Tanned, young Israelis rule the scalloped shoreline of Tel Aviv, but at their backs frumpy old towers, tawdry flophouses and discotels that glow in the night like mosquito lamps line the seaside promenade. The Norman, which grand-opens in December, offers a sophisticated alternative to the less desirous accommodations along the beach.
With 50 airy rooms spread across two circa-1920s buildings, the Norman nestles in a leafy residential enclave in the heart of Tel Aviv. It’s removed from the bustle of the beach, but from the glittering rooftop pool, you can glimpse the Mediterranean a ten-minute walk away. It feels like the private residence of a wealthy uncle—and in a way, it is: The hotel is independently owned by a mysterious figure publicists are forbidden from naming. (Voldemort?) Managing director Olivier Heuchenne is the shy hotelier’s consigliere and your point man on the ground, a hospitality veteran who worked in Barcelona, Dubai and the Seychelles before coming to the White City for the “the aura and special feeling this place has and the potential for a Norman brand.”
So could Tel Aviv be the first in a line of several Normans? If so, the hotel’s interior designer David d’Almada better start scouring Scandinavian furniture ateliers for more of the handsome midcentury pieces that fill the lilac, beige and periwinkle rooms: stilted armchairs, svelte sofas and stiletto-legged tables that just beg for decanters of Scotch. They complement the Anglo-Indian pieces (daybeds, chandeliers) from the hotel’s owner, a collector. Underfoot, hardwood floors are warmed by Nepali rugs woven with intricate patterns inspired by the city’s traditional tile-work. “Tel Aviv has a love for its tiles,” says Heuchenne. “[In the design] we thought to keep the tile concept alive, although interpreted differently throughout the hotel from a ceiling treatment to the embroidery on the cushions and curtains to a rug of tiles in front of the vanity in the bathroom.” Speaking of bathrooms: soaking tubs, glass showers, sheer curtains and signature-scent toiletries with top-notes of citrus. Like the prim courtyard garden, whose grapefruit, kumquat and nectarine trees bask in Tel Aviv’s heat.
On the ground floor, fresh-cut flowers and Israeli art fill the Norman’s public spaces, and the stately Library Bar serves high English tea by day and aviations and vespers come evening. The menu at the white-on-ivory Norman Restaurant looks west across the Mediterranean to Nice with pissaladières, fritti misti and lemony sea bass en papillote, while the hotel’s second restaurant, an outpost of the well-regarded London izakaya, Dinings, looks east to Japan with seared toro, kelp salad and yuzu-shiso sorbet. The latter, located on the third-floor rooftop, stretches out onto a terrace laced in canopies. There are also spa treatments, an in-house yoga instructor, state-of-of-the-art gym and—when you’re ready for some action—a shuttle to the beach. Though the Norman is so well mannered, so irresistible, the closest you might get to Tel Aviv’s sands is the view from the pool.