When looking to add a touch of history and bit of boutique luxury to an otherwise business-based trip to İstanbul, The House Hotel Galatasaray is well-suited to meet your needs. This Ottoman-chic hotel is conveniently located in colourful Beyoğlu, a neighbourhood situated only a short taxi or metro ride from both Levent, İstanbul’s modern business district, and the stunningly historic Sultanahmet.
Once stepping through the hotel’s sunny yellow façade, you find yourself in a mansion from the 1890s that has been transformed through significant renovations to become the hotel you see today. The atmosphere is very inviting, as are the staff who prior to our arrival were very helpful in answering any questions we had about the neighbourhood. Additionally, when requesting to reserve one of the penthouse suites, which were fully booked, we were offered a free upgrade to the hotel’s best room, the executive suite.
Our suite was spacious, comfortable and elegant, decorated in muted colours with warm wooden flooring. Pristine white walls and high ceilings were adorned with ornate moulding and chandeliers, making us feel as if we were staying in a private chamber fit for a sultan. One interesting characteristic of the suite was the separate rain shower, which is not located in the marble bathroom. Instead you’ll find it as a stand-alone sort of pod in the bedroom, but still offering privacy with wrap-around curtains.
Room rates include free wifi access and breakfast, which is taken in the hotel’s lush rooftop lounge. Breakfast here was one of the best we had in İstanbul, with a variety of eggs, and selection of cheeses, fruits, vegetables and pastries available for the taking. The sights from the lounge are an added bonus, with a fantastic view of the Galata Tower, and vistas over Beyoğlustretching to Sultanahmet.
We’re hard-pressed to find anything wrong here, however its lack of a business centre may be a detriment to those who are hoping to fit in a couple of hours on a laptop, and fitness fans may be disappointed that there is no gym available.
If unfamiliar with the area when approaching the hotel, you can’t really be faulted for thinking the surrounding area a bit dull. At a glance, the mostly residential street is unassuming. A quick stroll around the corner and up the hill reveals quirky local shops and quaint café-lined streets, however. Beyoğlu’s bustling main artery, nearby İstiklâl Caddesi, will take you all the way to Taksim Square with plentiful shopping along the way. Evenings are lively and leave you spoilt for choice in terms of dining and entertainment, but we highly recommend grabbing an outdoor table at CezayirSokağı, a pedestrianized sidestreet teeming with character and restaurants.
We decided to try one of the neighbourhood’s most popular dining spots,Cezayir, which is located just around the corner from the hotel. Cezayir has multiple seating areas, both indoors and out, and we were delighted to take dinner in the garden terracewith the pleasant weather.
The restaurant serves up a selection of modern Turkish food as well as international dishes and we wasted no time in choosing our starters, which were brought out to us in quick order. The Antakya style aubergine in olive oil with cumin was tasty but not overly exciting, however the texture was just right. Arugula salad with shrimps, fresh onion, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese could have been delicious but there was far too much arugula, and while the other ingredients quickly disappeared we were still left with a veritable mountain of green.
Entrées of kebap and lamb shank next arrived withsavoury aromas. The lamb shank with smoked keşkek,although not incredibly flavourful, was cooked to perfection with the tender meat falling off the bone without effort. Smoked keşkek(traditional whole wheat puree), served in a dish made from filo dough, was something new to us, although similar to mashed potatoes in both texture and taste. The stand-out entrée was unquestionably the Cezayirkebap with pita bread, grilled beef tenderloin slices, and sweetbread. The beef had been seasoned to absolute perfection, resulting in an extraordinary amount of flavour packed into each bite. The sweetbread was indulgently rich and creamy, with a subtle undertone of smokiness – rather interesting to the palate.
The traditional “flour dessert” intrigued us, and so we had to find out what it might be. The simple flour dessert was heavy and somewhat grainy in texture, although surprisingly nice. Topped with vanilla sauce and strawberries, it was sweetened up just enough without making the dish too rich.
After the meal, a circuitous walk through the maze of streets that make up Beyoğlu will help work off the excesses of the evening meal, and once back in the cushy confines of the hotel, a restorative night of rest is easy to come by.
The House Hotel Galatasaray: FiruzagaMah. Bostanbasi Cd. No: 19, Beyoğlu 34425 İstanbul / T: +90 212 252 04 22
Cezayir: HayriyeCadessi 12, Galatasaray, Beyoğlu, 34425, İstanbul / T: +90 212 245 99 80