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Thursday 25 February 2016

Singapore – The Spotlight Nation at San Sebastian’s Gastronomika

Gastronomika is a major international gastronomic conference in San Sebastian, and now in its 17th year, it has gained a significant following and importance. 

Many of the big names in the culinary world flock to San Sebastian in October each year to take part in it, and the whole town, already a major destination for any foodie, becomes the place to be (or be seen).

I love San Sebastian and have written about it here (read this post for a list of Pintxos bars and their unique specialties).

San Sebastian Old Town

San Sebastian is without a doubt, my favourite European destination for food, be it for its incredibly good value and quality pintxos (the Basque tapas) or for its 3-Michelin starred restaurant experiences. I had one of the best meals of my life at Martin Berasategui, reviewed here.

The burnt Basque cheesecake by Bar La Viña in San Sebastian - not to be missed!

So what should you expect to see or do at Gastronomika? If you are a hospitality professional or a hardcore foodie, there will be plenty to keep you entertained for days – tastings, lectures, cookery demonstrations and a vast range of Basque and international exhibitors.

For the latest Gastronomika, Singapore was the spotlight nation at the congress, and so I was lucky enough to be invited by the Singapore Tourism Board to San Sebastian to attend the congress and meet 12 of the biggest names in Singaporean cuisine flown in especially for the occasion.

One of these chefs was the charming Malcolm Lee, head chef and owner of Candlenut in Singapore, a restaurant specialising in the traditional cuisine of Peranakan heritage also known as Nyonya (a cuisine created from Malayan and Chinese heritages unique to the straits of South-East Asia).

Other chefs included Justin Quek of Sky On 57, one of the most celebrated French cuisine chefs in Asia today, Andre Chiang of Restaurant Andre, currently the 37th restaurant on San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best, and the British chef Ryan Clift of the Tippling Club in Singapore, who cooked us one of the best meals we had during the congress, but more on that later.

This extraordinary line-up of Singapore’s emerging and established culinary minds were involved in a variety of different activities during the congress ranging from high-tech cooking demonstrations and discussions in the main auditorium to preparing and feeding a hungry San Sebastian street crowd with what Singaporeans do best – street food.

Chef Wayne Liew’s “Coffee Pork Ribs” were one of these Singaporean street-foods I got to sample - tender pork on the bone, cooked in caramel and plenty of coffee, this was sweet, savoury and surprisingly addictive.

Chef Wayne Liew’s is the head chef of Keng Eng Kee Seafood (or KEK for short) in Singapore, and is known for his highly creative dishes, his Marmite Chicken being just one other example.

Chef Emmanuel Stroobant (originally from Belgium) has lived in Singapore for the last two decades where he opened his first Belgian restaurant Saint Pierre in 2000, gaining Relais & Châteaux accreditation in 2008. Chef Emmanuel Stroobant is the author of cookbooks, host of TV cookery shows and the head-chef and owner of 4 restaurants in Singapore. At Gastronomika, his “Chicken Rice Croquetas” drew a curious crowd wanting to try his modern spin on Singapore’s national dish – Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Available in every corner of Singapore from hawker centres to high-end restaurants, the chicken is steeped in boiling water until fully cooked before being soaked in cold water to ensure the tenderest of meat. The equally important rice is cooked in chicken stock, ginger and pandan leaves making it extra aromatic and delicious. Chef Stroombant’s version had succulent, juicy pieces of chicken wrapped in a ball of flavoured rice, then shallow fried for a crispy outer layer. It was very good and a really clever way to turn a classic sit-down kind of dish into a snack(able) number. I just wished I had eaten more of them!

One of the most representative dishes of Singapore’s blend of races, cultures and ethnic foods, the Singaporean “Laksa” in the hands of Chef Peter Teo, was given a complete make over specially for Gastronomika. Made from a mousse of mussels and prawns served in an intensely rich broth with squid ink noodles covered in foam of coconut milk and spices, his “Laksa Turban” was a real hit on the streets of San Sebastian.

Peter Teo is the executive chef of the French restaurant Les Amis in Singapore, part of the Les Amis Group, a collection of dozens of top-class restaurants located throughout Asia.

But one of the most memorable meals that we enjoyed during Gastronomika was the official congress dinner cooked by British born chef Ryan Clift of the Tippling Club in Singapore. Clift moved to Singapore in 2008 after training with some of the biggest names in Europe including Marco Pierre White, Peter Gordon and Emmanuel Renaut.

Chef Ryan Clift seasons his dishes using the ingredients’ natural glutamates avoiding the use of salt or pepper in any of his creations. His cooking incorporates a range of highly flavoursome, seasonal ingredients with ultra-modern techniques. Take for example his starter of clams with garlic and parsley – a delectable dish with different textures, great flavours and unique presentation.

It was great to experience a different facet of Singaporean cooking in San Sebastian. I must admit that whenever I find myself there, I tend to eat Nyonya, Hokkien Chinese or Indian but Chef Ryan Clift has shown what I am missing out on!

Singapore is one of my favourite Asian destinations for many reasons - it is the perfect place for either a busy city holiday with loads of things to do or as a place to chill and recharge your batteries. Being a major financial hub, there is a large expat community living in Singapore alongside the locals who come from a mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian heritages.

Perhaps for all these reasons, the food scene in Singapore is one of the best you will ever experience – from hawker centres to Michelin standard restaurants, the quality and variety of food are superb and with many options to fit every possible budget. 

If you are planning a visit to Singapore and would like to experience some of the best cooking in town as seen at San Sebastian’s Gastronomika, I list below all the 12 chefs who were participating in the congress and their respective restaurants. This will make for a great Singaporean restaurant list, and if my experience is anything to go by, you will not be disappointed!

The 12 Singaporean chefs at Gastronomika were:

André CHIANG - Restaurant André

Dave PYNT – Burnt Ends Restaurant

Emmanuel STROOBANT – Saint Pierre

HAN Li Guang – Labyrinth

Jet LO – Ding Dong

Justin QUEK – Sky on 57

Malcom LEE – Candlenut

Pepe MONACAYO – Bam!

Peter TEO – Les Amis

Ryan CLIFT – Tippling Club

Wayne LIEW - Keng Eng Kee

Willin LOW - Wild Rocket

About the Singapore Tourism Board

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is a leading economic development agency in tourism, one of Singapore's key service sectors. Known for partnership, innovation and excellence, STB champions tourism, making it a key economic driver for Singapore. STB aims to differentiate and market Singapore as a must-visit destination offering a concentration of user-centric and enriching experiences through the "YourSingapore" brand. 

For more information, visit www.stb.gov.sg or www.yoursingapore.com or follow the STB on Twitter @STB_sg (https://twitter.com/stb_sg).  

Many thanks to the Singapore Tourism Board for inviting me to San Sebastian's Gastronomika

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Barrafina Drury Lane: Exquisite Spanish Tapas to Queue For!

Name: Barrafina Drury Lane

Where: 43 Drury Lane, London. WC2B 5AJ, http://www.barrafina.co.uk/restaurants/drury-lane

Cost: The recommendation is to order around 3 small plates per person. The average spend per person is £40 (drinks excluded). Plates of small eats range from £2 to £14.80, chargrilled meats from £7.50 to £18.80 and desserts from £2.50 to £6.80 (or a Spanish cheese platter for £12). 

As would be expected, there is a wide range of sherries by the glass or bottle, starting at £4.50 per glass. The wines, whether sparkling, rose, white or red, are exclusively from Spain. The entry level white is an El Circo Macabeo from Aragon (£19), with a matching El Circo Garnacha red wine at £19. Tempting options include an Albarino from Rias Baixas at £32, and the magnificent Vina Ardanza Rioja Reserva 2007 at £56. 

About: Opened in July 2015, the third and latest branch of the Barrafina group, led by Sam and Eddie Hart, this restaurant looks very much like the founding, Michelin-starred Barrafina on Frith Street.

With exposed brickwork and a lovely beige marble counter set around the open plan, stainless steel kitchen and high red leather stools, the look is modern yet warm and convivial.

But the best thing is that it is a great set up for people-watching and also for studying the Spanish chefs doing their thing - I really enjoyed this aspect of Barrafina.

There are no separate tables, and all 23 diners are seated at the counter. Like the other branches of Barrafina, regrettably the Drury Lane outfit does not take reservations for groups of fewer than 8 people so you need to take your chance. There is a private dining room downstairs where groups of 8 or more can be seated.

Fortunately on the evening we attended, there was no queue although there were only two spaces left. Waiting time is minimal at lunchtime, but in the evenings it can be quite a different story

What We Ate: The menu at Barrafina is not too long, but the dishes read so temptingly, the main problem we had was choosing what to order. We started with their deep-fried courgette flower (£7.80) – beautifully presented with a scattering of red amaranth and Espelette pepper, it was crisp on the exterior but stuffed with an unctuous goats cheese and orange honey filling.

The pan con tomate (£2.80 each) featured some intensely flavoured and fleshy tomato, with a smack of chilli heat, virgin olive oil, parsley and crunchy toasted bread. So simple and yet so good.

The insanely moreish  chipirones (£6.80) were deep fried and super-crispy baby octopus, served in a paper cone with lime, smoked paprika and sea salt – so delicious and a very generous portion too.

The crab bun (£8.80) was a lovely toasted bun filled to the brim with a deliciously creamy bisque of crab spiked with brandy and habanero chilli - a blissful combination.

The soft shell crab (£10.80) was huge, served with fried spring onion, red chilli and garlic, with a Japanese dressing of mirin, soy sauce, sake and sesame oil, and a dollop of saffron aioli to give it a Spanish twist.

Next up was a toastie of deliciously grilled sourdough bread topped with celeriac puree, morcilla de Burgos (black pudding), sliced courgette and fried quail eggs (£8.50).

Pork belly with mojo verde (£12.60) featured unctuous and meltingly tender pork with crisp, caramel-like crackling in a rich jus. The mojo verde was a zingy and herbacious green herb sauce of parsley, coriander, spring onion and vinegar.

The baby gem lettuce with shavings of bottarga, pine nuts, pancetta and shredded Manchego cheese (£6.80), featured a delicate sherry vinegar dressing.

To finish our red wine, we decided to share a Spanish cheese platter at £12 including Manchego, Hermecenda from Cataluna, and my favourite Picos (a lovely blue cheese made from sheep and cows milk from Asturias) as well as dried figs and quince jelly.

For dessert, we shared a portion of the spectacular signature Torrijas (£6.80). A traditional dish of fried bread soaked in milk and egg, coated in sugar then fried in oil until caramelised, the luxury Barrafina version is enhanced with custard, and served with a lovely creme fraiche ice cream and caramelised nuts. This is a magnificent dessert, and in my view merits a visit to Barrafina in its own right.

What We Drank: We had a refreshing glass of La Gitana Manzanilla from Hidalgo - a yeasty, salty and tangy aperitif at £4.50 per glass. With our meat dishes, we had a glass of Viña Ardanza Rioja Reserva 2007, at £10.50 per 125ml glass. With a classy nose of blackcurrant and vanilla, this had lovely red cherry fruit, refreshing tannins despite its age, and a finish that went on and on with layers of complex fruit, leather and spice.

To follow, we had a glass of Humilitat 2012 Massard-Brunet Priorat (a blend of garnacha and carignan), at £8.50. With dessert, rather than the full Monty Pedro Ximenez, we opted for a glass of the semi-sweet Alameda Oloroso Cream sherry from Hidalgo (£5.50). Tawny coloured, with lovely nutty flavours and gentle sweetness, this was a good accompaniment for the Torrijas - sweet enough to complement it, but not so sweet as to be cloying.

Likes: The chipirones (deep fried baby octopus) were excellent, as was the pork belly, so unctuous. The torrija was also outstandingly good. In fact, there was not a single bad dish on our menu. Nearly every wine on the menu is sold by the glass, so it is affordable to purchase a variety of top quality wines. Service is friendly and helpful. 

Dislikes: None (on a night when there is no queueing). I have lost count of the number of times I have tried to eat at a Barrafina, but this is the first time I have actually eaten there. I refuse to spend hours queuing to eat, and the policy of not taking bookings is part of an annoying trend in London. At present though, the wait at Drury Lane is not too bad.   

Verdict: With top quality ingredients, excellent cooking and super friendly service, Barrafina is one of the few top London venues for Spanish tapas, and the only one I would queue for, it is that good! Very highly recommended.

Friday 19 February 2016

Thali - an Indian Neighbourhood Restaurant to Cross London for!

Name: Thali 

Where: 166 Old Brompton Road, London, SW5 0BA, http://www.thali.uk.com/html/home.html

Cost: Thali's a la carte menu offers small plates priced at £3.50 to £11.95 and main courses ranging from £10.95 to £14.95. The eponymous thalis are steel food plates with various small bowls containing a variety of different hot and cold dishes costing from £12 to £19. There is also a seasonal tasting menu priced at £45 per person.

The wine list is extensive including some greats like the Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 2009 (£109), and Penfold Grange Hermitage 1999 (£385) perhaps reflecting the restaurant’s Brompton Road location. Entry level wines include a Chilean Chardonnay from Concha y Toro and a Cuvee du Roy Merlot 2014 from France at £18 each. 

About: Opened in 2008, Thali is a charming neighbourhood restaurant in Earls Court serving North Indian cooking created by Head Chef Dila Ram, formerly of Bombay Brasserie.

We were surprised to find it heaving on a rainy Tuesday evening when we visited with a seemingly local crowd. With white plaster and bare brick walls decorated with vintage Bollywood movie posters, and a bicycle rickshaw hanging on the wall, Thali has an elegantly casual but inviting feel.

What We Ate: We opted for the tasting menu. This featured 8 different options starting with a delicious dish called palak chaat made of marinated baby spinach, shallow fried in chickpea flower. The spinach was served very crispy topped with lightly sweetened yoghurt, coriander and tamarind sauce, onions and tomatoes. Sweet and crunchy, with refreshing tartness from the tamarind and yoghurt, this was a really lovely start to our meal.

The Archari chicken tikka followed. Marinated for 10 hours with some delicately aromatic spices, these chunky, succulent pieces of chicken breast were then grilled and served with a tangy mustard sauce.

The next dish was another highlight of our meal, not only for the delicious combination of flavours, but also for its presentation - grilled, lightly spiced scallops and cherry tomato halves were served in a creamy, delicate sun-dried tomato and basil sauce. I loved this dish – delicate yet packed with flavour.

We also had lamb chops braised in yoghurt laced with garam masala spices (green cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, mace, cinnamon and nutmeg). Accompanied by a mint and coriander sauce, the lamb was super tender, served still slightly pink, and with a delicious savour from the tandoor oven.

And then onto the mains, there were three. One of these was Thali’s venison Bhuna, spiced with garam masala, okra, onion, cumin and tomatoes cooked in a tandoor oven. Bhuna is a traditional Indian style of cooking in which spices are fried in oil to extract their flavours, meat is then added and left to marinate for 24 hours before being cooked in its own juices. This process made for a intensely flavourful dish, rich in aromatic cardamom and other spices and with tender and succulent venison (a meat that can sometimes be rather dry if not properly cooked).

The prawn paithya featured Bengal king prawns in a tomato and onion sauce. Paithya (or pathia) dishes are cooked in a hot, sweet and sour sauce, based on tamarind pulp with garam masala spices, garlic, onion, jaggery sugar and tomato. I loved this but felt that the accompanying sauce tasted similar to the earlier scallop and tomato dish.

The final main was a well made chicken biryani, served with a refreshing  cucumber raita.

To accompany, there was an odd dish of spinach with garlic, cumin and cottage cheese, which I thought had a slightly odd, muddy texture (the spinach had been creamed with the cheese) - for me, the only weak dish on the menu.

The other accompaniments were a deliciously buttery naan, made on the premises, and a side dish of lovely okra fried with onions, tomatoes and fresh coriander.

The dessert of the day was milk dumplings – these were served hot with a warm cardamom syrup topped with chopped pistachio nuts. Though a delicately flavoured dessert, we felt it was not at par with some of the other dishes on the menu. Also a tiny dumpling per person does not quality as a proper dessert course in my opinion.

What We Drank: We shared a bottle of Duas Quintas Tinto 2012, from Ramos Pinto, Portugal (£26) - a fruit-driven, very drinkable red with soft tannins. 

Likes: We loved the crispy spinach starter, the grilled scallops and tomatoes as well as the venison main. Great service.

Dislikes: The dessert was uninspiring and a tad ungenerous, the spinach and cottage cheese accompaniment had a challenging texture though flavours were pleasant.

Verdict: There is some very good cooking at Thali. Dishes are delicately flavoured and expertly executed. I would love to return one day. Recommended. 

Sunday 14 February 2016

Tel Aviv - Where to Eat, Drink & Shop in Israel's Foodiest City

Tel Aviv is one of the most youthful and cosmopolitan cities in the world, with one in three inhabitants aged between 18 and 35, and over 100,000 students at more than 20 universities and colleges. Having lived near orthodox Jewish areas of north London for most of my life, this vibrant, creative and youthful energy was something I had not anticipated, but I was pleased to experience it first-hand.

On a Friday afternoon, bar-hopping in the streets of Tel Aviv was not how I envisaged spending my first ever Sabbath before coming to Israel - another misconception bites the dust. But what a great afternoon that was, accompanied by local mixologist David Hirschfeld and a number of new Israeli friends.

Yes we did break bread (the Israeli plaited bread, challah which is a fixture in many homes over Sabbath), but this was accompanied by a delectable selection of dishes, and plenty of arak spirit at the lovely Pimpinella, an arak & fish bar in the trendy Levinsky Market district of Tel Aviv.

Our second stop was at the nearby Saluf & Sons, a new bar and restaurant serving a modern take on traditional Yemenite Jewish fare - think meaty soups and creamy hummus. It also had the best fluffy malawach I tried on this trip – a fried bread that resembles a thick pancake, consisting of thin layers of puff pastry brushed with oil and cooked flat in a frying pan.

Tables are communal with an emphasis on the Israeli concept of  ‘chamara’ whereby people sit together, eating and drinking for hours. And here is where I learnt of another endearing local Israeli custom - their love of shots. So don’t be surprised if you are offered from time to time a complimentary shot of Arak, Campari, vodka, you name it, just shout ‘L’haim’ (cheers!) with gusto and down it in one.

Shishko is a Bulgarian Pub on Mount Sinai Street, and is also one of the busiest bars in town during Shabbat, if my visit is anything to go by. I slightly lost the plot at this place with the countless number of locally distilled gin, whisky, and brewed beers I consumed. The place was heaving with a young Tel Avivian crowd kicking off their Shabbat weekend.

In a country the size of Wales where land and resources are scarce, entrepreneurship and hard work are much prized, but at the weekend the locals certainly know how to let their hair down. I was told that the food and drink scenes in Tel Aviv were comparable to any major European city, and from what I experienced during my week there, I have to agree.

Dalida Restaurant also in the trendy Levinsky Market district of Tel Aviv, attracts a young and affluent crowd every day of the week. Dalida is always packed and reservations are a must – we ate here on the first day of our Vibe Israel Food Tour, but I returned to this restaurant with Dr G in our own time once the tour was over.

The eclectic menu by the chef and owner Dan Zuaretz is mostly Levantine with European and Japanese influences, offering a range of different sized portions perfect for sharing. One of the outstanding dishes on our visits was their ‘spicy feta crème brûlée’ – this was creamy, sweet and spicy all at once, the flavours of salty cheese and burnt caramel is a combination I will not forget easily.

The Israeli-style sashimi of thin slices of sea bream seasoned with olive oil, lemon, chillies, ‘freekeh’ (smoked wheat) and a mix of Egyptian spices known as ‘doa’ (coriander seeds, peanuts, chickpeas, dry mint leaves, sesame seeds and salt) was creative and an entirely new way (or at least to me) of serving a sashimi-style dish.

I also enjoyed Dalida’s raviolo of chicken wing meat and goat yoghurt, with chicken broth, charred courgettes, cress and grated yoghurt cheese. This was my first taste of goat yoghurt cheese - I love finding new ingredients on my travels and introducing them in my cooking back home.

Another winning dish was their French toast served with bone marrow in a richly flavoured beef and hibiscus stock, caramelized chestnuts and Jerusalem artichoke cream. The food at Dalida was creative, the flavours bold but fresh.

North Abraxas is one of 9 restaurants by local celebrity chef Eyal Shani. We had a magnificent (if slightly crazy) dinner here and were lucky to meet the chef himself on the night. Eyal Shani is a judge at the Israeli Masterchef TV show and is said to be a real poet when talking tomatoes!

Of the many great dishes we had at North Abraxas, the one that struck me most was Shani’s burnt cauliflower. I had a brief interview with Eyal Shani who shared this recipe with me - I will be featuring it in a separate post in the coming weeks.

Shani's meltingly tender spinach with butter and Parmesan cheese and roasted calamari in a spiced tomato sauce were also outstandingly good. Few restaurants have impressed as much as North Abraxas on this trip – the atmosphere, the food, the quality of ingredients and the super friendly service all made for one of best evenings of our Vibe Israel food tour, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Tel Aviv.

From North Abraxas, we left for Aria Restaurant & Bar. I must admit, I didn’t get to try the food at Aria (I had eaten so much at North Abraxas), but the dishes that were brought out to us looked stunning and I made a mental note to come back to it on my next visit to Tel Aviv. On the ground floor, Aria is a large bar and club - I could not believe how jam-packed this place was considering it was rather late on a Sunday evening - the first day of the working week for the Israelis!

A nightcap was in order and so we headed to the Bell Boy Cocktail Bar in the trendy Hotel B Berdichevsky, a stone’s throw from Rothschild Boulevard. Opened as recently as 2 years ago, this hotel and cocktail bar is gaining a steady following with some claiming it to have the best cocktails in town.

Messa is a very elegant restaurant headed by chef Aviv Moshe. Here I had one of my favourite desserts on this trip – a fantastic halva parfait with coconut cream, rose water, pistachio nuts and strawberries, topped with halva ‘hair’. It was nutty, creamy but also refreshing from the parfait and strawberries, a real play in textures and flavours.

But without a doubt, my very favourite restaurant in Tel Aviv was Manta Ray – I liked it so much I went back there for another meal once the tour was over. Ofra Ganor is the charming owner, and the kitchen is headed by Ronen Skinezes.
Enjoying Manta Ray's delicious seafood risotto with manchego cheese and macadamia nuts

Manta Ray has a wonderful sea front location, and the fish and seafood are the best – fresh and expertly cooked. The restaurant is famous for its generous selection of meze which is brought to the table and diners pick the dishes they want.  These included squid with grapefruit and fennel, tzadziki with tempura aubergine, cured yellowtail with pickled onions, and tabbouleh.

We sampled most of the menu, but for me the highlights were the fillet of grouper on mashed blue potatoes with shallot flakes (which looked and tasted stunning), and a delectable dish of scallop and shrimp on fennel cream, topped with diced bacon, shallots and apples.

Best of all, however, was the risotto of prawns, calamari and chicken with Manchego cheese and macadamia nuts – this was the reason why I went back to Manta Ray. Shamelessly, I asked Ofra if she would let me have the recipe for this risotto, and happily she did.

At the Tel Aviv Port Farmers Market, a great place to discover and buy some of the best produce of the region, we also had a delicious lunch at the Kitchen Market restaurant.

Tel Aviv Port Farmers Market

What struck me about this restaurant was not only the delicious dishes we had but also their exquisite, creative presentation.

Take for example their beet and fish salad, with thin discs of beetroot, interleaved with dill sprigs over hazelnut and yellowtail sashimi. It was fresh, beautifully presented, and a real delight to eat.

But what to do between meals in Tel Aviv? Tasting Israeli wine of course – Israel is a major wine producer in the region where wine has been made and consumed for thousands of years.

At the Tasting Room, in the Sarona complex near Sarona Market (see below), this wine bar and shop is a place where you can try more than 40 different types of Israeli and international wines using the latest enomatic machines. Similar in concept to The Sampler or Vagabond in London, visitors can pre-load a card with credit and then navigate a wide range of wines from the region and beyond trying 25ml tasters before committing to a whole glass or bottle.

It was good visiting the Tasting Room early on our trip to Israel - I tried quite a few wines here and was then able to buy some of these bottles during my time in the country. I can’t think of a better way to sample such a range of wines so conveniently.

Two other foodie places not to miss are Sarona and Carmel Markets. Sarona Market is situated on the ground floor of a luxury complex of apartments. More like Harrod’s Food Hall than a market– it is air conditioned, and frequented by the well-heeled crowd of Tel Aviv.

With 91 shops of all categories from fishmongers to halva specialists, fruit sellers and craft beers, as well as stalls and restaurants, Sarona Market is Israel's largest indoor culinary market and operates seven days a week.

It is a great place to spend a few hours browsing, sampling and hob-nobbing with the foodie in-crowd.

At the other end of the spectrum is Carmel Market. This open-air market is lively, traditional and authentic, and during our visit was heaving with locals making purchases of essential foods for the Shabbat.

Also known as Shuk HaCarmel, here you can sample from a huge range of street foods, and buy everything from hand-made Druze pita (a traditional flat bread cooked fresh, then filled and folded) to boutique cheeses, salted fish, cured meats, local-roasted coffee, fresh-pressed fruit or vegetable juices.

The ancient and biblical town of Jaffa (Yafo), now one of the two municipalities of the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, can be seen at the end of Tel Aviv’s beach-side promenade. It’s a beautiful spot with meandering cobbled streets, art galleries, boutiques and chichi cafes and a rich history dating back over 5,000 years.

It is mainly Arabic rather than Jewish, and over the last 10 years has undergone a thorough, but still ongoing process of gentrification. Jaffa is a charming place, with its mixture of historical buildings, buzzing bars and antique shops.

Artists flocked to Jaffa as it was one of the few affordable places to live near central Tel Aviv before property prices rocketed over the last few years. It has however still maintained its creative and bohemian feel, and is home to a huge flea market (also known as Shuk HaPishpushim flea market). This is located next to the Old Clocktower in Jaffa on the streets of Yefet, Yehuda Margoza, Amiad and Beit Eshel. Open daily from 9am-5pm, or 2pm on Fridays, but closed on Saturdays.

Tel Aviv-Yafo was one of the most exciting cities I have visited lately – for delicious Israeli and Arab food, vibrant nightlife, and great local wines, not counting the 14km of white sandy beaches, this is a city I cannot wait to return to.

Thanks to Vibe Israel for inviting me on their Vibe Food Tour 2016.

Travel Essentials

Vibe Israel

Pimpinela (an Arak & Fish Bar)
115 Nachalat Binyamin Street
Lewinsky Market District

Saluf & Sons (a Yemenis Bar & Restaurant)
80 Nachalat Binyamin Street - no website only FB)
50% off food between 17:00-20:00 every week-day
No website, Facebook page here

Shishko (a Bulgarian Pub)
2 Har Sinay Street

Dalida Restaurant
Levinsky Market, 7 Zebulon Street
50% off all dishes from Mon to Thur, 17-19 hours

North Abraxas by Eyal Shani
40 Lilienblum Street 
No website, Facebook Page here

Aria Restaurant & Bar
66 Nachalat Binyamin Street (by Guy Gamzo)

Bell Boy Cocktail Bar
14 Bardichevsky Street

Messa Restaurant
Four 19, Tel Aviv

Manta Ray
Yehezkel Kaufmann Street Tel Aviv 703

Kitchen Market
Henger 12, Shuk Hanaml
Tel Aviv Port

Tasting Room
Eliezer Kaplan Street 36
Tel Aviv
03 - 533 3213

Sarona Market
3 Kalman Magen St. Tel Aviv

Carmel Market
This extends the full length of Carmel Street. 

For information on Tel Aviv food markets and available tours, visit the Shuk TLV website below

Jaffa Flea Market

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