Tel Aviv’s pioneering boutique Hotel Montefiore is back

Twelve years ago, the Montefiore Hotel became the first boutique hotel in the city that doesn’t sleep. The past year saw it struggling to survive but now the hotel and its iconic restaurant are back.

SPACIOUS AND bright, the rooms are equipped with floor-to-ceiling books in multiple languages (photo credit: Courtesy)
SPACIOUS AND bright, the rooms are equipped with floor-to-ceiling books in multiple languages
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tel Aviv in 1924 was booming. With a population of some 25,000 people, houses were being completed at a rate of two a day. The gorgeous three-story building that is home to the Montefiore Hotel was built in an eclectic architectural style in that year, just before the no-nonsense Bauhaus style mushroomed across the city. And that’s nice because this preserved edifice oozes a colonial flair with its large European-style windows and balconies outside, while inside its dark wooden floors, pressed-tin ceilings, and plush leather-cushioned seats shaded by palms conjure up a bygone era.
A dozen years ago, this became the first boutique hotel in the city that doesn’t sleep. Together with its chic restaurant, it became the place to see and be seen by Israelis and international tourists alike.
But while it never really shut its doors during the coronavirus pandemic, this past year has seen it maneuvering to survive. At one point it was renting out its 12 rooms on a long-term basis to locals.
But now the Hotel Montefiore and its iconic restaurant are back, and back with a bang.
“The phone does not stop ringing. It’s crazy,” said general manager David Wartenberg, who added that they have started to get bookings for the summer from abroad, when tourists will hopefully be allowed to return.
The clientele was once about 90% foreign visitors. Today, as locals fill it up, it’s the exact opposite. And honestly, that’s the attraction. The setting is classic. The vibe is very urban Tel Aviv chic.
The hotel is located on Montefiore Street in the heart of Tel Aviv, close to swank Rothschild Boulevard and bustling Allenby Street. My companion and I dropped off the car with the valet, (who remembered my name throughout my stay) and entered the salmon-hued building to check in.
Ours was a room one floor up that boasted a balcony overlooking a street-side patio. Spacious and bright, the rooms are equipped with floor-to-ceiling books in multiple languages, a cappuccino machine and a black marble bathroom stocked with Bulgari bath products and robes and slippers.
Fresh water in a glass decanter is just an example of the little details that make this small hotel so special.
“It is really this personal touch,” GM Wartenberg said. “Guests will be wowed from the level of details we go into. If we remember that you like a short espresso, in the morning the team will know that Mr. Smith likes Americano with milk on the side. And I think it is easy to do it when you have 12 rooms. It means that I as the GM need to know all the guests.”
Let’s face it, the Montefiore boutique hotel is a hotel based and focused around an amazing restaurant that serves French cuisine under a Vietnamese spell. In fact, the restaurant and hotel share the same lobby and reception desk, not to mention the jazz music in the background.
The stylish urban hotel doesn’t have a pool or spa or any large reception hall. That you can find in other hotels in Tel Aviv. Its virtue is its location, style and vibe. In a nutshell, the Montefiore is a perfect place for experiencing the city and then crashing.
By 8 p.m., the place is packed. There are fewer tables than before corona to create a healthy distance and the staff all wear masks. But there’s a definite buzz in the air as the glasses clink and barmen shake cocktails. The dress code is as eclectic as the city itself, from slick city suits to black jeans and tight T-shirts, from elegant gowns to floral dresses. It was a well-groomed crowd.
After cocktails we toil over the mouth-watering menu, changed daily by chef Barak Hason. My companion and I opt for a variety of appetizers, including pork and shrimp-filled spring rolls that we wrap in endive and dip in a thick curry sauce.
For the main course I pass on the bacon-wrapped pork chops and choose the seared wild sea bass fillet smothered in a crab bisque on a bed of tortellini. From the international wine list we choose an Italian rosé that lasts us through sumptuous desserts of raspberry pie, chocolate and whiskey tart and a creamy mille-feuille.
(My advice: Don’t fill yourself with the freshly baked buns and breadsticks, and always save room for desserts)
The restaurant shuts the kitchen at midnight, but the crowd usually doesn’t thin out till after 1 a.m. And here’s the best part for us: All we had to do was get our bloated frames back to our room upstairs, where we digested our meal on the balcony watching the Tel Aviv night life buzzing below.
In the lobby the following morning, Wartenberg comes up to me and smiles and asks, “Arieh, did you feel the atmosphere here last night?”
There was definitely a great vibe, a sense of joy and intimacy and the low murmur of something special. Not sleazy, but classically visceral. The gourmet dishes, flowing wines, cocktails and sweet desserts are among its best kept secret.
That said, the Montefiore is also renowned for its breakfast, which is usually very popular, but for now is restricted to just the guests. It’s not the typical Mediterranean spread you find in most Israeli hotels. No. This is classic, with each table getting its own basket of freshly baked pastries and breads, individual salads and of course, custom-cooked eggs and bacon on the side.
The R2M group that owns the Montefiore boasts its own kitchen, supplying its Tel Aviv gastronomic institutions with fresh baked goods daily.
Wartenberg said the Montefiore weathered the coronavirus pandemic well, keeping on most of their trained staff, which he said was key to their hospitality.
“It is nice to host the locals. They have a big thirst for experience because everyone was at home for a year. But we are really looking forward to tourists coming back,” he said.
Staying at the Montefiore hotel, he claims, is a classic Israeli urban experience.
“The ambience created by the people here is something very natural and not forced, which touches on Israeli character that is very open and warm,” he remarked of his multi-lingual staff.
“You cannot take this place and copy paste it somewhere else. We have a common denominator of people here who are intelligent and caring and warm and this is what guests need. And diners need. They need attention. They need to see passion in your eyes and we are passionate.” 
A stay at the Montefiore hotel is not exorbitant, but not cheap either: about NIS 1,200 a room mid-week, not including VAT if you are an Israeli citizen. And dinner too is pricey, about NIS 600-800 for a couple. Still, demand is heavy and anyone fortunate to book a room will be in for a lovely Tel Aviv urban experience.

The writer was a guest of the hotel and restaurant.