Gerhard Struger, Austrian GM of the luxury Swissôtel – The Bosphorus hotel, likes climbing up high, like all his mountaineering compatriots. Meet me out on the 16th floor rooftop, he told the gal. Now the hotel is up high anyway, soaring above the original gardens of the Dolmabahçe Palace (the trees in its 55 acres of grounds are numbered, and inspected annually by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism). Up on the hotel’s west wing rooftop, you can then climb 20 wood steps, past terraced seating, to the pinnacle, an open-air bar where the prevailing wind is such that sometimes whole bottles go sailing off the counter. Tonight, fortunately, only one glass began to topple, and it was caught in time.
Gerhard Struger wanted me to see one of his seven new Loft Suites, created out of what was the winter-long Gaia restaurant, on the 14th and 15th floors. 1453, an historic number, said this keen historian (it was year that Constantinople fell), is one of these suites, and it has spectacular views, one way over the Bosphorus, the other past the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmara. I even had a balcony, for a much-needed afternoon siesta. Let me describe what KCA (Khuan Chew) has designed as a two-floor loft. Anyone who knows her sumptuous two-floor suites at Burj Al Arab must be prepared for a shock. Here, instead of regal scarlet, buttercup and royal blue, velvet and silk and so on, here you have unpolished wood floors, with just two throw rugs, and a 15-step matching wood staircase, and more planks, supported by ceiling chains, forming a dining table for six, and a vanity desk.
Walls are brick, or rag-worked concrete. Full-height (two-floor) drapes and sheers, in pale grey, glide effortlessly at a touch of a bedside button. From the foot of the bed, upstairs, step over a whole ponyskin rug and look down, to the lower level. Walk back to the main bathroom, with separate shower, sauna and steam rooms as well as a freestanding tub, and on your way look over another parapet, and through a metal origami of lampshades to the dining table. It actually works, as does the rest of the hotel’s total renovation, which should be finished mid-2016. For now, by the way, Gerhard Struger is running a hotel that is under its usual 501-room complement, but do not be fooled that the big Technogym fitness centre will be empty as there are 680 outside members.
Khuan Chew is doing the entire hotel. On the food side, summer-long that rooftop space also accommodates Gaia dinner restaurant – they unwrap freshly-cleaned cashmere pashminas at the slightest hint of a goosepimple as you eat. In winter, you can now dine at an alpine hut in the garden. At any time of day, from 6 a.m. on, the new-look Café Swiss has both indoor and outdoor, nearly 600 chairs in all. The metres of breakfast buffet, by the way, include a birchermuesli bar, where you choose your ingredients, which are blended specially. It is little things like that that are luxury hotel differentiators.