Sumahan on the Water, Cengelköy, Istanbul
Gorgeous Contemporary Waterfront Hotel. Doubles from £130
All through Istanbul’s history a waterfront address – a palace, say, or an airily beautiful yalı (wooden mansion) – has most eloquently expressed privilege and status. Ottoman palaces like Dolmabahçe or Beylerbeyi now host coach parties rather than their one-time royal residents, of course, while many of the gorgeous yalı mansions have long since burned down or been lost to redevelopment. Where to stay, then, for the quintessential Bosphorus experience? It happens that it’s a building with contrastingly blue-collar origins, a late-Ottoman spirit factory, which now provides visitors with the most stylish and imaginative waterfront lodgings in the city.
Sumahan is the vision of Mark and Nedret Butler, confirmed Istanbullus whose architectural backgrounds along with their sure grasp of style and service are all over this wonderful restoration. The look of the low-built hotel is at once industrial but warm, with loft-style duplexes and cast-iron staircasing complemented by dark bookshelves, open fireplaces and an appealing clubby feel. Many of the rooms give directly onto the waterfront where private grassed seating areas, some with fruit trees, have been created out of the spacious quayside. The hotel’s adjacent waterfront restaurant, Tapasuma, is a paean to the bite-sized in its fusion of Turkish mezes and Spanish tapas. It’s also the perfect place to watch the varied shipping – gleaming super-cruisers, rusted-stained Ukrainian tankers, fishing smacks, coast guard vessels – pass along the Bosphorus.
The hotel has its own jetty where Tapasuma’s fancier arrivals step ashore from gleaming launches. It’s also the place where Sumahan’s guests board the hotel’s own handsome launch for regular complimentary ten-minute transfers to Kabataş or Kuruçeşme on the European side. The hotel’s location, by the village of Cengelköy on the Asian side, may strike many as remote. There may be more conveniently located hotels, waterside ones among them, but none combines setting and style quite like the Sumahan.