I was in Israel to explore the culture and innovation of the country with VIBE Israel , and of course that’s nowhere more prevalent than in the food they eat. I found that just like in London, in Tel Aviv provenance, veganism, health and rawness were at the core of the obvious foodie fashion. People were prepared to pay more for an experience in Tel Aviv, rather than just sustenance, and they wanted the whole shebang, presentation and all, to upload to their Instagram account.
Any trip to Israel will be structured around food, with so many delicious and healthy options it has to be. I tried a lot of food in Tel Aviv, too much for the waistband on my jeans to handle in fact, but I have no regrets.
So here we go, my top food experiences in Tel Aviv.
1. Grungy fare at Port Sa’id
The Port Sa’id food experience was definitely one of the highlights of my week in Israel. There were so many but if I were to highlight my highlighting this one would be in the yellow to stand out a little more than the others.
Port Sa’id is a really cool outdoors bar that serves traditional Israeli food with their own twist. It was kind of grungy, kind of too cool, right next to a synagogue and was obviously where the coolest kids in the city come to hang out – proven by the queue of Urban Outfitters models behind us.
I’m sure between the 8 of us we tried every dish on the menu here, and I managed to get through a few glasses of the wine too. I remember the French Toast dessert as a stand out dish, the fluffiness of the potato you see above as way beyond your average spud, and the sauce with the gnocchi as perfect when paired with the bread they kept warm by serving in a paper bag.
2. Home cooked dinner, in an EatWith home
Check out eatwith.com and take a look at all the meal experiences you could try in Tel Aviv. The city is leading the way on the site with over 40 to choose from. I was invited to sample the Chipolina Supper Club with the lovely and talented Aviya and Loran.
This was the first food experience I had in Tel Aviv and was a great way to snoop a look into someone’s home as well as to enjoy a home cooked dinner.
We had olives and breads on arrival, followed by a ceviche starter and then expertly barbecued steak for main. The dessert was my all time favourite dessert of strawberry pavlova – pretty much a dream menu!
3. Fancy dinner at Messa
If you look at the photos of this restaurant you’d think ‘super swanksville’ right? Well yeah, it was, when it comes to the food, but one of the things I liked best about Tel Aviv was that it was so chilled everywhere, including at Messa. Messa is one of the fanciest restaurants you can go to in Tel Aviv yet they were so welcoming and the atmosphere so chill that I didn’t feel out of place.
Cool tunes were playing – think Jessie Ware, The XX, Florence etc – and the food was absolutely incredible.
Between the six of us we tried a selection of starters including organic foie gras and salmon salad, and then chose our own main. I went for the sea bass, the delicious fat sea bass you see in the top right photo. My friend had the mushroom risotto in the middle, which also comes recommended. For a posh restaurant the portions were great at Messa and all the food was cooked to perfection. After a selection of desserts which included sorbet, strawberry cheesecake and chocolate mousse (top left) we finished our meal in the traditional way with some Galilee grappa.
4. Al fresco dining with Picnic
Picnic is such a brilliant idea I’m shocked I’ve never seen it before. The restaurant is part of Little Italy – a complex of 4 different restaurants located in the Sarona area of Tel Aviv. You put your order in to Picnic beforehand and they’ll make you up a basket of delights ready to pick up when you need. They’ll provide the blanket and the cutlery and you can just pick it up and enjoy the spread in the green space next door.
We had pizzas, salads, pastas, juices and then tiramisus and panacotta for dessert. When you’re done just gather it all up in the bin bag provided and in the picnic blanket and hand it back. Simple dining at it’s tastiest and most fun.
5. Hipster Israeli lunch at Han Moli
I’d been photographing this restaurant the day before, before I knew I was due to visit. It looks so cool from the outside set in the brick arches of Jaffa in Tel Aviv and it’s even better when you step inside.
We got through so many dishes here – I was glad I skipped breakfast. We started with the customary shot of Arak and the cheers of ‘L’Chaim’, and then we moved onto hummus meat balls, fried fish, breads and salad.
Visit Han Moli and you’ll be right next to the flea market area of Jaffa to walk off the inevitable feasting round the boutique stalls.
6. Epic Israeli breakfast at The Mendeli Hotel
I had breakfast at the Mendeli Hotel and was so impressed with it I’ve gone into it in more detail in the linked post. To sum up though, there was every kind of vegetable, every kind of bread and it was so good you wouldn’t notice that there wasn’t a piece of meat in sight.
7. Stylish snacking at The Norman Hotel
If you really want to impress, either your travel partner or yourself, get your gladrags on and head on over The Norman Hotel. This is one of the swankiest hotels I’ve ever been in. The new building has recently reopened with more rooms and a rooftop swimming pool too.
Between us we tried around 10 different cocktails, freshly shaken by the bar staff and all were delightful in their own way although I had such a mix I can’t pick out a favourite.
We also tried a few of the snacking dishes from the menu including the Caesar salad (amazing), huge olives and calamari. Definitely needed alongside all those cocktails!
All these restaurants were visited as a guest on my Vibe Israel tour, but honestly, I’d tell you if there was something I didn’t like. The food in Israel is too good to slate anyway.
– All photos by Or Kaplan, apart from the Picnic ones.