A Breath of Fresh Air


About 50 meters from the beach, behind the Opera Tower, at the very beginning of Allenby Street, lies one of Tel Aviv’s architectural gems - the house where Menachem Osishkin (Ussishkin) lived. He served as secretary of the First Zionist Congress, was one of the leaders who forced the abandonment of the Uganda plan and was president of the Jewish National Fund. Apparently, once purchased by Yasser Arafat to serve as an embassy in Israel, the house is full of history and intrigue. Today, it houses a rare Tel Aviv treat – the Osishkin Rest Cafe.

When renovating the cafe, the owners paid close attention to making sure the decor suited the exterior and the feel of the building. In fact, I was to learn that to the owners, every little detail counts. From the not-quite-Europe, not-quite-Israel feel to the place, to the bread in the window (freshly baked on the premises) and the coffee (a special mix available only here) the smallest details count for everything. That’s what makes this place so unique. The idea behind the coffeehouse was to try to recreate the atmosphere of the Tel Aviv Cafes circa 1930-1950. Even the photographs on the walls are original prints from the period (the owners bought the copyrights).

The menu includes a large selection of breakfasts, salads, sandwiches, pasta and of course – cakes, cookies and sweets. Everything here is prepared on the spot from fresh ingredients, and I mean everything. The bread (including a 4 kilo loaf), the jam, the pastries (from only the finest Belgian chocolate), the pesto. Even the black pepper is ground on the spot. The cream based cakes contain no gelatin so if they are not sold within two days (which rarely happens), they are thrown out. The bread comes in two versions – regular and whole wheat, which contains no sugar so diabetics can feel free to eat here as well. As well as vegetarians. Oh, and the place is Kosher…

Ok. The food. Have I said fresh? The Greengrocer’s Pearl Salad came with 4 little pine-nut covered cheese balls on a bed of lettuce, with mushrooms (fresh) fried in virgin olive oil. It is a refreshing dish, suitable for a light snack or appetizer. They even smoke their own salmon here and the smoked salmon sandwich is a real delicacy. Make sure to ask about the dish of the day which when I visited, was freshly ground fish cakes with homemade couscous.

And now a word about the dessert section, which contains a large assortment of cakes and other sweets made downstairs in the kitchen. They even make their own marzipan so don’t expect to find a smooth consistency as you would if almond flour was used, but actual flakes of almonds. This is homemade at its best. A wide range of cookies are available to eat with a nice cup of coffee or to take home and enjoy at leisure.

The menu is of course, seasonal. I was promised that the winter menu will hold many tasty surprises from soups and quiches, to special “winter” desserts. With an air of Europe but the nostalgia of old Tel Aviv, Osishkin Rest Cafe is a place definitely worth visiting. And revisiting.