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Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, a pocket-sized metropolis

Welcome to Tel Aviv, a pocket-sized metropolis, with Jaffa as one of its many gentrifying neighbourhoods.

 

Founded a bit more than 100 years ago on a vacant stretch of the Mediterranean coast, the now second largest city of Israel was initially thought to be an extension of Jaffa, the nearby medieval port city mentioned in the Old Testament. Today however, Tel Aviv is a pocket-sized metropolis with Jaffa as one of its many gentrifying neighbourhoods.

With kilometre-long, catwalk-lined beaches, upscale shops, worldly nightlife and bedazzling buildings by some of the 20th-century “stellarchitects” (especially those from the Bauhaus school), Tel Aviv lives up to its reputation of being the Miami of the Middle East. It is a vibrant and energetic city whose inhabitants do not hesitate to compare it with New York and Paris, pointing out that it is ninth in the ranking of the 10 most expensive places in the world to live.

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We arrived on a Saturday, the Jewish “shabbat”, and less than an hour away, the holy city of Jerusalem, as well as the rest of the country, was going to be shrouded in pious observance until sunset. But in Tel Aviv, it being a secular and cosmopolitan city, the shabbat is celebrated with an exuberant Mediterranean joy of living. Here, the sun and the sea mark the rhythms of life: the beaches swarm with people from dawn to dusk, happily reciting an old saying like some kind of mantra: While Haifa works, Jerusalem prays and Tel Aviv plays. ​Of course, Tel Aviv can not completely avoid the daily toil – the city is after all, the financial center of the country. But behind the buzz of commercial negotiations, unceasing construction and traffic jams, the cheerful hedonism shines through and fills the streets of this amazing city.

The central area of the city offers everything from old-style cafes to the more fashionable lounge food and drink bars inspired by the big city lifestyle.

Apart from long lists of very seducing cocktails, most bars serve excellent local beer. Personally I fell in love with Goldstar unfiltered, a slightly dark lager of premium quality. Not so long ago, like the rest of Israel, Tel Aviv used to be a gastronomic desert, but that has changed allright! Over the past 20 years, the food scene in Tel Aviv has bloomed so vigorously that it today can easily compete with most European cities: a mélange of influences from North Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean that are heavy on fresh vegetables and strong on delicious spreads that can be savoured on the heavenly bread they make in this country, all put this city on the foodie world map. Culinary excellence comes at a price though so be prepared to spend here. Dining in causal, low-key restaurants we spent anything between 35 – 45 € per person!

​Here is my mini guide of top dining and drinking places: 

Port Said, for lunch and dinner, offers a good variety for vegetarians and vegans;

Shafa Bar in Jaffa, perfect for a quick break or  even lunch/dinner, very informal and cozy place;

– Hanoi, as the name reveals they offer excellent quality Vietnamese and Asian food, great value for money!!;

– YomTov, stop up for a beer and a quick lunch;

Good drinking bars are:

Ariella’s House, Lucifer, Shpagat.

If you really want to pamper yourselves (and spend 35 to 50 € per person) try these restaurants: Santa Katarina, Manta Ray, Ouzeria, HaBasta.

CONTRIBUTOR

Mattarelloaway is a project based on cultural-culinary exchange. It is rooted in an idea that knowledge of and understanding between people and their cultures are strongly linked to the typical foods of the area they come from. In other words, Mattarello(a)way is also a discovery journey offering a privileged glimpse at traditional cuisines in a most intimate and authentic way. 

The project was founded in 2014 by a dynamic duo consisting of Candida - an itinerant chef and Sanja - a gourmet polyglot.

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