TEL AVIV - Mention to Israelis anything connected with flying - the airport, flight attendant, duty free, planes – and they get a strange look in their eyes. Apparently they get some kind of kick from everything connected to air travel.
A Tel Aviv restaurant built inside a jumbo jet cabin taps into the Israeli fondness for air travel, and the food tastes much better than that served at 35,000 feet.
The restaurant 747 is the creation of Meir Rigen, a pilot who spent 14 years in the United States and returned to Israel in 2001.
Rigen wanted to open a restaurant-bar that was different from anything he had ever seen.
The idea came to him in a dream, in which he saw himself sitting with friends in a bar resembling the passenger cabin of a commercial airliner. When Rigen awoke he got to work.
Rigen kept his idea secret as he began a search for the necessary equipment – most notably a plane cabin. He quickly discovered, however, that commercial airlines are not like auto junkyards where one can buy used parts.
Landing strip near the beach
Rigen contacted some associates and was put in touch with an American airline connected to Boeing. There he found the treasure he was seeking - the intact passenger hull of a retired jumbo jet.
Now Rigen had to locate a logical landing strip. He found one near the beach in Tel Aviv. He renovated the structure, reassembled the plane and called it 747.
One wall truly resembles the side panel of a plane, with small windows and plastic cream-colored blinds. At the bar entrance is the flight attendant’s chair – the “jump seat” in airline lingo.
A uniformed flight attendant receives visitors and issues them a “boarding pass” to be used later for ordering food. She leads them to their seats, but here there is no need to squabble for a window or aisle seat.
Visually the operation is incredible, just like the real thing: three seats next to one another in every row and an aisle down the middle. Above the seats are luggage compartments that open. Pressing a round button lets you to recline the seatback; the armrests can be raised and lowered.
A row of small lights is set in the ceiling alongside illuminated directions to the exits. Oval shaped windows on the wall have sliding plastic blinds.
The flight attendants come with a duty free cart and offer hard drinks served in small bottles. If this is still not enough, every seat has a seatbelt you can fasten when drinking coffee.
Fortunately, Meir Rigen’s 747 is not like Ben-Gurion Airport – there are no lines, and the guard at the entrance does not ask who packed your suitcase.
There is plenty of legroom, and the food tray does not touch your stomach, because this jumbo jet has regular tables.
The flight attendant is always available to serve you, and instead of bland background music, a pianist plays classic American pop.
Control panel in the bar
The air travel theme extends to the bar, which has a large screen for viewing films. The bartender wears a steward’s uniform, complete with rank insignia on the shoulder.
Rigen plans soon to install a cockpit control panel in the bar. He also intends to replace the door at the entrance with the plane’s original hatch and to place the nose of the jumbo jet in the small lobby.
If you were expecting food like that served on a plane, you will be happily disappointed.
'Thanks for flying'
The elegant dishes include meats (cinta, filet and spicy kabob among others), chicken in barbecue sauce, fired calamari, shrimp cocktail, various types of stir fry, pasta, salads, and matjes herring served in a cream or brandy sauce.
The bar offers bright and colorful drinks and cocktails. The wine list is rich with offerings from Israel’s best vineyards, as well as French and Italian brands.
Coffee comes with designer cakes (chocolate, fruit, cheese and berry).
To bring the experience to its natural conclusion, the bill comes with the following message: “And thanks for flying 747.”
747 offers a happy hour flight from 5 P.M. to 7 P.M. daily when all “duty free” cart drinks are half price. The restaurant also serves business lunch specials.
114 Hayarkon Street, corner Mapu Street