Calm to a spider is chaos to a fly.
Having traversed through populated India several times, I have become addicted to chaos in a way that it is actually alluring. And when in Istanbul, as if in a seismic pendulum of Europe and Asia where I also witnessed many grave situations and also had the finest of culinary meals, I waded hrough the energy and movements of swirling people, like boats in the Sea of Marmara, unaware of the gushing Bosphorus, merry in their Ottoman inspired funk and style. The city had a distinct vibrance, which circulated the air like a chant, a charm of sorts, and came to rest only in cafes and restaurants. Which is why when settled into the W Istanbul, with its nightlife glamorous and neon lights shaped into the cultural structures of the local artwork, I felt it was the pinnacle of the fusion of East meets West.
The W Istanbul Hotel is located on a hilly area and adjacent to the historic Akaretler Row Houses. The local area of Besiktas and the Soho-style Nisantasi are flocked with fashionable locals sporting gold and diamonds with a thud of black credit cards on every marble-top of the many boutiques across town. Littered with sequined and bejeweled cushions on asymmetric couches, bedrooms with fogged mirrors for walls and faux crystal neon lighting across hallways and doorways, the interiors of the hotel were seductive, sensual, and exactly what one would expect from an experienced W Hotelier like myself.
Clad in equally matching sequins was yours truly, in a Nikos Narkissos shirt and skinny red jeans of my favorite hue, with a dash of Armani sneakers to rock through the trajectory of hills and boutiques with both style and function. The streets were glistening with gold and marble artwork, intricate signage and Middle Eastern sculptures as door pieces and handles, making for a luscious ensemble.
The meals of the afternoon started at the House Cafe, much after prancing through the storefronts. A contemporary take that was disparate from fully regional cuisine, it still had the local flavors and ingredients that made for a satisfying meal.
Known for their lemonade, which was a bright and fresh green color with a whole granny smith apple tomato sliced atop for added tanginess. The result? A jolt of a wakeup call. By comparison, the iced latte was fairly vanilla, and I should have opted for Turkish coffee given the region, but nonetheless the simmering day mandated for more people watching than organic guzzling.
Of the two healthier options, ironically, the first was a quinoa salad, almost a nod to the western healthy regimens. Glistening with quinoa, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, parsley and celery, it was the heavy dose of walnuts and pomegranate sauce that made this more Turkish, giving a unique nutty texture and an unmistakable flavor to the sumptuous bite.
With a legacy of having eaten beet salads from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to Las Vegas, I tried the Turkish rendition. It came with roasted beetroot, goat cheese, orange wedges and pomegranate sauce. Bitter and sour all at once, it was a delightful combination, with added citrus and tanginess from the choice of complimentary ingredients, mellowed only slightly by the creaminess of the salty cheese.
With an appetite for authentic baklava from a hidden spot later, the priority of the sunny afternoon amongst beautiful locals was something else. Which we clearly ventured into, sequins and sparkles and Turkish delights in tow.