This review was revised 18 October
* items include readers letters
13 JANUARY 2020
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It’s been quite a year for Hilton celebrating 100 years since Conrad purchased his first hotel in Cisco, Texas. In 1925 the Dallas Hilton became the first hotel to use the Hilton name. As a listed company it now operates 17 brands covering 5,757 properties with close on one million rooms in 113 countries and territories. See also Park Lane London celebrates too
Which brings us to the Tel Aviv Hilton, outstanding when it first opened 1965 and still arguably, with its wonderful clifftop position, the finest hotel in what the New York Times calls ‘Mediterranean Capital of Cool’. Such is the success of the property the owners have recently extended the management partnership with Hilton for a further ten years.
It was our accommodation for the Israel Hotel Investment Summit (See BTN 25 November 2019) and worthy of this separate ON TOUR by BTN’s editor in chief Malcolm Ginsberg.
Let me begin by stating that it can be as little as just 25min from Ben Gurion Airport to the property, but with Tel Aviv, as any major city, the journey can be much longer.
In our case (with wife) from the time the Virgin Atlantic A330’s doors opened on arrival, and using the airport’s excellent VIP Club Service, only one hour elapsed before entering the Tel Aviv Hilton’s 17th floor check-in at The Vista, at the very top of the property, a hotel within a hotel. We were in our room in next to no time with the cases following.
Where do you start? Perhaps with a description of the view, 180deg of glorious Mediterranean seafront stretching from Jaffa, about three miles and one hour’s beach promenade walk away to the south, to the Namal old port trendy restaurant and shopping area in the other direction via a short stroll via Independence Park. Designed by Israeli architect, the late Yaakov Rechter, the hotel itself is a fine memorial to his work, even now seemingly fresh and bright, with upgrades and makeovers constantly being embarked upon, typified with the stay punctuated by a whole floor being taken out of commission unobtrusively for an update.
Ronnie Fortis, Hilton country manager Israel, in charge for as long as anyone can remember, found time to enthusiastically explain the concept. “The Vista was originally a single very large suite. Now it sells out first. It is very much smart casual, both a business and holiday setting”, he said. “Our clients like the view, and the quietness, plus privacy it offers. It has been a great success since it opened in 2017 with a variety of accommodation including the White City Suite, our flagship feature and one of the largest in the country (140sq m). All of its walls are made of glass, overlooking four directions of our city. Our very important guests do enjoy it”.
Designed by renowned Turkish interior designer, Sinan Kafadar the suite offers a large fully equipped sitting room, dining area, office room, bedroom, and an extensive bathroom with wet and dry sauna. The main terrace is equipped with an open-air Jacuzzi, surrounded by comfortable furniture.
It is not all perfect. The current techie/security craze is when using the lifts (elevators) for your floor to be set on the outside. Once inside there are no buttons to press. This can be infuriating if you get into the wrong car, or change your mind. We just about survived.
The Vista offers an excellent buffet Israeli breakfast, which includes just about everything you could possibly want to eat for the first meal of the day. The selection is amazing. During the day there are complimentary beverages and snacks and later on a buffet supper and desserts, all to the highest standards. It is all part of The Vista package. The world’s newspapers are downloaded and printed out full size. You can bring guests in but this is chargeable. In Israel you would expect the wi-fi to work well and it does – everywhere in the Tel Aviv Hilton.
Starting at 32sq m The Vista rooms feel completely up to date and feature floor-to-ceiling windows, generous workspace, and a private balcony with sweeping views over the sea and Tel Aviv. They take up the top five floors of The Vista.
The choice is a king bed or twin beds, plus luxurious linens and blackout curtains for a peaceful night's sleep. It is all very quiet. Room Service is available 24 hours a day; there is a mini bar and Dead Sea products in the bathroom.
As an alternative for The Vista guests there is the ‘Cafe Med’ on what is called the R for resturant floor, a multi-functional outlet with a capacity of 200 diners also serving breakfast until 11:00. You don’t have to eat again until supper time.
During weekends and High Holy Days it also offers lunch and dinner combining buffets and cooking a-la-minute in front of the guests.
The Tel Aviv Hilton is strictly kosher which means, without going into too much detail, no mixing of meat and milk while dining, no shellfish or pig-derived food. Caviar is taboo also. In practise this is no problem except during Passover festivities (normally around Easter time) when food containg yeast is not permitted. No beer or bread at the Hilton during the eight days!
Also available is the ‘Lobby Restaurant & Bar’ open until 23:00 for a quick coffee, business lunch or pre-dinner drinks. There is live piano music.
Also on the same floor renowned chef Victor Gloger brings a spin on classic French and Mediterranean dining to the hotel’s showpiece restaurant.
'Chloélys' kitchen combines a variety of cooking methods including home smoking and salt baking and offers dishes such as Sea-bass Carpaccio, Slow Roasted Veal Cutlet, Wild Sea Bass Baked in Salt Crust and the Famous Sea Tagine. There is an extensive and impressive wine menu featuring Israeli and international wines.
Yakimono Sushi Bar
Kosher Japanese restaurants are unusual although there is another Yakimono in Toronto (Canada). Once again on the ground floor it features authentic soups and salads, sushi and sashimi, typified by Muguro (red tuna) and Kurodai (sea bream), accompanied by sake, green tea or Japanese beer.
The Tel Aviv Downtown branch is not kosher.
An entire floor of the hotel has been dedicated to meetings and conferences, featuring a state-of-the-art Business Centre and six modern meeting rooms.
The Grand Ballroom accommodates up to 1,200 guests and has seen many great events and international conferences.
The Sheva Spa
Deep down in the bowels of the hotel is Sheva, a traditional Thai spa that is the first of its kind in Israel. Guests of The Vista love this luxurious spa complex, where the ambience and fragrances of Royal Thailand blend for a memorable experience that rejuvenates body and soul. There is one treatment room dedicated to couples and a fully equipped gym complete with TechnoGym equipment. Entrance to the spa and gym is complimentary for hotel guests.
There is an outdoor café by the large seawater outdoor pool and if you want the real thing a path leads down to the sandy beach. The children’s facilities are excellent with their own pool.
The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem
Ronnie Fortis brief now includes the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, originally constructed overlooking the Old City as a luxury hotel in 1929 by the infamous Mufti. From the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 the building was used as government offices.
Purchased by the Reichman Brothers, the developers of London’s Canary Wharf, work begun in 2008 to carefully restore it to its former glory. Officially opened on 16 April 2014 the now 226-room property has been picking up one award after another and fits in very well indeed with the Waldorf brand as a top quality and glitzy rendezvous. Not yet the most famous hotel in Jerusalem it is quickly making its mark with a new well-off generation.
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