About eight years ago, my husband and I took a weeklong European cruise leaving from Rome. On the first day of the cruise, we met a couple, our age, also blissfully enjoying a trip without children. Chen and Ande Harkov also have the singular distinction of being the parents of Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov.
We’ve maintained our friendship and get together several times a year, most recently last Friday morning at the relatively new kosher Arcaffe at the Mamilla Mall.
Ask any English-speaking immigrant what is the hardest part of living in Israel, and most will say the lack of a Sunday. But a Friday morning in Mamilla almost feels like a Sunday in the old country.
There are 50 branches of Arcaffe around Israel, although most are not kosher.
When we arrived, Shira, at the door carefully checked our Green Passes, an action she repeated with every new customer.
Owner Daniel Askayo, 30, was the manager of Manta Ray in Tel Aviv, and recently returned to Jerusalem. He said his 30th birthday made him want to own his own restaurant and come back to Jerusalem, where he had grown up.
The restaurant has a large outdoor space and is a fun place for people-watching in Mamilla.
There are Hebrew and English menus, and breakfast is served until 4 p.m. The classic Israeli breakfast (NIS 69 for one, NIS 129 for two people) gets an upgrade with the addition of smoked salmon. The basket of bread has several types of bread, all baked in-house, and is served with homemade cherry-tomato jam. It also includes two small rogelach, which were excellent.
We asked Daniel to bring us a variety of things to try, and our table was soon covered with food. The Italian shakshuka (NIS 52) had an excellent sauce with a hint of chili. A salad with arugula, edamame and ricotta cheese was fresh, although I found the dressing a little watery. We all enjoyed a toasted sandwich with mushrooms, caramelized onions, and cheese.
“I would definitely order this again,” Chen said.
If you would rather get something to go, there is a large selection of premade sandwiches that all looked fresh. There are also pizzas and pastas that looked great, as well as quite a few vegan dishes for my vegan friend Estelle.
By the time we finished, we were stuffed, but Daniel sent us two desserts to share, a Bavarian chocolate cake and a lemon cheesecake, both worth the hours at the gym I’ll have to put in.
Around noon, Daniel came around to everyone in the restaurant with cups of lemonade and arak, and a waitress followed with a tray of challah and jam for “kabbalat Shabbat.” It was a lovely gesture and a nice way to start the weekend.
ArcaffeMamilla MallSunday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.; Saturday night, 40 minutes after Shabbat -11:30 p.m.Kashrut: Jerusalem Rabbinate
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.