A Midsummer Night’s Indulgenceby Tallie Lieberman | 04.09.18
With little intention of making a quiet exit, the raucous Middle Eastern summer rages on, sending Tel Avivians scurrying, booking long-haul flights to cooler, calmer destinations for the holidays. But for those of us staying put, a glamorous staycation at the Norman, Tel Aviv’s reigning luxury boutique hotel, or a sumptuous meal at its signature restaurant Alena, offers remarkable respite.
Situated in the heart of the White City, the Norman was born of two historic Bauhaus townhouses dating to the 1920s and expertly restored in 2014. The exquisite five-star hotel, fitted with bespoke furniture and art deco trimmings, boasts 50 individually-designed rooms, a rooftop infinity pool, a wood-panelled Library Bar and an award-winning Japanese restaurant.
The hotel’s crown jewel, however, is Alena, which underwent a metamorphosis earlier this year from posh southern French brasserie to chef-driven, family-style restaurant serving exclusively locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients.
Steering the ship in a new direction is Executive Chef Barak Aharoni, who has made a name for himself reimagining honest, “non-fussy” fare.
“I think that nowadays people want to have the experience of really good food and great service, but without the fuss of having a 15-course meal after which you don’t really remember what you ate,” Aharoni told The Telegraph in May. “I am inspired by local ingredients, local produce.”
At Alena, all the dishes have decidedly Levantine roots. Start light with the fresh fig carpaccio – perfect slices of pink, sweet flesh strewn with toasted macadamia nuts and aged Israeli goat cheese – and the tuna and watermelon nigiri, a salty, juicy, at times sweet, homage to the Tel Aviv summer.
Continue with the roasted aubergine tortellini, delicately dusted in parmesan and za’atar, and the savoury, smokey cauliflower “steak,” seasoned and seared golden brown. Save room for the crystal shrimp and calamari spaghetti, threads of perfectly al dente homemade pasta bearing a symphony of flavors from the sea and notes of white wine and garlic.
And what of dessert? In the only, but grand, gesture to the British heritage of the Norman’s owners, Aharoni crafted what must be the crunchiest, stickiest, most delectable of bread puddings–impossible to skip, reason alone to pay a visit.
Pair the vibrant, summer-ready dishes at Alena with a dry and zingy negroni or a punchy aperitif, and you’ll leave feeling giddy, but charmingly giddy.
Alena at The Norman Hotel, Nachmani Street 23-25, 03.543.5555
Discover more restaurants in Tel Aviv with our City Guide.
Photos by Nimrod Saunders