It’s all about beating the statistics. The accepted and known statistics in the restaurant industry say that only 1 out of 5 new places that open will celebrate their first birthday. But there are of course an abundance of examples of successful places that manage to ensure a long life expectancy. When talking about bars, the phenomenon is even more extreme. The party animal bar crowd are even thirstier for excitement and innovation than they are for beer and vodka red bull. A highly strung person like myself, for example, wouldn’t be able to deal with the tension involved in opening a new place. The folks at Helena (who are responsible for a few well respected night spots in the city) found themselves a creative way to deal with this phenomenon when they opened Camp Helena Pub, a bar whose life expectancy is short and fixed (the camp ends this August 31st!).
The group heard that one of the city’s oldest drinking institutions – The Wagon, opposite the Hilton Hotel, famed for the last 30 years – was about to be torn down along with the entire building. So, they decided to take them lemons and make lemonade (or to be more accurate – lemon margaritas). They turned the closing of The Wagon into Camp Helena and freeing up the owners and customers to focus on what’s most important – having fun. Not worrying about tomorrow morning, not thinking about if the next ‘big thing’ is about to open. When the owners declare that their spot is a ‘place without rules’ they are talking about pure fun. The heavy wood décor, the various levels, the accessories and all the keepsakes that have been accumulated over the last 30 years (did someone say deer head?) survive, but Play Station and Wii screens have been placed over top of them, along with Air Hockey and lots of other fun to keep the ‘campers’ entertained.
The juice boxes have been replaced with beer taps: Heineken, Murphy’s, Goldstar, Paulaner and Maredsous. I dedicated my evening to the last two. I have a weakness for those cloudy German beers that make me feel like I’m drinking fresh tasty bread. I got stuck on the Maredsous first, and what can I say – those Belgian monks know how to work it! A strong fruity ale with 10% alcohol – a hell of a beer!
At Camp Helena the sandwich roll is replaced by home baked Morrocan bread, served hot and tasty with garlic confit. The bread can also be ordered with a selection of mezes (and the conceptual resemblance to famous Tel Aviv restaurant Manta Ray is no accident – it was the training ground of Camp Helena’s chef). We chose the spiced olives, guacamole, eggplant mousse and mint tzadziki. The mezes had just the right bite and were perfect with our beer. Surounding us was the dull din of a football game being screened - or maybe it was FIFA 2008 on Play Station? After my 3rd beer I wasn’t so sure anymore.
The mains at Camp Helena would also please the camper’s parents – healthy, nutritious, simple and tasty dishes at reasonable prices – hamburger and chips, shrimp in garlic and olive oil, a finely chopped Israeli salad.
Attention parents! Your children are in good hands. To our great disappointment, a second session will not be opening. So, you’d better sign up today!
Camp Helena Pub (Hakaytana Shel Helena)
216 Hayarkon, Tel Aviv