Add Date : 1.09.2010 13:24
Stay the night: A'jia Hotel, Istanbul
Adrian Mourby glides by the congested city on a river taxi ride to this elegant boutique hotel
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Waterfront address: The former summer mansion, built in the 19th century, welcomes guests to its 16 bedrooms
A'jia means Asia, an appropriate name for one of the first buildings that visitors to Istanbul encounter when they cross to the Asian side of the Bosphorus.
Recently, this luxurious all-white boutique hotel has found a splendid new way to help guests to avoid Istanbul's nightmarish traffic jams. A romantic weekend in one of the greatest cities in Europe (and Asia) can all too easily be wrecked by two hours spent crawling into the city by car from Ataturk International.
Everyone admits the traffic is getting worse, so, making the most of its position on the waterside, A'jia will now send a polished water taxi to collect you. The transfer price is €150, which is twice what an ordinary taxi might cost, but the journey time is halved and the view of Istanbul, as you glide along, is simply superb.
The hotel itself is a refurbished yal (Turkish for house or mansion on the waterside). It was built in the 19th century for Ahmet Rasim Pasha, who in 1873 was appointed mayor and chief of police in Istanbul. In 2002, a local businessman named Serdar Bilgili bought the derelict yal and converted it into a small luxury hotel which has since hosted such celebrities as Salma Hayek, Bryan Ferry, Mike Tyson and Bill Clinton.
The architect was Resit Soley, another remarkably energetic figure in Istanbul. In his spare time, Soley has turned the Aegean island of Bozcaada into a winery of note under his own Corvus label.
The hotel has 16 rooms and all but one of them have views of the Bosphorus. The Pasha Suite is where celebrities try to stay, for its gracious central balcony on to the waterfront. Equally impressive, though, is the Mezzanine suite, which makes great use of the traditional high ceilings of Istanbul's summer houses. All rooms have calm white interiors, natural wool flooring, Turkish rugs and retro armchairs. The televisions all come with DVD players and movies are available from reception for free. Bed linen is Italian and so are the toiletries, by Acqua di Parma.
The food and drink
Hasan Karabulut, late of the Framissima Beach resort, Hurghada, and Casa Dell'Arte, Bodrum's first boutique art hotel, oversees the A'jia Restaurant. This is based in the original owner's dining room but spills out in the summer to feed up to 250 people on the terraces. Waiters in white shirts and black bowties take a genial interest in guests and work from a menu that specialises in Italian and other Mediterranean food. Signature dishes include caramelised rib of beef and lamb shank confit. The wine list has a good range of Californian reds as well as some good (but not inexpensive) French whites. The cheaper – but increasingly well regarded – option is Turkish wines, such as Kavaklidere Bogazkere and Doluca Okuzgozu. Expect to pay €42 (£35) per person, excluding wine.
A'jia offers free transfers across the river Bosphorus from Istanbul's European quaysides. Pick-up points are in Emirgan, Istinye, Rumeli, Hisari and Bebek. There is no gym, but in-room massages can be arranged at a rate of €100 for two hours. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel.
Children are welcome. Pets are not. There is good access for guests with disabilities throughout the hotel, a lift to all floors, plus one specially modified room. However, boat transfers would not be possible for anyone in a wheelchair.
Double rooms from €227 per night. Breakfast is €18 (£15) per person. Elixir Holidays (020-7722 2288; elixirholi days.com) offers a three-night package for £960 per person, including boat transfers from Ataturk International, all breakfasts, and one dinner with local wine
A'jia Hotel, Cubuklu Caddessi 27, Istanbul, Turkey (00 90 216 413 9300)