It normally takes at least a year or more for a new luxury hotel to function as a well-rehearsed, but spontaneous, orchestra, but St Regis Istanbul, which only opened March 2015, has done it in under half the time. What is the secret, asked the gal? Well, Rui Reis, a highly polished and passionate Portuguese, has already done seven openings – the last was Mexico City. Although only one other of the 118-room hotel’s 265-strong team is not Turkish, he has somehow managed to pull back diaspora from around the world. One of the 14 butlers, for instance, was last working at St Regis Park City in Utah. He also did have an extra six months to rehearse as the hotel was originally scheduled to open autumn 2014.
We dined up on the seventh floor rooftop, at Wolfgang Puck‘s first Spago outside the USA. Oh the views, over Macka Park to the Bosphorus – some do choose to sit inside, even in summer. At night this space is a fun bar cum lounge cum restaurant. Going all Turkish, cooked Californian style, I had a really good fig and burrata (made by an Italian here in Turkey) followed by an outstanding ribeye with onion rings, and we drank Bülent Kalpakliogu’s Ch Kalpack 2010, from a Riedel decanter. By morning, action, so to speak, moved inside as you are invited into the kitchen, to choose from the buffet. I am glad I chose to return to Spago, although eating in my room, the Cosmopolitan Suite (#316), would have been a joy – local architect-designer Emre Arolat has covered most walls with big panels of grey tweed, banded in copper-tin bell metal (other bits of wall are matching-grey marble, and unusually the two bedside lights, one standing, one ceiling-hung, are pink-inner-lit fabric ‘melon shapes‘).
One of the other suites, The Bentley (#516) used guest designer Liana Hawkes of Wimberly Interiors. She has used Bentley-interior leather, put in Breitling clocks and champagne coolers hidden in the sofa. This hotel is an education every minute. Take the books everywhere – a room without books is a body without a soul, says Rui Reis. There is an Assouline library, and hundreds of books to borrow in the lobby – look behind the flower lady. I was on my way to see First Lady, a 1967 full-size Botero painting by the elevators. There is art everywhere, too. At Spago’s entrance are a pair of Truman Capotes, by Warhol and there is a splodgy Sam Francis, not surprisingly untitled, in the Petit-O bar, where the signature Bloody Mary, a St Regis differentiator, is the Misty Mary, with raki, twice-distilled grapes with aniseed.
Outside this luxury hotel, right on the main street is a full-size Robert Indiana Love, which cleverly has the hotel’s Instagram and Twitter handles on its base. And here, as if presenting it, is one of those Turkish diaspora who rushed back to Istanbul, head butler Attila Cimsit, who had set up Crystal‘s onboard butler service – here, he says, most Turkish guests want pressing and shoe-polishing services. I hide my Stella McCartney trainers and have to confess that none of my clothes needs pressing. He smiles, I am not sure knowingly or with sympathy (my faithful Porsche Rimowa wheelie simply does not have space for Georgina Chapman, Alexander McQueen or any other label that needs contact with either iron or butler).