A midsummer night’s dream

The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem Garden Terrace: Dining on top of the world

The classy bartender, Fivel, and waiter, Aviad, at the Rooftop Terrace Garden (photo credit: DAVID DIMOLFETTA)
The classy bartender, Fivel, and waiter, Aviad, at the Rooftop Terrace Garden
(photo credit: DAVID DIMOLFETTA)
Simply walking into the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem’s atrium is a surreal experience in itself. If you’re ever in need of a palace, the award-winning hotel is fit enough for royalty. But we were visiting this historic landmark, located in the heart of the high-end Mamilla neighborhood of Jerusalem, for a very specific task: to experience fine dining at the Garden Terrace cocktail and tapas rooftop bar.
Despite it being directly on the right side of the entranceway, we got quite lost looking for the front desk. Instead, we wandered into the massive atrium in a somewhat trance, completely blown away by the hotel’s eye-catching beauty.
Alessandro and Zachary, two dashing men from the concierge desk dressed in fashionable gray suits, greeted us at the entrance and put 110 percent effort into showing us the hotel from an insider’s perspective.
A feature that captured our attention was the clock in the middle of the lobby’s rotunda. The four-sided structure is designed to represent all faiths, with clock faces in Hebrew, Arabic, Ancient Roman, and Western.
Alessandro and Zachary gave us an exclusive tour of the hotel’s lobby and main points of interest, including 12 paintings on the lower level that represent the tribes of Israel. We were soon dropped at the Terrace Garden on the hotel’s fourth floor, where we were greeted by Issa Ammar, the terrace’s manager.
We sat on a couch directly in front of the bar, from where we could easily observe the rest of the terrace.
From our vantage point we enjoyed panoramic views of Jerusalem, including the iconic Old City walls to the east. When we were seated at 7 p.m., only 30 minutes after the garden’s opening time, the terrace was practically empty apart from the servers and hotel employees. As the night went on and the sun began to set behind us, the garden slowly but surely transformed into a thriving summer scene as guests gradually trickled in.
As soon as we sat down, our server promptly approached to take our drink orders. We ordered a Cosmopolitan and the Terrace’s signature drink, the Jerusalem of Gold, which did not disappoint. The Terrace Garden’s signature cocktail, consisting of Havana Club rum, maple syrup, Angostura bitters and cinnamon brought out the tastes and smells of Jerusalem in a single sip, designed, according to the menu, to take the lucky guest on a “sensory journey” through Jerusalem. If you ever choose this luxury of a cocktail, prepare to film the experience: it’s served under a fog cloud.
After experiencing the drinks, we were eager to try 10 dishes of our choice from the Tapas bar. Our plan: order three dishes in rounds of three with a dessert at the end, as suggested by Mr. Ammar.
The vegetarian tortilla, served with sweet potato (Credit: DAVID DIMOLFETTA)The vegetarian tortilla, served with sweet potato (Credit: DAVID DIMOLFETTA)
Based on another server’s recommendation, we embarked on our culinary adventure with the tempura cauliflower, which earned a spot as one of our favorite dishes of the night, accompanied by the entrecote burger and salmon à la plancha.
There was something unique about each dish we ordered. Though the header on our menu read “Local Tapas,” we would argue that the menu boasted a diversity of dishes, from Eggs Benedict to Lamb Kebab Arayes.
It is important to mention that along with taking in the unforgettable sights and tastes of the Terrace, we were also privileged enough to join the Waldorf on jazz night, which consisted of a single man sauntering across the rooftop, saxophone in hand, serenading guests with the sounds of beautiful music.
In the next round, we enjoyed the slow-cooked beef spare ribs, vegetarian tortilla, and sea bream fillet. All three dishes were exquisite, both in taste and appearance. Out of this round, however, the vegetarian tortilla stood out as our favorite dish.
While waiting for our final round, the bartender, Fivel, an ex-tank commander in the IDF, left his place and approached us. He at first initiated a friendly conversation, then asked the life-altering question:
“Can I ask you guys something? Do you like Arak?”
Neither of us being Arak fans, we replied with a “No,” to which Fivel responded with a grin, “Well, you haven’t had it the way I make it.”
He quickly returned back to the bar where he concocted two Arak cocktails: one with grapefruit juice and the other with lemon. Both drinks changed our opinions on Arak. We discovered that the licorice-tasting alcohol that typically burns one’s throat at the first sip can, in fact, be enjoyed in a citrus cocktail.
Our last round of dishes included the herb marinated chicken breast, roasted eggplant, and the entrecote medallion. An aspiring vegetarian who typically stays away from eating red meat in an attempt to fully transition to the plant-loving diet may be thwarted after trying the medallion.
This concluded our tastings of nine dishes from the tapas menu. We strategically reserved our 10th dish for a dessert of our choice: the Red Velvet Cake. Consuming 10 dishes of rich, delicious food and two cocktails each undoubtedly made a dent in our appetite – as it should, considering we just enjoyed about 500 shekels worth of food. Each dish ranges from 45 to 65 shekels, with cocktails costing from 48 to 75 shekels. But you get what you pay for, as every one of the dishes and drinks we tried were exceptional in their own unique way.
The Waldorf is one of the most elegant hotels in Jerusalem, but staying there comes at a hefty price. Rooms cost about 1,500 shekels ($425) per night. However you do not have to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy the luxury treatment that the Garden Terrace provides. Reservations have to be made in advance, as tables fill up quickly on all nights of the week.
The hotel building, originally called the Palace Hotel, was constructed in 1929 on the initiative of the Supreme Muslim Council, combining Greco-Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Mamluk architecture into one stunning creation out of the famous Jerusalem stone. Since 2014, the building has served as the home of the Waldorf Astoria, providing tourists who visit the holy city with a taste of the VIP treatment.
At the end of our evening, the verdict was clear: if you’re in the market for a high-end experience, the Waldorf Astoria’s Terrace Garden is the ideal place to unwind in the evening during the summer months. The staff will provide one of the finest experiences you’ve ever had at a luxury hotel.
  Leaving with our stomachs full and our hearts content, we knew we would have to come back to visit the Waldorf again.

The writers were guests of the Waldorf  Astoria Jerusalem