High tea and a touch of 19th-century living at Jerusalem’s Villa Brown hotel
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High tea and a touch of 19th-century living at Jerusalem’s Villa Brown hotel

Tel Aviv hotelier Leon Avigad takes his chic brand of boutique hotels to the capital, offering a throwback to the city’s colonial past

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Breakfast and high tea are served in the front garden and front vestibule of the boutique Villa Brown hotel (Courtesy Villa Brown)
Breakfast and high tea are served in the front garden and front vestibule of the boutique Villa Brown hotel (Courtesy Villa Brown)

Tel Aviv’s Brown Hotel chain of boutique hotels always inspires with its stylishly designed interiors, and its latest addition, Villa Brown Jerusalem, is no exception.

Set in a historic 19th century stone house with a leafy front garden, arched windows and original stone floors that was once the private home of a Jerusalem doctor and his family, the hotel stays true to a bygone era.

When Leon Avigad and Nitzan Perry — business and life partners who have renovated and built five hotels through their Leopard Hospitality hotel group — found this architectural gem on Jerusalem’s HaNeviim Street (Street of the Prophets), a favorite address in the late 19th century and early 20th century for wealthy Christian, Jewish and Arab residents, they knew they’d found their own Jerusalem address.

As Tel Aviv enthusiasts, it wasn’t always obvious that they would add a Jerusalem piece of real estate. But the holy city, says Avigad, has changed.

Hotelier Leon Avigad (standing, right) at the opening of Villa Brown, his latest creation, housed in a 19th century private home in Jerusalem (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

“Jerusalem became a place to hang out,” said Avigad, while toasting his new hotel. “It’s okay to stay at Mamilla and have a drink at the Mirror Bar, and then eat at the Mahneyuda market. Jerusalem became cool again in a good, secular way.”

Not that they’re not considering the needs of Jerusalem clientele. Unlike other Brown Hotels that are not kosher, the Villa Brown carries the Private Supervision kosher certification, the community-run organization that provides kosher supervision for the hotel’s garden café that serves breakfast and high tea.

It’s part of the services offered by the boutique hotel that wants to charm its guests who seek to explore Jerusalem in a more intimate fashion.

“We’ve revived history with the Villa Brown,” said Avigad at the opening of the Villa Brown. “It has a colonial Jerusalem feel, there are no nonchalant decisions here.”

The Villa Brown’s Grotto Bar, set in the former underground well of the 18th-century home (Courtesy Villa Brown)

Indeed, with luxe velvet cushions and drapes sweeping the black-and-white tiled floor of the vestibule and dining room, claw-footed bathtubs and vintage accessories in the 24 rooms, a grotto bar dug from the former cellar well and a library with deep, cushioned chairs for reading on a rainy Jerusalem afternoon, no detail was too small to consider in this jewel of a hotel.

The Villa Brown team used terrazzo tiles found in the cellar and scoured flea markets worldwide for antique furnishings and accessories, including the 19th century check-in desks once used in an Old City home.

“Now people have a place that’s a little sexier in Jerusalem,” said Avigad.

Luxe fabrics, design and accessories harkening to the Ottoman and British periods in Jerusalem are part of the Villa Brown’s charms (Courtesy Villa Brown)

There are plans to add a pool on the rooftop terrace that also houses a small, but complete spa. The boutique hotel group will also be turning the nearby Ethiopia House, a former convent, into another wing of the hotel with 18 more rooms.

There are additional Jerusalem plans for the Brown Hotel chain, including a Brown Jerusalem by the end of 2019 on Ben Sira Street, just off Shlomzion Street, with its collections of chic cafés, shops and bars.

Avigad said there will be package deals available for guests who stay at Brown hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, which includes the landmarked Poli House TLV, Brown TLV, Brown Beach House TLV and Dave TLV, as well as Brown Beach House Croatia.

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