We’ve Moved

HERE’S THE CHANGE

So, it’s been a bit quiet on here as of late…because the blog has been in the process of moving to the Maveze platform. This makes the blog part of a broader community and will generate a wider readership, which is nice.

For now, the old posts will gradually make their way onto the new platform and once they are all moved over this page will close down and new reviews will be published only on Maveze.

This is the link to keep an eye on, and while you’re there check out the rest of the site which is full of posts by bloggers in Israel.

Thanks for your support up til now and I hope you will enjoy the transition!

Hilton Hotel – מלון הילטון: Independence Park

Breakfast Buffet: 140 NISHilton Breakfast Buffet

140 NIS for breakfast! Blimey. You can have three breakfasts for that price normally. Fortunately, I wasn’t paying for this one – I was helping out with an event at the hotel and they gave me breakfast as a thank you. I gratefully accepted.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this breakfast. The buffet is, quite simply, vast. To give you an idea, there are various counters, each offering a huge range of foods: salad, fruit, cheeses, cereals, breads and pastries, cakes, yoghurts, juices, fish. Then there is the hot buffet: quiches, hot vegetables, hot chocolate cake, burekas, waffles, pancakes and eggs to order.

Obviously, it was a tall order to try everything on offer. I was aware of my responsibility though to the avid and numerous readers of this blog, so I decided to take one for the team. I did my best, as evidenced by the above picture, but sadly was not able to take on the entire buffet single handed.

Let’s start with the salad and dips. I took a mix of vegetables, together with a traditional chopped Israeli salad. All tasted fresh, all with good flavour. I tried a variety of dips and prepared salads, some sort of salmon pate, egg salad, tabbouleh, some aubergine. All excellent; the salmon pate was particularly interesting and unusual.

Onto the cheeses: some cottage cheese, cream cheese, yellow cheese, feta, mozzarella and Roquefort all found its way onto my plate (I do have a penchant for cheese). Again, all very good; the cream cheese was particularly thick and creamy; the feta also delightfully smooth and strong. And Roquefort is always a treat. By the way, I probably tried about half of the cheeses on offer.

Onto the hot stuff: I had an omelette cooked to order, and it was cooked very well indeed. Just the right consistency. I sampled some quiche, roast potato wedges and steamed vegetables, which were surprisingly good given that they were being kept warm on a hot plate. Particularly the steamed vegetables.

What with all of this hard eating, it was difficult to do justice to the bread board, but I had a small wholemeal roll and a chunk of baguette which were both most splendid; crusty and tasty; and went well with my dips and the premium jams that were on the table.

I passed on the fresh orange juice and had lemonade instead to quench my thirst; nothing special but perfectly pleasant. The chocolate milk was a nice treat though!

For dessert, I had a selection of some of the cakes. The cheesecake was disappointing, but to be honest, I should have expected it; I’m not a huge fan of Israeli cheesecake. The chocolate cake was good though, extremely chocolatey and a nice texture; the apple crumble muffin was superlative. I wish I had space for more. I concluded matters with a selection of the fresh and stewed fruit, coated in some yoghurt, for a sense that I had eaten something mildly healthy. There was a wide-ranging selection of fruit and it was all very very yummy.

In conclusion, the Hilton Tel Aviv certainly knows how to put on a breakfast. A vast range of high quality foodstuffs, a delightful view over the sea, unlimited returns to the buffet. All rather splendid. But then, it does cost 140 NIS. And that really is rather a lot of money. And yes, the experience is great, so you could argue about the value. But 140 NIS is close to 2% of the average gross monthly salary in Israel. And to be honest, although I very much enjoyed myself, I don’t think I would fork out that kind of cash. So, this one will go down for an honourable mention, and definitely worth a visit, either for a very special occasion, or perhaps if you can find someone to pay for you!

Tapale – טפאלה: King George 87

Evening Breakfast: 39 NISTapale Evening Breakfast

Tapale is a small bar located on the corner of King George and Shlomo Hamelech streets. A meeting place of the last two great imperial kings of the Israelite and British nations respectively. Tapale does not seem to feel the weight of this history, focusing rather on a joyous atmosphere and a tendency towards mizrachi music. Which I always appreciate.

We took our seats at the bar and I was delighted to find a menu item called the Evening Breakfast. And promptly ordered it. While we waited for the food to arrive the mizrachi music cranked up and we enjoyed a hafla with the bar staff.

There was not a huge selection of dips but those proffered where in plentiful supply. There was a huge dish of labane with a sprinkling of za’atar; delightfully sour, thick and creamy. Two stuffed vine leaves with a dash of yoghurt were rapidly consumed, and very good they were indeed. However, the bulgarit cheese was a bit of a let down, a bit flavourless in my humble opinion. Plenty of it, though.

There was also something sweet, a chocolate spread which I was told was chocolate mixed with cream. It was fantastic; I think the cream was had just a hint of a sour taste so it wasn’t a sickly flavour. Very very yummy.

The salad was a good size, a nice mix of crunchy chunks of cucumber, carrot and capsicum (which I normally call pepper, but I thought it was worth it for the alliteration in this instance, no?) with a light, fresh dressing. The bread was tasty and cut in huge hunks, perfect for dipping.

So far, so pretty good. But the eggs were a huge disappointment. Israeli eggs are normally overdone, but I think these were a few seconds off being burned. Really dry. Such a pity.

Another bugbear: the meal did not include any drinks, which they will always do in a cafe. I understand why a bar would not want to include a drink, but it detracts from the overall value for money compared with elsewhere. Having said that, our friendly bartender did decide to offer us each a free chaser of arak….unclear if this is a regular occurrence or not but it was much appreciated.

To note, Tapale does a special offer (I think until 9pm) on food which is buy one get one free on various items on the menu. Sadly this does not include breakfast, but there is less scope to burn the eggs that way; given that the rest of the food was very good (except the bulgarit) I would think it would continue through to the rest of the menu.

In summary, Tapale is a fun place with a great atmosphere and very friendly staff. If you want breakfast in a bar, it is an ideal location, and at 39 NIS it is not unreasonable. On reflection though, I think more joy may be found with other items on the menu.

Benedict – בנדיקט: Rothschild 29

Classic Israeli Morning: 62NIS

Benedict polarises people in Tel Aviv. Some people love it, rave about; others say it’s overrated and overpriced. And at 62 NIS for a breakfast, you can understand why; you really have to pull off something special to justify a price like that.

The Benedict concept is rather fun. It serves breakfasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A huge variety of breakfasts from around the world, ranging from Israeli to British; American to Mexican; various other influences also. There are now three branches, one further North in Tel Aviv on Ben Yehuda St, the other in Hertzliya. But Rothschild is the original. Note, they don’t take reservations on weekends and holidays and the queues are lengthy.

The situation in Israel has been rather stressful of late and when a friend and I met for dinner to try and take our mind off things, we walked past Benedict, and decided that despite the high prices we would spoil ourselves a bit. So, an Israeli breakfast at Benedict it would be. There were two options on the menu: classic or ‘light’. Of course, I took the classic.

The service was prompt and helpful and the ambiance very pleasant. The breakfast arrived very quickly, and I tucked in. The dips were all very yummy, but fewer in number than normal. They were interesting, though. A tangy, smooth feta mixed with tomato; cream cheese mixed with chives for a bit of extra flavour; an extremely good tuna mayonnaise salad (maybe the best I have had) and a reddish Tehina (described as Tehina Sumak, but I couldn’t really find out what it was) which had an unusual and pleasant flavour. The sweet tooth was catered for by a apple and cinnamon jam, which was good, although I prefer it with fruit bits inside; and Nutella. And you can’t go wrong with Nutella.

The bread basket was plentiful, offering white and wholemeal rolls together with small brioche. The bread was good, tasty, but not (apart from the brioche) particularly exciting. The eggs were very good, and not overdone, they also came with free mixed herbs (and even onion, had a wanted). And unlike most places, where you get two eggs, Benedict serves you three. You can argue about the health benefits, but it certainly adds a lot to your plate!

Instead of a standard Israeli salad, we were given tabbouleh, a middle eastern salad that in this case was served with couscous, vegetables and various herbs. It was very tasty, fresh, and more filling than a regular Israeli salad. Also nice to have things changed up a little. But part of me did long for me chopped vegetables, which I normally find more refreshing.

With regard drinks, I was not excited by the juices on offer (although I’m sure the fresh orange juice would be good) but we were not restricted to these and I took a fizzy drink off the menu. The hot chocolate, although not specified as available on the menu, also was included at no extra charge and was most yummy.

I find it tricky to reach a conclusion on Benedict. The food was good, fresh and delivered promptly. There were some interesting innovations. But then, there is that massive price tag, and I just don’t think it warrants it.

However, there is a little trick. We both joined the Benedict club. For 75NIS you get a free breakfast on your next trip, free dessert on your current trip (not that we were hungry, but still they were very nice), ‘treats’ on your anniversary and birthday. You also get a card, and 10% of all your spending gets added onto this card and can be redeemed at a later date against another breakfast. So, it ties you in a little Benedict, but if you’re willing to keep going back for your breakfast needs, then 10% of 62 NIS takes you to the still expensive, but much more reasonable, 56NIS.

So, Benedict gets an Honourable Mention, partly for the volume of very tasty food, partly for its service, and probably partly for it’s reputation. But it’s still too expensive to go into the Favourites.

Cafe Cafe – קפה קפה: Dizengoff Centre

Boker Boker (for two): 98NIS

The rain came to Tel Aviv last weekend for a few days, and so when I met my friend for supper we decided that instead of braving the torrential downpour we would simply head over to the nearby Dizengoff Centre to Cafe Cafe. Having found it (thanks to my friend’s excellent navigational skills – I have written about the maze that is the Dizengoff Centre elsewhere), we noted that they served an all day breakfast. So, an all day breakfast we had.

Being in a mall there is not a lot of ambiance in this Cafe Cafe, but they do make a bit of an effort, setting out an astroturf for the feeling that one is outside. Or at least, they try to create the feeling. It is rather unsuccessful but I suppose points have to be awarded for effort. Service was rather sloppy though. There are several Cafe Cafes dotted around, so perhaps others offer a superior experience.

We ordered the breakfast for two. A breakfast for one costs 56 NIS; for two 98 NIS; a total saving of 14 NIS, or 7 NIS each. And there was no discernible reduction in quantities. A 56 NIS breakfast is pretty high-end, but 49 is already tending towards more reasonable. So definitely worth finding a chum if you want to come here. Perhaps you could meet someone friendly in the mall?

The breakfast was a bit mixed. Definite points for the variety of dips. Avocado is not so easily found and I have never had an artichoke dip. Sadly, the avocado was rather bland, but the artichoke was very nice. With the cheeses, a similar story. The bulgarit was salty and tangy with a nice flaky texture; sadly the cream cheese was one of the blandest I have tasted. And I have tasted quite a lot, by now. The tuna was very nice, a real tuna salad mixed up with some crunchy peppers and mayonnaise the tehina had a good rich flavour as did the jam, although strawberry is a rather ordinary choice. So, a bit hit and miss. I did like that artichoke though.

Onto the bread: we had a ciabatta each so tried both the white and the wholemeal. In my opinion, the wholemeal was far superior; the white was quite tasteless and also did not have as good a texture. The wholemeal was very nice though. The salad was fine without being exciting; a simple chopped tomato/cucumber affair that did the job, but nothing more. The eggs were slightly overcooked, as to be expected, but not rubbery, which is always a good thing!

In terms of drinks, the orange juice was perfectly acceptable without being memorable. The hot chocolate was good though (even though it was from powder) with a good amount of froth, and the pleasant surprise of a little biscuit. Said little biscuit had a yummy chocolate fondant centre. A nice little treat to finish off with.I was just about to write up the conclusion to this review, when I took a glance at the menu (I always photograph the menu as an aid-memoire). Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I noted that we were supposed to receive a little cup of granola. And we didn’t. Very upsetting, I shall return at some point to take this matter up with the management, but clearly it’s not a very good thing when you don’t get what you order, and pay for.

In summary, a mixed bag – some good bread, some nice (and interesting) dips, a good little treat at the end. But, at these prices, I think that Cafe Cafe should be offering a better all round breakfast and dining experience. And granola.

Idelson 10 – אידלסון 10: Dizengoff 117

Idelson Breakfast: 54 NIS

Idelson 10 is a wonderful bakery cafe with a few branches now dotted around Tel Aviv. I took this breakfast in my local, situated on Dizengoff between Frishman and Gordon. Idelson is well known for its breakfast, so much so that on Friday mornings there is always a queue outside waiting to get in and sample its delights; to avoid this you need to come early, otherwise be prepared to wait a little for a table. Note that breakfast is served until 2pm on a weekday and 4pm at the weekend.

Fortunately, I came on a Tuesday and was seated with ease. The atmosphere is bright and clean, the service prompt and helpful. The breakfast came in at the high end of Tel Aviv prices at 54 NIS, so I was keen to see if it would deliver on value for money. A prior note/warning for vegetarians or those who do not like to mix meat and milk: the breakfast normally is served with a few slices of salami (even though this is not indicated on the menu). The waiter should check with you if this is ok but it is sensible to preempt and ask for an alternative; this is a common request and not a problem.

Idelson 10′s focus is as a bakery, so it seems right to start with the bread basket. And what a bread basket it was. Every piece of bread was different, and every piece of bread was delicious. I’m afraid I cannot identify them all but there were some different grains going on and also I think some sun-dried tomato. On top, there was a small brioche, a croissant and a cinnamon roll. What more could one ask? Perhaps some sort of interesting jam, like…guava! Definitely points for effort in terms of exotic fruit preserves, and most yummy it was.

Onto the dips: a smooth, creamy cream cheese; a lightly herbed labane; a moist and succulent tuna salad; a strong tangy yellow cheese (not like the normal Israeli yellow cheese which is rather bland); succulent roasted peppers. And the best of all: salty bulgarit cheese with a delightful flavour and an incredible texture that just melted in my mouth. An absolute pleasure.

The salad was a simple concoction of diced tomato and cucumber but tasted incredibly fresh and the light dressing brought at the flavours well; even the eggs were not overdone and extremely yummy.
Let us not forget the liquid refreshment; a tangy pressed apple juice and a large cup of hot chocolate made not with powder but melted chocolate pieces that left delicious molten goo to be scooped up with my spoon as a way of concluding proceedings.

In conclusion, Idelson 10 (at least the one on Dizengoff) rockets into the Favourites category. It may be expensive at 54 NIS, but in my opinion it definitely delivers value for money. If you’re looking for a treat, this is a great place to go. Enjoy!

Nona – נונה: Ibn Gabirol 44

Boker Tov: 48 NIS

The 15th century Spanish poet Solomon Ibn Gabirol would no doubt be thrilled to know that his name today adorns one of Tel Aviv’s main thoroughfares, although perhaps less thrilled that many Israelis misread ‘ibn’ (arabic for ‘son of’) for ‘even’ (‘stone’). Still, we are here to discuss breakfast rather than the finer challenges of reading a language without vowels; please forgive me for the digression.

Nona is situated a little south of Kikar Rabin and is well known for its thrice-weekly drinks specials until 2am. Indeed, the place is open 24 hours so is always there for your breakfast fix, although you only get both a hot and cold drink included until 12pm. Given that this is a 24 hour venue this leads to some confusion, as technically it is always after 12pm, or indeed always before 12pm. When does the magical two drink breakfast start? Our waitress, despite being most pleasant, was unable to provide a conclusive answer.

Speaking of which, Nona also has a reputation for being somewhat laid back in its approach to delivery of ordered foodstuffs. Not a place to be if you are in a hurry. Although everyone is very nice indeed.

This breakfast certainly had a few distinguishing features. Instead of offering eggs to order, one was presented with compulsory ‘baked’ eggs although with a choice of added ingredients: either spinach and feta or tomato and mint. I must confess to never having heard of, let alone eaten baked eggs before (and my companion neither), so I had a quick Google and noted that as Jamie Oliver proffers a recipe, they must be relatively mainstream.

The advantage of there being two options for eggs and there being two of you (not two of me of course, that would be very complicated indeed, rather two of us), is that there is room to try both the options. And try both the options we did. The spinach and feta was definitely better with the strong flavour of the cheese countering the somewhat tasteless egg, but overall I think we were both somewhat unenamoured by the baked egg concept which seemed to turn out a very rubbery egg white and a dried up egg yolk. Points for the idea of trying something new, no points for the execution thereof.

The dips were quite cheese based. The feta was good with a strong flavour, but the cream cheese was a bit flat and not so creamy; the yellow cheese ultimately rather bland (as yellow cheese often is in Israel). There were some olives which were fine although nothing special; the apple and cinnamon jam though was rather chunky and yummy; it went well with the bread which had a good flavour without quite reaching exceptional.

The salad was a nice mix of tomatoes, cucumber and pepper in an appropriate dressing but definitely seemed somewhat on the small side compared to competitive offerings.

In the drinks department, we were pleased to be able to have some very good apple juice (often not an option) which was cloudy and appropriately appley. Sadly as we arrived after 12pm (and not yet before 12pm) we were unable to test out the hot drink offering. A pity.

Overall, not a breakfast to watch out for. Unless you fancy the novelty of some rubbery baked eggs. Nona positions its breakfast towards the higher end of the price range and definitely does not justify it in my extremely humble opinion (and particularly if you arrive after 12pm, and not yet before 12pm). Still, if you are desperate for a breakfast at an unearthly hour, and in the locale, at least you have the option.

Sukar – סוכר: Pinsker 20

Tzabar Breakfast: 52NIS

Sukar is a lovely little cafe located on the corner of Pinsker and Zalman Shneur streets. I have frequented it many a time for its delightfully sickly sweet tart tartin, but felt that the time had now come to sample its breakfast.

The breakfast is served until 1pm most days (except for weekends, when it runs into the afternoon) and is at the pricier end of the Tel Aviv breakfast circuit coming in at 52NIS. So, was it worth it?

Let’s start with the eggs. I added mixed herbs at no extra charge and was pleased to receive them in good condition; ideally slightly runnier but these were certainly not overcooked and most enjoyable. The salad was a good size and the simple mix of tomato, cucumber and onion (not too much onion, fortunately) was lightly dressed to help bring out the flavours and certainly tasted very fresh.

The bread was excellent: warm, tasty and crunchy on the outside with a soft fluffy texture within. A perfect complement to the very interesting array dips on offer. There was some mozzarella with a dash of pesto which worked very well, a smooth and tangy cream cheese and a thick and rich techina. The roasted peppers and olives were nicely marinaded; both just slightly piquante (this being the generous input of my dining companion); enough to make them interesting but not enough to distract you from the rest of the meal. The jam was yummy, although we could not pin down the flavour. On asking we were informed that it was grape. I’m not sure that I have had grape jam before, but based on this experience would most certainly have it again. The only slight let down was the tuna which was rather dry and uninteresting. A dash of mayo or oil would have made a big difference.

Onto drinks. I took a limonana (lemon and spearmint) granita, which is normally more expensive than a simple fruit juice so it was nice that it was an option. Unusually for Israel (and despite the cafe’s name, which translates as ‘sugar’) it was not oversugared and the slight tartness was a delightful and refreshing surprise.

For my hot drink, I normally prefer a hot chocolate as I like to conclude on a sweet note. However in Sukar they wanted an extra two shekels to provide this. This is not uncommon, and I normally refuse on principle, as I do not believe in charging punters extra to supplement their breakfasts. However, I was persuaded by the low cost, the charming waitress and the fact that it was made from Nutella (had to be tried, I thought). It was indeed rather scrumptious, although it turns out that it was a 3NIS supplement (they reduced it to two for the bill as they had made the mistake. I’m not sure if I would have taken it though – that extra shekel would probably have crossed my psychological price barrier).

Overall, rather lovely. The food was excellent (tuna aside), the service attentive and friendly. Sukar is definitely pushing itself into contention for the Favourites category. However, I just feel that the high price of 52 NIS combined with the supplement required for a hot chocolate means that there are other places that provide better value. So, for now I have created a new category of Honourable Mentions, into which Sukar shall fall; to be revisited for possible promotion at a later date.

Cafe BaPina – קפה בפינה: Ben Yehuda 128

Israeli Breakfast: 49 NIS

Located on the corner of Ben Yehuda and Ben Gurion, the appropriately named “Cafe on the Corner” seems to be set up as a cafe by day and a bar by night, with many tables outside in order to watch the world go by. The only problem was that it seemed that several flies had also decided this was a nice location; there was a fair amount of waving during the meal; this is partly a function of the time of year but perhaps next time it might be better to sit inside.

The breakfast got off to a good start. In addition to the usual juices on offer (normally one will find orange, lemon and carrot), there was also freshly pressed apple juice, a particular personal favourite. This arrived promptly and was excellent; slightly tart and not too bitty.

The rest of the breakfast soon followed. The chopped salad was a standard offering of cucumber, tomato and onion; it tasted great; very fresh and an olive oil & lemon juice dressing to bring out the flavour.

The dips all tasted excellent. Roasted peppers; an unusual but highly appreciated offering; slightly piquant but just enough to be pleasurable without setting the mouth alight. The labane cream cheese was tangy and smooth; the tehina thick and flavoursome. The feta had a good, strong flavour and just the right crumbly texture. The only disappointment was the lack of jam (as promised by the menu); on asking the waitress it turned out that they had run out of jam (?) and as such it had been replaced by feta. It was good of them to provide a replacement, of course, but I think they should probably have highlighted it at some point instead of me having to ask. And I did miss the sweetness of the jam which I like to use to close the breakfast off.

The bread was very good, very slightly toasted, with a good flavour and delightfully crunchy crust; an excellent complement to the dips. The only let down was the eggs which were overcooked and so not particularly exciting.

I concluded with a hot chocolate (I am not really a coffee drinker, but do love my hot chocolates when they were available). A little bit of sweetness to take home, and yummy it was.

In conclusion, a pleasant setting, amiable staff and very good food. Shame about the jam, but it was just bad luck. However, with this breakfast coming into the top end at 49 NIS, Cafe BaPina falls just short of a ringing endorsement, largely because of the overdone eggs.

Cafe Greg – קפה גרג‎: Dizengoff Centre

“Very” Breakfast for Two: 102 NIS

The Dizengoff Centre is not my favourite place in Tel Aviv. Together with the central bus station, it is one of the most confusing buildings I have ever entered. For the uninitiated, there is a maze of seemingly interminable spiral walkways which help ensure that the store you actually want to get to remains tantalisingly out of reach.

Cafe Greg is part of a chain which I understand has its origins in the Northern city of Haifa. Some of the branches are kosher, but the one in the Dizengoff Centre is not. Located on what is officially known as the second floor, in the South of the Eastern building, you may not find it on purpose, but should you find it by chance, you now have the opportunity to know what its breakfast is like.

The setting is not ideal; being in the middle of a busy mall is not really relaxing or peaceful; the chairs are looking a little the worse for wear; sadly the service was also rather leisurely, despite the fact that the place was not exactly packed at 11.30 on a Sunday morning.

The breakfast for one comes in at a relatively steep 56NIS; we opted for the breakfast for two which came in at 102NIS (a saving of 5NIS per person) and also offered a couple of extra dips (Tzfat cheese and cottage cheese with olives) and also a granola yogurt with date honey.

The presentation of the breakfast was lovely with the dips arriving on a tiered tray, reminiscent of a posh English tea. The dips themselves were a mixed bag. The cream cheese was excellent: rich, smooth and just a little tangy; the labane with a dash of zatar and olive oil was also very nice. The cottage cheese with olives went down well, and the tuna and avocado were perfectly pleasant without being particularly special. Sadly, the Tzfat cheese was a little tasteless (to be honest, this is a general characteristic of Tzfat cheese); the feta also, particularly disappointing as the menu promised a “feta and peppers spread”. When I pointed this out to the waitress, she helpfully told me that I had feta. “But where are the peppers I asked”. “There are no peppers”. Of course. Silly me.

As part of the breakfast for two, you receive one large salad. We opted for a chopped vs green salad; it was large but did not taste particularly fresh, nor particularly flavoursome. A bit of a let down. As was the bread – nice to receive a whole ciabatta each, and they were tasty, but they did not have the requisite crunchy crust which was a pity; the jam (which we had to request, as it did not arrive with the meal as it was supposed to) was also quite average. As for the eggs, they were overdone and a bit rubbery as often is the case over here.

To finish on a more positive note, the beverages were good; the orange juice seemed fresh and the hot chocolate I took as my hot drink was really chocolatey and yummy (although a little small); my companion’s coffee was also apparently very nice, and both came with a cute little biscuit, which was a nice touch.

In summary, not a great location, not great service, and a rather average breakfast. Also taking into consideration the relatively high price, I would not recommend Cafe Greg, although once you get lost in the Dizengoff Centre, it may seem like a more attractive option!