Dots

Pics: Jessica Frykman

La Champa

Young locals congregate on the street with a champagne coupe in one hand, held high as if it is a piece of art. The bubbles of sparkling wine glisten through the crowds, bringing an iridescent glow to the local scene. This could be a trendy hangout in any Spanish city; instead, it is Nachlat Binyamin by La Champa, Tel Aviv’s Cava-trend setter.

Tel Aviv’s drinking culture shifted to a new level of sophistication as a result of both La Champa’s influence and success. The arrival of La Champa signaled the confluence of bubbly and bar grub as a fresh dining experience, with the pairing of dining and drinking at bar stools. The bar’s owner, Guy Shevach, is said to have been so inspired by Barcelona’s culinary scene, he was determined to bring a taste of Catalonian culture to his own city, Tel Aviv. Whilst living in Barcelona, Guy scoured the local establishments, and came across the concept of the Cava bar. The simplistic nature of Catalonian dining, which brings together any epicurean’s pleasure for sparkling wine and delectable small bites, in a laid-back setting, seemed the perfect addition to his own city. And he was spot on. Popularity for this Mediterranean concept became evident, with masses of patrons spilling onto the streets most evenings outside the bar. Soon enough, Cava bars have sprouted across the city. Tel Aviv was obviously in need of a little extra fiesta to spice up the city life.

With Spanish-style tapas, wine sourced from Catalonian vineyards, and typical rustic décor, La Champa is a clear homage to a Barcelonan Cava bar. The amalgamation of food, wine and a frivolous atmosphere, three essential ingredients for a Catalonian feel, create an unforgettable experience in this bustling metropolis.

La Champa’s culinary expedition to Barcelona centers on two premises: small plates of full-flavoured tapas and the region’s sparkling wine. The bar’s Manager, Alon, eagerly divulged into Guy’s “genius engineering of the food”, as he described the lengthy process taken to select the ingredients and crafting of each dish, including the house made olives, cheeses and sausages. Enthusiasm for Guy’s creations continued to resonate amongst La Champa’s lively bar men, who were equally spirited to explain the Spanish-named items scrawled out on the black chalkboard. In moments, I was handed little plates of delectable wine-infused goat cheese and tangy purple olives, an excellent way to wake up my taste buds. Each dish, around 20 nis, is presented simply, preserving the integrity of the main ingredients. Patatas Bravas, crispy spiced potatoes, dressed in garlic sauce and tomato salsa, were certainly addictive. Choriquante, succulent bites of spicy sausage, bursting with unadulterated beef juices, left an intense heat on my palette. The simple presentation of cut sausage on French country baguette was pure pleasure. Patrons were quick to order the mini-burgers, La Champa’s less authentic, yet favourite dish. Large glass bottles of garlic dressing, date and honey mustard, and tomato sauce, which stand proud on the bar, are the condiments that compliment the smokiness of grilled beef and the creaminess of potato croquettes.

The interior comprises of subtle shades, providing the perfect backdrop to vibrant culinary creations. High creamy khaki walls take on subtle earthy tones under the dim lighting. Heavy slabs of dark wood line the walls and main bar area, providing ample space for charming Cava glasses and little white plates. Playful undertones resonate in the bar’s embellishments, such as the large donkey, Catalan’s national symbol and La Champa’s adopted emblem, which is embossed across the main wall. Discarded corks maintain their dignity, strung together and hung across the walls in the form of decorative trimmings. Empty wine bottles line the walls below the wooden bar paneling, arranged as a quirky fixture. Outside street lights illuminate the inside of the green bottles, bringing an olive shimmer to the interior. The sounds of a Spanish guitar transport La Champa’s patrons to a fiesta on the streets of Spain. One can imagine the hanging corks swaying in unison to the soulful music.

The final element, the Cava, provides the perfect accompaniment to the rich composure of the tapas, cleansing each mouth with a crisp tang of sparkling wine, and sweetening the atmosphere with celebratory bubbles and fizz. The Cava, which is sold by the bottle, is too easy to drink and provides interactive decoys amongst its drinkers. Cava, Latin for cave, is comparable to France’s champagne and ranges in colour from white to rose. The bar’s Cava is a selection from the region’s Viva Mosia winery. The wine list includes the Classic range of semi sec, brut and brut rose, from 70 nis a bottle; the Reserve range of brut and rose, 120nis; and Gran Reserva’s Gala type, 269 nis. The bar recently introduced a kosher Cava from Spain.

Together, with the sabor (flavour of Spain), Cava and ambience, La Champa offers an authentic flavour of a foreign land for its own local Tel Avivians, effortlessly providing an experience that resembles Spain but epitomizes Tel Aviv night life. The bar successfully offers both intimacy and a lively environment, ideal for first dates and small gatherings, or a simple, yet unforgettable night out.

*Cava Bottles: 70-269 NIS | Tapas: 20 NIS

~Natalie Salhov