Located at the epicentre of the historic American German colony, The Drisco hotel in Tel Aviv has gained an enviable reputation that precedes its prolific heritage. Dating back to 1866, the property is opulent with a lavish flamboyance and antique furnishing
By: Niyoshi Shah
Posted on: June 24, 2019
LF Says: ★★★.5
By mid-morning, the heat is already shimmering above the ground. I step out of the glaring sun and into the cool gloom of a shaded alleyway and there comes the majestic Drisco Hotel, almost out of nowhere. A fairy-tale like property that welcomes me with all the pageantry that a hotelier can muster - a striking doorman, valet and an usher with a cool cucumber drink iced to perfection - ready to be served even before I step into their exalted premises.
Tel Aviv is the kind of city everyone warns you about. A jamboree, a place for the young and hedonistic, with an infectious lust for life fuelled by an enviably rich history, legacy and an inherent flamboyance. The Drisco embodies all of these qualities mixed with a dose of subtle splendour.
Decadence beckons with impeccably furnished reception rooms, charming concierge desk, an imperial bar and an impressively courteous staff. The corridors are diminutive but in no way insignificant. The property does not impress in size as much as it does in classic grandeur. The rooms feature charming balconies overlooking the picturesque seashore, an open air patio adjoining a grand cocktail bar, a chef restaurant, Techno gym, a comfortable pool area and a luxurious spa.
The property is housed in two historic buildings, originally built in 1866 by the Drisco brothers – George & John – who were early American settlers in the land. Although, as the brothers ran out of funds, they sold the property to a German Templar, Ernst Hardegg, who completed the first luxury hotel built outside the gates of Jaffa, and named it as Jerusalem Hotel.
The Jerusalem Hotel soon became known for its lavishness in the region and was even frequented by illustrious guests including Thomas Cook and Mark Twain. After 1940, though, the hotel lost its lustre, much in part owing to the World War II, and other political influences. The property was subsequently declared by the city of Tel Aviv as buildings of Heritage.
Style and Character
This historic hotel closed down in 1940 and reopened in 2018 after 10 years of restoration and reparation, reviving their unique architectural heritage while tuning in with the technological developments at a global scale. Its décor pays a glamorous homage to the characters that may have once lived here - giving you an authentic experience of the culturally rich Tel Aviv.
Old pottery and ancient wall paintings are sharply contrasted with modern furniture. The Turkish-style lights shine upon ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ – the handiwork of one of Drisco’s illustrious guests. The jaali-style false ceiling fixtures illuminate the high arches in the public spaces beautifully. The overall effect is of being sucked into a time warp where the past and the present collide seamlessly.
Offering city and property views in the lower floors and sea view in most of the upper floors, each room is elegantly adorned and very comfortable with a flat-screen TV, desk and a seating area, large windows, and sufficient closet space. My room was cosy and home-like with a gentle touch of affluence and character seen in the wooden framework of the bedpost, the artistic floor tilings and the decorative carpet flooring. The white walls, wooden ornamentation, arched design scheme with the turquoise settee gave the room a warm and balmy disposition.
The George and John Café
After enjoying a calm afternoon in the room, I booked myself to a dinner at the famous George and John restaurant at the hotel. It offers contemporary Israeli cuisine paired with broader Mediterranean influences. It was the first restaurant opened outside the walls of Jaffa in 1866 and is as much a must-visit as Jaffa itself.
Serving an enviable wine collection like the Comte Le Loup (French) and Monte Grande (Italian) to the local favourite Rousseane Viogner (Israeli). I commenced my meal with a delectable vegetable salad, zucchini flower filled with bread, sardines and tomatoes (fried in hummus flour) and the kubeh (a Kurdish treat that is essentially a ball of dough made of bulgur or rice and filled with lamb, beef or vegetables) and spinach pasta. The wheat flour pasta, served with garlic bread and some chilli oil, was healthy and delicious.
I ordered the Coal smoked cabbage which is grilled in a Burmese pot with sumac yogurt. With the tang of Dijon mustard and the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes and scallions, the cabbage was exceptionally unique and tasted unlike anything I have ever tried before.
All the preparations were authentic in taste and truly enjoyable given the dreamy view and the excellent hospitality. For meat lovers, the chateau beef fillet and the Georgian dough lamb dumplings are Chef Tomar Tal’s celebrated speciality.
Their breakfast carte du jour has become legendary with a gorgeous buffet selection and a variety of personal entrees available to every guest daily. Set up in a dungeon-looking basement banquet area, the breakfast room was enchanting in itself. With stone walls, yellow lights and imperial furnishing, it almost felt like dining in a 12th centaury chateau. The variety included the local favourite “Shakshuka”(tomatoes, hot pepper, garlic, cilantro and poached eggs), mushroom and spinach ragout, salmon benedict, minute steak and eggs, pancakes, French toast and the “Jaffa Benedict” – poached eggs on yogurt and eggplant bechamel, grilled tomatoes, onions and homemade arrissa.
The affable concierge team offered the best tours and shopping activities that I could enjoy during my stay. Thanks to them, I was able to hit the best spots for dining, nightlife and cultural entertainment.
A 25 minute ride from the Gurion airport, The Drisco Hotel, also a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, is a perfect get-away for culture loving tourists like me who want to experience their rich heritage and partake in the magic of Israel.
LF Says: ★★★.5
Coordinates: 4-6 Auerbach St., Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel