Polished service

In this busy city, hoteliers are always looking for new ways to shine. Lydia Weitzman reports

November 9, 2010
Crowne Plaza City Centre, sushi bar

Crowne Plaza City Centre, sushi bar

Tel Aviv - you love it or hate it. It's hot, frenetic, even wild. It's certainly unholy. But it has an energy and beauty all of its own and for that reason, tourists and business people flock there in ever increasing droves. And the eager hoteliers strive to match the pace of the city with upgrades, renovations and improvements, in a bid to stay ahead of the game.

The buzzy beachfront, with its see-and-be-seen promenade and beach caf├ęs, is classic hotel land, with a strip that runs from the imposing Hilton in the north (Tel Aviv's grande dame which retains its loyal guests year after year), down to the Tel Aviv-Jaffa seam with the towering David Intercontinental and Dan Panorama.

Somewhere in the middle lies the 280-room Dan Tel Aviv, the city's first luxury hotel to open in 1953 and today an iconic landmark, with its Yaacov Agam frontage bringing artistic style to the Tel Aviv boardwalk. After relocating the lounge and bar area to sea level last year (why did they never think of that before?), the latest and tastiest renovation at the Dan is the hotel's recently-opened signature restaurant, simply named 99 Hayarkon.

Presided over by hotel chef Oved Alfia and attended by faultless, fawning black-suited waiters, the intimate 10-table restaurant is arguably one of Tel Aviv's hidden gems. Less is more here, with just six items on each of the appetiser and main course menus (augmented by the daily specials). Beautifully presented, these art-on-the-plate designs are extremely easy on the palate - refreshing twists on perennial favourites such as fillet steak or spice-encrusted lamb chops and, when it comes to dessert, the Valhrona chocolate confection is sublime. Starched white linen cloths and silver water decanters round off the luxurious elegance.

Over at the beach-front Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers, the toe-to-top renovations that began a few years ago have finally reached the top four Towers floors, with totally refurbished rooms and suites and a new look Towers Lounge. One-of-a-kind paintings by young Israeli artists grace the walls, the Mediterranean sunlight bursts through the double-glazed floor-to-ceiling windows and both business and "romantic" guests will enjoy the privacy and intimacy as well as the state-of-the-art facilities in the Towers Lounge. And best of all - you will be assigned your very own butler to deal with all that bothersome packing, ironing and shoe-shine.

Tourists and business people who prefer a more urban hotel experience enjoy the ultra-modern but elegant facilities at the 273-room Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv City Centre, which opened in 2008. Convenience is the buzzword at the hotel that is just a 12-minute train ride from Ben Gurion airport and sits on top of the shops at the Azrieli mall, with a (free) stylish yellow New York cab to shuttle guests to the beach.

There's a great sushi and tapas bar, as well as a ground-floor espresso bar, for meeting up with friends and a swish business lounge for more formal encounters.

And here, keeping in shape means free entrance to the Azrieli Holmes Place Fitness and Spa with its extensive facilities, classes and indoor pool - infinitely superior to your average hotel fitness room.

99 Hayarkon, restaurant, Dan Tel Aviv

99 Hayarkon, restaurant, Dan Tel Aviv

For a more rustic, country-club setting that is an easy cab ride away from the city centre, try the long-established but recently-renovated and expanded Kfar Maccabiah Hotel and Suites. The new add-on of 124 luxurious suites to the existing hotel rooms here could be the perfect answer for families craving a little bit more space and all the facilities of one of Israel's largest country clubs (14 tennis courts, five swimming pools, spinning, basketball, mini-football and squash courts, water slides, spa and more).

The soon-to-be-opened business lounge, with its working and seating areas, complimentary refreshments and business facilities, will be an added attraction for the many business guests who also frequent the hotel.

This year, Tel Aviv has won accolades ranging from one of the world's top party cities (Forbes magazine and the Lonely Planet travel guide), one of the top beach cities (National Geographic magazine) and third best Middle East city (Travel + Leisure magazine). Does that tempt you to visit? Then schedule your trip before the end of February 2011 and take advantage of the Tel Aviv City Break programme.

Stay for a three-night minimum weekend at participating hotels in Tel Aviv, Herzlia, Bat Yam or Ramat Gan and you can enjoy special accommodation rates, a complimentary dinner for two at the hotel, free guided walking tours and discounts from 10 per cent to 50 per cent at many tourist attractions, restaurants, clubs, museums, stores and more.

Last updated: 3:20pm, November 9 2010