Lily, a tapas bar with an Algerian touch, is a new, warm Sephardic addition to Lilienblum, the Tel Aviv street that's a bar-hopper's paradise. Aside from the Georgian bar-bistro Nonotschka across the street, no other pub in the area has a distinct ethnic orientation.
The theme was inspired, in part, by the Sephardic roots of Lily's owners. Shiri Ben Moshe, who also owns the Tao bar not far away, is of Iraqi descent. This time he and his partners decided to create a bar that was closer to home and to the non-Western elements of Israeli society. He rejected the design plans of prominent interior designers to ensure a personal touch in the d cor, and he did a commendable job - Sephardic warmth and passion has been transferred to the environment.
Lily can pass for an upscale North African pub. There are several Algerian-style seating areas with pillows and cushions embroidered in gold. Algerian rugs adorn the walls, and exotic lanterns add dim light to the cozy room.
Furniture items and ashtrays hail from Moroccan and ethnic shops in Israel. The Arab-tiled floor has remained intact. Co-owner Oved Halabi, a artist also of Iraqi descent, designed the woodwork. A curious object is an oak chandelier, which he made out of the root of an oak tree he found near the Mediterranean. He also designed the very long wooden table on the balcony, which can be used in the summer as an outdoor lounge area.
Upon careful inspection, one can see that the design is really more eclectic-exotic than authentic Algerian. The music, too, consists of world, ethnic and Latin music, making anything that's not purely Western a good fit at Lily. Co-owner Yoav Shavit, who traces his lineage to Germany, says that Lily emphasizes the mix of peoples and cultures prevalent in Israel.
The Moroccan anchor of Lily is the manager, Michael Elimelech. If you ask, he may start telling you about his Moroccan upbringing and his feelings about the ongoing disenfranchisement of the Moroccan community. But Elimelech will be just as happy pouring you a glass of wine from the wine list he created, since he's also a wine consultant. The happy-go-lucky Yemenite bartender is also on-hand to pour shots and mixed cocktails.
Lily offers tapas prepared by Johnny "Columbiani" Chayal - a Colombian-born chef who has worked at Mika, Odeon and Bistro 56. Moroccan bread, which is like a thick pita, is great as a starter (NIS 18). Other tapas include beef skewers (NIS 32), marguez on guacamole (NIS 26), onion stuffed with lamb (NIS 24) and Portobello skewers (NIS 18). The owners have big plans for Lily. This is one of the few bars with its own parking lot in the back. The owners are building a large screen there for outdoor parties and events like the traditional Moroccon henna betrothal ceremony.
It's only been open three weeks, and Lily's identity has yet to fully gel. Still, it's is sure to pick up steam in the next few months because there just aren't too many places like it in Tel Aviv.
Lilienblum 23, Tel Aviv; (03) 516-6684. Hours: From 8 p.m.