Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel: Homey and high-end

An exceedingly pleasurable stay at Jerusalem’s renovated and corona-ready Inbal Hotel.

NO NEED to stand – just lower yourself onto a burnt umber couch. (photo credit: ASSAF PINCHUK PHOTOGRAPHY)
NO NEED to stand – just lower yourself onto a burnt umber couch.
It would not be exaggerating to say that part of my deep love for our Jewish homeland began at the Inbal Hotel.
Then known as the Laromme, it was there in the late 1980s that nine-year-old me first discovered the wonder that is THE ISRAELI BREAKFAST. Omelettes! Baguettes! Granola! Wee jars of jam! My little sister and I must have gone up for refills of the fresh-squeezed orange juice 17 times (conservative estimate). Add on the fun pool, comfy lobby couches and a sighting of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir doing a photoshoot on the video-arcade floor, and I was sold.
Thus it was with great affection that in mid-summer, I took a short stroll from my home in Jerusalem’s Old Katamon neighborhood for a stay at the Inbal. Given the realities of the pandemic, I was thrilled the hotel had reopened and just had to see for myself.
My temperature was duly taken immediately upon my arrival through the gilded doors, with alcogel at the ready. The concierge provided a warm welcome and an official form for my contact information and that of any others who might pay me a visit.
Notes General Manager Rony Timsit, “We reopened on June 8, in the middle of the period of government uncertainty. Things were changing every day. We are very strict in terms of Health Ministry guidelines and want to be in complete compliance even if it sometimes looks a bit strange.”
I took a look around. Though clearly in compliance, I detected no dystopian ambience in the lobby – rather it was bright and stylish in “modern yet Jerusalemite” design, furnished with yellow/gold jewel tones, having been renovated two years ago (as were the pool and all public areas). So many seating arrangements! Loveseat? Armchair? I like a little variety.
PLANT YOURSELF around the inviting water of the pool. (Assaf Pinchuk Photography)PLANT YOURSELF around the inviting water of the pool. (Assaf Pinchuk Photography)
Management has decided to fill the hotel to only 80% occupancy to keep it from getting too crowded, so while there was a nice amount of guests (the majority of them fellow Israelis), there was a soothing feeling of space.
The Inbal’s philosophy? Timsit weighs in: “We are very friendly, service-oriented at a high-class level. We get a lot of returning guests, and like to [impart] that personal touch. We ask every guest upon their entrance to list their likes and any special instructions.”
It was time to experience all that for myself. What’s a girl to do but head straight for the executive lounge? What was it I spied? Little nibbles and refreshing beverages, including the sometimes-elusive ginger ale and even alcohol. Hunger and thirst washed over me – was it wine o’clock yet?
Fressing to my heart’s content, I moved on to my room to freshen up. And what a room it was! Expansive, with an excellent panoramic view from the balcony of Yemin Moshe and the Old City; an inviting bed with a profusion of pillows and luxurious linens; a big ’ol tub flanked by robe and slippers; pampering toiletries; flattering lighting, though not overly dark (a personal pet peeve in hotels); ample drawer and closet space – everything one would need along with a hygiene box of masks, gloves, wipes and a mini bottle of alcogel. The Inbal general manager confirms, “In the rooms, after the regular cleaning, we go over any surface normally touched often by people with bacteria-killing chemicals [per Health Ministry guidelines].”
Everything felt fresh and new, and it was – in addition to the rooms added in the renovation two years ago, over the past half-year the Inbal has renovated 80 more rooms with wooden floors and updated the furniture, floors, ceilings and bathrooms, also featuring balconies replete with view. Timsit tip: Request a room with a balcony when booking.
SLUMBER BECKONS. (Assaf Pinchuk Photography)SLUMBER BECKONS. (Assaf Pinchuk Photography)
BEING JULY, it was more than mildly hot and I was eager to get to the pool. On the way, I passed the gym, and though I could see it was nicely equipped, it was closed due to corona. I didn’t feel cheated as regulations had been vacillating so wildly, and truth be told, it was a less guilt-inspiring way to forgo the iron pumping and revel in the relaxation.
Stepping into the pool area – which they happily opted to keep open from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. – I collected some plush towels and was gratified to see plenty of chaise lounges and ample shady and sunny areas. No tussles over beach chairs here! The water was just right for a dip, the poolside snack bar stocked Ben & Jerry’s mini-cups... as I scooped out strawberry deliciousness, all seemed right with the world.
(Wondering who to invite to your post-COVID pool party? Sixty people can fit around the Inbal pool, with room for 50 of your nearest and dearest in the water.)
The hours flew by and lo and behold, it was time for dinner! A quick dash back to the executive lounge for a pre-dinner tipple and it was on to 02, the hotel’s new restaurant adorably named for the local area code. The generous terrace with its beautiful vista had the perfect amount of space between tables, which I was happy to see were all occupied. (A private room is available inside for larger groups – #goals.) I took in the pink sunset over Jerusalem and enjoyed the attentive, personable service – from hostesses to sommelier to waitstaff.
The Inbal is famous for its wintertime soup festival but offered so much more in this culinary experience, which 02 bills as “upmarket Jerusalem cuisine.” I chose a refreshing glass of rosé from the curated menu of wine and cocktails, then waded into the summer menu (still being served) of dishes using “fresh local ingredients with a sophisticated twist.”
What did I sample, you ask? Starters: The seasonal inclusion of watermelon rounded out the tomato salad, sashimi was the right level of fresh, and tartar of beef with pine nuts melted in my mouth.
Yeah right, I know you’re saying at home, Jpost writers always talk up the food. But ochel-obsessed me actually found this tartar mighty tasty.
“Mmmmm,” I breathed, digging into the fillet of beef tenderloin, paired with a rich pour of ruby Malbec. Other diners might have turned to stare. Potatoes and shallots confit? Don’t mind if I do!
Semolina cake festooned with orange marmalade, pistachio and roasted coconut was the perfect send-off. I loosened my imaginary belt, sighed with contentment and staggered up to my chamber.
From my balcony, I feasted my eyes on the shimmering lights of the Holy City. It was hard to believe I was right above everyday Gan Hapa’amon, often glimpsed from bus windows while heading into work. I sunk into the huge bed to sleep my cares away.
02 RESTAURANT: The right area code (Gil Aviram)02 RESTAURANT: The right area code (Gil Aviram)
RISE AND shine! It was time for the beloved event: breakfast! I fortified myself with a strong espresso shot from the handy K-cup machine, then prepared to face the chafing dishes.
And it was. It was delectable as I remembered. Pancakes, salads, fresh fruit, shakshuka, puddings – they were no match for me. I was gratified to see how well the hotel rose to the COVID challenge, with the omelet-maker behind a plastic partition and everything individually plated or packaged, down to juices in their own jars. It must have created a lot of extra work for the staff, I reflected, but they handled it all with aplomb.
Gazing out at the vast corona-friendly courtyard and contemplating an eventual move to the pergola, as I delicately (not really) munched on my 76th piece of herring, I felt sated in every way. Child me had not been wrong. The Inbal – always a comforting classic.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.