cake with mascarpone cheese, individuals quiches and their famous melt-in-mouth puff pastry filled with apple or four different local cheeses. These chefs are artists, so this is the one time that you throw away the dietary restrictions and embrace pure hedonism at the table, along with the shoppers and finance brokers who crowd the café!
When visiting YITZ SQUARE, the perfect lunchspot is right across the street - in this cool, lowlit recreation of a Parisian namesake. The beautiful dark timbers, classic oversized mirror behind the bar, white globes and oyster bar all conjure that old school French sophistication that is at odds with the bright Mediterranean sunshine outside…
The two cultures combine easily on the menu however, where Steak Tartare or Israeli Gvina Levana & goats cheese salad are equally at home. The classical Parisian menu also shows a general European flair with dishes like their really delicious Crab Ravioli in a light cream sauce.
A lot of hospitality and theatre staff who work during Tel Aviv’s hopping nightlife love to pour in to the Brasserie during the wee hours for their ‘steak frites,’ although we tend to go for the simpler French dishes over a leisurely lunch. This Parisian experience in a Middle Eastern setting is a great symbol of how cosmopolitan Tel Aviv is: lunch here is like a trip back to Paris, yet you can always tell that you never really left Israel…
The atmospheric, ancient coastal town of JAFFA is a welcome opportunity to not only stroll down some of the oldest streets in the world, but hop off the tourist trail and try a fantastic, open restaurant that is a favourite with the local residents. We were brought here by friends who are the classic Babai repeat customers.
You can access the restaurant from the footpath right on the water; the huge outdoor area with a wide, palm-covered deck is such a great setting that it’s as if you never came inside. The airiness of the clean, modern space has the added rough texture of stonewalls and stacked wood for the winter fireplace.
Although Babai’s locale is of such historical interest, the food here takes nothing for granted and is not touristic - in fact it is amazing. We try hard not to overdo the appetisers of labne (yogurt spread), stuffed mushrooms, eggplant stuffed with lamb and healthy tomato salad (always with the hummus and freshly-baked pita bread as a centerpiece), because there are always such good mains. I like home cooking style dishes such as the schnitzel, but it would be a shame to miss out on the house specialty of different kinds of fish in pastry, cooked whole or fried in garlic. We literally don’t make it to the pastries for dessert!
If our Tel Aviv friends had not brought Sheira and I here, we never would have come across this absolute gem in old Jaffa, so now we are delighted to share this wonderful food with you…
This relaxed, ethnic restaurant is another Jaffa culinary highlight that I would never miss when traveling with my family in Tel Aviv. The earthy, KOSHER NORTH AFRICAN menu attracts customers who love communal dining at long shared tables and the smell of Lamb patties or Entrecôte steak on the sizzling charcoal grill.
Although there are interesting vegetarian and fish dishes here, the menu is really a showcase for regional dishes: different versions of Shakshuka pan-fried casserole of poached eggs and spicy tomato sauce, mafrum couscous and, for the intrepid traveler, kishke intestine stuffed with meat and rice. You can dive into the unknown, or try simple, fantastic, hearty meat in a welcoming atmosphere - and kids will love the gallons of lemonade.
The ambience really makes the experience here; somehow the Middle Eastern and Moroccan style food tastes even better in this gorgeous old house and Italian garden, slap bang in the middle of busy ALLENBY STREET. Dinner here is like being invited to dine in someone’s private house (the restaurant was actually converted from an old, exclusive fur boutique from the 1950s).
Sheira and I had a memorable night here, hosted by our dear local friends, Iram and Irit whom we had met by chance when visiting the Greek Islands a few years before. As sometimes happens when you cross the planet, we also bumped into my daughter, Zoe’s teacher from school who was there visiting her boyfriend. It seemed only natural to meet people here
Stephan Brown is an institution that has been around for a long time, the kind of idyllic spot that everyone wants to return to when Tel Aviv calls them back.
This tip came to us all the way via Sydney, where many Australians we know with family connections in the Middle East have an intimate knowledge of Tel Aviv, which we have then “road tested” ourselves over the years. Now our Tel Aviv hosts, the same wonderful, interesting Israeli people we had first met in Greece, were now going to be taken somewhere we suggested.
They invited us up to their apartment for drinks first. It is wonderfully anchoring to step into someone’s home after being on the road and the artificiality of hotel life - I love crossing over into the real culture when I travel. But it’s in my nature to still go out and explore the restaurants, especially in a culinary haven like Tel Aviv where an amazing array of choices beckons. On an average stay of 17 nights I want to work through that list!
After a hospitable drink with Iram & Irit, my mother, Jackie was happy to take the kids back to the comforts of the Hilton while the adults could go and play a little.
To really enjoy this bar/restaurant, the prime time to book is 10 PM, because come midnight the place takes off, with irresistible world music pumping and people dancing in the bar.
The great part about having a lively restaurant in a converted old house is the layout - rambling, interconnected rooms where you can either eat or lounge in different nooks. You are separate enough from the bar area to let you talk over dinner, but close enough for the vibe and frivolities to filter around the corners, so you don’t miss out on atmosphere.
Apart from being one of the most happening bar/restaurants in the city, I love the unconventional angle of Georgian/Russian food and snacks, such a change form the usual cliché barfood. When I passed through Tel Aviv alone in 2008 and had dinner here with friends from London we had a blast, but the heaviness of dumplings or goulash (heavy on the cream) definitely suited me more in Winter: surprisingly, the menu stays the same all year.
But Nanushka beats to its own drum - from the red walls covered with the owner, Nana’s favorite poetry to the burgundy satin drapes and extroverted bartenders, this is an original - and a great place to make new friends or lift your spirits. In the true hedonistic party spirit, the doors only open on weekends and close “when the last customer leaves!”
When taking in the sights and energy of my favourite neighbourhood in the whole of Tel Aviv, Neve Zedek, we always make our pilgrimage to this fabulous bar/restaurant on a street corner, where the old stone interiors, chandeliers and antique knight with big plumes all conjure an eclectic, old-world French charm that’s irresistible.
This ‘another world away’ feel of the art, antiques and eclectic household objects is increased by the restaurant’s COMPOUND design, which includes a salon scattered with sofas and a private room, a large crescent bar and a beautiful garden courtyard with lots of trees. After working up an appetite by window-shopping around the bookshops and beautiful clothing boutiques of Neve Zedek, you can retreat here all the way through the day till the wee hours of the night, when DJs that come and spin in the lounge.
The sophisticated, modern bistro food is served in the formal dining room, but I love the raw industrial style bar as well. There are so many old favourites: the “Mish mash” chicken livers in teriyaki sauce, Wiener Schnitzel and lamb chops. But just as many patrons pop in for the ‘Nana’ take on European desserts like Ricotta cheesecake with pralines, Hungarian poppy seed cake and ‘Baum-kuchen.’
There is something so homespun about the pastoral street setting (near Dizengoff Square), kooky antiques and even the restaurant’s own wine, which they bottle themselves. A special, unique place that you’ll never forget…
If you, like Sheira, myself and all our kids, love Italian food anytime, anywhere, then this standout restaurant sets the gold standard for Israel. When our friends who live right in buzzing Neve Zedek suggested we all go together, I was against it at first: the name ‘Pronto’ clashed a little for me with the ethnic, earthiness of Tel Aviv. But as soon as we arrived, with artists setting up their artwork on the street, I could see by the liveliness yet upmarket, casual elegance inside that this would be superb - and we ended up having our finest Italian meal outside of Italy.
You cannot miss Pronto: you can easily see the giant, flaming outdoor heaters from down the street. The owner, who lived for a decade in Rome where he was awarded a knighthood, is on a mission to promote Italian culture abroad - and he’s doing it brilliantly. The place is a sea of white linen, booked solid with business people entertaining foreign visitors or those seeking out classical Italian culinary flair that is elevated from the usual everyday trattoria.
The dishes are as stunning as the menu: not ‘mama’ food but really stylishly presented dishes like Zucchini blossoms stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella, beautiful soups, Blue fish with really subtle asparagus risotto, Veal scaloppini, and amazing daily specials. The whole experience of being in this cavernous, double height space with floor to ceiling wine shelves, served by polished staff, was an absolute winner and I thanked my friends for ignoring my concerns!
It’s a non-kosher menu for a very cosmopolitan crowd, so the dishes aren’t at all limited, with a huge variety of international and Israeli wines and perfected versions of classic Italian desserts like Tartufo and Tiramisu that were absolutely spot on. I have never been one for stuffy formality for its own sake over dinner - for me it’s always about the delicious food and ambience.
Pronto really struck the balance between welcoming atmosphere and exceptional skill. Visitors to Tel Aviv who want an intimate, classy experience for a special occasion, or the country’s most sophisticated Italian food are in for a treat.
When Sheira and I joined her cousin and cousin’s boyfriend, along with friends for dinner out, our party of six saw the slick, trendy side of Tel Aviv at this modern, New York style restaurant that specialises in famously good Nouvelle Cuisine. It has the big city signatures of a dominant design element and star chef - in this case, AVIV MOSHE - who gets global attention.
The beautiful ‘bird’s eye’ maple tables and impeccable white-on-white décor, with cream leather chairs and billowing white curtains separating off the area, create a design cocoon that even made style bible, Wallpaper magazine’s “Top 50 most beautiful restaurants” list. It’s a very futuristic colour palette, with urban elements like the polished white marble floors - all balanced by the social warmth of the long, communal table.
Although Messa is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I think a stunning fine dining space like this shines at night when it’s low lit, and the (equally) beautiful people of Tel Aviv come out to play. Sheira’s cousin’s partner is a powerful Israeli Attorney who was representing the President of Israel in a sexual harassment lawsuit that was the centre of attention, so there was a real ripple when we walked in and got a great table. Although it is a non-smoking space, he lit up anyway, like a dominant alpha male, and the manager even brought over an ashtray, not to make waves.
The good thing about having a star chef/owner is that the menu will always be a labour of love and Aviv Moshe will always be in charge. There is a huge variety of decadent but reimagined French style dishes, from complex appetisers like Calamari with lemon cream eel and gooseliver and amazing Eggplant rolled with tuna to their famous seafood mains - Grilled coquilles St. Jacques and Shrimp served on toast with anchovy butter; Purple calamari and Crab gnocchi; Caramelized salmon and seafood couscous in crab and lemon thyme broth, with plenty of rich beef dishes as well. Each dish we tried was not only bursting with flavour, but beautifully executed with some unique touch.
But in a restaurant this trendy, it’s never just about the food. The city’s A-list locals and international visitors also flock here for the scene. The owner has a beautiful daughter so when my eldest son, Josh got slightly bored he was able to drift off with her to the inky black designer bar. This is the spot that is considered to have the best cocktails in Israel, the perfect accessory to such exquisite food…
I am a hands-on traveler who tends to get out and explore a city rather than stay sheltered in my international hotel. I don’t eat at the ground floor restaurants at the Tel Aviv Hilton; our family just relies on the excellent all day buffet in the Executive Lounge (available when you book an Executive Suite on one of the upper floors) and eating out.
But when I was last a guest here alone, I ate at this magnificent sushi bar before heading out to the airport to return to Australia. If, for whatever reason, you decide to stay close to your suite, I highly recommend the service and skills of the chefs here. I was just in the mood to eat quickly and keep moving, and have a great memory of the sashimi platter, which was of the highest grade fish, and an ice cold Japanese beer as a memorable last impression of my time in Tel Aviv…