Londoners get the taste for Israel at the Tel Aviv festival

Big crowds turned out for the four-day celebration of Israeli cuisine and culture


It was loud, colourful and everyone left the Tel Aviv in London food and drink festival with a huge grin, a full stomach and, probably, a yearning to visit the White City, or the Big Orange as it was described on the event’s website.

The festival —part of the wider TLV in LDN event celebrating Tel Aviv's spirit and culture — took place on Saturday and Sunday at London’s Roundhouse and was a sell-out, with people being turned away at the door.

The concept, dreamed up after a meeting between former London mayor, Boris Johnson and his Tel Aviv counterpart, Ron Huldai, a couple of years ago had come to fruition via the Israeli Embassy, and the philanthropic efforts of entrepreneur, Marc Worth.

The huge north London venue, buzzed with activity with a range of food and activities on offer. Chef Shaul Ben-Aderet — who has four restaurants in Israel including The Blue Rooster and Asian style eatery, Mr Mrs Lee — curated the food, a process that had taken a year to pull together. On the menu was a range of dishes (kosher and non-kosher) served in disposable bowls.

Pony-tailed 53-year old Ben-Aderet, who sports a well-groomed, thick white beard explained he had chosen the dishes to give visitors a flavour of Israeli street food. Each dish chosen from a different Tel Aviv suburb. “DIshes that they could take by hand and which are simple and very tasty. You have a mix of Israel in the plate — a beetroot salad with raisins and a pomegranate sauce and a herb salad; And if you want meat you have shwarma or kebab on a cinnamon stick. It’s our food.”

Ben-Aderet and his team of five chefs brought from Israel worked with London-based catering company, Moving Venues to produce more than 10,000 individual dishes on the Saturday and looked to produce a similar amount on Sunday. Other dishes included hummus with tahini; Ben Gurion salad (a flavour-filled giant couscous salad); Aris — lamb-filled pitta bread with pistachios, tahini and Amba and puddings including a rosewater-scented malabi and the richest chocolate and banana mousse in a mercifully small cup.

He was there to "change hearts and minds with food" and when the expected Free Palestine protesters popped up on the Saturday afternoon on the street outside, Ben-Aderet took them some of the chocolate mousse.

Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, was an enthusiastic participant part in one of Ben-Aderet's workshops

As they ate, visitors enjoyed a series of several styles of dance on the main stage, from folk to modern, as well as a stunning, blended percussion-meets-dance performance from dance schools and groups including Kidanza and the Israeli Dance Institute. On a mezzanine were workshops for children to decorate plates, ice flip- flop-shaped biscuits and make art from edible sherbert sand.

Around the building were workshops offering wine tasting; honey-cake baking and chocolate-making for children as well as a dance class and children’s theatre performance.

It made for excellent PR for the Big Orange. One visitor, Richard Viner who was at the Roundhouse with a group of friends, had been in Tel Aviv this summer. “We wanted to reconnect with the summer now it’s wintery and cold. The food quality has been great — it’s delicious — and it has felt friendly, warm and welcoming".

Wayne Johnson from Loughton had never been to Israel but had been brought by his teacher daughter. “It was fantastic" he said. "The food was different and not at all what I expected. What I liked was that there were a lot of happy faces. I would go to Israel without a shadow of a doubt.”

One visitor thought the only thing lacking was a travel agent so she could book her ticket to Tel Aviv immediately.

The festival provided the centrepiece of the four-day celebration of Tel Aviv, which included a live DJ set from Guy Gerber; performances and workshops by dance troupe Mayumana and an exhibition curated by internationally renowned artist Ori Gersht.

Michael Freeman, of the Israeli embassy, said: “Our prime target has been the non-Jewish world, to make them understand what Israel is and what it’s about —  that it’s not just high tech industry or politics. We want to set a positive agenda.”

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