For a Jerusalemite, spending the night in Tel Aviv is a little akin to a country bumpkin being let loose in the big city. From the expanse of sandy beach and bustling boardwalk to the European grandeur of Rothschild Boulevard and the beautiful bodies cycling and jogging along Hayarkon Park, the coastal metropolis provides a built-in vacation site for the rest of the country.
While finding activities to enjoy in Tel Aviv has never been a problem, locating a decent, affordable place to stay has generally proven to be more of a challenge. You can pay through the nose for one of the five-star beachfront hotels, take your chances at one of the seedier establishments across the street or rough it at a youth hostel.
Thankfully, a trend toward efficient, more affordable boutique hotels has gathered steam in recent years. And the newest addition to the bunch, the Mendeli Street Hotel, might set the gold standard.
A 66-room establishment on a quiet side street off Hayarkon Street – a two-minute walk from the beach – the hotel first opened in the 1960s as the Adiv Hotel. Four years ago, the family-run business was handed down to Irit and Eran Steinbach, who decided to renovate the entire building – an endeavor that took four years.
The reopening two months ago as the Mendeli Street Hotel was a revelation: a modern, stylish facility that is both sleek and homey, with careful attention paid to every detail. Stressing light and airy surroundings with attractive wood furnishings and hardwood floors, the hotel entices guests to be seduced by their surroundings.
The only thing to do is succumb.
The attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the hotel’s service. The front desk not only processes your arrival, but each guest is escorted to his room by a staff member, who provides an overview of the room and explains how to use the TV system, the heat/AC and the sophisticated lighting system.
According to hotel manager Shani Ben-Tolila, who moved to the Mendeli after years at the Dan Hotel chain, the care given to every aspect of the guests’ stay – down to the type of sheets on the bed – is what sets the new hotel apart.
“Even choosing 100% cotton sheets becomes very relevant and meaningful,” she explains.
Everything in the rooms is pristine, tasteful and contemporary. The only downside is the actual size of the rooms. The Standard rooms (NIS 629 double occupancy for one night) are small. So much so that you have to store your suitcase under the bed. The Superior (NIS 768) and Deluxe (NIS 908) rooms are considerably more comfortable and well worth the extra shekels. The bathroom in the Deluxe room is spacious and luxurious, featuring the largest shower space I have ever seen. But even if you choose the Standard room for a night, you won’t regret it because the Mendeli’s secret weapon has nothing to do with sleeping: It’s the breakfast.
In one of the few cases of a hotel’s subcontracting a restaurant to run its breakfast facilities, the Mendeli has partnered with Rafi Cohen of the famed Tel Aviv eatery Raphael’s to create a morning dining experience that is unparalleled. Staffed by professional waiters and chefs trained by Cohen, the large, open dining area and kitchen create a mouthwatering atmosphere even before you see the culinary fare.
And what fare it is! You won’t find many of the items you’d see at a standard Israeli hotel spread – no herring, no pancakes, no burekas, trays of scrambled eggs or dispensers of watered-down juices. Instead, the trained and friendly staff cut slices of fresh raisin bread and bring them to your table; they serve freshly squeezed juice and madeto- order cappuccino or the beverage of your choice; and they take your egg orders.
Usually, I love to have a made-to-order omelette at a hotel breakfast, but while it was certainly available, there were so many other possibilities that there was no need. Instead, there was bowl after bowl of innovative salads that combined greens and fresh fruit, a whole section of goat cheese and goat milk products, including bottles of yogurt, some with strawberries or raspberries, accompanied by individually wrapped packages of homemade granola. Instead of the herring, there was lakerda, a delicately spiced pickled mackerel that was out of this world.
On the other side was a taboun oven spewing out delicious soft pitot topped with spinach and feta, and a plethora of sublime baked goods made on the premises – from tarts and strudel to doughnut holes.
That’s only the half of the most delicious gourmet breakfast you’re likely to ever have in Israel. Kashrut observers will have a choice to make. While all the food is dairy, there is no kashrut certificate because the kitchen operates at 100% on Shabbat.
“People come here just to eat the breakfast; but at the moment, you can’t come into the dining room unless you’re a guest of the hotel,” says Ben-Tolila, adding that the hotel has been operating at over 85% occupancy since opening, despite minimal advertising. “The buzz is going around the whole city, and even in the hotel industry, everyone is talking about it.”
There’s good reason for that. With its prime location, contemporary feel and fabulous food, the Mendeli is not to be missed. Even the annoying element of having to pay for parking when you’re already paying so much for a room is muted somewhat by the friendly service offered by Itzik at the parking lot on the corner of Hayarkon Street and Mendeli, just next to the hotel. It costs NIS 60 for 24 hours, but Itzik will provide informative tips on restaurants, nightlife and make sure that your car is accessible in the morning.
The Mendeli Street Hotel is already almost fully booked only a couple months after opening, so don’t wait but run to check out this treasure before the “No vacancy” sign is posted. The writer was a guest of the hotel.
The Mendeli Street Hotel 5 Mendeli Street, Tel Aviv Tel: (03) 520-2700