Sunday, July 31, 2011

Revolution Tel Aviv Style – Missing The Old Gootcha

The Diner by Gootcha – Ibn Gvirol 14

Civil revolution fever is gripping Israel. Where we once thought we were immune to the Arab Spring and protests in Tahrir Square, Israelis are taking to the streets in there thousands. But this protest is not about security or politics rather social and economic realities – the perceived destruction of the middle classes.  

From the very first day I arrived in Israel I was shocked by the price of goods and living expenses in this country. Everything is so expensive and average salaries are very low. Yes we are far better off than third world countries and some European ones, like Greece, but one has to understand that healthy job figures alone is not enough. What is the point of earning a salary that doesn’t pay off monthly expenses and you find yourself constantly two steps back in debt?

The irony here is that the government preaches that we have never had it so good and that pure capitalism is working in Israel. The truth is that capitalism and privatisation in Israel is ugly as it leads to a small handful of people controlling business and government, making enormous profits on behalf of the vast majority of the population - This is only exasperated in a small country. However, the behaviour is also a reflection of all of Israeli society a historical merchant and highly intelligent people which favours family owned businesses and who like many suffer from greed. In general these tycoons are looked up to and It is precisely for this reason that Israel cannot practice pure free market politics but needs a generous measure of independent checks and balances.  


What about protest?

At first it seemed like a group of bored students, looking for a Woodstock style summer experience, camped out on Roschild Boulevard. But this was only the catalyst to something felt and experienced by many in the country. The protests themselves have no single agenda as it is the system that is at fault. Sometimes what works for the US (well even there it is a disaster - debt anyone) won’t work in Israel.

I must point out that it is very humbling and one feels great pride in a country where 150,000 people protest with no looting, fighting or sense of danger. As a person who has seen mass protest in the UK, France and the US, I cannot believe how peaceful it is! Amazingly a lesson in protest pacifism from a country most outsiders associate violence with.

What will the future bring? Well I am an old cynic so I don’t expect much as I find it hard that anyone will be able to change a whole system. But then again I didn’t expect anyone to protest at all, let alone 150,000!

The Diner by Goocha

I will now get of my soap box and get back to business. Goocha restaurant has always been a favourite of mine for casual seafood dishes. The restaurant had two locations; one on Ibn Gvirol and one on Dizengoff. I was sad to see that several months ago the Ibn Gvirol branch had closed and was being replaced by ‘The Diner by Goocha’. It seems odd to me to change something that is liked by many, though I promised to give it a chance.

The new restaurant has transformed but still maintains the very Israeli style of large room with bar and open kitchen. At first I thought I had walked into ‘The Brothers’ restaurant. The restaurant is trying to look like a diner with brown cushioning and black tables – though to me it looked like a brasserie.

The evening we arrived it was not full and we got a table for two. Initially the table next to us was dirty from the previous occupants and the restaurant felt warm but with every few minutes an occasional drop of water from the air conditioning units – this forced us into a little table moving dance. However, all of these things I forgive as it is a new restaurant and is only ironing out its teething problems.

The menu is varied with many diner style favourites, if limited as it was divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner, where an average diner is an all-day menu. We ordered a burger and a roast beef sandwich accompanied by French fries and home fries.

As always I was worried with the burger as the brunette had ordered it, but with the first bite she seemed fine and said it wasn’t bad – high praise. I tasted it and got some gristle in my bite so wasn’t blown away by it. My roast beef sandwich was warm and tasted ok like a sandwich I would get at Olive (Reuben has a much better sandwich but I will not forgive them for offering pickles from jars). On a side note, there are many cravings I have in Israel for food which is hard to come by and sliced rare roast beef is one of them. Why does this country have to cook it to death?  

Some words about the fries – the brunettes French fries were fine but my home fries were unusual as it is the first time I have had American style home fries in Israel which are similar to the breakfast variety in the states. Basically potatoes cut into cubes and coated with a sweet stick sauce.  To date the home fires I have had in Israel have been anything from chunkier chips to spicy ones. Unfortunately it didn’t go well with the sandwich – it would have gone better with bacon and eggs. The one thing I did enjoy was the coleslaw that accompanied the burger.

Service was good throughout, but I generally like the casual service standards one finds in Israel as it is a reflection of the warm hospitality one receives in the country.

Overall we only ordered a couple of dishes and they were of the average variety in a restaurant that is still finding its feet. Though I think it is a shame that they closed down a much better concept to open only an average one. Finally as the brunette likes to say ‘we won’t be coming back’ but maybe it is still worth giving them another chance in a couple months’ time.

3 stars out of 5


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tel Aviv Tent City – A Tale of Two Steaks

Tents are springing up all along Rothschild Boulevard, in the centre on Tel Aviv. It is not as result of the relentless heat but rather as an act of protest. It seems Israel has entered an era of civil protest, whether against cottage cheese, fuel or housing prices the theme is the same and that is high prices. In an earlier post I commented that I was disappointed that civil protest was limp here, but I must start eating my hat as people are starting to wake-up to rip-off Israel.

For those who haven’t read the earlier posts – Israel is an excessively expensive country, particularly when compared to the low average salary. The gap in salary vs prices has mushroomed over the past few years and has now reached a level where many middle class Israeli families cannot make ends meet. There are multiple reasons for this situation (many quite ugly such as greed and corruption) but the question is what can be done to sort out the problem?

I am pleased that people are starting to take notice and peacefully protest for change. However, I am a pessimist (realist) and do not think it will make much of a difference as change here only occurs when government or business is under threat. Take for example the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard, which is mostly populated by students and young people. The cause, while just, is not one which will bring the country together to go out on the streets. Why? For one there is no simple solution to the housing prices and second the tent people do not have a list of demands. Even the cottage cheese protest may have brought short term prices changes but all it really showed is how ugly and corrupt business is in Israel.

The only way to reach an outcome is through mass popular revolution but here one needs a rallying cry and unifying cause. Take Egypt and Tahrir square there the youth wanted a change in the regime and many other felt the same. In Israel it is too fragmented, one needs a populist leader or encompassin cause - it exists the question is how to market it. Until then most if not all protests will just fizzle out and life will continue regardless of the financial hardships.

A Tale of Two Steaks

I recently had the opportunity to semi-scientifically confirm my viewpoint that Israeli beef has a different flavour than US beef (with the US being far superior in my opinion). A couple of friends bought back a selection of US steaks on a recent trip (from a butcher and froze it) and I bought a couple of Israeli steaks from a well-known Northern Israeli butcher (unfrozen).

Laying out the steaks on a platter and comparing, the first obvious difference was marbling. The US steaks had a far better and superior marbling (i.e. veins of fat running through the meat). The second difference was size, the US steaks were far larger and thicker, but here this is the style of butchering and cuts. From the US we had a strip loin and a porterhouse and from Israel a porterhouse (looked more like a t-bone) and fillet.

We cooked all the steaks to a level of medium rare and laid them all to rest for a few minutes. For some reason the US steaks oozed far more juices, that could be due to it having been frozen.

All steaks cut very easily even though the US steaks were thicker. The taste however was different – The US steaks had a juicier more gentle and smoother flavour while the Israeli beef was slightly chewier, less juicy and an overall less pleasant taste – though not bad.

Obviously this is a subjective tasting but everyone around the table agreed that the US steaks, which were frozen, had a far superior flavour and texture to the Israeli steaks.

For example, the brunette who is very fussy and doesn’t eat that much meat, must have eaten close to kilo of beef (the US variety) and was surprised to discover such a big difference in flavour between the two nations.

And what is the point or outcome of this experiment? Nothing really apart from that Israeli beef tastes different from US beef and a justification to us that we prefer US beef. And also to prove a point to my proud Israeli friends, who participated in the experiment, that Israel still has some way to go to reach international taste levels in meat.

Now if only they would change the law allowing the importation of beef maybe a new protest in the making?


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another Side of Tel Aviv – Average Dining Experience at HaTraklin

HaTraklin – Nahalat Binyamin 41

Last week I decided to travel abroad but instead of driving to the airport and getting on a plane I took the number 5 bus to the central bus station in Tel Aviv. The central bus area like many central stations around the world is considered a seedy, dangerous and run-down part of town, frequented by the homeless and the sex trade. But while these groups exist in this area of Tel Aviv it is also very different and unique.

Many may not know but Israel suffers from a refugee / asylum problem and I am not talking about the Palestinian conflict. Rather the influx of refugees from Africa and in particular from Sudan and Eritrea. Hundreds of refugees cross the Egyptian / Israeli border every month looking for asylum in this country. The problem is not with the refugees themselves but with lack of ideas, legislation or just how to deal with the growing asylum influx (not unique to Israel).  Most of these asylum seekers end up in the central bus area of Tel Aviv.

I am not going to get into the politics but want to describe what the area is like from an insider – outsider viewpoint. Arriving at the new central bus station I walked down Yesod Hamaala Street the main thoroughfare of this neighbourhood. The first thing one notices is that it is a busy bustling street with hardly any white Israeli’s, the whole street is filled with people from Sudan, Eritrea and South East Asia. It is an odd feeling, but not an unpleasant one, as there is no sense of danger here. The street is lined with shops, bars and clubs catering to one ethnic group or another and as such intimidates you from visiting. The area is also lined with traders selling second hand goods on the street sort of reminds me of the African street traders in Italy. Though the key highlight for me was the lively wedding of Sudanese/Eritrean origin with traditional dancing – real interesting to watch.

Other observations included that there are very few African woman on the streets but many men (this may cause women to be fearful) but on the other hand mostly female South East Asian women. This is probably due to that most asylum seekers from Africa are men while it is mostly female South East Asian women who deal with the elderly in Israel. I didn’t see many restaurants but am sure there must be some real ethnic gems in the area.

The one thing that did annoy me is the filth and squalor – it is as if the city council is pretending that there is no foreign community in the bus station area (hoping they will go away) and while the rest of Tel Aviv is relatively clean this area stinks and is filthy. I don’t think that the filth will scare these people away rather just make them feel unwelcomed and annoyed.

Behind the main street is a large park and in the evening it is packed with groups of African men trying to cool off. Unfortunately here as well it is filthy and I wish the council or another group would take an initiative to clean up the area.

Overall a fascinating trip 5 minutes from the centre of Tel Aviv yet a thousand miles from the rest of Israel.


The one regret from my trip ‘abroad’ was not trying some of the local food but I found it both difficult to locate and slightly intimidating. Regardless venturing the five minutes back to Israel proper I took a chance in trying out HaTraklin which is a bistro specialising in meat dishes.

The restaurant itself, like several in Tel Aviv, has a nice large interior with a rectangular bar and a loft like feel. I am getting the impression that this is the typical casual dining style of environment which exists in Tel Aviv.

Arriving at 8pm we were one of the first to arrive and be seated. The menu was large and inviting with lots of meat orientated dishes and an interesting 6 course tasting menu from a reasonable 98nis (price depending on which main course you order). I am always interested in tasting menus so we decided to go on this option.

The tasting menu is divided into three courses with the first including smoked aubergine salad and a beef Carpaccio followed by chicken liver and Bresaola finished off with bunless hamburger and sausage.

The first course was tasty but not unique, the aubergine salad tasted fresh with a nice smoky flavour and the Carpaccio with balsamic was gentle and tasty. Both are nice but no reinvention of the wheel. The second course was our least favourite as I am not a fan of chicken liver (it did taste fresh and chickeny) and Bresaola served with melon which was fine if dull. Our final course was also mixed as when the burger came the usual fear overcame the brunette and I and her facial expression said it all – along with the comment ‘it tastes like Israeli beef = not tasty’. I have to agree and say that it was not great. The sausage on the other hand tasted nice with good flavour, texture and spices and one is given a choice out of three options for the spiciness of the sausage.

Unfortunately the meal is too meat heavy, a problem when not all the dishes are at a high level and that bloated feeling made us skip on the dessert, especially after one of the diners sitting near us  jumped in horror after being confronted by a cockroach on the floor (hey this Tel Aviv in the summer and we are inundated).

Our meal was accompanied by two glasses of good Israeli red wine with the bill ending up at 300nis. Overall a mixed experience that left us disappointed and where we won’t return.

2.5 stars our of 5


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Learning About Israel through Reality TV – Tasty Salads at Haj Kahil

Haj Kahil – Raziel 18, Jaffa

Israel loves reality TV! There are so many programs and variations blasting nightly from the television set; Survivor, Pop Idol, Big Brother, Masterchef, Trinny and Susannah etc.  It amazes me how many shows there are in such a small country, it feels like you are bombarded 24/7. One of the funniest results of reality is the explosion of the minor celebrity population. Israel is also in love with celebrity and most contestants fulfil their celebrity dream (even if only for a short time), while newspapers and paparazzi follow every move of their ‘exciting’ lives.

I am not a fan of this genre, but saying that there is merit in watching some of the programmes. I even recommend people who are interested in learning more about Israel and Israeli society to watch a few episodes of Trinny and Susanna and Masterchef. Do I hear shock and horror among the readers? The reality is that Israel is generally portrayed in an emotive and agenda ridden light abroad. Programmes and documentaries such as UK channels 4 ‘The Promise’ is so loaded that it is no surprise that people have a warped image of Israeli society. Most programmes and documentaries focus on the Palestinian / Israeli conflict, and while this is an important and on-going affair, it prevents people learning about what the country is all about and one reason for the surprise many people have when visiting Israel.

Obviously reality TV is also a warped version of the truth, but it is by far the closest type of Hasbara (explanation) that one can find on TV. For example, Trinny and Susanna (which is conveniently partly in English) visits / meets different towns and people in Israel and one can quickly learn about the complexity of various ethnic groups in this country. Yes it is staged but so are the so called ‘documentaries’. Masterchef (which I personally can’t stand) is a good reflection on society where the emphasis is less on food and more on the importance of family and personal stories. This is a very strong Middle Eastern trait, which exists far less in the US and European versions of the show.

I am not a fan, as why do I need to watch programmes that highlights the society I live in? But I do recommend it as an easy visual introduction to life and society in Israel – far better than any ‘expert’ documentaries that currently exist.

Haj Kahil

Eastern and Arab food is very popular in Israel and rightly so. There is nothing better than having a table full of freshly prepared salads followed by a meat or fish dish. There must be hundreds if not thousands of these types of restaurants in Israel. However, as with any successful dining concept there are few good and many bad examples such as the ‘the brothers’ which I classified as average in an earlier post.

Today I would like to recommend a good version, which is also a very good place to take visitors. The restaurant in question is Haj Kahil in Jaffa (near the clock tower). I almost surprise myself in recommending this place as Haj Kahil has been around in another location and it has only ever been average. But recently a new and more upmarket version was opened near the fashionable flee market area of Jaffa.

The restaurant itself is modern with tiles and an open grill area and bread taboon oven. There are many waiters and it seems this place is always full.

The concept as with many of these types of establishments is to first fill your table with many different salads followed by choosing a main meat or fish dish. One reason I like this place is that the salads are slightly different than your average Arab or Eastern restaurant. In the average place it is usually a mixture of chopped salads, cabbages, pickles, aubergine, tehina and hummus. But here they add to the mix avocado, small aubergines, tuna, red spiced tehina, spicy aubergines. In addition, one can order from a selection of speciality salads which includes cactus with labne cheese and herbs and leaves native to the hills in Israel. To me this is a big plus and have also notice that the salads change on a seasonal basis. To wash down the salads one can orded a jug of lemonade and mop it up with a warm and fresh taboon zatar flat bread. All the salads taste fresh and are delicious.

On this occasion and as per normal we were stuffed by the time our main courses arrived but being clever we only ordered one skewer of lamb and one of kebab. As mentioned in a previous entry skewering beef or lamb is a bad form of cooking as you are usually left with chewy meat and tonight was no exception. I have to admit I am getting used to eating the meat like this and with the sear and spices it is not necessarily unappetizing. The kebab on the other hand was tasty.  

In addition to the standard mains we ordered, the restaurant serves house special mains which primarily represents northern Israeli Arab food such as stuffed lamb (tasty if expensive) and kebab cooked in sauce and  baked with a bread covering the dish (interesting and tasty).

The food is tasty, though it is the salads that stand out more, while the mains are less unique in flavour. The one thing which is different here and which I think is a shame is that dark Arabic coffee with a baklava or other cake is not served on the house thoug it is common in many other Arab restaurants. They do exist for an additional cost and are tasty but having become spoilt by other restaurants I believe that should they integrate this tradition as one would leave far more content and with a bigger smile.

Overall a nice place in a nice area, for both locals and tourists

3.5 stars out of 5


Sunday, July 3, 2011

In Praise of Hebrew Book Week – A Decent Israeli Burger at Wolfnights

Wolfnights – Rabin Square

One of my favourite yearly events in Tel Aviv (and throughout Israel) is Hebrew Book Week (actually 10 days long). For those unfamiliar with the event it is when all the publishers’ set-up book stands in almost every large town during the evening hours. The Fair is to promote local Hebrew books whether it is fiction, non-fiction or children.

This particular event has been taking place since 1961 but has in different guises occurred in Tel Aviv from 1926. I recall as a child visiting with my parents, and the joy of being able to pick ‘my’ book. As such it is still a special and non-cynical event in my nostalgic eyes, particularly for families and kids and reminds us of more quiet and less hectic past.

Israel is a very literary society with many publishers and books for such a small market coupled with yearly public book fairs. To the point that in 2005 it was reported that Israel leads the world in per-capita new titles. This is something I hadn’t really noticed as my initial impression when comparing environments, friends and colleagues in the UK and Israel, that here reading is not that popular – I guess I am wrong.

At the Fair, one can find most publishers and best-sellers in one location, in Tel Aviv it is Rabin Square. And as opposed to everything else here the books are cheap with bestsellers selling at 3 for 100nis. An ironic Israeli example of where two competitive publishers have gone to the other extreme with competition creating lower prices as opposed to higher.

I have to be candid and say that I don’t read in Hebrew anymore, but still really much enjoyed wandering the different stands and seeing what is new and old. I mean books! In an age of reality TV and Ipads it is refreshing to be able to touch and pass your fingers over the written past, present and future.

The Israeli Hebrew week is one important example of what makes this country unique and special!


Reading, as every other activity, tends to make me hungry and luckily surrounding the book fair are several good eating options including Brasserie and for a quick bite the newly opened Wolfnights. Now there is no need to re-discuss my beef and hamburger dilemma in Israel, but at least this story has a happy ending.

Wolfnights is a hamburger joint, they call themselves a chef burger place but I find the term ridiculous and pretentious – It is just a burger! The restaurant can be found on the south-east corner of the square and is modern with tables outside and a counter area with bar stools inside.

Apart from the annoying term chef burger (which exists outside Israel) Israeli hamburger joints offer the option of mixing beef and lamb into the patty. To me personally this is a disaster as I find both the lamb and beef in Israel not tasty – combined into a burger equals failure to my palate. I wonder who came up with that concoction here?

At Wolfnights one can choose from beef or beef/lamb burgers priced at 41nis-49nis - I went for the plain beef version. You order at the counter and are asked if you want the burger medium-well (this is different from other burger places which tend to go for medium). In any other country I would ask for medium but here that equates to raw meat in the middle.

My wait for the burger was rather long, around 20 minutes, but finally my name was called and I picked up my course. The first bite is always a nervous moment as it usually ends in disappointment. But tonight it was decent, not bad (not amazing) but not bad. The burger was cooked well – still pink in the middle and the quality / flavour of the beef was good quality ground meat and grill-charred. The bun was also slightly charred inside and complimented the burger. I had also ordered French fries which were tasty and crispy not too thin or fat. One other observation is that there are no fancy sauces here like in Moses but to me that is a good thing as multiple sauces exist to hide the flavour of the food of which it smothers.

Overall I enjoyed the flavour of the burger more than is other burger joints like Agadir and Moses. It was certainly not the best burger ever but here in Israel beggars can’t be choosers and I would go back the next time I have a burger craving.  

3.5 stars out of 5



Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hot off the Press! Summer is Here! – Good Beer, Average Food at Norma Jean

Norma Jean– 23 Elifelet St.

Damn it’s hot! Summer heat has unfortunately arrived in Tel Aviv and air conditioning units have been switched on city wide. Even I the Disgruntled Diner has unceremoniously switched on his air-conditioning to try and get some sleep.  I know I buck the trend of smiley people enjoying the sea and summer sun on travel agent marketing posters, but it is just too damn hot in the city and not pleasant. If only somebody would offer me syndication of my blog, and the royalties that come with it, as I would buy a summer house somewhere in the mountains.

Fantasy aside we Tel Avivies have to endure 3 months of heat hell – it is not necessarily as a result of high temperatures which is an average 32c/90f, rather the humidity and all day/night wet & sticky feeling. It also wouldn’t be that bad if the temperature would drop at night but here in the city it barely does and how could it with faux sea breezes blowing of a sea where the water temperature is 30c!

It is no surprise that tempers rise in the summer but also unusual behaviours such as street and park benches occupied with people at 2am in their underwear or shorts. I have always wondered why there are so many benches in Tel Aviv, as it is too hot to sit out during the day. However at night couples, children and old people jostle, lay claim and occupy the benches trying to cool off!.

Actually it is late summer nights which is probably the most interesting time to visit and experience Tel Aviv as the city is out on the streets, if only to catch a non-existent breeze. Obviously it is also the time we sleep the least and as the saying goes if you can’t beat them than join them. i.e. if it is too hot to sleep at night you might as well hang out and have a good time.

Summer is also the time of excessive cinema going, supermarket / mall shopping and even bus catching as only here one can escape the summer heat hell with air-conditioning heaven. Now where is the frozen food section?

Norma Jean

The summer feeling really hit me last week when sitting outside at Norma Jean drinking my cold beer at 11pm yet still failing to cool down.

Norma Jean is a place that specialises in a large selection of beer and whisky as well as offering mostly meat inspired food dishes. The restaurant itself is situated on the outskirts of Florentin, which as mentioned in earlier entries is a favourite place of mine to hang-out.

We arrived around 9pm to an almost full restaurant and were actually given the last table in the outside area. The inside of the place exuded character and age as if it had been around for a while with all kinds of decorative knick knacks and an impressive bar wall filled with many bottles.

Having sat down we were handed food and drinks menus. The drinks menu is long with multiple beer, stout and whiskey choices (very little wine and not particularly good), there are also beer and whisky tasting options which is nice if you are interested in tasting different types. In addition, and something that is common in Israel, the place allows you to have small tastes of the beer / stout on tap, which allows you to order the right beer. Personally I was very happy to see such a varied beer menu, which included some tasty Israeli boutique beers.

On the food front it is very much a meat orientated place (not kosher) with burgers, sausages, sandwiches and baby back ribs. Being in the beer mood I had ordered chicken wings while others on the table took burgers, hot sandwiches and ribs. I liked my chicken wings which came smothered in a sticky BBQ sauce – obviously wings are all about the sauce and I found it tasty (others on the table disagreed). The burger was also fine, similar in flavour to Meatbar, rather than Agadir, but still not TDD burger heaven.

The ribs on the other hand were a little disappointing – I am no expert on pork rib cuts but, while the portion was very generous, it was dissimilar to other ribs I have had in the past. Basically it was not the usual small hard ribs with meat in between, where one takes a knife and cuts rib-rib. Rather here it was more like cartilage and fat (maybe another part of the rib area) where the meat did fall away but the flavour was more stewed / pulled pork style. It wasn’t bad just average in flavour but then again I am always happy to see pork on the menu in Israel. 

One interesting observation is that the word for pork in Israel is ‘white’ meat. I was wondering if the branding translation is due to the sensitivity of pork in Israel? I only bring it up as when ordering the ribs someone asked what meat it was and the waitress in a slightly hushed and apologetic tone answered it was white meat.

Another issue with food, as raised by one member of the party who was not hungry, was that there weren’t any snack style dishes on the menu. I agreed with here as one does not always want full meals when drinking and trying different beers and whiskies.

Overall Norma Jean is a nice place to hang out and which offers a great selection of beers and whiskies, yet only average meat style dishes and lacks lighter snacks option.

3 stars out of 5


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fighting over Cottage Cheese Prices – Average Dining at the ‘Brothers’

The Brothers (Ha-Achim) – Ibn Gvirol 12

Cottage cheese has been headlining the news in Israel. Whereas revolutions are taking place in neighbouring countries it is the price of cottage cheese which has become the main topic of discussion here. Following-on from my recent entry on the expense of Israel, people have suddenly woken-up to the fact that they are over-spending and being over charged. This ‘sudden’ discovery has unfortunately tapped into the superficial and non-beneficial friar (sucker) syndrome leading into vocal anger over cottage cheese prices.


It is no secret that Israelis pay far more on a basket of goods than in Europe / US, which coupled with a far lower average salary, corruption, non-importation (and high taxes), small country mentality and monopolies really shows what an obedient, conservative and apathetic society we are. This control quickly becomes apparent to new immigrants or returning Israelis who are often told when starting a new job to expect much lower salaries and longer hours – why? Because that is the way things work in Israel! It is this style of controlled conservatism and indifference mixed with a misplaced nationalistic defence mechanism (attacking any critique from outsiders) which is a surprising, if disappointing discovery to many immigrants / returning citizens. And god forbid you state the obvious or mention the flaws, with a common response being ‘go home if it is so bad here’. It is not bad here for us rather we are pointing out that we are all being screwed! Let us try and find a way to improve things!

I have to say that I find Israeli behaviour on non-political protest distinctly odd as I always imagined there would be no hesitation from a nation that is very opinionated and strong to go out in the street and protest. But whereas social media brings people out in the street in many other countries here is where the protest ends in Israel with a middle finger click on a mouse button. Why are we more different from the Greeks who are currently rioting, the French or even the more reserved British who are seem to be protesting more often when prices rise?

Though even saying that, I am not sure that Israel is any better or worse than other countries, rather just stating my disappointment of how blatantly the government and industry takes advantage, while an apathetic and sometoime defensive population does little or nothing.

What will the war on cottage cheese achieve? Temporary price drops on a minimum of consumer goods?  I fear that the scape goat of cottage cheese diverts from the fact that Israel is overpriced with corrupt and family controlled industry and government, generally taking the piss of an indifferent society because it can and will continue to do so.

The Brothers (Ha-Achim)

With disappointment weighing heavily on our hearts (which ultimately leads to hunger) the brunette and I took the opportunity of trying out the brothers restaurant on Ibn Gvirol. The idea for the restaurant is to take shish kebab (skewered meats) which is commonly found in Eastern and Arab restaurants and serve it in a modern Tel Avivy surrounding.

We were both a little sceptical of the concept as we enjoy the more common Eastern/Arab restaurant that also serves salads followed by a grilled meat course but we said let’s try it!

The initial impression of walking in was good – a large modern loft style restaurant with an open kitchen, brick walls and some retro furniture. We were seated at a table with a fitting brown paper table cloth and given an English and Hebrew menu. While I was going through the Hebrew menu the Brunette commented that the courses were expensive! I didn’t understand as the prices looked fine to me but then I noticed that the two menus were different with prices on the English menus double those in the Hebrew one. We asked the waitress the difference and she mentioned that the English menu is incorrect and charges for two skewers instead of one but we will tell diners it is incorrect (English only speakers beware).

The menu included a selection of salads to start and for mains skewers of beef, lamb chicken and seafood as well as a special that day of Waygu beef. Does anyone else feel that we are suddenly in some sort of imported beef revolution? (Not necessarily a bad thing as they taste better than Israeli beef).

We started our meal with the salad selection for two which included; red and green cabbage, two types of tehina, eggplant paste, grapes & onions and spicy sauces, all accompanied by a tasty bread that look a little bit like a pancake. The salads were ok, no reinvention of the wheel here and as such felt that the better Arab restaurants are tastier.

Quickly following our salads came our main course of entrecote (35nis) and lamb kebab (25nis). Both were cooked medium which in some ways is different than equivalent places which tend to overcook the meat. Regardless my entrecote was a little chewy, if pink in the middle and as such I have come to a wholly unscientific conclusion that beef or lamb (not kebab) should never be served skewered as this method of cooking does not showcase the meat. The lamb kebab was also fine but no better or worse than the many other places that serve this dish.

We skipped dessert and the overall bill came to 127nis including a glass of beer and lemonade. Not expensive but fine.

Actually the whole meal was fine, if boring – I think we will stick to our favourite Eastern / Arab restaurant in the future.

2.5 stars out of 5