In Jerusalem, an exceptional place for gourmands, vegetarian and omnivores, meals are meant to be shared and decorum is an afterthought. The two tent poles of Israeli and Arab street food, falafel and hummus, are available at every turn and cooking with seasonal and local ingredients goes without saying. Staples like aubergine, chickpeas, olives, dates, parsley and fragrant zaatar prop up the traditional and bring new perspectives to the burgeoning international scene.
A darling of the international culinary world, Jerusalem-born chef, author and television presenter Yotam Ottolenghi is an unofficial but highly influential ambassador for the city's culinary heritage. His cookbook Jerusalem, written with Sami Tamimi, showcases culinary combinations that he describes as 'belonging to specific groups but also belonging to everybody else'. Proving this point is the fact that Ottolenghi, who is Jewish from West Jerusalem, and Tamimi, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, grew up eating slightly different versions of the same dishes. A number of our favourite traditional restaurants and pastry shops are profiled in the book, including Zalatimo, Abu Shukri and Azura.
Israeli law does not require restaurants to be kosher – it's up to the owner to arrange (and pay for) kosher certification by the local Rabbinate branch. Kosher restaurants, which must close on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, are almost always either basari (fleyshig in Yiddish; ‘meat’) or chalavi (milchig in Yiddish; 'dairy', ie vegetarian plus fish). Most Jewish restaurants in West Jerusalem are kosher, which means that, except for those in hotels, it can be hard to find a place to eat on Shabbat, as most places shut up shop on Friday afternoon and reopen on Saturday evening.