The trees on one side of the road leading to the Carmel Forest Spa Resort are
still burnt – a standing testament to the devastating fire that consumed this
beautiful part of Israel last year. On the other side of the road, lush
green shrubs seem untouched.
We were on our way to the resort exactly a
year after a planned trip was canceled due to the fire. The purpose of our trip
was to taste the new winter menu created by chef Amir Khalfon for the hotel’s
kosher gourmet restaurant. It changes its menu twice a year, and we were eager
to sample this season’s selections.
The fire, which killed 44 people and
destroyed many square kilometers of beautiful pine forest, hardly touched the
resort. But the energetic staff, headed by hotel manager Aya Grundman, didn’t
sit still. During the months of the forced shutdown, they renovated most
of the rooms, upgrading some, rebuilt the dining room turning it into a gourmet
restaurant, and added an exclusive wine bar.
The Carmel Forest Spa Resort
is a rare combination of a fully equipped spa hotel in the middle of stunning
nature and a kosher gourmet restaurant that caters to the specific needs of each
guest. Kosher spa resorts are not easy to find, and this is one of the
best in the world.
The welcome starts at home, when a member of the staff
calls to find out if you have any special dietary needs or requests. “We make
sure that each guest finds more than one option on the menu they can enjoy and
not feel left out because of their restrictions. When asked, we can offer
complete solutions for people with special dietary or nutritional
We offer low-calorie menus, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugarfree
dishes, while maintaining the high quality of our gourmet food,” says
Khalfon. Guests are also asked about their sleeping preference, such as
type of pillow, bed and the daily paper they want to read in the
Upon arrival, a personal staff member shows guests to their room
and offers to help make their stay as enjoyable as possible. “This kind of
personal approach is what makes people return,” says Grundman.
spans more 15 acres of grass and trees, walking trails and gardens. There are
126 rooms, 18 of which are suites. There are a reading room, an Internet room, a
fully equipped gym, an auditorium and a lobby overlooking the sea, which offers
relaxing sitting areas, a piano, an open fire and an herbal tea corner where one
can prepare fresh tea all day long.
The spa, which was recently named by
magazine as the best in the Middle East, is the heart and center of
the resort. It offers dozens of health and beauty treatments, such as ayurveda,
Thai massage, twina and shiatsu, as well as a wide range of
Recently renovated, it occupies 2,500 square meters, which
includes 26 treatment rooms, separate dressing areas for women and men with
showers, saunas and steam rooms, a heated swimming pool and a Turkish hammam and more.
“We discovered that
guests are also looking for more than just relaxation, so we also offer
lectures, workshops and alternative treatments,” says Grundman.
together with the resort’s dietician, bases his dishes on natural fresh
ingredients, creating a gourmet menu that is both seasonal and delicious. The
restaurant is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., offering nonstop, unlimited food,
thus allowing guests to have coffee, go for treatment or a walk and return for
breakfast, and then again for lunch. Dinner is served from 7 p.m.
wine bar offers the best of local wines, with a preference for wines from the
Galilee and the north of Israel, as well as some boutique beers and
But we were there for the new winter menu, which we sampled and
absolutely loved. The appetizers – small, tasty, fresh and tempting dishes, were
almost all influenced by Asian cuisine. We especially loved the mushroom
dumplings, the Vietnamese salad and the sushilike rolls. Main dishes, which are
à la carte, include fish, beef and chicken dishes, as well as vegetarian
options. All of are very well prepared, balanced, tasty and beautifully
presented. Desserts are light and based on fruit but completely satisfying. ■The writer was a guest of the Carmel Forest Spa Resort.