A peaceful retreat

A world-class spa, gourmet kosher cuisine keep Carmel Forest Resort at top of the list of luxurious getaways.

Carmel spa 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Carmel spa 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 needs.
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 morning.
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.
The resort 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 Spa Finder 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 activities.
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.
Khalfon, 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.
The 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 spirits.
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.