An Expert’s Guide To Tel Aviv’s Best Restaurants
Photograph by Mr Michael Jacobs/Getty Images
Where to eat and drink in the Israeli city at morning, noon and night.
Ever since I first heard of the culinary and cultural resurgence underway following the rapid, artist-led gentrification of the southern districts of Tel Aviv – the Middle East’s liberal outlier of a coastal city – I have attempted to visit, but have been thwarted repeatedly. That is until this autumn, when, despite having spent hours discussing its merits with locals, I was floored by its febrile energy and intoxicating spirit: from the dynamic architecture to the shifting tides of people bustling through markets, nattering in cafes, lazing on city beaches, scoping out galleries, dancing in underground clubs and lounging on rooftops.
This diversity and excitement is reflected in Tel Aviv’s dining scene. Israel is a nation made up of immigrants, so countless epicurean traditions are absorbed and reimagined on a daily basis. The city’s chefs are well known for experimenting with rich and varied regional produce such as aubergines, St Peter’s fish (tilapia), red shrimps and pomegranates, and competition is fierce – meaning Tel Aviv has a surprisingly high concentration of kitchens creating exceptional food. I could suggest scores of spots for refreshment at any hour of day or night, but the below serves as an introduction to Tel Aviv’s tastes and atmospheres. Be assured, you will return.
Breakfast at Hotel Montefiore
Breakfast at Hotel Montefiore. Photographs courtesy of Hotel Montefiore
This boutique hotel resides in the heart of the city, the perfect location for a late-morning feast before the exploring art-centric Florentin area en route to the ancient Arabic port town of Jaffa or perhaps a sojourn on the nearby beach. Brunch is a serious concern here, and the Montefiore is a firm favourite among locals who vie for terrace tables. The house breakfast features eggs, cheese and yoghurt, and is closest to the traditional dairy-focused Israeli spread; while an indulgent breakfast for two entails jambon (ham), salmon and eggs with mushroom ragout. Or you can opt for an enticing toasted challah (a Jewish braided bread) plate. Oh, and do not neglect the breakfast cocktail list – the Montefiore’s bartenders deserve their stellar reputation.
**Montefiore 36, **Tel Aviv-Yafo
Lunch at Levinsky Market
Levinsky Market. Photograph by Mr Ross Belfer
Yom Tov Delicatessen, Cafe Levinsky, CafeLix
Tel Aviv can be extremely humid so a heavy lunch is not always welcome, which is why I prefer to stroll and graze. There are many markets, but Levinsky best reflects the tenacious city’s appeal. And it also boasts Yom Tov Delicatessen, home of the best stuffed grape leaves around, hand-rolled by the brother owners’ 93-year-old grandfather (who set up the shop) every single day, as well as novel treats such as pickled hibiscus flowers. Fill a salad carton or pick up a sandwich, then wander up to Café Levinsky to select a kombucha (fermented tea) soda flavoured with homemade fruit syrups, and perch in the back of the pick-up truck out front to tuck in. Expertly crafted coffee can be found less than a minute away at Cafelix.
Levinsky, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Dinner at Santa Katarina
The tabun clay oven and a pizza bianca with porcini at Santa Katarina. Photographs courtesy of Santa Katarina
After a short walk down Allenby Street opposite the Great Synagogue, you’ll find Santa Katarina, a hugely popular Mediterranean and North African-inspired restaurant renowned for ingenuity and flair with outstanding ingredients. The menu is centred upon its tabun (clay oven) from whence delicious breads emerge to be furnished with delicious toppings, eg pizza bianca with porcini and emmental, or confit duck on Yemeni flatbread. The chefs are also adept with raw produce: excellent ceviches, for example, and they are known for their grilled meat and fish offerings, too. Whether seated at the bar or on the patio, it’s the ideal place to relax amid a sophisticated crowd before venturing out for a drink.
Har Sinai 2, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Cocktails at The Poli House
Rooftop bar at The Poli House. Photograph by Mr Assaf Pinchuk. Courtesy of The Poli House
Come sunset, make for the rooftop of the newly opened The Poli House hotel situated between the Carmel Market and Allenby Street. It is a slick, playful space, and, with interiors by the Canadian-American designer Mr Karim Rashid, it represents the gentrification Tel Aviv has experienced in recent years. Still, however polished it might look, the atmosphere here is undeniably warm and conducive to a little mischief (you might witness a skinny dipper or two in the pool at night). The extensive cocktail menu offers fine spirits, favouring restraint over frippery, and prides itself on experimenting with classic drinks. The Zacaponi – a negroni with Zacapa rum in place of gin – is a particular favourite.
Nahalat Binyamin St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo