CHEF CONCIERGE • January 2019
He may have started his cooking career trimming okra tips on Tel Aviv’s south side, but Eran Tibi has come a long way since then. Owner of Tel Aviv-inspired restaurant and cocktail bar Bala Baya in London, the Israeli-born chef takes us on a journey to his culinary heartland
The secret garden at Herzl 16 is the place for a sunny breakfast affair. Or, Casino San Remo is great for bottomless mezze starters and the malabi – with a coconut base, dried fruit sauce and orange blossom - is the ideal sweet ending to the day’s most important meal.
I get asked to bring this back to London all the time: Tel Aviv’s best tahini. Head to Carmel Market and browse the stalls until you find The Flying Camel Raw Tahini – here, stock up on raw tahini made from organic sesame created the traditional way. These guys have been around for maybe a century and are famous among locals.
This spot is just a 20-minute drive from Tel Aviv, but it feels a world away. Surrounded by bucolic beauty, Mitbachazer serves gourmet food in a gorgeous rustic setting. Running the show are chefs from Israel and beyond, who cook up unpredictable magic with ingredients from nearby farms. Pair this with a bit of theatre and thematic menus, and it’s easily one of the city’s quirkiest dining experiences.
Dallal (pictured below) never fails to impress. It’s in the arts district in the city’s oldest part, and is a huge, welcoming family house. In one half they serve immaculate Israeli-French flavours in a room full of plants and vines, while in the other there’s a bakery with trays of freshly baked goods.
Dimly lit and atmospheric, Imperial TLV was the first bar in Tel Aviv to experiment with molecular mixology, and it’s mesmerising to watch the bartenders prepare drinks. Try my favourite Life’s a Beach cocktail made with watermelon and gin.
Ask anyone this question and they will say Miznon. Legendary Israeli chef Eyal Shani opened the first of his many pitta kiosks here and it’s simply the best. Taking a stuffed pitta to the beach to enjoy is an experience I miss very much. Expect a queue, but if there’s one pilgrimage to make in Tel Aviv, this is it.
My favourite lunch spot for absolutely everything is Yaffo Tel Aviv (pictured below). The food fuses Syrian flavours with French cuisine, creating a perfect symphony. Inspired by the cities of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, the space is warm, relaxed and airy. The central terrazzo bar is a thing of beauty and owner Haim Cohen is someone I deeply admire. This is the place to take care of business, hunger, thirst and culinary curiosities.
Another Eyal Shani institution, North Abraxass presents North African fine dining in a casual setting with food that always surprises and delights. Some may call the experience bizarre, but the food is delicious and an inspired nod to his Syrian heritage. They’ll turn up the music, sometimes fill the restaurant with smoke, clank pans and even serve dessert on a sheet of paper – no plate required. There are dishes with just three ingredients that can only be described as ‘Wow’. I love the chocolate mousse, dolloped onto the table before the chef scatters garnishes and guests attack it with a spoon.
Would you believe me if I told you a fancy kebab shop is something to wake up early for? The guys at Haachim (pictured top of page) are passionate, and between them (their name means ‘the brothers’) are extremely strict with the quality of meat they source. The smell of the place is addictive. I always order lamb siniyeh – a pan-fried minced lamb kebab with crispy burnt ends, eggs and lashings of tahini.
Interview by Hannah Ralph