Tel Aviv: Sarona Market, temple of gastronomy

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A few stands away, I come across Halva Kingdom’s incredible variety of flavours of halva, the famous sesame-paste candy. And again, a smiling, enthusiastic shopkeeper claims this is the opportunity of a lifetime to sample one of the best halva in Israel. I resist not. My taste buds are now working overtime! Halva Kingdom was founded in 1947 by the grandfather of the current shop owner, Eli Maman, who stirs Moroccan family secrets into his recipes to produce more than 100 flavours of this sweet confection. It is hand-made from organic sesame seeds imported from Ethiopia, traditionally grounded with a millstone and processed under stringent conditions to preserve its quality and nutritional value.

TEL AVIVRight. Enough pecking around for now. I shall resist temptation and decline any sampling suggestion from now. It seems like a big challenge. The dizzying smell of freshly baked bread, the mouth-watering sight of juicy peaches, plumbs, nectarines and apricots of the Golan, the startling colours of vitamin-packed freshly made smoothies…

But it happens again. Food here really overwhelms the senses and the ability to reason.  I totally fail by Basher Fromagerie, the best cheese delicatessen shop in Israel, only a few minutes later. I give up. I am greeted by a charming Frenchman, Guillaume, who insists I try their Bulgarian cheese while explaining how the founder of the shop fell in love with the European cheese culture 20 years ago and imported the concept back to Israel to cater to all Jewish origins. Guillaume, cheese expert and sommelier, manages the shop offering more than 1,200 different cheeses, scrupulously selected from small, rural and family dairies across Europe.

Something for everyone
Israel is an immigrant country. The cultural spectrum immigrants represent is vast, and it is no surprise that the market has interesting ethnic offerings.  The Rushdi stand features stuffed vine leaves and vegetables, hummus, bulgur salad wrapped up in Druze pita bread baked before your eyes on a scorching saaj.

Bayern Market, based on a concept of classic German and Austrian street food, stars a selection of sausages, variations of potato, a range of pork-based specials, schnitzels and fried snacks all prepared in front of the customer. Now if you are thinking… pork? In Israel?! That’s correct. Sarona market was open to suit everyone’s taste, from whatever ethnic origin or religion. Restaurants options include Carmeli’s Bagels, fresh trout from the Dan river at Dan’s Fish bar, a taste of Georgia at Hachapuri, a taste of Bangkok at Tiger Lilly, Max Brenner for chocoholics, French gastronomy at Fauchon. The list goes on.

What is valued above all in Sarona market are traditions that have been preserved and continuously enriched up to our days, with a focus on knowledge, traceability and respect for the environment. It is the emotional value of food, pleasure, authenticity and quality with deep connections to the land that matter. Sarona market is a perfect showcase of how Israel embraces both the beauty of the old and the excitement of the new. The young generation of Israelis are beginning to realize that the blend of flavours that is Israeli cuisine today is their heritage, their identity and their culture.

Recognized for its bustling nightlife, superb beaches and budding skyscrapers, Tel Aviv has definitely added to its charm as a foodie destination in its own right with the opening of Sarona market in July 2015, situated in the beautifully restored Sarona Templar Colony which is now part of modern Tel Aviv.

Practical information

Sarona Market is open seven days a week (Sun-Thurs: 09h00-23h00, Friday: 08h00-18h00, Saturday: 09h00-23h00

3 Kalman Magen Street, Tel Aviv
www.saronamarket.co.il  

How to get there
Jetairfly provides direct flights from Brussels to Tel Aviv from €118 return.
www.jetairfly.com

Text and photography by Lesley Williamson