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What makes a hospitality legend?
One criterion is keeping up with new technology and the latest amenities. Another is garnering respect from your industry and your public. Then, add a distinguished 40-year guest register of CEOs, showbiz celebrities and a United Nations of heads of state and diplomats. The Carlton Tel Aviv has aced the above, and more.
Families are also VIPs here. I met several multigenerational clans on their annual vacations to Israel, and they are all devoted to the Carlton, year after year.
This landmark’s status starts with a superb location on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea —it’s one of very few hotels directly on the Tel Aviv beach. It overlooks the marina and the engaging waterfront promenade, which is always alive with a stream of cyclists, strollers, joggers and scooters. I found peace — and more walking trails — across the street from the hotel at HaYarkon Park, a vast urban green space.
The news: The Carlton Tel Aviv’s recent overhaul has transformed the lobby into a refreshing oasis with a wall of falling water, avant-garde artworks and luxe leather furniture. The social hub is the new Lobby Bar. The hotel has also added high-tech elevators and a sky-high hot tub adjacent to the rooftop pool.
The 269 rooms and suites all have balconies, renovated bathrooms, energy-efficient lighting, excellent mattresses and signature toiletries, custom made in Israel.
“The redesign has modernized Carlton Tel Aviv, but we have kept our sense of place,” said general manager Yossi Navi. “We have many return clients who come for business or leisure and count on the Carlton.”
Leisure: Wellness is welcome after the rigours of travel. The Carlton Spa and Health Club has a state-of-the art fitness area with live-action beach scenes on screen. Guests can use the sauna and steam room, and then cool off at the refreshment bar.
Massages include Swedish, deep tissue, pregnancy and reflexology.
Exceptional hospitality also includes savvy concierges like Rachel Armoza, who has insider tips about the Nachalat Binyamin Art Fair near the famous Carmel Market, as well as secret corners of Old Jaffa.
Business: The property was voted Israel’s leading business hotel in 2019 by the London-based World Travel Awards. Working warriors are equipped with computers, some free business services, conference planning, car and mobile phone rental and limo service.
The Royal Executive Lounge is an inner sanctum for guests 18 and older in certain room categories. They enjoy quiet work space, private check-in, a dedicated concierge, a light all-day buffet and an open bar with top-shelf spirits and fine Israeli wine.
Less tangible, but perhaps as important, is the hotel’s prestige factor. “Meet you at the Carlton Tel Aviv” might even seal the deal.
Food and drink: You do not eat at the Carlton Tel Aviv. You feast, you indulge and you fress (that’s Yiddish for eat a lot).
The breakfast buffet, in an all-new seaside pavilion with a patio, is nearly 16 metres of tables laden with delicacies: seven kinds of smoked fish, shakshuka (eggs in tomato sauce), latkes, fruit, cheese, barista coffee and pastries wrapped around cinnamon, chocolate, whipped cream or honey. Everyone can dig in — there are vegan, sugar-free and gluten-free options.
From afternoon to evening, dining in the Lobby Bar comes with a proviso. Kosher laws require each table to choose either meat or dairy, because the two do not mix. So, one group can munch on burgers, roast beef sandwiches or roast chicken, or they can opt for a dairy/fish menu of mushroom pasta or smoked salmon with cheese. The tuna salad — big enough for two — is a crossover dish. The Lobby Bar is not fancy, but the portions are huge and the kids are at home with the familiar fare.
The Esperanto Summer Bar is a seductive outdoor evening club overlooking the Mediterranean, backed by sultry breezes, stunning sunsets and a DJ spinning hits by Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and Israeli artists like Noa Kirel and Eden Ben Zaken.
You can chill with a sparkling rosé from the Galilee or an icy cocktail of vodka and cranberries. Then the scene heats up and patrons dance to the rhythms of the sea and the music.
Esperanto’s sharing plates include Israeli-Mediterranean delicacies: eggplant, spicy salsa, feta with pistachios, ceviche, fish kebabs and the Salad of Love.
Lumina, a beautiful indoor/outdoor space, serves Sabbath meals on Friday evening and Saturday midday.
If you go
Carlton Tel Aviv: 972 (for Israel) 3-520-1818, carlton.co.il; 10 Eliezer Peri St., Tel Aviv, Israel. Accessible. Member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts.
Prices fluctuate. Rooms from approximately $533 for two; suites from $1,595 for two, including outdoor pool, hot tub, fitness area, steam/sauna, bottled water, beach towels.
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