Less than a week after its opening, my daughter and I were delighted to be invited to Lunel, the brand-new restaurant in Tel Aviv.
Beautiful both inside and out, this elegant, glass-fronted eatery cut an impressive sight right in the heart of the trendy Florentin neighborhood.
With its unusual shape, eye-catching red neon sign, and friendly staff waiting to greet guests, Lunel is an obvious draw for all those who live in the area, as well as those who have traveled from further afield, looking for somewhere a bit special to eat.
And they won’t be disappointed.
A dining experience that won't disappoint
The striking circular bar in the center of the restaurant, fronting the bustling open kitchen at the rear, was the first thing we noticed as we walked in.
The early evening sun streamed through the gaps in the beautiful drapes adorning the wrap-around, floor-to-ceiling windows, giving the place a warm glow.
I felt as if I was stepping into a ‘50s time warp, or onto the set of an old movie.
As our reservation was early (by Tel Aviv standards), we had a choice of tables. We decided on one by the window, affording us a view of the beautiful interior and the hustle and bustle of outside.
The food was no less impressive than the restaurant itself, which wasn’t surprising, given the caliber of the chefs – Yanon Elal, head of the kitchen, and pastry chef Yoav Ramot, working alongside him.
Both took the time to sit with us and explain their fascinating culinary journeys and inspirations.
Named after the city in Provence founded by Jews from Jericho in the 1st century, (it is thought that the family of Rashi originated in Lunel, where an ancient synagogue is located), Lunel has introduced a fabulous fusion of French-Israeli cuisine to Tel Aviv.
“The technique is France, the heart is Jerusalem,” Elal, who grew up in Jerusalem, said.
WE STARTED with a small selection of their tasty homemade breads: sourdough and salty brioche, served with Tirshi, an excellent Tunisian pumpkin and potato salad.
We were then treated to two mouthwatering creations; a spoonful of fish tartare and spicy tartlets. These dishes came with the chef’s instruction to “eat-in-one-mouthful,” which turned out to be sage advice. The riot of contrasting ingredients in both, including seasonal fruit, cream cheese, pistachio, coriander, and fish tartare was enough to impress even the most seasoned palate.
Beef tartare with cognac aioli, pickles, shallots, and coriander served with Jerusalem homemade cracker followed. While also extremely good, the fish tartare was more to our liking.
We also tried the special, mushrooms in creamy French sauce, which my daughter described as “banging!” Indeed it was rather delightful; delicate and light yet creamy and flavorsome. A firm favorite.
The ragu burger, a clever twist on the traditional burger, was one of the main courses which we enjoyed, along with the gnocchi with a butter, chestnut, garlic, onion, and Parmesan sauce. While the sauce was excellent, the gnocchi itself was a little too soft for me. Nevertheless, we still managed to polish it all off.
We rounded the meal off with two exquisite desserts, mille-feuilles and petit fours. Perfect pastry made these desserts two of the finest I had ever tasted, although I wished I’d left more room for them.
And it wouldn’t be right to leave you with no mention of the impressive and varied wine and cocktail menu, including the much sought-after Dalton Pét Nat, a cheeky sparkling wine that finished the fermenting process in the bottle.
We kicked off the evening with a couple of refreshing fruity cocktails (Club Lunel and Florentin Four), before moving onto an extra dry Italian Prosecco, and finally, Yiron Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp Israeli white to accompany our meal.
All in all, a memorable dining experience and one which I hope to repeat very soon – if I’m lucky enough to get a table once news of this delightful restaurant gets out!
Lunel: Abarbanel St 72, Tel AvivTel: 077-9800339 Prices start at NIS 18 for the Tirshi salad, with mains in the region of NIS 80-90 (Sea bass fillet: NIS 92). Lunel is not kosher.
The writer and her daughter were guests of the restaurant.