There is something really comforting about a top quality breakfast and Swissôtel has prided itself in giving this, for a long time. It was Swissôtel Zurich – actually in Oerlikon, between the airport and downtown – that first had ovens in its breakfast room so croissants and rolls were baked while you watched, and the aroma was enticing.
Here in Istanbul, there were other things to watch at the luxury hotel’s extensive breakfast performance, but the gal marvelled at the attractive mug, filled with fabulously flavourful coffee, and the Swissness of the jams. Soon as you sit down you are brought a slate holding a brioche and a butter dish, hygienically covered with paper.
There are lots of Swissnesses here in Istanbul (even the hotel’s magazine, which gives Vogue a run for its money in its lavishness, is called Swissper). In your bathroom, water glasses are packed in white card boxes labelled TUMBLER.
Very Swiss, as is lining bureau drawers with brown paper. Funnily enough the boss of this 493-room hotel, which has a separate annexe of really luxurious apartments for short-term rents, is an Austrian, Gerhard Struger.
We start talking nationalities (the hotel seems to be full of Americans at the moment, although there are also a lot of Turks staying). The Turkish wine he has chosen in Gaia restaurant is decanted into a swan-shaped glass shape from one of Austria’s best brands, Riedel, from Kufstein.
It is rather amazing he does not have a Swarovski store here – as I found last week, the crystal specialist seems to be taking over Vienna’s busy Kärtnerstrasse pedestrian shopping area.
No worry, the retail here within the hotel ranges from Van Cleef & Arpels (part of the South African-owned Richemont group) to carpets galore, obviously, ostensibly at least, from Turkey.
Another Austrian brand is mentioned, Red Bull, owned by Dietrich Mateschitz from Salzburg – admittedly in conjunction with the Yoovidhya family, from Thailand. I mention I have never tasted Red Bull. Well, of course a can was brought and elegantly poured and, as they say, been there, done that, move on.
Gerhard Struger and his super team love surprises. The 600 local members of the enormous wellness area – four tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, a significant gym and the hammam thing, plus a new outdoor paracourse circuit with 15 exercise stations – have classes at their disposal from 0730 through to the evening, body building through to Latin storm dance, Fiesta workout dance, butts & guts, abshape and boot camp.
The boss of this wellness, Bulent Ozdemir, is former trainer of the national Turkish tennis team. Here, he heads a fitness team of 33 and he loves planning special events, like the forthcoming swimming marathon across the Bosphorus. Europe to Asia and back again.
In my room I have lots of Vitality snacks, ideal for athletes – a plum and mandarin salad with olive oil, mustard sprouts; a Yerba mate, ginger and wolfberry elixir; an addictive apple, lemon, linseed and walnut smoothie; goat cheese with candied walnuts; quinoa on multigrain crackers; tomato and feta skewers and quince jelly with kamak and crackers.
More sybaritically, I have not only an espresso maker but an automatic Turkish coffee machine. Goodness, I will not need dinner. Then, out of the blue, a Turkish butler called Ayan arrives with a martini trolley and he makes me one, shaken not stirred. Searching around my room (1602, if you want one of the best views in town) I find I also have a selection of dried Turkish leaves – Everlast, Gingko leaves, Mallow, Nettle, Verbena, Wild thyme, French lavender sage, Sage – to make special teas.
I also have a neat little neck pillow, a sweet-smelling lavender-filled affair edged with old coins and good-luck Turkish beads. The blue front has stylish yellow flower design, by top fashion designer Rifat Ozbek, one of the local stars who played a keynote role when the International Herald Tribune, led by fashion guru Suzy Menkes, held its annual luxury conference in Istanbul about four years ago.
So now, in this round-up of the nations, your English writer brings the theme back to the start, and breakfast. As well as copies of Istanbul’s good English-language newspaper, Hürriyet Daily News, on the table, there do happen to be copies of the International Herald Tribune, (tip for pink lovers, the Financial Times does not appear until about 1500).
I check out the stunning selection of thick yoghurts and local cheese, the ubiquitous international egg station and settle on the must-be Turkish pancake station. A range of fillings, including a green powder, and such complements as Nutella, await. That tasting will be for my next visit.