We were lucky enough to spend 11 days in warm, glorious Israeli sunshine this month, predominantly spending our time in Tel Aviv, with the last few days in Jerusalem. We carefully planned our itinerary, so that we had a day or two at each end of the Passover holiday to eat everywhere possible before we had to adhere to the dietary restrictions of the holiday (where nothing is consumed that is leavened or contains wheat).
This is a good time to thank my wonderfully patient family to whom I am extremely grateful. They obligingly follow me around cities, where I drag them to every market, bakery, ice cream shop, cafe and restaurant on my list. My childhood vacations were spent in museums and on various cultural adventures around Europe. My children spend theirs eating. I obviously feel this too is a very worthwhile cultural experience.
Here is my list of favourite eateries and markets I visited on our recent holiday. It is really the tip of the iceberg as there are so many more places to visit next time!
Carmel Market - The largest Tel Aviv food market, with overflowing stalls of gloriously colourful fruit, vegetables, fresh and dried herbs, nuts, pastries and halva. Amongst other spices, I bought the best za’tar I have ever had - bright green and unlike any I have found at home, (and I made delicious roast chicken with it on Friday night - recipe to follow soon).
Basta Restaurant, Carmel Market - I was lucky enough to be given a list of “go to” restaurants by natives and talented chefs, Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer of Honey and Co in London. This is their favourite, and is now one of mine. It is just off the market, and does not have a sign outside, but this hidden gem is an absolute must for tasty and imaginative food, perfect for sharing. And as declared by my children the best fish and chips ever.
Port Said - Another recommendation from the gang at Honey and Co. Good to know that you can find hipsters in every city. Despite it being height of tourist season, it was packed with locals - the trendy and the beautiful of Tel Aviv. I was grateful we were there with fellow Israelis or I never would have managed to negotiate a table. Outstandingly fresh, imaginative food bursting with flavours and colours, and one of the coolest places in town.
Manta Ray - I have been going there for years, so this is technically not a new find for me, but I have to say while Israeli breakfast is the best, breakfast at Manta Ray is my all time top choice. A must, with wonderful food overlooking the beach.
Tamara - As a family, we have tasted a lot of frozen yoghurt. Some even call us connoisseurs. And Tamara really serves top notch fro-yo. Natural soft serve yoghurt - tart, creamy and not at all powdery (Snog and Pinkberry take note) with unlimited toppings in endless varieties (including halva) and numerous sauces. It is my first stop every time I arrive in Tel Aviv.
Anita Cafe "La Mamma del Gelato"- At some point every day in Tel Aviv we walked up the street to Anita's for an ice cream. Known as the best ice cream in town, some argue the best outside Italy.
Lehamim Bakery - Possibly the best babka I have ever had. Say no more.
Dallal Bakery - Croissants to rival any in Paris, and wonderful treats with a local twist. And some of the finest coffee around.
Abu Hassan - Where to find the "best" hummus sparks some of the most emotional debates in Israel. So we had to try the famous Abu Hassan in Old Jaffa. We went to the original site which only has a few tables, and served - yes - only hummus (3 ways), pita, fresh chill sauce and raw onion. A real experience.
Jerusalem: My time in Jerusalem was very limited, so most of my favourites for this section are based around the market, where I am pleased to say there were still many places to try!
Moshiko - As soon as the sun went down on the last day of Passover, we raced to the local falafel stand to celebrate the end of the holiday. We arrived at Moshiko's for their ceremonial opening, along with (what felt like) everyone else in Jerusalem! Falafel in laffa bread stuffed with everything available was divine, and really the only appropriate choice for dinner!
Mahane Yehuda - I prefer it to the Carmel Market. It does not have quite the bustle, but is easier to take your time and meander through at your own leisure, appreciating the sites, tates and smells.
Cafelix - I stumbled across their new stand in the middle of Mahane Yehuda (the original is in Jaffa). The best cup of coffee I had all holiday. Also the first Israeli roasted beans I have ever tried. Obviously, I had to bring a bag of beans home along with all of my spices.
Azura - Based in the Iraqi market section of Mahane Yehuda, hummus to rival Abu Hassan. Creamy and fresh, and it was wonderful to be there in the morning and see all the chickpeas soaking. Looking forward to going back and trying all the rest of their dishes. A highlight of the week.
Marzipan - On the approach to the market, they have the best burekas and rugelach I have ever had in Israel. And next door there is a shop selling only granola!
Kadosh - Terrific lunch place outside of the market. Packed with wonderful breads and lunch fare.
Please let me know if you have been to any of these places and what you thought. And I would love some new recommendations for my next visit.