Lunchtime in the many cafes across Tel Aviv is a constant reminder of why I think this country has one of the strongest culinary scenes in the world. Gone are the days of lunchtime offerings of flimsy slices of bread filled with a lining of cheese and pickle, cut in half and sat for days in a plastic triangular prison. Instead, see exhibit a, a lunchtime special in a standard local cafe: chicken meatballs, crispy onions, on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, and a large side salad, filled with the country’s most flavoursome carrots, rocket, radish slices and herbs.
In a recent visit to London, I gave the whole cafe culture a go for lunch. Sadly, my low expectations were met. If Tel Aviv cafe food fulfils modern-day expectations in the culinary world, then England was stuck in the middle ages. We had grabbed a bite to eat in Muswell Hill’s supposedly most trendy cafe. The over-priced roasted vegetable ‘open’ sandwich, a few scraps of roasted vegetables desperately distributed on a slice of ciabatta bread, was half of what was meant to be a whole. Despite the fact for not really appreciating the concept of an ‘open’ sandwich, I was disappointed that my sandwich, or whatever it was, had not successfully extinguished the tiny volcanic grumble in the pit of my belly. No fireworks in my taste buds, no hug in my belly and definitely, no satisfaction with leaving my precious pounds behind on the heavy wooden table.
I think my expectations from dining outlets have changed. I don’t think it is acceptable for a city’s culinary scene to be largely defined by high-street monopolies, such as Pret a Manger, Marks and Spencers, Yo Sushi and Pizza Express. The odd alternative cafe, striving to stand out with artisan bakery and pompous-sounding sandwiches just isn’t enough for me anymore. Tel Aviv’s food scene is leaps and bounds ahead of England zero-personality lunch time scene.
Lunch in Tel Aviv was served at Nechama V’Hetzi, Kikar HaBima 2, corner of Ahad Ha’am.
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