The Hotel Amira in the heart of Sultanahmet was a little larger and more ’city-chic’ than we normally go for, and I was a concerned that the decor was going to be too bland and white, but I needn’t have worried. It’s a charming place, very tastefully done without being over the top, and the white just makes it feel clean and airy.
The staff here are the icing on the cake, always on hand with a smile and bucket loads of good local advice. There’s always someone to open the front door for you, to serve you complimentary tea and coffee, or to hand you one of the hotel umbrellas should it be a little moist outside. Which in February, was pretty much the case all day in the city!
They all speak excellent English, and in fact one of the down-sides (for me) was that we rarely heard any other languages, not even Turkish, which perhaps detracted a little from the identity of the place. It’s very much an international hotel, and could’ve been anywhere in Europe. Having said that, sometimes it’s just relaxing to slip back into your own language and not have to make an effort!
We’d booked a standard room but were upgraded to a balcony suite on arrival which was a pleasant surprise. The balcony didn’t get used since it rained most of the time, but in the summer this would have been appreciated for the outside space, if not the view.
The room was plenty big enough, had everything we could wish for, including a minibar which hubbie never allows me to use.
Bathrooms are a big consideration for me when choosing a hotel, and these were big with marble decor, heated towel rails and of course the obligatory telephone, the reason for which still mystifies me.
One of the selling points for the suites is the jacuzzi bath, which to be honest, how many of us actually use these on holiday? Still, the shower was decent, and they had all their own complimentary toiletries (yes, they passed the conditioner test!).
We were tucked away up on 4th floor so it should’ve been fairly quiet, but the walls must be thin as we often heard the jacuzzi bath next door on one side, and the honeymooners next door on the other side at all hours of the night! The floors are all marble too so you can hear if anyone is walking up the stairs in heels from a mile off. Having said that, our room was at the end of a corridor so there was no passing foot traffic, and we never heard anything from reception or the dining room. I guess we’re in a city afterall, it’s not going to be silent.
The breakfast spread was tremendous, and the best of the trip! Hubbie could’ve spent all day there munching his way through all the different dishes, but I reminded him to save room for his afternoon tea later on.
You can order evening meals at the hotel, but they put on a delicious complimentary high tea between 4pm – 6pm with platters of small savoury bites and cakes, as well as teas, coffee and juice. We ended up eating this at about 5.30pm so it could serve as dinner, thereby saving ourselves a small fortune in meals we didn’t have to buy.
We did however manage to drag ourselves away from the buffet to sample some of the city’s restaurants, and were glad we did!
We’d heard this was a good bet and stopped for lunch on the way back from visiting the spice bazzar. On peering through the windows it looked a bit posh, with linen table cloths, more rows of cutlery than we could count and a ratio of about 2 waist-coated waiters per table. Standing outside a bit wet and bedraggled in our trainers and jeans we hesitated long enough for the maitre-d to come and smile encouragingly at us from the door. So with heads held high, we trooped in, hoping they didn’t notice the soggy footprints we left in our wake. Once we were tucked away in a corner we began to relax and got on with the next task – to decide what to eat from the mouth-watering sounding menu.
The traditional Ottoman mezze platter we shared to start were just as good as they looked, and I would have happily just chomped my way through a couple of these platters rather than ordering mains too.
I was secretly having kebab envy when Pete’s main appeared. There’s always the slight worry that the other person’s dish will be better than yours, which is why we so often end up ordering the same, but when on holiday I like to try different things. To be fair, my Sultan’s chicken rolls were delicious too. Far too full for desert we nonetheless made a respectable dent in the tureen of Turkish delight that was left with the bill.
Babylonia Garden Terrace
This charming little restaurant was recommended by the hotel, and we found it nestled amongst many other tasty looking places lined up along one street not far from the Blue Mosque.
Considering it was a cold wet February day at 3pm it was surprisingly busy. The candle-lit tables and stone walls gave a pleasant ambience, and the staff were efficient and friendly. I went for the pide, the one dish I had yet to tick off my list, and hubbie opted for the kebab again. Another winner for him! The pide was good though, but big enough for two let alone just one having lunch.