Located on the shores of the magnificent Bosphorus, facing the Asian continent and overlooking the ancient city, Ciragan Palace Kempinski offers the glamour of a genuine Ottoman palace in a city where east meets west, Europe meets Asia and history meets contemporary. The hotel has played home to an endless number of visiting royal highnesses, rock stars, A-List actors and fashion designers. With its splendid style, jaw dropping location, inspiring view and decadent resort ambiance, including a spacious palm garden, it has been an Istanbul classic for the cities well to do and visiting jet-setters since opening in 1990.
I arrived to the hotel an hour before my dinner reservation so took the opportunity to find inspiration on a stroll through the sprawling property. I relaxed on a lawn chair by the pool, walked along the Bosphorus boardwalk and skipped through the palace gardens before arriving for my final feast in Istanbul.
The hotels award-winning Tugra Restaurant, located on the first floor of the historical palace, is known for offering its guests the ultimate Ottoman dining experience. The restaurants interior features whimsical murals, opulent chandeliers, plush seating and an ice filled trolley where chilled champagne bottle stand eager to be devoured. I was offered the best seat in the house, a table on the restaurants balcony terrace overlooking the Bosphorus and a razzle dazzle red carpet wedding reception. Tugra offers a unique opportunity for guests to sample tried-tested-and-true Turkish and Ottoman recipe which have been favorites in the city since the glorious era of the Sultans.
Highlights from my Ottoman feast at Tugra include: Piruhi minced meat stuffed pasta served with yogurt, tomato sauce and spicy butter, Duck Restiyye a simple village pasta tossed in sweet butter and topped with duck confit and roasted walnut, Pacanga Borek an air dried beef and kaskaval cheese wrapped phyllo dough with roasted red pepper, refreshing Mashed Cucumber and Pistachio Salad and Kulbasti a thinly sliced melt in your mouth beef tenderloin accompanied by smoked mashed eggplant, roasted tomato and pomegranate and onion relish.
Every dish I enjoyed at Tugra that evening offered entirely new flavours and textures that I have now thankfully been able to appreciate and add to my repertoire. As my meal was finally winding down, the wedding below had just started to pick up. The moment my dessert arrived at the table with a pot of Turkish tea fireworks blasted into the sky as the newlyweds were presented at the top of the staircase. I’ve never seen such an enchanting and dizzying display of glamour! The entire restaurant seemed to pop out of their seats and clap for the couple. It seemed as though the city paused as the couple retreated back into the palace leaving a smile on the shimmering reflection of the Bosphorus.
Champagne and More Champagne
bell pepper and dry fig with rice, zucchini flowers, onions herbs, pine nuts, sour cherry, spices and eggplant filled iwth sweet onion
minced meat stuffed triangle pasta with yogurt, tomato sauce, spicy butter
village pasta with butter, duck confit, roasted walnut
air dried beef from kayseri region, kaskaval cheese, tomato, wrapped phyllo dough, roasted red pepper
Mashed Cucumber and Pistachio Salad
garlic yoghurt, green pistachio, pomegranate syrup
beef tenderloin, smoked mashed eggplant, trabzon kaygana, roasted tomato, pepper, pomegranate and onion relish
Turkish Tea with Turkish Delight
bergamot scented earl grey tea, turkish apricots, fine swiss chocolate