The entrance to The Ritz-Carlton in Herzilya is so discreet one could easily miss it – and that would be a travesty. The brand itself – as any seasoned traveller knows – sets the benchmark in luxury and doesn’t rely on bells and whistles to attract guests. Hence the cool low-key frontage of this New York-designed property which sits between Hashunit Street and the Mediterranean with views over the harbour.
There are 115 rooms set over 12 floors and those lucky enough to get a suite (me!!) will be reminded of the penthouses owned by handsome heroes in the movies. It certainly had all the accoutrements of cinematic style, what with the steel kitchen; huge bed, art by local talent and sculptured bowls on the coffee table. But it wasn’t the fab suite that turned my head at the Ritz Carlton.
It could easily have been the dinner we had at Herbert Samuel, the hotel’s relaxed in-house restaurant which takes kosher dining to Michelin star heights effortlessly. I know it was effortless because we had front row seats in front of the open kitchen where a team lead by head chef Mor Cohen conjured up dishes such as arancini (that’s crispy, Portobello mushrooms, pumpkin cream and tartufo) and lamb chops with Jerusalem artichoke and fennel that were memorably delicious.
So good were they that the only sounds coming from our table were sighs of rapture until chef Cohen arrived to talk about his cooking influences ( mum and world travel) and knowing what customers want (fresh, high quality ingredients). Kosher cooks will appreciate the ingenious way Mor substitutes one ingredient for another to emulate the flavour of a non-kosher dish, but as one who struggles to produce any flavour at all I was seriously impressed.
It is with that same attention to flavour and display that Mor and his team tantalise guests’ taste buds at breakfast, but great as it was, the smoked salmon on artisan bread wasn’t what swung it for me at the Ritz Carlton.
No, what made our stay at this hotel unique was the service. Yes, that’s right I said “service” which has never been a priority in the land of milk and honey. Sure there’s warmth and hospitality, but courtesy is tricky yet for staff at the Ritz Carlton it is part of their DNA.
“Our aim was to have ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” explains PR manager Miri Vasilevsky who like all the other employees was no doubt handpicked for her charm and refinement. 250 hours of training accounts for the attentiveness of everyone from the bell hop to the restaurant manager and staff also do charity work outside of the hotel as part of the corporate social responsibility footprint. Even the hotel’s kids club –Ritz Kids –is enriching as it is run in part by the Ocean Society, so little ones get an environmental education while their parents use the Shiseido spa.
For those who want a permanent place in Israel but like the gentility offered at Ritz Carlton there are 82 residential apartments to consider.
That’s not on the cards for me, but until my boat comes in I’ll be content with a week at the roof top pool, dinner at Herbert Samuel, a bellman holding the door and a receptionist for whom nothing is too much trouble. That’s Israel with service.
,Ritz Carlton room rates depending on the season range from £500 to £800; suites from £1,139. Dinner at Herbert Samuel is approx. £100 per person and Lunch £50 visit www.ritzcarlton.com