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Nahalat Binyamin Street market in the old city of Jaffa Yafo

10 things we love about Tel Avivian cuisine

Published: April 14, 2022 at 3:20 pm
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Israeli-born Roy Ner, head chef of Mayfair restaurant Jeru, shares his highlights of this lively, food-obsessed Mediterranean city

Want to learn more about Tel Avivian cuisine? Looking for Tel Avivian dishes to try? Read our guide below then check out Limi Robinson’s guide to Israeli food. See Roy's recipe for hasselback Jerusalem artichoke here, then check out this recipe for a fresh Israeli salad.

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Award-winning chef Roy Ner loves trying new, innovative flavours and textures drawn from his eclectic heritage which has exposed him to myriad herbs and spices from the Middle East and beyond. He has cooked in the restaurants of Tel Aviv and Caesarea, Israel, and for seven years led the kitchen of Sydney’s Aria restaurant before co-creating Nour Restaurant, followed by Za Za Ta in Brisbane. At Jeru in London’s Mayfair, Roy’s menu reflects the traditions of his heritage, and yet is very contemporary. jeru.co.uk


1. Pocket pitta

Filled with everything from chicken shawarma to falafel, look out for a condiment called amba, which is a super tangy Iraqi mango sauce. I recommend you let stall holders advise on the filling and serve it how they always do as they definitely know what tastes best and, regardless, they won’t listen! When they ask you if you like chilli, don’t be too confident as they will blow your head off.

Hand holding a sabich a typical Israeli sandwich with pita, eggs and grilled eggplants

2. Vegan dishes

I think Tel Aviv is the vegan capital of the world. You can’t visit Israel and not have falafel, for example. Vegetables are everywhere and these are turned into the most inventive dishes, salads and pickles.


3. Dinner and dancing

Head to Beit Romano where all the trendiest people in Tel Aviv go for food, drinks and great music. Dine first and then dance – everyone dances as often as possible.


4. Spices

Nazareth is only two hours north of Tel Aviv, where you’ll find the Elbabour Galilee Mill, the oldest spice mill in the Middle East. The spices I always pick up there are sumac, liquorice root and za’atar. They’re famous for their za’atar and make their own. Their version is not a mix of herbs, it’s one herb, from the thyme family. I love using za’atar, especially on the breads in our bakery. It pairs amazingly with halloumi on our manoush flatbreads. On the way back, stop at Akko, one of the oldest ports in the Middle East. It has an awesome fish market and in the middle is the best hummus spot, Humus Said, which has been run by the same family for generations.

A variegated display of spices at the market

5. Carmel market

It’s the best market in Tel Aviv. Go on a Friday – this is when the market really comes to life. There will be thousands of people enjoying life with food, drinking and dancing. There is street food plus lots of really great market restaurants showcasing more elevated cooking. I got a lot of inspiration for Jeru here, from the produce they use to the small-plate dining at the market restaurants, as well as the incredible vibe. I have tried to encapsulate all of these elements in the restaurant.


6. Fresh fruit

You have to try custard apple, persimmon and prickly pear, which is Israel’s national fruit. When getting pomegranates, make sure they are the size of your head and get them freshly juiced for you there and then. In season, jerusalem artichokes are great and my hasselback recipe is proving to be one of our most popular at Jeru and was inspired by my time in the local markets – but I wanted to serve it in an unexpected way.


7. Single-dish restaurants

Tel Aviv is built on a combination of cultures and many restaurants are famous for a single dish. For example, Azura, an Iraqi restaurant, serves beef and aubergine. You won’t be able to walk out of the restaurant, you’ll be so full. Another of my favourite foods is jachnun, which is a Yemenite pastry slow cooked overnight at 90C and laminated with ghee. It is incredible with hot chocolate. Brik is a Tunisian pastry stuffed with egg and potato which you can pick up from street food stalls, and is another must eat.

Brik, egg and tuna filled pastry

8. Craft beers

The rise of craft beer only happened in the past 10 years. There’s a great beer stand in Carmel market called the Beer Bazaar Express.


9. Juice

After all the food and drink, cleanse yourself with naturally fermented juices at Cafe Levinsky 41 in Levinsky market. Everything is fermented from scratch.

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10. Shakshuka

The ultimate garlicky brunch. If you go to the flea market in Jaffa (and I suggest you do), look for Dr Shakshuka, where at least 15 cloves of garlic are used in each shakshuka.

Shakshuka served in a cast iron pan

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