About a fortnight ago, on the 13th of May 2013, the Bosphorus strait was alit with a zillion paper lanterns, bobbing gently on its waves, each with a message, “With Love from Asia”. The grand and opulent Dolmabahce Palace acquired a new handsome neighbour, with the opening of the Shangri-La Bosphorus in Istanbul. This is important information for the Indian travellers who have woken up to the charms of Istanbul in a big way.
The Hong Kong based Shangri-La Hotel & Resorts luxury chain had just inaugurated their second property in Europe with much fan fare, with promises of a top-of-the- line luxury retreat. No hollow promise that, by the look of all that they had on offer. Sitting on the banks of the Bosphorus Strait on the European side in the shopping district of Besiktas, and with a grand stand view across the water of the enchanting Asian shoreline, of the hills and the domes and minarets, the setting is a perfect blend of Istanbul’s European and Asian heritage. For the tourist wishing to explore Istanbul, the hotel is located within easy reach of historical Sultanahmet (where all the monuments are), and the vibrant Taksim. The business traveller at the Shangri-La is close to the city’s financial district and the Istanbul Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The Shangri-La Bosphorus is located on the site of a former tobacco warehouse from the 1930s, which has been restored. Its six-storey Neo-Classical façade belies its age, but the two carefully preserved 150- and 350-year-old Sycamore trees in the courtyard give testament to the past. The transformation of the venue into a luxury paradise is perfect. The opulence appears to be inspired by that of the super duper Dolmabahce Palace. In the lobby is located the grand staircase that transports guests down the hotel’s three-storied atrium. The dome shaped glass ceiling on the atrium allows natural light that adds zing to the massive two story high crystal Bohemian chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The atrium is also adorned with an 18 meter tall silk painting, ‘The Garden of Peach Blossoms’, which was specially commissioned for the hotel. An exquisite southern China lacquer craft carving depicting a Bosphorus water scene is located behind the reception desk. More than 1,000 pieces of European and Asian art are showcased in the hotel.
Shangri-La Bosphorus offers 169 spacious guest rooms, and 17 suits with private terraces, with most of them offering a view of the Bosphorus. Fitted will all amenities expected of a five-star hotel, the rooms are done up in elegant hues of rich teal, crème and caramel colour schemes. Artists from the East and West were engaged to create unique art works inspired by the Istanbul scenery for the guestrooms.
The bathrooms are decked in dramatic Turkish marble complete with heated floors and Bvlgari bath amenities.
The Lobby Lounge offers an elegant setting with classic European bespoke furniture and plush sofas, where guests can enjoy classical or jazz music while munching on house-made pastries and more than 100 types of Chinese teas poured by the hotel’s tea master. Besides the Lounge, the hotel offers two restaurants and one bar.
Located adjacent to the Lobby is Le Bar, which is a jewel box set off by a stone wall and serves traditional cocktails and spirits, plus tapas and mezzes.
The speciality restaurant IST TOO offers an all-day dining menu of world cuisine, including Japanese, Southeast Asian, Mediterranean and Turkish.
The restaurant has a sushi bar; vast Wine Salon with full-height, glazed wine cabinets; a noodle station with a Chinese chef pulling noodles, and an open kitchen where chefs cook over the 12-metre grill. Set against the Bosphorus view, and lit by rose gold floor lamps and spherical ceiling pendants, the restaurant has semi-private dining enclaves carved out by timber portals, while conker-coloured leather banquettes stretch along the wall seating those who prefer to be in the mix.
The Shang Palace restaurant is inspired by the sculptural beauty of historical Chinese courtyard chambers. Upon arrival, an inverted “pagoda” structure appears to float overhead. A series of curved walls composed of grey marble hand-crafted in shapes of traditional Chinese roof tiles provides drama and texture. The restaurant unfolds into four contemporary dining chambers. Special chefs from China prepare delectable Chinese cuisine and carve Peking Duck tableside while the Kung Fu tea master pours tea.
The hotel’s CHI spa offers Asian and Turkish treatments. It has eight private spa suites, as well as extensive Hammam facilities catering to both private groups and individuals. Both the spa and Hammam feature Turkish tiles, water features and abundant marble.
A health club with sauna, Jacuzzi and steam rooms, and a heated indoor pool are also available to hotel guests. Istanbul beckons