We had lunch at a restaurant called Colony some 15 minutes drive north of the hotel. This was I suppose the most European style restaurant we had to been to on our trip. It was nice and airy, with a good atmosphere. The staff spoke perfect English and were, like all the people we have met charming and friendly.
The menu, was a choice of simple salad style starters something we had come to expect. A full flavoured aubergine mousse topped with rocket and tomatoes and served with fingers of a thin sweetened bread. A simple Israeli salad topped with grated cheese, also a roasted aubergine topped with a thick cream and lots of garlic. Flat breads with various dips added to the really tasty starters.
Main courses did not disappoint, a beautiful, soft, sweet ‘pullet’ chicken with a warm salad was very good. My Lamb kebab with intensely fresh green, herby tablouleth, with the obligatory smear of hummus, sliced red onions and grilled tomato was very good. The lamb had a slight mutton flavour and taste but was juicy and moist. Other mains included a good schnitzel served with mashed potatoes and a good sirloin steak with fries.
Deserts were also on a high standard, I had tahini ice cream with halva. Deep full flavoured and very rich indeed. Strawberry cassata was a good choice also, while JD had a perfectly acceptable chocolate fondant (urr)
This was a good lunch, the closest we had come I think to seeing a modern, Israeli cuisine, if not a little European in its execution.
We all pile into 2 taxis, stuffed and now a little jaded and head back to the hotel to start packing our gear ready for tomorrow’s flight home.
At the hotel I write a bit of this, then fall asleep, yes again, watching the snooker on sky sports. We were meeting Naama Oryan-Kaplan, another Israeli contact that evening to have dinner at one of Jerusalem’s most up and coming restaurants. More food?
We meet up in reception and get into 2 taxis’ and head towards Chakra restaurant. JD and Steve get lost and we meet Naama and wait. Finally they arrive, and we head into the restaurant. Its a lively place, open kitchen, and has a relaxed, happy feel to it.
The menu is already for us and we are told not to eat too much bread, as we have lots to
Our waiter, delivers warm bread tells us not to eat too much, a common theme is emerging here.
We start with a deep fried cauliflower dish, with a sharp lemon dressing. Next a roasted wood fired aubergine dish, this really is not to my liking, and the smoke flavour is so strong. Creamy white Taramousalata is very good however as is the chopped liver. Carpaccio of beef with rocket, with a good dressing is fine, We drink the Castel 2010 white wine, its fine if not rather sharp.
Tuna sashimi with salt and onion seeds, salad of beetroot, cabbage and cheese are both good also.
Mains are not the norm. Fried calamari light and fluffy with a big aioli, fish kebabs with tomato sauce are very nice plus prawns, mussels in a hot sauce are spectacular.
More mainstream are the next few dishes, an okay porcini risotto, beef kebabs with a spicy sauce and grilled sliced sirloin with mustard and garlic cloves are all fine.
Desserts keep coming; vanilla ice cream with raw tahini, pinenuts and halva, my heart really is straining now. Chocolate mousse, not the best, tastes of Kake Brand, the cheap cake topping my mum used to cook with when I was a kid.
However the Pannacotta, cheesecake (slightly overcooked) and a crème brulee could have been better.
Now I’m really stuffed, and this time waddle, not walk back to the hotel. I eaten that much I can’t even bend over to undo my shoe laces I’m that full. I fall onto the bed and manage to get my clothes off plus shoes and socks. I sleep really badly, trying to get into a comfortable position. My distended stomach not having any of it, almost saying to me, right, your turn for abusing me!
In the morning I feel marginally better, but still struggle to get up and down for breakfast. The lads feel the same; still it was a beautiful day. We set off with all the kit and Chaim to have a quick look at one of Israel’s best wine producers Castel on the way to the airport.
It’s a small winery run by a man called Eli Ben-Zaken. He is funny and gives us the guided tour. As its winter we are only taken to see the wine ready to bottle in February.
We are taken below to look at the impeccably kept cellar, all the barrels in a perfect line. Its an impressive sight.
We taste all the reds and a rather nice rose; the whites are just about okay. The heat here in the summer is so intense it does not make for good white wine, but its pleasant enough. Our fixer Chaim is a wine expert and agrees.
The 4 cheeses we eat with the wine are outstandingly good, and in perfect condition. Sadly I have lost all the notes on the supplier. I think I remember Eli and Chaim both saying she was a local producer.
Next it was lunch in a local restaurant Caravan Inn that included lovely big chicken and lamb kebabs, salads and falafel before carrying onto the airport.
We say our goodbyes to our driver and Chaim and settle down to the absurdly long check in. I have to say its the longest I have ever been through. Some 4 hours later we finally get on the plane, even then being ushered through with the help of the El Al staff.
Our whistle stop tour of Israel was finally over, it seems like we had only just arrived. I will go back in the near future and take my wife, she is desperate to go, but will make sure I starve myself for a week or so before I do.
The people, food and the experience have been wonderful, and I have really enjoyed it and I urge you all to go.
I do want to thank everybody who helped us get this together. I know its not easy to organise which makes it all the more special, thank you.
Thanks to the following people who made this trip possible:-
· Zoe Bermant and all the staff at El Al Israel Airlines Ltd.
· Chaim Helfgott & Naama Oryan-Kaplan Israel Tourism
· Janna Gur www.janagur.com
· Safari’s courtesy of Cnaan Tours,
· Chef Tiyul Acher & Manager: Mr. Dovi Roll - www.tiyulacher.com
· Rama’s Kitchen Four Seasons Tomer Niv
· Eli-Gilbert Ben-Zaken Domaine du Castel - www.castel.co.il