Luxury stops when the guest needs to think, says Yaron Liberman, hands-on GM of THE NORMAN, TEL AVIV. Normally Girlahead agrees with everything this passionate hotelier says but in this case there’s a caveat. The Norman is frankly so unique that you do tend to think, even if not consciously, about what a special setting this is (it evokes the same feeling of enquiry, what IS this, that you get, say, at BVLGARI PARIS).
As the dusk image above shows, The Norman is Bauhaus for today. The area around the hotel, just off Rothschild Boulevard, is a reminder that when Germany’s Bauhaus artists fled before the impetus of the Nazis, many of them landed up in Tel Aviv. The 50-room hotel is a conversion of two adjacent mid-1920s homes on Nachmani Street, #23, on our left, built for Mrs Friedman, and #25, home of Isser and Chassia Romanov. Jump forward quarter of a century to the time when Renaissance figure Norman Laurie arrived from South Africa, where he had founded the Habonim Zionist youth movement. Once in his religious homeland he set up DOLPHIN HOUSE HOTEL in Shavel Zion. He started Palestine Films, he was a military reporter and a poet (‘In the beginning there was nothing but the murmur of the sea, sand dunes in Galilee’, are written, as raised letters vertically up the open atrium of the all-white interior public space). And now take a leap to this century, where Laurie’s London-based son buys the two Bauhaus properties and painstakingly converts them into a hotel that is more like the three-floor private home of a Gagosian, Wirth or another global gallerist.
Some of The Norman’s art is portrayed in The Norman Bulletin, without doubt the most eminent ‘hotel magazine’ today. 64 pages of stiff paper concentrating on Redefing Luxury, with well-illustrated articles on such subjects as The Norman story; Designing the vision (on David d’Almada), The story of an art collection, Discover Tel Aviv, Take care wellness, Excursions and tours, and much more.
David d’Almada is the London-based interior designer who pondered long and hard before working on the conversion, Architect is Yoavv Messer, working with historian Professor Nitzah Samok. The result is like a climbing frame that makes the whole seem even larger than it is. A central open atrium, a square shape, goes down half a floor, and out to the rear garden. Reception is half a floor (15 outside steps) up from the front garden: once inside, turn left, past reception – women in pastel shades of chintz afternoon tea gear, and through the indoor restaurant, a few steps down to its terrace and the side garden, Back inside, climb steps up to one main floor, and on up to another and so on, past a modicum gym and right on up to the flat roof, which has plenty of space for a full length pool and Dolce Vita sun beds. As if a transparent and moving sculpture, an all-glass atrium elevator links the various levels, perfectly.
Corner room #112, up 14 stairs from the Reception level, is peacefully divine, with two entire walls of windows. The pump-pot toiletries are La Maison du Savon by Tom Weiss, for the hotel. Go down to dinner and it’s fun. ALENA shares two chefs, one on or the other, great friends who, when they were pre-teens, made a pact to share everything. Omer Shadmi Muller and Daniel Zur work together. One came out (but which?). Choose a bespoke Norman Gin, by Jullius Distillery for the hotel, while perusing the menu – perhaps dip heritage tomatoes in artisanal olive oil, and put on tasty rough bread. Dinner could start with a leaf salad with toasted almonds and a citrus vinaigrette that is absolutely superb. Two shared, that night, a giganatic T-bone, with side of spinach (the Steen steak knives were barely needed).
The Norman is one of the few hotels in town that is non-shabat. It could also be one of the few not having a breakfast buffet. Sit at sage leather-topped tables, listening to soft music, while your choice is brought. A basic set breakfast comes with two eggs, any-way, bread basket and a beverage. Going à la carte, Girlahead went for plain yoghurt, then a fish platter, namely taramasalata, smoked salmon with onion, herring chunks, and whole sardine, with diagonal halves of toasted brioche in a rack. Style, but this is The Norman. Some, by the way, choose The Norman French toast, toasted brioche with fruit, crème fraîche, maple syrup. Perhaps next time.
Perhaps next time, too, The Norman’s extension will be finished. Across Nachmani Street, #22 is being transformed, with suites to rent. Once again, it’s being designed by David d’Almada, who is also behind the just-opened Sartoria restaurant on London’s Savile Row. On The Norman extension, by the way, the ground floor will include a bigger fitness and spa area, a café and, what fun, a boutique. Perhaps they will sell those covetable afternoon tea frocks?
See room #112 here: