Restaurant Review: A visual feast

George & John is The Drisco Hotel’s beautiful new restaurant.

By BUZZY GORDON
April 26, 2019 17:26
4 minute read.
Restaurant Review: A visual feast

George & John @ the Drisco Hotel. (photo credit: DANIEL LAYLA)

Tel Aviv is blessed with a plethora of terrific boutique hotels, although perhaps none as distinctive as The Drisco Hotel, a luxury boutique heritage property in the quaint American Colony neighborhood on the seam of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. It is the only boutique hotel in Tel Aviv affiliated with the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World organization, and there is no disputing that the restoration of this historic building is stunning.

That is not to say that the impressive new hotel has not had its growing pains. Its first restaurant, situated in the basement, was Zada, which served Ottoman cuisine. Alas, it was not long for this world, and closed even before this paper had a chance to review it.

The whole dining concept at the hotel was rethought, and a new chef – Tomer Tal, formerly of Yaffo-Tel Aviv, the restaurant of celebrity chef Haim Cohen – recruited. The restaurant was relocated to the ground floor and renamed George & John, after the Drisco brothers who had founded the original hotel in the 19th century; it now serves contemporary Israeli cuisine.

The décor is sumptuous: singular tile flooring, white tablecloths and comfortable leather chairs, with a magnificent oil painting depicting 1800’s Jerusalem overlooking the handsome bar. There is pleasant al fresco seating on an adjoining terrace – but for breakfast, brunch or drinks, not for dinner.



There are specialty cocktails, but unfortunately, we only learned about them as we were leaving. We were given a strange explanation for not receiving the cocktail menu: apparently, they are promoted primarily in the afternoon.

The English food menu – printed daily on one page, and on our evening marred by many misspellings – comprises four sections: Light Starters (NIS 48-64), In-Betweens (NIS 48-100), Almost Mains (NIS 94-138) and Heavy Weights (sic) (NIS 50-52 per 100 grams). There was a grand total of three vegetarian options – limited to the first two sections only – and not a single vegan one.

As we waited for our order, we were served the “Bread and Dips” (NIS 28), a basket of torn lafa and sesame bagel, plus two generous slices of thick, delicious brown bread. This was accompanied by white and black eggplant spreads, and a few marinated hot peppers that neither of us dared touch.

All of the starters – one salad, one beef and three fish – were raw, and presented tough choices. We finally settled on the amberjack sashimi, served on a bed of diced avocado and cucumber dressed in lime and jalapeno, and topped with Israeli caviar. The exceedingly fresh fish would have been excellent on its own, yet this combination resulted in a magnificent interplay of flavors, followed by a lingering pleasant tingle of tart heat.

Our choice of intermediate course was the foie gras with spiced pear. The goose liver here was served warm, as opposed to the usual room temperature, but this did not detract from the delectable pairing of the rich foie gras with the sweet stewed fruit in exotically spiced syrup.



Three of the seven main courses (we never could puzzle out why the section heading calls them “almost”) featured lamb, so we decided to select two of them: the lamb rotolo, a pasta I do not recall ever having, and the intriguingly named lamb shoulder “between Maine and Jaffa.”

The former was three short, fat cylinders of thin pasta filled with shredded lamb in an eggplant and yogurt bechamel sauce under a layer of melted pecorino cheese. Unfortunately, both the main event and side of green beans were so dreadfully overcooked that the dish failed to live up to its potential.

The designation “between Maine and Jaffa” shed absolutely no light on the nature of the lamb shoulder, meanwhile – nor did the appearance on the menu of the mysterious “AAA sauce” alongside the meat. The sizable portion of lamb in a house barbecue sauce, if unremarkable, was filling and hearty, while the accompanying wedge of grilled cabbage came as a real surprise, since the vegetable was a last-minute substitution for the advertised yucca fries (at the very least, a verbal warning from the waiter would have been appreciated).

The restaurant’s wine list, curated by its own helpful sommelier, boasts fine vintages from around the world – only a small fraction of which are available by the glass. Some of the more exclusive wines bear price tags that reach into four figures.

Even though the restaurant has no problem printing new menus every day, there was no dessert menu; rather, the waiter listed and explained the three desserts, also prepared by Chef Tal. We ordered the chocolate mousse with coffee cream, which turned out be more like a bar of ganache, served with an almond confection that was something between cake and a cookie. There was nary a hint of coffee flavor, but the chocolate itself was more than satisfactory.

Finally, the deconstructed strawberry mille feuille was a mélange of shards of pastry wafers with fresh strawberries and crême pâtissière enriched with mascarpone cream. Reminiscent of cheesecake, it was a light, sweet finale to our meal.

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.

George & John @ The Drisco Hotel

Not kosher

Auerbach St. 6, Tel Aviv

Tel. (03) 741-0000



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