by Raphael Kadushin
The big Pride celebrations may be over but fall is still a prime time to visit Tel Aviv. The High Holy day crowds retreat by early October, the weather drops from torid to balmy, and the city's pale Bauhaus buildings take on a sober golden burnish at dusk. And the city has never felt more dynamic. The epicenter of Israel's secular, progressive resistance to the current right-wing government, Tel Aviv and its sister city Jaffa are bubbling over with righteous energy. Adding to the city's allure is a recent fall-out of seriously stylish hotels, many doubling as multi-use urban resorts, that make for a quiet retreat, after a day on Banana Beach, or a cafe crawl down Rothschild Boulevard.
Where to bed down? Here are the best of the current options:
Carlton Tel Aviv, a long-standing landmark on the marina, underwent a recent, much needed top-to-bottom renovation. The seaview rooms overlook the Mediterranean and there is a rooftop pool, a spa, and a health club. What really turns the Carlton into a figurehead though and a big culinary statement are the hotel's two restaurants, both overseen by Israeli master chef Meir Adoni. The Lumina is more casual but the Blue Sky, perched on the rooftop and looking out over the city, features some of Adoni's fish and vegetarian signature dishes, including an eggplant carpaccio dressed with tahini, date honey, and rosewater, and a grilled grouper paired with hummus cream and smoked peppers.
Leon Avigad's first Brown hotel represented a little revolution; stylish and affordable, it was a bohemian, boutique alternative to the old-school behemoths lined up along the oceanfront. There is now a whole constellation of Brown hotels in Tel Aviv and Avigad's most recent property, The Lighthouse, just set to open this fall, is true to form. Sitting in a renovated, Brutalist office building in the city center, the hotel still manages to feel downright cozy. There is the trademark library perched in the lobby and a warren of stylishly bohemian guest rooms. But it's the skybar on the 18th floor that is most evocative of the Avigad touch; always turning his hotels into a gathering spot for the artiest and queerest local crowd, he follows suite with this high rise club overlooking the city.
The newly opened Drisco Hotel is located in South Tel Aviv, close to the beaches, the Jaffa flea market and the Neve Tzedek neighborhood. The property itself , a renovated 19th-century Ottoman mansion, offers a big dose of history, down to the reclaimed wall paintings that flow through the hotel. The 42 guest rooms, some offering terraces, are all airy contemporary retreats and the lobby bar features a busy, bearded mixologist but Zada, the in-house restaurant, picks up on the throwback theme. Showcasing Ottoman sultan cuisine the menu veers toward opulent dishes, like slow-roasted lamb, goose confit, and a Turkish coffee and cardamon mousse.
Jaffa, Tel Aviv's sister city, was jolted awake by two very big hotel openings this year. The Setai, sister hotel to the Miami property, took over prime seafront property and The Jaffa Hotel followed suite. Both are very big splurges, but if you have to choose one (and given the prices you will) opt for the Jaffa. Situated in a 19th-century monastery turned hospital, the landmark, renovated by British architect John Pawson, includes a section of 13th-century crusader's wall but still manages to balance the best of old and new; there are high-arched colonnades and stained glass windows sitting next to Damien Hirst paintings and sleek cubist furniture. Fully stocked with a spa, pool, fitness room, and Italian restaurant, the hotel also features an all-day deli that is pure Bronx backstreet.
The Montefiore Hotel rates as one of Tel Aviv's original boutique hotels and its stature had only grown. Located near Rothschild Boulevard but situated on a relatively quiet side street, the hotel sits in a circa 1922 private residence and still feels like a very swish private home. There are only 12 guest rooms and each comes anchored by a wall of books and a curated collection of contemporary Israeli art. Black-marble bathrooms add a glossy touch and the hotel's well-regarded restaurant contributes to the lustre. If you can't face another plate of hummus and pita, the kitchen's global selection of dishes, jumping from chicken tika to Vietnamese beef tartare, will come as a big relief.