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Since its launch just over a year ago, the Raffles Istanbul has been winning hearts and minds with the brand’s legendary butler service and customer-centric philosophy
It is just over a year since Raffles opened the doors of its iconic new hotel in Istanbul. A striking embodiment of the youthful face of Turkey’s most populous city steeped in history, this beacon above the Bosphorus is, in Raffles’ own words, “an exhilarating fusion of virtuoso architecture, dazzling interiors, inspired food and deep luxury”.
First impressions are essential, of course, and as an arriving visitor passing through the onyx vestibule with gold mosaic floor under foot, it is hard to disagree with this assessment. The impression continues: the vestibule opening into a grand lobby with reflecting pools that flank the lounge, where the abstract bronze sculpture ‘Lavinia’ by American artist Martin Dawe takes centre stage.
At Raffles Istanbul, beauty really does come from within. Rich, dramatic interiors by global hospitality design trendsetters Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) strike both contemporary and distinctly Turkish chords.
Specially commissioned artworks are woven into the hotel’s very fabric, seamlessly embellishing private and public spaces. Chief among these is the stunning hyper-realistic image of Istanbul’s famous Dolmabahçe Palace by internationally-acclaimed French hyper photo realist Jean-Francois Rauzier which, in the words of the artist himself, promises to take guests on a “fascinating journey”.
An aesthetic feast throughout, the hotel boasts tactile sculptures, objets trouvés and contemporary interpretations of classic patterns, as well as pieces inspired by Byzantine jewels. Avant garde, cosmopolitan and confident, the property is, in many ways, an artistic representation of Istanbul itself: a seamless juxtaposition of the ancient and modern.
The effortless charm and style of the public areas extends to the 49 capacious suites, which each manages to redefine the ‘wow’ factor term. Stunning vistas are the norm from these iconic luxury hilltop abodes. Rooms are exquisite living spaces that, from an aesthetic and artistic perspective, are everything that Raffles the brand, and Istanbul the global melting pot, represent.
In the Horizon Suite, 183 sq m of opulence – featuring hand-woven Turkish carpets, elegant hardwood floors and sumptuous furnishings – unfolds before one’s eyes, giving way to stunning views of the glittering Bosphorus and Asia beyond. At this elevation, sunlight streams unhindered through ceiling-to-floor windows which wrap around every suite’s exterior, while vast balconies afford panoramic views of this fascinating urban cross-roads.
For the guest willing to step out momentarily from this lofty and lavish palatial perch, the Raffles Istanbul is about much more than cultural and artistic finesse. A 3,000-sq-m spa – one of the city’s most comprehensive – offers, for example, a high-end take on the traditional Turkish hammam. Signature treatments are standard in this scene of serenity where lotus flowers bloom amid watery chaos with two product lines from The Organic Pharmacy and Gazelli Skincare specially created with the Istanbul property’s discerning clientele in mind.
The Raffles Istanbul experience is also very much about ‘emotional luxury’. Service appears to come from the heart, not the training manual. Staff strive to create a chemistry with guests, but refreshingly it is service without a set formula.
It is a customer-centric philosophy which courses through the veins of the property, including in the array of gastronomic outlets which have fast become preferred rendezvous for Istanbul’s socialites and gourmands.
At Spanish Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola’s eponymous restaurant, an exclusive dining room with a 10-seat chef’s table guarantees a culinary adventure. Arabic-style diamond patterns of the curved upholstered feature walls in both the main and private dining rooms are reminiscent of those seen at the Alhambra, the famed Moorish palace of Granada in southern Spain.
Adjacent to the lobby is Raffles Arcade, an upmarket retail thoroughfare featuring la crème de la crème of exclusive international brands. This is located adjacent to the Zorlu Centre, one of Istanbul’s most agreeable malls and a recognised convergence point of fashion, fine food, performance and art – and one with its own helipad serving Raffles Istanbul – in this dynamic and exciting city.
In a property so in tune with its geographical and cultural surroundings, not to mention its newfound place in Istanbul’s hospitality hierarchy, it would be easy perhaps for this property to lose touch with its global roots. Yet the legendary, round-the-clock Raffles Butler Service is as authentic to Istanbul as it is to any of the brand’s 11 other properties around the world, lending an air of familiarity to Raffles devotees for whom highly personalised, intuitive and discreet service is the minimum expectation.
Raffles Istanbul may have only been open for just over a year, but as a self-styled oasis for travellers and adventurers, writers and lovers, poets and performers, it already has a compelling story to tell in this undoubtedly romantic and culturally eloquent city of seven hills.
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