A night in Soho – the House version

  (photo credit: SIVAN ASKAYO)
(photo credit: SIVAN ASKAYO)

Soho House in Jaffa – not many people have heard of it, not many know about it and those who do know are keeping the secret to themselves. The good news is that now, for the first time, rooms there can also be booked by those who are not members of the exclusive global private members’ club Soho House. So, what’s it like to spend the night among hundreds of artworks, in a hotel that is the essence of culture, art and fine design?

About three years ago, Soho House Tel Aviv opened relatively quietly. The opening stirred tremendous excitement among those who admire and esteem the prestigious international hospitality brand, but remained a partially unsolved mystery to those who were not familiar with it. The global coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying shutdown of international tourism only added to the fact that this hidden hospitality gem remained deep within its own shell, in a breathtaking building surrounded by high walls situated close to the Jaffa Flea Market.

Soho House is an international hospitality brand based on a members-only model. The brand was founded by Nick Jones in 1995 as a place that would enable creative people to meet and connect. Located on Greek Street in London, the first House was opened when Jones leapt upon the chance to rent the empty space above his restaurant, Café Boheme. The space could be entered only through a mysterious little door just around the corner from the café, and this arrangement served as an inspiration for the British entrepreneur to turn it into a members-only club for the local artists and actors who had become regular customers at his restaurant.

Since then, the brand has blossomed and spread all over the world and today Soho Houses can be found in many major cities spanning the globe. The Houses serve as a meeting place for members and offer exclusive events, workspaces and restaurants; each House also features dozens of hotel rooms designed in accordance with the brand’s aesthetic spirit. The members’ club that began with a small coterie of British bohemians now numbers more than 120,000 members all around the world. 

Unlike other private clubs, whose admission criteria are generally based on status and wealth, membership in Soho House is based on creativity and innovation, with the aim of putting the focus on the members and enabling them to meet, connect, network, create together and maximize their own creativity.

Almost three years after the official opening of Soho House Tel Aviv, with a fresh breeze brought in by its new manager Jurgita Nefedjevaite who arrived here recently after managing Soho House Mykonos, an opportunity has arisen for the first time for non-members to stay in and enjoy the House’s 24 guestrooms.

  (credit: SIVAN ASKAYO) (credit: SIVAN ASKAYO)

The experience

Immediately upon entering Soho House Tel Aviv, which is located at the northern end of Yefet Street in Jaffa very close to the Flea Market and overlooking Jaffa Port, one feels enveloped in a bubble detached from the world and from any local connection. The House has no sign, it is surrounded by walls and the gates are closed, as if to say: Only those who know what’s here are invited to come in.

After passing through the entrance gate, a small yard leads to another door behind which is hidden an entire world of culture, design, hospitality and an international vibe like you’d find in Soho Houses in Berlin, Amsterdam, London or New York.

Guests are received by a staff member speaking English, which is the language most widely used in the House. The staff members themselves, from the manager who hails from Lithuania down to the reception clerks and the hostesses, mainly come from other countries; most of them do not speak Hebrew. 

The House’s bedrooms reflect the highest quality design, with almost fanatical attention paid to each and every furnishing and accessory. The unique furniture and textiles that are produced by the Soho House brand are perfectly suited to the historic Jaffa building, which served as a convent for French nuns when it was built back in the 19th century. Today the nuns have gone and the place is filled with a relatively young, multinational, liberal, creative and open-minded crowd – about as distant as you can get from religious conservatism and asceticism. 

The House’s architects and interior designers, who came from abroad specially to renovate the property, did an exceptional job and managed to preserve the feeling of visiting an ancient building equipped with all the innovative advantages that modern hospitality has to offer.

The size of the rooms, as well as their design, varies from one room to another. Spaces range from standard (the size of an average hotel room) up to larger suites (the size of an apartment) and are spread out along the building’s first and second floors. The suites include a canopy bed, a bathtub and a living room. All the bedrooms feature high ceilings and Bauhaus-inspired furnishings.

The original door handles were incorporated into the design, as were the original shutters which were rehung on the windows. Each room is adorned with art, and the design concept adheres to the highest standard. 

Actually, all the visitor has to bring along is their clothing. Everything else is right there in the room. In the bathroom, for example, you’ll find individual deodorants, toothbrushes, shaving cream, eye cream, eight large tubes (not the tiny bottles we’re used to) containing a variety of shampoos and soaps made by the luxury toiletry brand Cowshed, which works exclusively with Soho House. And you’ll even find condoms. Each bed sports a marvelous array of seven neatly arranged pillows (it turns out that this is standard practice across all the brand’s hotel rooms throughout the world).

The House maintains one of the highest levels of maintenance and cleanliness you’ll ever encounter. The bar in the bedroom enables guests to prepare their own hot and cold drinks, cocktails and even offers fresh lemon and orange slices. Beautifully designed glassware adds an elegant touch to this pampering experience.

It’s important to note that none of the rooms have televisions. For me personally, that did not present a problem. But the sports fan who was with me that evening, when a fateful game was being broadcast, did miss having a TV. However, how shall we put it, he managed to survive. A quick clarification regarding the Soho House television policy revealed that the brand supports encouraging guests to enjoy the various public spaces scattered throughout the House and mingle with other members. And having a TV in one’s room doesn’t really encourage that sort of activity.

  (credit: SIVAN ASKAYO) (credit: SIVAN ASKAYO)

Added value for art lovers

The entire compound provides members with a surprising and supremely pleasant experience, since a spectacular art collection is displayed throughout the whole building, including the bedrooms. The collection was carefully curated by Soho House’s Global Head of Collections, Kate Bryan. The selection and richness of the artworks creates a feeling of being a guest in a museum.

The collection at Soho House Tel Aviv focuses on Israeli artists, including David Adika, Farid Abu Shakra, Michal Na’aman, Karam Natour, Dana Yoeli, Shai Yehezkelli, Shai Azoulay and Hilla Toony Navok. The brand’s global collection, curated by Bryan, is one of the largest private collections of its kind in the world, with more than 5,000 artworks on permanent display in Soho Houses around the globe.

Planned by the brand’s global design team, the décor of the public spaces at Soho House Tel Aviv was inspired by the culture, the colors and the history of Jaffa. The building’s original characteristics were meticulously preserved and restored. The reception area is situated on the ground floor, with a marble staircase that leads down to a sunken garden and a swimming pool surrounded by lounge chairs. A bar and deejay setup are located next to the pool.  

Membership and rates

Soho House offers two types of membership: local, which includes access to Soho House Tel Aviv only; and global, which includes access to all Soho Houses around the world. Members also have access to the Soho House app ( SH.APP) where they can book rooms, events, fitness classes and screenings, as well as browse content and connect with others from anyplace in the world.

Membership rates: There are different membership tracks, depending on whether members wish to use mainly their local House or whether they travel frequently and want access to Soho Houses around the globe. 

Local membership for Soho House Tel Aviv, for those under 27 years old: NIS 2,000 a year

Local membership for Soho House Tel Aviv, for those over 27 years old: NIS 8,000 a year

Global membership with access to all Soho Houses, for those under 27 years old: NIS 5,000 a year

Global membership with access to all Soho Houses, for those over 27 years old: NIS 10,000 a year

Credit - Sivan AskayoCredit - Sivan Askayo

Room rates, Soho House Tel Aviv

For the very first time, non-members and Friends of Members are now able to book rooms at Soho House Tel Aviv. Prices for a night in a standard room start at NIS 1,100 for the smallest room (18 square meters).

A medium-sized room (25 square meters, with a king-size bed) costs NIS 1,350 per night. 

A large room (30 square meters, with a large bathroom) costs NIS 1,550 per night.

A suite (60 square meters, with a kitchen, living room and private balcony) costs NIS 2,250 per night.  

Prices, of course, vary according to the season and do not include breakfast. Soho House members and Friends of Members will receive a discount.

The bottom line

The pampering and meticulously designed rooms, the various seating areas scattered throughout the entire compound, the sunshine around the pool, the long breakfast in the garden, the artwork in every corner and the cocktails that go straight to your head –all taken together, Soho House Tel Aviv truly delivers the goods. And spending time in the public spaces opens the door to encounters with an intriguing variety of people and events.

During the day, you’ll see many trendy young people sitting around the tables or working on laptops, and in the evening, a fashionable bunch arrives to chill out at the bar next to the pool (on the evening I was there, Mimouna festivities drew in a crowd of relatively young partygoers). Even without a television in the room, a stay at Soho House Tel Aviv is richly diverse and fulfilling. It all goes by in the twinkling of an eye – because that’s how it is when you’re having fun.

The writer was the guest of Soho House Tel Aviv in Jaffa.