April 1 proved to be no Fool’s Day for Istanbul. While Turkish Airlines was busy celebrating its inauguration into the ever-growing Star Alliance (see online news April 3), Starwood quietly opened the W Istanbul, the 21st property in the brand’s portfolio and the first in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.
The trendy W brand has become well established in the US, with 16 hotels in locations such as New York (where there are a total of five W hotels), LA, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego and Dallas. W has also spread its wings as far as Mexico, Honolulu, Seoul and the Maldives, but we’ve had to wait until now to see the brand in action closer to home.
Located within the Besiktas district of the city, where you’ll also find well-known brands such as Kempinski, Conrad, Swissotel, Hilton and Ritz Carlton, the 134-room W Istanbul opened its doors for business this week.
Originally the living quarters for staff at the nearby tourist attraction the Dolmabahce Palace, the 140-year-old renovated building (part of the Akaretler Row Houses) stands somewhat inconspicuously on the fork of two quiet roads set back from the main Istanbul highway and Bosphorus beyond. Or at least it would be inconspicuous if it wasn’t for the huge silver “W” just in front of it, quite literally a sign of what is to come inside.
For those of you who have stayed at a Malmaison property in the UK, think this level of trendiness and then some – a huge emerald-glass flower crawls up behind the “welcome desk” (nothing so stuffy as a reception at W), while a large silver sofa and what looks like a group of brightly coloured ottomans (I’m later told they represent Turkish head wear from another era) decorate the lobby area, sorry, Living Room. It’s Turkey at its most modern, and it might not be to everyone’s tastes, but it will certainly provide an alternative to traditional Istanbul offerings such as the Ciragan Palace Kempinski.
Off the lobby there’s the Sip Lounge (cue my query as to the word’s translation from Turkish, when, of course, W literally means a place for you to sit and “sip” your drink). Upstairs there’s a bar, with dark wood flooring, original exposed brickwork, more funky chairs and various boardgames and books, while Spice Market restaurant is a spin-off of the New York eatery of the same name by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, serving dishes influenced by South East Asian street vendors and French cuisine.
In addition there’s a terrace area which will open later in the year, where breakfast will also be served. From here you can see the size of the property belies its small corner frontage, with the garden terraces and cabanas, which some room types enjoy, stretching back some distance.
And what of the rooms? If you’re going to replace Standard, Superior and Deluxe with words like Wonderful, Spectacular and Fabulous, then you’d better be pretty sure they live up to their name, and W has certainly come up with something different in its approach to hotel rooms. In the example I saw, you effectively enter through the bathroom, but this area has cleverly been arranged so that it doubles as a large entrance lobby, with louvre doors closing off the basin area to the left when it’s not in use, and two more doors to the right revealing the toilet and shower (there are no baths at the W Istanbul, but the higher you go in room type, the more gargantuan your Hammam-style walk-in shower becomes).
They also go in big for technology at W, with iPod docking stations which link up to the in-room sound system, Bose clock radio, DVD player, wifi internet access, 32-inch flatscreen TVs and on-demand movies. Room decor continues the modern Turkish theme, with touches such as deep red cushions and throws on the beds, chunky latticework around the mirrors, and bead curtains separating different sections.
Other hotel features include a 60 sqm Sweat gym and two boardrooms with space for up to 20 people – you’re not going to hold a large conference at this property, but there are plenty of other hotels in the city that have that market cornered anyway. General manager Goktug Ozdemir said the emphasis of the W brand is on guests “escaping from their routine”, and added that he expects around 70-80 per cent of guests to be foreign, with the majority of these from either Europe or North America.
The hotel is part of a larger redevelopment of the area, with adjacent buildings now housing residential apartments and high-end shops such as Jimmy Choo and Bottega Veneta. One point of note though – the renamed road on which the hotel stands is not yet listed on many of the street maps, so be sure you know where you’re going if you do give the hotel a try.
It will be interesting to see how the EMEA market takes to this new breed of Starwood hotel (and, of course, its sister brand Aloft, which is to make its European debut in Brussels in 2010). Forthcoming W hotels are due in Doha, Barcelona and Milan in the next year or so, and Starwood plans to have around 60 properties within the next three years.
For more information visit whotels.com.
22 Suleyman Seba Cad,
Report by Mark Caswell