Luxury Hotels


You can always tell when a GM has come up the F&B, food and beverage, route.  It shows. Yaniv Adivi, above, is GM of THE SETAI TEL AVIV, on the Jaffa peninsula.  He started as a waiter and seems to have done everything in the edible-and-potable arena except buy the food, cook it and do something with whatever is over.

Mind you there is little left over here, anywhere. On a Saturday evening, after Shabat had finished, the offering was understandably limited.  Room service or the bar? In Kishle Bar there were only bar seats at the counter left (the counter was mostly taken up by a coffee machine and a sushi display case, always unused on a Saturday). The limited menu included salmon. Sorry, no salmon. Dinner ended up being an enormous and so-fresh salad in a patterned floral ceramic bowl and a fortunately-minute seabass fillet with grilled vegetables on a matching plate. It was all really tasty (and the glass of excellent full-bodied Yarden 2019 Merlot was twice the size of the Israeli norm, not usually exactly generous). This place has been called Kishle, the Ottoman term for soldiers’ barracks, since 1833-4 when a military base was built here by Egyptian ruler Ibrahim Pasha – in 1841, power was transferred to the Turkish Ottomans and the structure became a prison and police station. 

If The Setai can get bar food right, how about breakfast?  Girlahead has already enthused about Israel’s break-the-fast feasts, and this was, with the possible exception of the breads, up to par. Especially outstanding? Fruits selection, cheeses and vegetables tat included big mouthfuls of roasted beetroot, and roast portobello mushrooms.

The Setai is kosher, by the way. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday one of the 150-room hotel’s two elevators goes into Shabat mode, automatically stopping at each floor. Some fully-kosher hotels, like HILTON TEL AVIV, neither serve hot food nor fresh coffee for the 24 hours. Put up with cold fare and hours-stewed coffee. But being kosher has one advantage. If a single person in any group is kosher, the entire group stays in a kosher hotel.

This is a compact hotel when it comes to bedrooms, but for single occupancy without big suitcase it is just fine.  Room 548 looked north over Jaffa beach and up to Charles Clore Beach and the main city. There’s a good gym but, as alternative, soon as the sun rises, get up and head south, following the coast road around Jaffa’s hill. Take a detour, zigzagging up to St Peter’s Church. Disturb a sleeping human, a pair of watchful black and white cats. Two energetic roosters are unpeturbed. Jaffa’s marina has vessels neatly moored.  Silvia’s coffee bar has not yet opened. As the light brightens, lycra-youth comes out, sometimes personal trainers in tow, for a pre-work work-out.

By the time most check-out of The Setai, the hotel is an oasis of calm in a hubbub of local stores, double-length buses going around Clock Tower circle at less than snail’s pace. The buzz of local plus tourist life. That’s why so many love Jaffa.

Listen to the latest episode of MARY GOSTELOW GIRLAHEAD PODCAST