Finding a touch of heaven

The Maskit Manor spa resort at Moshav Liman near Rosh Hanikra is the perfect secluded getaway if you're in need of some exclusive pampering.

maskit manor 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
maskit manor 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Our new minister of tourism, Stas Meseznikov, recently suggested that in order to improve Israel's economy, Israelis should vacation at home instead of abroad. He's got a point. Israel is beautiful and, even though one may live here and have visited most of the attractions, there is still a lot to see, do and even revisit. Each season is different and brings with it its own charm and beauty. Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to the North as a guest of the exclusive Maskit Manor spa resort, on Moshav Liman near Achziv. Spring was in the air and on leaving Tel Aviv, I had a feeling of already being on vacation. As a bonus, there were hardly any preparations, just throw a bag in the car and drive - no airport hassles, no time restraints, no checking weeks beforehand that passports are in order, no foreign currency and no language problems. The drive along the coastal road, with the sea on one side, was picturesque and the further north we travelled, the more beautiful it became, especially at this time of year with all the greenery and flowers in bloom. After taking our time along the way, including a stop for brunch in Haifa, and a cruise past the breathtaking Bahai Gardens, we were ready to relax upon reaching our destination. We were told to call a few minutes before arriving and the gates would open to allow access to Maskit Manor. We did and 'Open Sesame,' there we were in what can only be called a garden of Eden. There was no reception desk - instead, manager Ilanit came out to greet us personally, take us to the pool area and offer us a cool drink. Sitting by the pool, gazing at the beautifully landscaped gardens with the smell of oranges in the air - we didn't want to move. Time seemed suspended with everything moving in slow motion and it was hard to get up and see our suite. But we're glad we did. Maskit Manor boasts four suites which are actually four, separate, Spanish/Mexican style bungalows. The inside consists of one very large room with a fully equipped kitchen, the requisite indoor jacuzzi for two, winter stove, living room and a beautiful bed next to the French windows leading on to the private garden. Each unit is well secluded from the next door neighbor by high hedges. Two bicycles are provided for trips in the area if you so wish. The only thing I could fault was the tiny shower room; given the large size of the rest of the suite, a larger shower room would be in order. Originally from Nahariya, owner Avi Maskit opened the resort 10 years ago and now lives on the moshav. Two years ago, a spa was added which consists of a hot water treatment room, a separate massage and treatment chalet and a sauna. What makes Maskit Manor different from the other resorts in the country? I found that it's the small personal touches and the luxury of the fittings. Everything you could possibly want or need is in the room and the quality of the furnishings is topnotch. The coffee maker is a proper coffee maker with good quality coffee, the choice of teas is astounding, pampering is the name of the game and the staff are there to cater to your every whim. Breakfast can be served in the privacy of your garden but we opted to have ours poolside. Fresh orange juice, eggs of your choice, cheeses, jams, fresh breads and really good coffee. There is even a DVD library with a choice selection of films to watch on the large flat screen TV strategically placed opposite the bed. The greatest find, however, is chef Barry Gray. Originally from South Africa, Gray started working in restaurant and hotel kitchens at the age of 13 and fell in love with the art of food. He then travelled through Europe, spending many years in London restaurants before arriving in Israel a few years ago. There are not that many people who can count themselves as lucky as Gray who says he's totally content with his lifestyle and career. Married to Gal, from nearby Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra, Gray lives on the kibbutz, and is up at 5:30 am every morning working with the passion fruit plants. "There is nothing so beautiful as watching the sun rise over the sea, the quiet of the morning and the wonderful scenery - a perfect start to one's day," Gray said. He loves food but in his former life he disliked working 17 hours a day in a kitchen, seeing no reaction from diners. Being the Maskit chef is perfect for him as he goes in whenever needed to cook for guests, whether it be for just a couple or a group of diners. Well, there was just the two of us that night for dinner and Gray had plenty time to explain his eight-course menu to us. He took us on a gastronomic journey from Israel through middle Europe ending up in England. All the ingredients are local and fresh with Gray travelling to Acre for the catch of the day and to local markets for the rest of the ingredients. We were in for a total surprise with each dish looking and tasting better than the last. A simple butternut squash soup turned into a masterpiece with the simple addition of red wine vinegar and nutmeg. Canneloni with zucchini, goat's cheese and dill was another delicacy, the fish fillet with white asparagus and beetroot was mouth watering and the piece de resistance was the spinach ravioli with goose liver and a light tomato sauce. Gray creates each dish himself, mixing flavors and ingredients. "I see what the finished dish should look like and then I experiment with fillings," he said. Liking my meat rare and my companion liking his well-done was not a challenge for Gray. Even though the Beef Wellington with its pastry crust that he prepared is usually cooked in one piece - he succeeded in satisfying both of our desires. Deserts were exquisite with the pear in saffron being a tour-de-force. Gray is creating his summer menu soon and I am sure it too will be sensational. The cost of the meal, including wine, is NIS 300 per person and worth every penny. Even though the meal was not kosher, Gray said that kosher and non-kosher catering is available. Maskit Manor is known for its elite and celebrity clientele. It is rather pricy at NIS 1,600 per suite during the week and NIS 1,900 at weekends, which requires a minimum of two nights. This is maybe not the place for a spur-of-the-moment getaway, but rather a treat for a special celebration either as a couple or with friends. If you are looking for a totally secluded, quiet and luxurious retreat this is the place - you deserve it. Ahuza Maskit, Moshav Liman, 04 - 952 1000.