x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Find peace and comfort in frenetic Istanbul at Rixos Pera

Hotel Insider In a great spot for getting around the city, Rixos Pera Istanbul is well-appointed, though with only one cafe and restaurant open so far.

Rooms at the Rixos Pera Istanbul are small but comfortable. Courtesy Rixos
Rooms at the Rixos Pera Istanbul are small but comfortable. Courtesy Rixos

The welcome

Arriving in Istanbul is always a thrill, as you pass those immense, striped Byzantine walls into the haphazard sprawl that is Turkey's biggest, most historic, most exciting city. After winding upwards, beyond the Bosphorus, through the city's cheek-by-jowl mix of crumbling wrecks and smartly renovated buildings, the Rixos Pera's white stonework gleams from its prominent corner position. It's definitely what you'd call "bijou": a tiny space, but they've still found room for sparkling chandeliers and artfully arranged bowls of peonies and orchids. Before the quick, painless check-in came a smiling offer of pistachio Turkish delight and traditional, fresh-scented "kolonya" or cologne to sprinkle on the hands.

The neighbourhood

Pera is the more genteel end of Beyoglu, which is one of Istanbul's most buzzing areas. With fabulous views over the Golden Horn on one side, the elegant gardens of the British Consulate on another, and the busy shopping and nightlife of Istiklal Caddesi right behind it, the Rixos is in a great spot for getting around the city. Wander up Mesrutiyet Caddesi for the Pera Museum, some chic cafes and one of Istanbul's most cutting-edge art galleries, Galerist.

The room

Like the lobby, the room is small but beautiful. This is, after all, a city hotel, made up of three Ottoman houses pulled together. There's a nice selection of skewered fruit, but the star is the box of five macaroons, made by the Rixos chefs that day. The furniture is elaborate but comfortable, the bathroom sizeable and the damask bed linen soft and snowy.

The scene

With only the lobby's Café Royal and one restaurant open so far, the hotel is still in its early days, but the rooms have been full since the opening in May. The clientele seem to be urban, cosmopolitan and quietly rich.

The service

My suitcases take a while to arrive in my room, but apologies are profuse when they do. The staff are helpful, smiling, happy to chat but respectful, with English so good that one of the waiters was keen to discuss my Robert Harris book over breakfast.

The food

When I visit, Park Samdan (the second branch of one of Istanbul's most fashionable spots) is still to open on the roof, as are the bistro Chapelle and a sushi bar, Aija Shima. Jack Russell, though, a lively restaurant and bar, offers a nice menu of updated Turkish dishes and world food. The mezze feature tender, flavoursome delights such as chargrilled octopus with wild oregano and cumin for 32 Turkish liras (Dh64) or salmon gravlax and tuna tataki with wasabi sorbet for the same price; mains include slow-roasted cinnamon flavoured veal neck and ribs with artichoke and roasted eggplant for 54 liras (Dh108) or, for vegetarians, juicy raspberry-stuffed vine leaves with garlicky dry yogurt costs 29 liras (Dh58). Desserts are the high point though, particularly the Eton-Mess-style vanilla cream meringue with fresh fruits and roasted pistachio for 22 liras (Dh44).

Loved

The macaroons in the room were probably the best macaroons I have ever eaten. And I have eaten many. I also enjoyed the women's pointed slippers, the Bulgari toiletries and the beautiful little Royal Spa downstairs - the hammam is exquisite, with a neoclassical feel.

Hated

There are no long mirrors to be found, which makes getting dressed for the evening too much like guesswork.

The verdict

A calm, elegant sanctuary from the crowds and noise of Istanbul, with fantastic attention to detail and a great location.

The bottom line

Accommodation at the Rixos Pera Istanbul starts at €320 (Dh1,466) per person per night. The Rixos Pera Istanbul, Kamerhatun Mahallesi, Mesrutiyet Caddesi No. 44, Taksim (www.rixos.com; 00 90 212 377 7000).