Thursday, March 3, 2011

Israeli Breakfast European Style? – Hotel Montefiore

Hotel Montefiore

The brunette is a real lover of breakfasts, not something that I totally understand but respect - I think it is more a female thing. This love is not just in the food but also with the whole idea of taking time, possibly reading a paper and engaging in light discussion. This love or rather my relations with the brunette have taken me too many breakfast places across the world from hotels to patisseries.

Breakfast is the least favourite meal of my day as usually I am either too tired to enjoy the event or rushing off for some reason or other. The idea of sitting somewhere after just waking up, lingering and reading a paper is odd and anti-social (reading the paper in front of your table guest).

Israel, luckily, is a purveyor of good breakfasts primarily in what is called an ‘Israeli breakfast’ – a mixture of bread, salad, cheeses and eggs. Or more ethnic local offering such as Shakshuka which is a slightly spicy tomato concoction topped with eggs.

Now you would think that with such a wealth of breakfast offerings Israeli restaurants would be proud in promoting their local delicacies. However, this is not always the case and with Hotel Montefiore we meet the problematic pretence of chic international style or as I call it ‘Cmo Behoul’ (Like abroad).

Israeli’s have a love affair with ‘Cmo Behoul’ it is, as if, everything that comes from abroad is better, richer, more stylish and needs to be emulated. I understand that in the past this was true when the State was new, semi-socialist and many items / ideas were imported, primarily from the US. However, today when great things are created in country, the act has become a parody!

One cannot walk in the street without hearing the average Israeli include a word or two in English (usually broken) during a conversation as if to impress his listener and say I am more enlightened than you. Also, how many times do I hear that something or some item is like from abroad. Yes many items here in Israel are from China but so what?!?

And now we come to the Disgruntled Diner pet peeve – the restaurants that try to be Cmo Behoul. To be clear I don’t mean ethnic restaurants emulating some of their influences rather Israeli restaurants pretending to be international chic but neglecting on the quality of the food.

Hotel Montefiore – Breakfast

The brunette has been going on for ages about this place and after many a morning where the thought of leaving bed early to try a restaurant was difficult – I agreed.

The hotel itself is part of newish breed of boutique hotel offerings that is becoming more popular in Tel Aviv. This is not a bad thing as generally the standard of hotels in the city is below par and overpriced with the beach front littered with 70’s style hotel horrors.

Arriving at the hotel I noticed that it was very busy (this was a Friday morning) and that the lobby was small with most space used up tables to host the hungry crowds.

We were told all tables were taken and that the only available place was on the bar. I am not a great fan of sitting on the bar as I find it less comfortable but on the other hand it does give you a small window in to the operation of restaurant.

Sitting at the bar we were given proper thick table napkins and noticed the condiment vessels made out of solid metal (silver? Couldn’t find any hallmarks). This I believe was to impress the diner that they had been whisked away to a chic London or Paris establishment. To me it felt odd as I only saw an overly busy and noisy restaurant taking up most of the space of any lobby and started feeling bad for the guests who would dare try to sleep late on the weekend.

The Breakfast

The brunette and I ordered an Israeli breakfast and the continental. The breakfast comes with fresh juice and coffee. Sitting at the bar we received the coffee and fresh juice. The juice is interesting as it is originally packed in a plastic container saying fresh juice and poured into metal jugs again to give a sophisticated impression. The brunette said her coffee was good.

After a short while a basket with breads was delivered and contained two poppy seed rolls, a walnut and dried fruit (cranberry or raisan) roll and if I recall another type of bread. The rolls were warm and tasted fine however, from my time living in Europe I was never served poppy seed rolls (bar in Germany) usually I get half baguettes or country style bread. Not that it is wrong but more as a reflection of if you want to be like Paris than be like Paris!

With my breakfast I got two eggs some cheese and a salad. I was disappointed with the offering as the salad was cut in large pieces and not dressed – now maybe somebody will argue with me that this is a chic and international interpretation of an Israeli style salad. All I have to say is that you don’t usually get a salad for breakfast in Europe, and to me it was a lazy offering. Additionally, only two types of cheese were offered, one was a yellow cheese and looked like it came out of a processed package while the other was in soft white cheese. All these elements however, were served in classy plates but what is the point if the food is not up to scratch. The eggs, as an exception, were tasty if small.

The brunette received muesli and a basket of pastries. The pastries were also very disappointing or as the brunette (who is from France) exclaimed poor Israeli interpretations of what French pastries should taste like – overly sweet and below par ingredients. However, here again they were presented in stylish manner.  I think we are starting to get the point – ‘Cmo Behou’l style over any substance.

Overall we were both disappointed as we are not the crowd for faux international chic rather prefer quality. However, many critics and diners in Israel love this place, so the restaurant owners have really hit on a winning formula. Just make things look pretty in a boutique hotel surroundings and customers will fight each other to be ‘Cmo Behoul’.

2 out of 5 stars

The Disgruntled Diner!


  1. If you 'are not the crowd for faux international chic rather prefer quality' why go to this particular place?

  2. Good question - On this occasion it was the brunette who was pushing to go and equally I had heard good things about the place. The breakfast was more style over substance.

    I still hear it is a good place for lunch/dinner so will probably give it another try in the near future.