Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Best Blog in Tel Aviv! – Not the Best Breakfast at Sonya Getzel Shapira

Sonya Getzel Shapira – 1 Almonit Alley (off King George Street)

Apologies to my readers for bringing this up once more but I must be the unluckiest diner in Tel Aviv! Every day I meet friends / people who tell me they know where the best of anything is, whether it is restaurants, stores and/or ‘secret’ places and only I get stuck with bad, average or, if I am lucky, good. Before arriving in Israel I really believed I was coming to the Promised Land where so many places and things are ‘the best’. And while many things in Israel and Tel Aviv are interesting and exciting, I find it hard to find these ‘best’ places.

Yes I jest and apologise for boring you once more with this rant (I promise this is the last time), but am trying to illustrate to people who are unfamiliar or have not visited Israel or the Middle East, of the colourful language which exists in the region. For all the wars and conflicts, Israel has with its neighbours, we do share exaggerations, colourful language, lax time keeping and hand waving. It can be both funny and annoying but please take note that whenever a news story breaks from this region, to take it with a pinch of salt, and to factor-in the exaggeration aspect.

I will admit it has taken me time to get used to and properly evaluate what people tell me, whether it is the best of something, or that I must arrive at a wedding at 8pm when it actually starts at 9:30pm. Like in the rest of the Middle East (or at least in the countries I have visited) exaggeration has a place. Love it or hate it, it is a fact of life in this unique region. Luckily I have decided to adopt my country’s use of language and am now crowning my blog the ‘best’ of Tel Aviv! (Remember – a pinch of salt).

This all brings me to the one of the ‘best’ places to have breakfast as suggested by a couple of friends and even a family member.

Sonya Getzel Shapira – 1 Almonit Alley (off King George Street)

In a pretty side street of King George, interestingly called the anonymous alley, sits café Sonya. The place has no seats inside but does have a unique garden/courtyard with at least 20 tables. The courtyard being surrounded by buildings makes the experience intimate and pleasant on a weekend morning.

Arriving at Sonya, we waited a couple minutes to be seated but noticed that in bowl they were offering small flavoured ice popsicles which was a nice touch on a warm day. Having been sat we were given some dirty menus (I really don’t like dirty menus – how hard is to clean them?) and a bottle of complimentary water (a nice touch).

The garden is divided into a smoking and non-smoking section, but being outside I didn’t find the smoke bothersome even though we were in the smoking section. We sat on the very left corner next to some out-buildings.

The brunette ordered a Tel Aviv Breakfast and I ordered the North African Shakshuka. For those who are unfamiliar with Shakshuka it is eggs cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices – the dish can also include different types of cheeses or meat for added flavour and can be spicy.

The staff were courteous if a little mechanical repeating back our orders and very specifically asking if each course was to our satisfaction (to me this is overkill for a relaxed café).

Both our breakfast’s came with tasty Moroccan style bread and an uninspiring salad.

My shakshuka was served in a small pan but was not cooked enough (for my liking) with the eggs being very runny and a small pool of liquid at the base of the dish. As a preference I like my shakshuka cooked a bit longer as the cooking process enhances the flavour of the tomato base. On a side note, I had another shakshuka in a restaurant near Jerusalem. There as well the eggs were runny but here I didn’t have a problem as the eggs tasted much better and fresher.

The brunette’s breakfast came with two types of cheese, a small salad, two eggs and bread. From my point of view it looked a little underwhelming as more effort could have been found in sourcing more or better quality cheeses and the undressed salad (though tehnia was offered) looked boring. She was not impressed!

However, the price of the breakfast (without drinks) is only 29nis so I guess there is a balance / boring price point here. Maybe to compensate on the low cost of the breakfasts, drinks were slightly expensive with it costing 20nis for frozen lemonade bringing our combined breakfast total to 99nis. On another side note, we had a better breakfast at Tranqila where we ordered the exact same breakfasts but which did include drinks and coffee. There the total came to 86nis, so this place is not as cheap as I first thought.

The interesting thing about Café Sonya is the desserts. Someone once recommended that they have the ‘best’ cheese cake or apple strudel (can’t remember which) and while these items existed on the menu they mentioned that almost all the desserts come from different patisseries / shops. Is this odd? Probably not, but I guess I always imagined that good cafe’s make their own desserts  –I am probably just being silly and am unaware of dessert sourcing? Regardless, the average only breakfast did not whet our appetite for dessert so we skipped the pleasure.

Overall a really pleasant place to enjoy coffee and company on a warm weekend morning - just eat breakfast somewhere else.

2.5 stars out of 5

Happy Passover!!

The Disgruntled Diner

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