In the Old City of Jaffa, which is, seemingly to the contrary, a vibrant and youthful neighborhood in Tel Aviv, The Jaffa rises atop a hill, offering uninterrupted views of the nearby Mediterranean. Few properties worldwide blend such diverse influences. 120 rooms and suites (and 32 luxury residences) populate the complex and its two main buildings, one new build and one renovated 19th century Neo-Renaissance structure, which was once a monastery and hospital for Christians in Jerusalem. Aby Rosen’s RFR Holdings championed the development, where conservationist architect Ramy Gill and British designer John Pawson have knitted together centuries of design language.
The Jaffa’s lobby acts as a microcosm of design expectation—populating something distinctly Israeli with New York, Japanese and Mediterranean accents. Plush Pierre Paulin sofas and chairs counterbalance wiry Shiro Kuramata furniture. Two Damien Hirst paintings play off of two George Condo busts. Light filters in through a glass wall and the room’s expansiveness allows everything to breathe. The lobby’s most important attribute may go unnoticed to some (but it mustn’t): remnants of a 13th century Crusaders’ wall that leads to the lush central courtyard. This extraordinary bastion was uncovered during an excavation period when the hotel was under construction.
Both the contemporary and historic wings of The Jaffa house guest rooms and suites. Each room places an emphasis on light, serenity and—with elements like completely mirrored walls—literal reflection. Some rooms have balconies, which either look toward the brand new pool or out to the city. Furnishings and amenities are all modern—a wonderful juxtaposition to the frequent raw surfaces and historic arched colonnades that lead to certain rooms.
New York’s Major Food Group handles the property’s food and beverage program, which is overseen by local chef Roi Antebi. The indoor/outdoor restaurant Dom Camillo plays a central role from breakfast to late-night dining. It serves a classic Italian menu with various Mediterranean enhancements. Nestled beneath the courtyard’s trees and the clear skies above, there’s nothing quite like Don Camillo. On site, guests can also swing by Golda’s Delicatessen for everything from cheeseburgers to homemade bagels with lox.
Without a doubt, The Jaffa’s crown jewel is the Chapel Bar and Lounge, which derives its name from the fact that it was once an actual chapel for the School of the Sisterhood of St Joseph. Under the high arched ceilings, original, recessed stained-glass windows animate the slender, high-design space. From the oversized wooden entry doors to elegant plasterwork, a marble checkerboard floor and Cini Boeri Botolo chairs, it feels fantastical. Serving up classic cocktails, champagne and all other tipples, it’s one of the most exciting places to celebrate in Tel Aviv—and it gets busy.
The Port of Jaffa has been active for 7,000 years and yet it—as does the hotel—feels present, alive and ever-changing. The Jaffa is a modern hotel, with contemporary luxury amenities, but it sings of its storied past to all who’ll listen. Though, if one wishes to sit by the pool or catch the sea breeze in silence, its minimal aesthetic allows for that, too.
Hero image courtesy of Amit Geron