Business trip: Istanbul
The new 44-room boutique House Hotel Nisantasi is in the heart of Nisantasi, the design and fashion district, nestled between the likes of Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss boutiques. Inside is a trendy lounge interior where guests sip mint-infused cocktails or read fashion magazines in between meetings. Rooms are spacious with platform beds topped with overstuffed mattresses, free wi-fi and espresso machines. Bathrooms feature rainfall showerheads and are stocked with Molton Brown toiletries.
After a stroll along the city's famed pedestrian street, Istiklal (Independence Avenue), be sure to stop by the Istanbul Culinary Institute, where budding Turkish chefs prepare and host and serve lunch as part of their apprenticeship. If you are lucky, Culinary Institute of America-trained director Hande Bozdogan will be there to explain her philosophy of growing as much as possible on the onsite organic farms and her storied methods of preparing traditional Turkish food. The homemade rose and lavender ice cream alone is fantastic, and many visitors make a point to sign up for the cooking classes taught upstairs.
Despite being open for eight years, Mikla is making all the headlines these days, thanks to its recently introduced menu that blends Anatolian cuisine from Turkey’s central and eastern regions with modern Scandinavian style and presentation. Perched atop the 205-room Marmara Pera hotel in the Beyoglu neighbourhood, the 360-degree views from the rooftop bar and terrace pair well with the tasting menus, which feature dishes such as lamb shank with smoked eggplant and tuzlu (yoghurt), or whole-wheat manti (Turkish dumplings) stuffed with lamb and served with yoghurt, tomato and roasted garlic.
At the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, Tugra is the place to impress clients or colleagues with chef Sezai Erdogan serving authentic Ottoman cuisine presented on hand-painted plates. Reserve early to secure a table on the terrace at sunset. The champagne cart makes a great first impression with its selection of French vintages, but the menu is the star with everything from a colourful mezze platter to homemade lamb kulbasti (cutlet), the chef’s specialty.
The city’s elite head for Sunset Restaurant, located on a lush hilltop in the Ulus neighbourhood overlooking the Bosphorus Strait and Asian shoreline. The outdoor terrace is popular in warmer months, but transparent glass surrounds the inside dining area year round. The menu leans heavily towards Japanese cuisine, with a lengthy sushi menu and plentiful wasabi or yuzu soy (soy sauce with a citrus zest) accents on many dishes. Juicy rib eye steak, baked sea bass and Turkish lamb with red bell pepper and Swiss chard are also on offer.
One of the more unique eateries in town is Nar, which is situated on the upper levels of the famed Armaggan department store in the Fatih neighbourhood. After perusing the store’s beautifully woven fabrics, hand-blown glass and locally crafted jewellery, diners can tuck into modern Turkish cuisine while surveying the action in the open kitchen. Gourmet specialties include a never-ending mezze display, which pairs well with a glass of Turkish raki (aniseed liquor) and fresh meat and seafood drizzled with all-natural jams and sauces prepared in-house.