The Hula Valley is a magical place; not only is it home to many thousands of species of native birds, but the valley is also a pit stop for millions of migrating birds that pass through the area in the autumn and spring.
This unique phenomenon has long fascinated bird spotters, who travel from all over the country, and, indeed, the world, to witness its rare beauty.
Most, however, have to travel for hours to reach this outstanding wonder in the far north of the Upper Galilee region – making a pit stop for them necessary too.
That’s where Bayit Bateva on Moshav Sde Eliezer comes into its own.
A small zimmer (guest house) in the Hula Valley, just a 10-minute drive from the Hula Nature Reserve, it’s the perfect place to stay in the area.
Set in the heart of a three-acre orchard, Bayit Bateva offers four separate stone-built cabins, each surrounded by fruit trees, beautiful wildflowers and a sense of unrivaled calm, thus ensuring total privacy and relaxation. For anyone who wishes to stay in this beautiful part of the country, it is the perfect getaway; far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
We arrived after a long drive from Netanya to be greeted by the owner, who couldn’t do enough for us.
Having shown us to our cabin, and left us to settle in, he soon reappeared to satisfy our need for milk (my husband and I, both Brits, like it in our tea.)
The cabin (Hibiscus House) was spacious and clean, with a huge Jacuzzi in one corner – very cool. The bed was extremely comfortable, replete with starched white sheets and an abundance of soft, fluffy pillows.
As for cleanliness – you could eat your dinner off the floor!
On the subject of dinner, that evening, we had the pleasure of being guests at one of the area’s most popular meat restaurants; Hunter House.
Also in the Upper Galilee, Hunter House is the new restaurant of chef Bashir Suleiman, in the heart of the Arabic-speaking town of Jish (Gush Halav).
Although not far from Sde Eliezer as the crow flies, Jish is a 30-minute drive from there.
A sight to behold
Festooned with fairy lights, the Jish town center is a sight to behold. We found the restaurant easily and had no problem parking in its large car park.
A warm reception upon our arrival set the tone for the evening. Elias, our attentive, young waiter showed us to our table.
Before we even had time to remove our coats, he filled our glasses with their specialty Hunter House rosé wine and joined us in a hearty l’chaim.
The restaurant itself is like a medieval tavern, with a large Dutch log grill burning in the center, surrounded by heavy wooden tables.
The atmosphere is one of warmth and decadence with an aroma to match.
We were treated like kings; course after course was brought to our table, each one more sumptuous than the last.
Our taste buds were first aroused by a salad course, comprising Arabian salad and grain salad, both utterly delicious. On any other night, these hearty dishes would have been a meal on their own; but this night was different – very different.
Then came the meat. Toasted kebab-filled pita topped with tehina was the first of the evening’s many meat treats, followed by the chef’s homemade Argentinean sausage and veal fillet tartare on bruschetta.
These tasty starter dishes were merely a precursor to one of the most spectacular and dramatic dishes I’ve ever had – smoked asado lamb.
Asado is the Argentinean term for a wood or charcoal barbecue used in open-air roasting or slow char-grilling. In essence, it was a huge lamb shank served on its own fire pit.
As Elias, our waiter, approached, holding the dish aloft, like Mufasa holds up Simba in Disney’s The Lion King, the whole restaurant turned to gaze in wonder at the magnificent offering being brought to our table. We had to lean back as he set it down between us, to avoid being splashed by the sizzling juices.
Once the flames had abated, Elias proceeded to rip the succulent meat from the bone with his hands (he was wearing protective gloves) and feed it to my husband – much to our surprise!
The meat was spectacular; soft and juicy on the inside, well done on the outside – something for everyone. Garlic cloves, lightly charred by the flames, made a lovely, sweet accompaniment.
Happily, we left just enough room to polish off the next course; a huge, succulent T-Bone steak, served on a large, wooden board with potatoes, tomatoes and a stern-looking bird of prey perched on the end, watching over us.
As we took a well-earned break before tucking into dessert (homemade kanafeh – a syrupy Middle Eastern pudding made from spun pastry), Bashir, the owner, came to say hello.
A larger-than-life character – whose innovative, culinary fare left us not only sated, but hugely impressed – Bashir was clearly in his element.
The perfect host.
I watched as he walked around the tables, laughing and joking with his Jewish and Arab customers, sitting side by side, enjoying the food and the unique atmosphere of his fabulous restaurant.
To make a reservation at Bayit Bateva go to http://bayit-bateva.co.il/ (prices start from NIS 750)
To book a table at Hunter House, go to https://hunterhouse.rest.co.il/en or call 053-9386102 (starters and salads from NIS 28; main courses from NIS 45 – the restaurant is not kosher).
The writer was a guest of the hotel and restaurant.