Hotel Insider Saeed Saeed is pleased to discover a quiet bolt-hole with views over the Bosphorus from Istanbul's Asian side, away from the tourist throng in this ancient city.
Central location and efficient service at Doubletree Istanbul-Moda
A smiling porter is waiting for me outside the entrance and carries my suitcase into the lobby. The walkway leading to the glass doors is flanked by attractive gardens set with chairs. I've arrived in Istanbul a few days before the general election and I have to undergo a security check before entering. The security guard is both courteous and thorough as he scans my passenger bag and ushers me through a metal detector. The whole process takes about 45 seconds.
After the narrow streets and tight turns of the taxi on the way here, the lobby's spaciousness is a welcome respite. My arrival gets off to a bumpy start, however, when reception staff cannot find my reservation on their system. They ask me to take a seat on one of the many leather couches dotting the lobby while they "fix" the situation. My further 15-minute wait felt shorter thanks to the use of their complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi service. I'm offered a tasty chocolate-chip cookie, warm from an oven beneath the counter - a welcome note advertised as part of the Doubletree brand.
The hotel is located in the inland district of Kadikoy across the Bosphorus River on what is deemed the Asian side of the city. The hotel is easily the biggest building in a mostly leafy residential neighbourhood filled with apartment blocks and small townhouses. However, after only a few minutes walk you will find yourself in Bahariye Caddesi and Kadikoy's pedestrian zone: a labyrinth of walkways hosting an eclectic mix of shops, fashion boutiques and seafood restaurants. It is also viewed as one of the city's prominent cultural precincts with second-hand bookshops, vintage record stores and grungy live music venues.
A welcome emphasis is placed on efficient service. Drink and food orders arrive without delay and the room service meal arrives exactly on the 25-minute mark as promised. When asked about local attractions, reception staff helpfully point me towards the nearby ferry station from where boats depart every 15 minutes for the Golden Horn and Istanbul's more famous landmarks. Disappointingly, they are less than enthusiastic about recommending local sights, such as Kadikoy's pedestrian zone, which, as it turned out, is a shopping and foodie's paradise.
My room is designed to capitalise on the spectacular views of the Bosphorus, with large double-glazed windows and a king-sized bed placed in the middle of the room so you to wake up to a view of the river. That's if you wake up: the plush orthopaedic mattress, soft linens (300-thread sheet count), down comforter and comfy pillows make me sleep in past breakfast.
A large desk and ergonomic chair sit in front of the bed and windows, with a decent half-metre gap in between. However, the 32-inch LCD television clamped to a column beside the desk hangs precariously low; I have to swing it to one side to decrease the risk of head injury. But the star of the show remains the view. I sit on one of the two plush, green reading chairs and enjoy watching a flotilla of boats gently pass across the river.
With the hundreds of restaurants on your doorstep, it would be a shame to have all your meals at the hotel. That said, the Doubletree is a worthwhile option for those wanting a change from local seafood and kebab dishes. The hotel's in-house restaurant, Doubles, serves international dishes both buffet and a la carte, while those with a sweet tooth can purchase a variety of local and international sweets from the in-house Bisou Patisserie located beside the lobby. I elect for a room-service dinner and the menu has enough tempting options for a three-course meal. I order a fresh mozzarella salad (26 Turkish lira; Dh59) which came with tomatoes, rocket leaves and balsamic vinegar, followed by a beefburger (28 lira; Dh64) which is slightly oily but flavoursome thanks to the caramelised onion, crisp beef bacon and cheddar cheese, with a side serving of thick wedges. For dessert, the Ottoman plate (21 lira; Dh48), featuring baclava with stuffed figs and apricots, is deliciously fruity.
Quiet. The hotel which opened in March, already hosts a number of business conferences, and is currently the location for a culinary TV game show. The local municipality is gearing up to sell the local area as a new tourism hotspot, so expect a growing number of tourists in the summer season; however, when I visit out of season, it is all power suits. The restaurants are quiet during my weekend stay, with only a handful of visitors enjoying a quite drink inside or a morning coffee in the garden outside.
The room's almost panoramic view of the Bosphorus River. Waking up to such a beautiful setting is what memorable holidays are all about. I also appreciate the complimentary Wi-Fi which is available all around the hotel grounds, allowing you to work in your room or in the gardens.
On two occasions staff walk into my room unannounced, apparently mistaking my room for another. They apologise profusely but such intrusions are embarrassing and simply should not happen.
A hotel with plenty of promise. A very good base to explore the under-appreciated Asian side of Istanbul.
The bottom line
A king guest room costs 430 lira (Dh973) per night, including breakfast and taxes. DoubleTree by Hilton Istanbul-Moda, Caferaga Mah Albay Faik Sözdener Ca, Kadikoy, Istanbul (www.hilton.com.tr/eng/Doubletree-Istanbul-Moda; 00 90 216 542 43 44).