On Friday morning we grabbed our bikes and headed out for a spin around Tel Aviv, the perfect activity for a sunny and mild winter morning. We had planned on starting the morning lazily, with coffee, pastry and the newspaper, slowly sipping away in picturesque Neve Tzedik and then moving on to the Carmel Market to equip ourselves with all sorts of fun treats for Saturday. In the early morning hours the streets of Neve Tzedik are still quiet, just before they fill up with the masses that come to check out the renovated old buildings: some with an ostentatious nouveau riche look, others subtle, elegant and reminiscent of the old Neve Tzedik.
After a short ride, we decided that our eyes had had enough of a treat. Instead, as per usual, we allowed ourselves to be guided by a different sense. Accordingly, we locked up our bicycles and crossed the street to Café Dallal. From the end of the street we had already noticed that the café overlooks a small and charming garden, lined with fake grass which is soft enough to lay on, a tree with a swing and a picnic tables. Upon entering the café, we couldn’t help feeling like we were in little Vienna, or maybe Paris: the wooden display counter contained row upon row of fragrant pastries and the rolling bakery cart’s shelves held trays of well-risen challas and mini rolls. Floral wallpaper completed the sophisticated European atmosphere. We quickly grabbed ourselves a strategically located table on the patio, the one looking over the garden, the front of the café and even over the rest of the customer’s tables, alongside of which sat various small designer dogs and a number of baby carriages, no less designer. Surrounding us was the murmur of financial tycoons discussing stocks, options and other monetary gibberish while they eyed the well-groomed neighbourhood ladies.
We started with a puff pastry filled with four types of cheese, spinach and Jerusalem artichoke, which inspired surprised gasps of pleasure at the delicate pastry and rich flavour of the filling. We continued on the sweet side. An apple pastry, also made of puff pastry, served hot, brought on longings for a Viennese grandmother. Words can’t do it justice. The individual sized tart – crisp pastry topped with crème patissiere and seasonal fruit, was a true treat. The pastry was crisp and just the right amount of sweet. The crème patissiere was generously dotted with flecks of black vanilla bean, which was also noted in its flavour, but all this didn’t upstate the taste of the fresh fruit (kiwi, persimmon, pomegranate and apple). Two small rugalach, filled with real chocolate accompanied our last sips of coffee (Café Diemme – an Italian brand).
We left the café with mixed feelings; everything we’d chosen to try had been amazing: tasty, rich, aesthetically pleasing. Fully enjoyable. But with that there was the feeling of yearning for all we didn’t get to taste. For example, the cute mini carrot cakes with mascarpone cheese, all sorts of croissants – the types they have everywhere – but obvious to us by this point, at Dallal they’d be in a different league. We also didn’t try the individual quiches (we were especially sad to leave behind the mushroom quiche), which looked oh so promising, as well as the mini rolls, baked on the premises. Much to our delight, all the pastries are available for purchase, in addition to various types of biscuits – sweet and savoury – homemade granola, special bottles of flavoured vinegar, wine and even high quality chocolate.
Thanks to the lovely and efficient staff at Café Dallal, the place even offers a way for area wanders to improve their stroll: an indulgent picnic basket containing bread, cheese, pastries, a bottle of cava, blanket and cutlery, along with a map of neighbourhood marking all the parks and gardens. An excellent idea that we must try at some point.
If you recall, our plan was to also hit up the Carmel Market, where you can find all sorts of products – from weekly basics to the more exotic. Due to the influence of Café Dallal, we found ourselves loading up our bicycles with only the very best. I worry that the Dallal experience may have left us permanently spoiled.
10 Shabazi, Neve Tzedik, Tel Aviv.