Landen: A tale of two bars (review)

Jerusalem Post, Billboard; April 25, 2008

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My partner in party-crime Anat and I were surprised when the entrance to the Landen mega-bar was rather unpopulated upon our arrival. The last time we were there the entrance hallway was clobbered with yuppy-ish, well- dressed Tel Avivians vying for entrance, and we had given up on getting in. Located in an underground cellar type room at the London Ministore mall, Landen is Tel Aviv’s nightlife flavor of the month.

Men were carrying lists and buff, unfriendly security men guarded the entrance. The bouncers gave us a hard time getting in, despite the low turnout, asking us with their mean glares, “who are you for us to let you in?” When we did finally make it passed the gate, we hoped the place would at least be worth the hit to our egos.

At first we wondered what all the fuss was about. The bar-goers looked pretty bored and not particularly easygoing. The large room was dominated by a heavy, pentagonal bar. Bookshelves along the back wall attempted to add a sense of homeliness, while the brick wall attempted to add the feeling of being in a ghetto. Lighting from industrial-looking bulbs did not shine brightly enough to allow us party girls to sufficiently examine the people, the guys in particular.

We tried to flag down the hunky bartender, but the bar stools were so large that we could hardly approach the counter. I didn’t understand, three cute girls are trying to get drunk-shouldn’t the bartenders rush to serve us?

Eventually, we decided to leave for Villa Sokolov, the other hot bar a block over that has already received a glorious review in this paper for its fun vibe, pop music and hot men. The line there was unusually short as well. Upon entering the reason became clear, the Maccabi game was being screened on the monitors. Most guys had probably stayed home.

Still, at Villa Sokolov we got what Landen didn’t offer, a great sound system, adequate lighting and approachable bartenders. They weren’t as cute as the Landen bartenders, but definitely smarter. They served us right away.

I was disappointed by the music though Anat liked it. They played too much cheesy Israeli rock and not the rock and American pop I gushed over the last time. Even after two beers and a vodka chaser the guys didn’t look particularly appealing-they remained gruff and simple. So we walked back to Landen about 2 o’clock in the morning.

The lighting still disappointed, and it took fifteen minutes to get a drink (try the mini-bar in the back), but immediately some semi-cute TV journalist flirted with me- and thanks to the drinks provided by Villa Sokolov-I flirted back. The monitors played recorded clips from Guns ‘N Roses and Queen concerts that had made Villa Sokolov such a success my first time there. I wonder: do bars spy on each other?

But Anat lagged in the aisles never really finding her groove. She agreed that the Landen crowd was a little more our type-young, educated professionals-which may have also contributed to their snobbiness. I would have liked some sort of combination between Landen and Villa Sokolov – the guys at Landen and the facilities at Villa Sokolov.

Then again, after meeting that journalist the next day under better lighting, with the conversation generator consisting of the refrain “what else?”, I wondered if maybe it’s time to throw in the drink towel and go back to internet dating on weekends. Nah – at the end of the day (or night), this was so much more fun.

Landen is located on 2 Shaul Hameleh Boulevard in the London Ministore, (052) 691-9191.