Fortnum and Mason, Harrods Food Hall, Selfridges – the aromas and the atmosphere are here in Ra’anana if you stretch the imagination just a little.
The newly opened Bashar Fromagerie on Rehov Ahuza exudes an air of gourmet elegance.
Hundreds of exotic cheeses are on display, the counter offers all kinds of salads and smoked fish, while the walls are stacked with bottles of wine, some from well-known and established wineries, others from littleknown boutique wineries of which so many have sprung up in recent years. Cider, foreign beers and designer olive oil and jams are also for sale.
Presiding over this charming food emporium is Guillaume Chinzi, who settled here from Bordeaux seven years ago with his Israeli wife.
He had worked with Eli Bashar, the doyen of imported cheese whose shop in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market is a place of pilgrimage for Israeli cheese lovers.
When Bashar decided that he wanted to expand his business and open a branch in Ra’anana, who better to run it than Chinzi who, apart from being an authentic Frenchman, has rich experience in the food and wine world? He studied at Lycee Jean Monnet, a cooking school in France, and worked for several years as a sommelier at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in London’s Savoy Hotel before moving to Israel and working for several years in the Bashar Fromagerie in Jerusalem.
At the back of the Ra’anana store is a small café decorated in rustic off-white with bleached oak parquet floor and heavy farmhouse wrought-iron light fixtures overhead. The food on offer is modest but just the thing for a light lunch or supper.
We sampled the fish platter and the cheese platter (NIS 69). Everything on the fish platter, apart from some rather pedestrian herring, was very good – excellent smoked salmon and mackerel, herring salad and an exceptionally delicious homemade trout mousse, a stray anchovy impaled on a cocktail stick and a small dish of maraschino cherries to provide contrast with the overall fishiness of the platter. When we pointed out that the herring was unremarkable, Guillaume promised to change it.
The cheese platter, which included grapes, sliced tomatoes and cucumber, presented an interesting selection of the hundreds of cheeses available. The gorgonzola was very good, creamy and not overpoweringly strong; the Camembert tasted authentic; and the pecorino Montesardo was an interesting hard cheese with a lot of bite. Other exotic cheeses on the platter were two-year old Gruyere, Goustal and Lou Perac. All the cheeses are certified kosher.
This all came with wonderful crusty whole-grain bread and a great white wine, Gvaot Gewurtztraminer, 2011, a very reasonable NIS 79 a bottle or, by the glass, NIS 25.
We also tasted the homemade sorbet, fat and sugar free, and the cappuccino ice cream, all excellent (NIS 20).
Other possible choices on the menu are fondue for two (NIS 89) and baguette bruschetta for NIS 25 for four pieces. They also do sandwiches and take-away at lunchtime.
Cheese tasting seems to be going on round the clock, and enthusiastic locals were sampling from the huge selection the whole time we were there. The people behind the counter seemed to give away a lot more than they sold.
The writer was a guest of the café.
Bashar Fromagerie Kosher 89 Ahuza Street, Ra’anana Sunday to Tuesday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday 7:30 a.m. until an hour before Shabbat.