The many enthusiasts of The Setai on Miami’s South Beach have longed for siblings ever since it opened on August 5th, 2005. Now their wish has been fulfilled, not once but twice. The Nakash family have now opened two other Setais, and it is rumoured they hope to build a collection. The challenge is they are such perfectionists every project takes a l-o-n-g time. The Setai Tel Aviv, for instance, has been years in the making. Buildings on Jaffa promontory dating back to the 13th century had been converted to a mansion for the governor, and then into first the local prison and then to Jaffa Police Station. The 150-room hotel as it is today opened January 2018, and fortunately the minute precision of redevelopment has retained some historic areas, cleverly linked in with brand new. The gym, for instance, has 13th century walls and latest Citterio-designed Technogym bits, says the gal.
There is an area GM who oversees both The Setai Tel Aviv and the 110-villa Setai Sea of Gallilee resort, and, in the Tel Aviv hotel, operations are handled by a Cretan Manager, Sotiros Ikonomou, married to an Israeli, and by a Parisien, Alex Arfi, whose mentor is François Delahaye at Paris’ Plaza-Athenée. As with all hotels in labour-short Israel, they would like more foreign team members but they must be Jewish. As always, I did not notice that our dinner, outside under one of the terraces’ taupe umbrellas, was dairy-free, or that the splendid breakfast, in the all-day Jaya Restaurant, does not do meat. I did pass by the sign to the hotel’s own synagogue, down in a basement next to the gym.
I was in 634, at one end of the top floor of a new block. From one end of the long room I looked north along Charles Clore Beach. From the other end I looked down at the upper terrace pool, which has dozens of loungers – see above – and across it, and out to the Mediterranean. ARA Design Studios have cleverly given new rooms a sense of place, with marble floors, oriental rugs and plain stone-coloured walls hung with old sepia prints of Old Jaffa. I walked around outside, in the street, and much of the Yefet area is, indeed, as it must have been for a century or more: there six foot-wide open store-fronts, side by side, selling shoes, or shawarma from vertical spits, and here there are old men playing trik-trak, and young men simply working devices.
This is already a hotel packed with Jewish diaspora, especially from Canada, USA and UK (there is a noticeably high number aged 40-plus, as well as young couples with kids). On Friday nights local fashionistas move in for staycations. Weekdays, top business people hold meetings here, formally in the many MICE rooms or informally in the lovely olive-tree courtyards, or the inner room, with barrel-ceiling of 13th century stone. But this is not only about the past. This is a luxury hotel that has style details for today. Bedroom furniture is so smooth you can stroke your hands over it as if it were satin, and stationery, in a black lidded box, includes self-seal envelopes, a real, and increasingly rare, sign of luxury. SEE ROOM 634