Brown Hotel .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Back when I was a child living in the UK, my family would take holidays to Tel Aviv, which meant staying in one of the big all-purpose hotel towers on the beachfront. That was the Tel Aviv we knew and loved. How things change. Now, about 20 years later, some of the trendiest and most sought after hotels in the city are in fact small boutique ones without swimming pools or sea views that are housed in converted old buildings down side streets in the south of the city.
Brown Hotel is just one of many boutique hotels that have appeared on the scene in recent years that offer tourists a more real and authentic Tel Aviv experience.
Tucked away down a small street just off Nahalat Binyamin in a building that was once a bank, Brown seems a million miles away from the sun, sea and sand type holidays of my youth. I've grown up and so has Tel Aviv, which is reflected in the sophistication that can be found in hotels such as Brown.
Brown may be located just a twenty minute walk away from the beach, but it is first and foremost an urban hotel. When it comes to the design, the clue is in the name - brown walls, brown carpets and brown furniture are the order of the day at the intimate hotel. At first it can come across as very dark but after a while it grew on me. And that's the whole point, it is a warm and inviting atmosphere.
The hotel is an ode to the faded glam of 70s. The concept was developed by Leopard Hospitality with the help of architect Dario Grunzweig and local interior designer Rubi Israeli. Bucking the trend of minimalism in many Tel Aviv hotels, the team behind Brown wanted to provide guests with a warm and welcoming design without compromising on a luxurious feel.
The very friendly receptionist who showed me around explained that guests are made to feel as if the hotel is actually their home for the duration of the stay. This concept starts with the large "living room," which serves as the hotel's lobby and reception area, complete with complimentary Wi-Fi and an eclectic mix of coffee table books as well as maps and tourist information. In a nod to the local art scene, the living room even hosts a souvenir pop-up design store, offering original Israeli designs.
With only 30 intimate rooms, the hotel isn't swarming with families making their way to and from the beach or hordes of businessmen en route to conferences. So when I found some time to relax on one of the comfy sofas to read the newspaper, I was able to relax and feel at home without being disturbed.
The brown design theme is perhaps most apparent in the intimate, cozy rooms. The rooms are certainly on the smaller side compared with larger hotels, and the dark brown walls don't do much to add and sense of light or space. However, what the classic room (NIS 950 per night at time of stay) lacked in space, it made up for with the amenities, which included an LCD Flat screen HD TV that personally welcomed me the first time I switched it on, free high speed broadband internet access, desk, laptop sized safe, cordless phone, hair dryer, Egyptian cotton linens and high quality towels, bathrobes and slippers.
If the bedroom was dark, the bathroom was a whole new level. The Italian black marble design took some time to get used to but once I stepped foot into the walk-in shower with Rainforest showerhead, all was okay with the world.
While the focus is on luxury chic, there were a few little niggles about the room that didn't go unnoticed. For example, in order to charge a phone or laptop next to the bed, one has to get on the floor to reach under the bedside table in order to unplug the lamp; the half see-through glass door separating the bedroom from the bathroom is very stylish but doesn't leave much to the imagination for the person trying to watch TV in the bedroom; and finally, the flush on the toilet was cracked making it difficult to use. These, however, are only minor points and were forgotten very quickly when lying in the extremely comfortable bed sipping on the complementary wine watching TV from around the world.
Watching TV can be fun, but Brown has much more to offer than simply a comfortable bed and a good selection of international channels. The rooftop bar is a great place to relax and soak up the Tel Aviv sun while enjoying the urban view as well as the sea. At night it turns into a cocktail bar and in the summer months there are plans to turn a section of into a treatment area, complete with jacuzzi. The downstairs garden bar next to the reception is no less impressive. There, the serious barman offered me one of his signature cocktails. While he had difficulties smiling, the quality and taste of the drink sure brought a smile to my face.
During my visit I was joined by a friend and we checked out the spa located next to the reception. Spa treatments are available to guests at discounted rates depending on how long they stay. We put on our robes and slippers, filled the jacuzzi, opened a bottle of wine and relaxed for a while. Once again, we were made to feel as if the hotel was our home for the night.
In contrast to most hotels in Israel that pride themselves on large all-you-can-eat style breakfasts, Brown doesn't even offer breakfast within the hotel. At first I was a little shocked to hear that. But after the receptionist explained what they do offer I was totally sold. Instead of having breakfast in-house, guests are invited to leave the hotel in order try out one of three local cafes where they can experience an authentic Tel Aviv experience, all included in the price of the room. My friend and I chose to go to Cafe Birenbaum on Nahalat Binyamin Street. We walked in, told them we were from Brown, they crossed our names off a daily list that they receive and we enjoyed a very pleasant traditional Israeli breakfast. A great concept that encourages visitors to explore the city.
I thoroughly enjoyed my brief stay at Brown. It's a great option for those looking to enjoy Tel Aviv in all its glory. It's close enough to the beach, but also far away enough to give visitors a more authentic experience. It's not the cheapest option in the city by any stretch of the imagination, but you get what you pay for. And what you pay for is an exclusive boutique hotel with top class amenities.The writer was a guest of the hotel.
Brown TLV Urban Hotel
25 Kalisher street, Tel Aviv