Go back to the enewsletter Tel Aviv is fast becomi

first_imgGo back to the enewsletterTel Aviv is fast becoming one of the world’s most with-it beach destinations – think Bondi, or, in the US, Miami Beach in Florida, Venice in California. Now, at the southern end of Tel Aviv’s highly popular Charles Clore Park beachfront, the old-town area of Jaffa has two stunning new hotels, both combining history with today.The Nakash family, who own The Setai on Miami Beach, now have two properties in Israel. The Setai Tel Aviv has been years in the making. Buildings on Jaffa promontory dating back to the 13th century had been converted to a mansion for the governor, and then into first the local prison and then to Jaffa Police Station. The 150-room hotel as it is today opened January 2018, and fortunately the minute precision of redevelopment has retained some historic areas, cleverly linked in with brand new. The gym, for instance, has 13th-century walls and latest Citterio-designed Technogym bits.The Setai Tel Aviv | image credit: Assaf Pinchuk PhotographyThere is an area GM who oversees both The Setai Tel Aviv and the 110-villa Setai Sea of Gallilee resort, and, in the Tel Aviv hotel, operations are handled by a Cretan Manager, Sotiros Ikonomou, married to an Israeli; and by a Parisien, Alex Arfi, whose mentor is François Delahaye at Paris’ Plaza-Athenée. As with all hotels in labour-short Israel, they would like more foreign team members but they must be Jewish.As always, I did not notice that our dinner, outside under one of the terraces’ taupe umbrellas, was dairy-free, or that the splendid breakfast, in the all-day Jaya Restaurant, does not do meat. I did pass by the sign to the hotel’s own synagogue, down in a basement next to the gym.The Setai Tel Aviv | image credit: Assaf Pinchuk PhotographyI was in one-room suite 634, at one end of the top floor of a new block. From one end of the long room I looked north along Charles Clore Beach. From the other end I looked down at the upper terrace pool – which has dozens of loungers – and, past it, out to the Mediterranean. ARA Design Studios have cleverly given new rooms a sense of place, with marble floors, oriental rugs and plain stone-coloured walls hung with old sepia prints of Old Jaffa. I walked around outside in the street, and much of the Yefet area is, indeed, as it must have been for a century or more: there, two-metre-wide open store-fronts, side by side, selling shoes or shawarma from vertical spits; and here, there are old men playing trik-trak, and young men simply working their inevitable devices.The Setai Tel Aviv | image credit: Assaf Pinchuk PhotographyThis is already a hotel packed with Jewish diaspora (there is a noticeably high number aged 40-plus, as well as young couples with kids). On Friday nights local fashionistas move in for staycations. Weekdays, top business people hold meetings here, formally in the many MICE rooms or informally in the lovely olive-tree courtyards, or the inner room, with barrel-ceiling of 13th-century stone.But this is not only about the past. This is a luxury hotel that has style details for today. Bedroom furniture is so smooth you can stroke your hands over it as if it were satin; and stationery, in a black lidded box, includes self-seal envelopes – a real, and increasingly rare, sign of luxury.The other sensational Jaffa hotel, The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Tel Aviv, is literally ten minutes up Yefet, east of the Setai. There had been talk for some years of W coming to Tel Aviv. RFB Holdings’ Abe Rosen, owner of W South Beach in Miami, bought what was to be W Tel Aviv, a one-time convent leased from the Sisters of St Joseph, and somehow decided the project needed to be differently positioned, to a Luxury Collection hotel.The Jaffa, as it is now known, opened 20 August 2018, and it has instantly gained world acclaim, partly because of its chapel. Now de-sanctified, this is truly breathtaking, with original stained glass, restored walls and ceilings, a bar replacing the altar and, instead of paintings of saints, enlarged photos of stars who have played significant ecclesiastical figures: Richard Burton, Montgomery Clift, Bing Crosby, Anthony Quinn, Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy. At weekends, the chapel is an evening club open to the public; other days it hosts yoga classes, and it can be rented for private events.Don Camillo, The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Tel Aviv | image credit: Amit GeronAbe Rosen commissioned architect Rami Gil to add a new block to the original four-floor convent, which gives in total 40 historical bedrooms in the old block, and 80 in the six-floor new block. One entrance is via a pedestrian walkway through a narrow, marble-floored passage, its walls already indicating that, throughout the new area, there will be countless examples of fretted white sheeting (the holes are miniscule compared with the much-admired exterior wall covering at Emiliano in Rio de Janeiro).You can also enter, direct from the limousine arrival, straight into the memorable lobby, with its marble flooring, a protruding 12th-century wall discovered during excavations and, set around, a pair of circular Damien Hirst paintings worth at least a million (US) each, and two dark bronze anthropomorphic sculptures by George Condo, a one-time punk musician diverted to art by Jean-Michel Basquiat.Pool Suites, The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Tel Aviv | image credit: Amit GeronIn bedroom 409, in the new wing, the only art was a memorable full-colour photo of a tree. The room is, well, monumental. How much marble could designer John Pawson fit into a space that is no more than 40 square metres? The marble, which extends under the edges of the built-out-of-the-floor bed, over its headboard and throughout the bathroom, is relieved by masses of mirror, including a ceiling-high panel that hides the television.The designer hates intrusions. Even bathroom taps are low-set, flush with the vanity surround (which can cause a bit of a challenge to anyone needing to store dozens of makeup pots). Talking of beauty, next month the highly admired L. Raphael opens up here, what a coup: last week a bride had pre-event blemishes and, ahead of opening, owner Ronit Raphael flew in specialists to sort the young lady out.Royal Suite, The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Tel Aviv | image credit: Amit GeronThe lasting impressions of high-investment The Jaffa include the brilliant architectural marriage of old and new. There is a serene outdoor pool and a high-standard Precor gym, open 24/7. Also, the food concept is brilliant. A partnership with New York-based Major Food Group MFG sees a really attractive Manhattan-style Mediterranean brasserie: sit in, or as most prefer, outside under trapanned trees that form an umbrella for shade. There is also a fascinating looking day-time Golda’s Delicatessen, with dozens of photos of that formidable woman. Yes, this is another hotel that has world-stage character.Presidential Suite, The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Tel Aviv | image credit: Amit GeronGo back to the enewsletterlast_img read more