You can practically feel the love as you step inside Ezra. Maybe it’s the striking living sculpture of olive branches, sun-bleached ferns and natives installed by Tracey Deep opposite the dark-wood bar, or Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know playing in the background.
Whatever it is, co-owners Nick and Kirk Mathews Bowden have dedicated their beautiful 90-seater bar and restaurant to Tel Aviv’s cosmopolitan dining scene. But the couple has had a long affair with Potts Point, too – they used to co-own French brasserie Bistro Rex around the corner, and they live just a stone’s throw from Ezra’s front courtyard.
Before that, they were working at steakhouse Hawksmoor in London. They became enamored with the city’s melting-pot of Levantine cuisine. They always knew they’d do something with the inspiration back in Australia, but they had to do it with grace.
The menu reflects the diaspora of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) and Sephardic (Iberian, Mediterranean and Levantine) Jewish staples. Think pickles with meze and flatbread, and hearty vegetarian dishes such as roasted cauliflower dressed with liberal amounts of grated haloumi and punchy za’atar imported from Palestine. Head chef Ben Sears is using charcoal to grill meat dishes such as a half chicken with preserved lemon and toum (garlic sauce), but he’s still waiting for his tagines to arrive (“they’re on a boat somewhere”).
He goes rogue with (not-kosher) oysters and an Ashkenazi take on a Gilda pintxo, skewering kingfish pastrami, green olive and pickled chilli on a toothpick. Then there’s the whole roasted flathead, which is a real showstopper.
Ezra’s hummus is the real deal. It’s served like an Israeli breakfast, with a smoked soft-boiled egg that you break over fresh radish, olive oil and a bed of garlicky chickpea puree. It’s also the dish the team is most proud of, along with the herbaceous falafel, and the baklava ice-cream sandwich, made with caramelised filo, pistachio and burnt-honey parfait.
The concise wine list strikes a balance between natural and nostalgic. It’s Australia-heavy with a few pours from Georgia, France and Italy, so you’ll find everything from a Margaret River chardonnay to a Beaujolais gamay.
The al fresco courtyards – one at the front and one out back – are perfect for a Tel Aviv Betida (a house-blended cocktail of salted yoghurt and passionfruit) when the jasmine is in bloom, and the long, narrow interior is a beautiful space for communal dining year-round. New York-based designer Rosie Rainbow commissioned the show-stopping archway, handmade by a tiler in Beirut, for the main dining room, and a pink mural out the front, and illuminated arches at the entrance and framing the bar continue the theme.
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