This is a story of a luxury hotel that offers all the vital fitness that any serious lover of life could ask for, but it has even more than that. First, look above at the view, from room 1814 of Swissôtel The Bosphorus. To be honest, this is not a mere ‘room’, it is one of the apartments in the hotel’s separate Living block, residences that are available for short-let through to semi-permanent abode, and very nice they would be too, as your ‘home’. From Living, it is a three-minute walk to the main hotel: you walk past a Turkish restaurant that is fascinatingly full, most evenings, of local men avidly glued to large television screens watching tonight’s football. Istanbul is soccer-mad, and Beşiktaş JK stadium, only 300 yards away, reopened a few days ago after a mammoth expansion and upgrade.
Before, I have always dined at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, but tonight, as a change, it is Café Swiss, the all-day restaurant that has a divine terrace overlooking some of the 55-acres of lush hillside grounds around the hotel (the hundreds of trees are all owned by historic Dolmabahçe Palace, they are numbered, and checked regularly). This is a pretty extraordinary buffet as you walk right in and through the working kitchen. Look at the butters, for example. The dinner menu changes weekly. Yes, the fabulous buffet includes lots of Turkish dishes – see the video, below. I was also tempted, from the à la carte, by my favourite burrata, here served with cherry tomatoes, pine seeds, ruccola and jalapeno sauce.
The signature main course at dinner is dry-aged beef ribeye with steak fries, but no, I went for a seabass special, and very good it was too. I was of course back at breakfast, when it was difficult to avoid being tempted by the enthusiastic chefs. Try this, try that. They are so proud of their jams, all home-made and set out in little copper pots. As someone who never, ever eats sugar (never have any in my house), even I could not avoid taking one bite each of absolutely gorgeous whole walnut jam, whole tomato jam and, my favourite a jam of cross-cuts of eggplant. I had a decade of sugar intake in three small mouthfuls, oh well, enjoyment over reason.
But the boss of the luxury hotel Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Gerhard Struger, is also Mr Vitality. It is he who embodies keeping fit and on top of life. He took me up to the balcony of the just-reopened executive club lounge. Where else in the world do you a view like this, over the Bosphorus? he asked, pointing to the Golden Horn in the distance. Now is exactly the time to come to Istanbul. You are in Europe – Asia, and the Middle East, is the other side of the Bosphorus, but still far away from Ankara and further south. I tried to curtail his enthusiasm as time was running out and I was booked for what turned out to be an absolutely first-class manicure by Istanbul’s version of Frédéric Fekkai, Sabit Akkaya ….