In a shady part of West Florentine's periphery we encounter a snazzy yet old-fashioned wooden door to an attractive brick-lain building. Open it and you will enter the mellow yet joyous atmosphere of Norma Jean's cozy abodes, the laughter and ease within all encompassing and an instantaneous comfort to behold.
My dining companion and I ventured out to Norma Jean on a Monday night around 9:30, wherein the ambiance was already well alive and kicking. We were seated at the busy bar after a warm welcome and given a short introduction on the pub's concept.
Home to Israel's largest selection of Whiskey and a mine of on-tap as well as international and local bottled beers, Norma's alcohol expertise is only part of her draw. With a clean yet vintage look, a superb dining menu and tunes to smooth out the trials of a long day, this pub is perfect for unwinding and indulging, both.
To begin, choosing drinks was the obvious task at hand. As I had an early morning ahead of me, I decided to save the tempting Whiskey Tasting menu for a future visit and opted for beer. Of course, being a slight amateur on the brew platform, I was offered the patient help of the bartender and given enough testers (served in the cutest miniature beer mugs ever!) to initiate a buzz. With 16 beers on tap (9 of which are changed regularly) and countless bottled options (including 9 Israeli boutique brews), you can imagine how picking a drink could take time.
Finally, however, my date and I decided to split a bottle of Liefmans Brut–spontaneously fermented with cherries and a touch sweet, though slightly more sour (40 NIS). When that was good and done, we each had a fourth-pint of Jem's pilsner, delicious and Israeli-made (26 NIS each).
Beer belly bites
The food at Norma Jean is something to brag about. Not only is the pub's menu extensive and widely accommodating to many a hungry boozer, it elegantly turns classic bar grub into reasonably priced excellence worth returning for. A choice of 6 (large!) starters, 8 (larger!) mains, 8 international pub classics (including various imported sausages, fish n' chips and French onion soup), and 6 Deli favorites (roast beef, corn beef and BLT sandwiches amongst others), several salads and a bunch of desserts are available for the picking.
To start, my companion and I remained vegetarian. The Market Salad was simple, what with fresh, local veggies tossed in a tangy lemon and olive oil dressing (38 NIS), and the Antipasti–a huge selection of spiced and roasted vegetables, served with soft white cheese and a thick home-baked focaccia–was scrumptious (44 NIS).
For seconds, we spoiled ourselves with a half kilo serving of New York chicken wings–tender, juicy and irresistible when dipped in the light, blue cheese dip that accompanied them (48 NIS)–and the Mixed Seafood Pan–an exotic, semi-spicy coconut milk stew full of shrimps, calamari and mussels (59 NIS). All delicious to the last bit.
Norma Jean is conducive to the hosting of all kinds of guests–during my short visit I had the pleasure of witnessing groups of friends, couples, business colleagues and families (minus the very little ones) enjoy the pub's liberal atmosphere.
There is a pleasant sense of international flavor here (an English menu accompanies the helpful, bilingual staff) what with a colorful array of out-of-town clients as well as sworn regulars filing in onto Norma's floor. You can expect the company of a full-to-capacity entourage of smiling, content people–the successful result of Norma Jean's honest, friendly service, and great, quality fare.
Norma Jean Bistro Bar
23 Elifelet, Tel Aviv
Open daily from 18:30 until the last customer
English Menu - Yes
English Speaking Staff - Yes