Sound bites

Forget over-processed snacks. We find bags of good, natural food in Tel Aviv.


By Nathan Jeffay, November 9, 2010

Tel Aviv is foodie heaven. Everybody knows about the city's great restaurants, but often overlooked are the many shops where the foodie tourist can enjoy discovering interesting tastes and exotic ingredients. Take a morning to seek out the best the city has to offer, then trundle off to the beach and, as you watch the waves, tuck into a feast of your finds.

One anomaly of Israel is that, while olives are one of the country's most traditional crops, one of the biblical seven species of the Land of Israel and eaten by just about everybody, the standard of olives on sale in most places is pretty poor. Unlike Britain, Israel hasn't developed a gourmet olive culture. But there are attempts to change that. To find out more, head to Olia, a super-stylish boutique for olive lovers.

There are a few different ways that companies process olives and some give you a fresh, complex flavour while others make the fruit taste rubbery and plasticky. At Olia you will taste what a difference the best processing can make. There are olives in numerous different marinades. Ask the staff to explain about their different oils, and let you taste them.

Olia, at 73 Frishman Street, also produces excellent spice mixes and non-edible olive products like soap, which are great to take back home.

To go with your olives, you will need some bread. Most tourists end up buying pre-packed loaves, or going to the "fresh bread" counter in the supermarket. But did you know that most of the bread you will find there is dough that has been produced at some central plant, packed with additives, blast-frozen and then baked in an oven up to a year later?

Locals are flocking in growing numbers to gourmet bread shops, where bread tastes as it should and loaves aren't just "white" or "brown", but numerous different recipes, doughs, and flavours.

One of the best bakeries is trendy Roladin, which is helping Israelis to relearn about baked goods. Roladin was established in 1987 by brothers Avi and Kobi Hakak who began by selling cakes from door to door using the family car. Today each of its 16 kosher-supervised shops - four of which are in Tel Aviv - are constantly packed. Check out locations on roladin.co.il, pay a visit, and you'll understand why.

The centrepiece of any foodie expedition has to be the Carmel Market, close to the intersection of Allenby Street and Shenkin Street. Enjoy the kaleidoscope of colours and the glorious wafting of different smells. Observe the Middle Eastern bustle and the lively rivalry between the different shop owners.

If you are one of the many visitors to Israel who likes to stock up on herbs and spices, here is the place to do it. The shops shift large quantities so you know that what you are getting is fresh and certain spices like turmeric and saffron are said to be of a very good quality.

If you have a sweet tooth, pay a visit to one of the stores with sticky Eastern treats piled high.

The market's cheese shop has dozens of different types and is happy to give tasters, so it's a great place to find out which Israeli cheese suits your tastebuds.

Look out for Joliat and Halavi Pero, an Arab husband and wife from Haifa who make their flat laffa breads to order and top them for you with olive oil, sour cream and/or spices.

The fruit and vegetables in the Carmel Market are - providing you choose the right stall - outstanding and in the surrounding streets numerous juice bars have sprung up, using market produce. And while you would think that juice will taste pretty similar anywhere in the world, that's not the case. The juice bars use typically-Israeli fruits such as dates, figs and pomegranates (which, like olives, rank among the Seven Species) so you can wash down your food purchases with a truly local-tasting juice.

    Last updated: 3:19pm, November 9 2010