The streets of Florentin are soon to be filled with the sweet aroma of Tel Aviv’s very first knafeh bar – Kanafenji, which sets up shop this August in south Tel Aviv’s trendy Florentin neighborhood.
By Leoni Jesner
Florentin's latest hot spot will serve a lip-smacking menu of Middle Eastern delights, with knafeh, an Arabic dessert made from shredded pastry, layers of cheese and a dowsing of sugary syrup, the star of the show.
Dean Essa, a British-born business mogul, brought the project to fruition alongside two partners, all of whom share a passion for the dessert. “Having lived in Jerusalem for six years, I’m no stranger to my share of delicious knafeh, and recently had the vision of introducing, and hopefully mainstreaming, the dessert on Tel Aviv’s culinary scene,” he explains. “We searched over 30 locations across the city before honing in on Florentin as the new destination for knafeh lovers.”
As well as knafeh, visitors can indulge in a catalog of sweet treats: creamy malabi, baklava assortments, sweet basbousa and qatayef dumplings, paired with freshly-squeezed juices, Arabic coffee and a selection of beers, all at a very reasonable price. An individually-sized knafeh will cost no more than NIS 15 and is available in vegan, light and sharing options to satisfy all of those with a hankering for something sweet.
As if the alluring menu isn’t enough, the café’s design seals the deal. Head architect of the project Safy Barar, (originally from the Druze town of Majdal Shams and now living in Tel Aviv), took inspiration from local and Arabic elements to create equilibrium between the café and its surroundings. “The concept is to create a welcoming spot which captures a diversity of cultural influences. Rather than interrupting the space, we chose to unify specific design traits within the existing setting to bring about a sense of harmony,” he outlines. “As part of a more impactful outlook, Kanafenji’s aesthetic infuses cultural aspects through tastes and surroundings, as a way of promoting co-existence between Tel Aviv locals and visitors from Jaffa.”
The café’s urbanesque interior exudes a warm ambiance, balancing an industrial structure with natural touches of wooden fixtures, warm lighting, hanging vegetation and a wilderness of plants, complementing its environment. The seating area presents a choice of tables, wooden benches or a scatter of floor cushions where visitors can comfortably eat and lounge in the breezy outdoors. “It’s also an idyllic destination for hosting events of musical and artistic nature,” adds Essa. “We’re in the process of planning many exciting gatherings for the near future.”
And what of the north Tel Avivians with a penchant for freshly-baked knafeh? “We’re starting off small but have plans for further cafes and have already set our sights on other potential locations, such as Dizengoff,” reveals Essa. “We’d love to expand the Kanafenji movement with the opening of more spots in Tel Aviv and even further afield – hopefully in the not too distant future.”
How sweet is that?
Kanafenji will be open in August seven days a week. Morning until late evening.Share the story