Istanbul captive, or where to stay and eat in Istanbul

Luxury Travel Tips

Just now, when I left the office, from the twilight I somehow smelled of bird cherry in a Nabokovian “heavy and fluffy” way. This scent always brings me back to my childhood. But the truth is, smells are the royal road to our past. Here Istanbul Four Seasons, for example, will always smell like tulips for me.

They were everywhere: they stood in fragrant armfuls in outlandish vases, their motley heads doubled in ancient mirrors, and every half a day the bouquets were ruthlessly changed for new ones.

It is simply impossible not to notice an elegant, egg-yolk-colored building with almost Disney turrets in the center of the gray-gray Sultanahmet. Four Seasons at Sultanahmet former prison. Turkish dissidents – politicians and writers – languished in its dungeons. But the gloomy casemates have turned into an Ottoman palace with 65 rooms (none of which is like the other), including two suites – Hagia Sophia and Marmara. It is worth paying a little extra and getting exactly the latter.

The prisoners of Marmara enter the magical world. A wooden hall leads to a spacious living room with a fireplace, which flows through a narrow corridor with a wardrobe into a cozy bedroom. For the convenience of guests, Marmara has its own kitchenette and a dining table for 10 people. The decor of the suite is an amalgamation of modern and traditional Turkish styles: natural natural tones with flashes of blue and red, wooden furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl, decorative pillows, plump ottomans, which are so nice to curl up on. All this is very harmoniously combined with modern amenities (home theater, CD / DVD players, iPod station, high-speed Internet access).

Seasons at Sultanahmet, Istanbul

What I really like about the Four Seasons network is the way they care about choosing the location of your future home. Wherever you go, rest easy, you will by default get the most convenient location and some of the best views in the city. This is how it is in Istanbul: views of the Marmara and the Princes’ Islands – on the one hand, Hagia Sophia and the roofs of the old city, on the other, are frightenedly pressed against each other – are accessible from the three large terraces of the suite.

Another little local joy is compliments from the chef. Diamonds of baklava oozing with honey, quivering Turkish delight, crumbly halva with nuts and other sweets are brought to the room continuously. It is necessary to eat all this directly with your hands, getting dirty in powdered sugar, and drinking not too strong, unsweetened tea.

Turkish sweets

Leaving the hotel is a great burden. However, this should not be done on the first day. Elegant Seasons is one of the best Turkish hotel restaurants. The eminent chef Mehmet Gök has made an excellent selection of delicious dishes – from traditional Thai cuisine to classic European. A win-win choice is a juicy grain-fed rib-eye steak with potatoes in Béarn sauce or something unpretentious – orecchiette (“ears” in our opinion) with porcini mushrooms and arugula. Dinner is served for you either in a glazed pavilion or in a picturesque garden, manicured to such an extent that I, with the annoying scrupulousness of a provincial, looking for at least one dry twig or withered leaf, was left with a nose.

Seasons in Istanbul is one of the best Turkish restaurants

Before going to bed, you can go to the Health Club and undergo some of the relaxing massages. In an hour, you will fall into a deep, restful sleep. At dawn, the mournful mournful singing of the muezzin will float into it. It will reflect from the minarets scratching the ruddy predawn sky, frighten away the gulls slumbering on the leaden waters of the Bosphorus, and, wandering along the winding cobbled streets of Sultanahmet, will knock on your windows, announcing the birth of a new day. It’s time to leave such a captivating luxury and go wandering, soaking in the impressions and smells of an unfamiliar city.

Seasons at Sultanahmet, Istanbul

Right around the corner you will find Hagia Sophia, where you can lift your head to exhaustion, trying to admire the golden mosaics under the dome. With difficulty tearing your eyes away from the mosaics, right there, across the street, plunge into the cool dark depths of Yerebatan – ancient underground reservoirs, the very ones where Bond was filmed. Or go to the Topkapi Palace, located on the hill between the Golden Horn and Marmara. If a visit to the local palace kitchens, where thirteen thousand chefs lived, each of whom specialized in preparing only one single dish, makes your further wanderings unbearable, then in search of new gastronomic experiences, hurry to Mimolett (Siraselviler Caddesi No 55/A, Cihangir; tel: 90 212 245 98 58). The restaurant, named after the mysterious orange cheese from Lille, is the brainchild of the famous Turkish chef Murat Bozok.

Murat Bozok

Before opening his own restaurant, he spent many years honing his culinary skills under Michelin-starred Joel Robuchon at L’Atelier in Paris, was sous-chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus and chef at his own gastropub in Chiswick, London. You can start your lunch with ravioli stuffed with juicy scallops and langoustines. Roasted duck, tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, with traditional Turkish böreks, will suit the role of the main course, and mimolette creme brulee will serve as a worthy end to the meal.

Mimolett Restaurant, Istanbul

Mimolett, Istanbul

As soon as dusk falls on Istanbul, head to Ulus 29 (Ahmet Adnan Saygun Caddesi, Ulus Parki No.1, Ulus, tel: 90 212 358 2929). This is a restaurant, bar and club all rolled into one. The cuisine has a pronounced French ancestry, but the traditional Turkish lahmacun (flatbread with minced meat and herbs) is also good.

Ulus 29, Istanbul

The interior of the restaurant is intricate, it is not for nothing that the cousin of the famous Turkish designer Rifat Ozbek had a hand in its creation. Lush Persian carpets and bright kilims are under your feet, outlandish lamps are above your head, and a panoramic view of the Bosphorus is in front of your eyes. You need to come here in something airy, boiling white or pale pink. Softly flowing silk, translucent blouse with a cascade of frills. In order not just to walk, but to soar all night, like a Canterville ghost, from one side of the Bosphorus to the other, according to an old Russian tradition, Roederer marks the crossing of the border of the continents.

Ulus 29, Istanbul

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