Turkey travel diary: Afternoon tea in Istanbul – delightfully criminal.

Day 1 cont. (Post 2 of 3) I had just arrived in Istanbul, and after three airplane packaged meals and one free airport meal, I was in need of some real food. The first thing I did when I arrived in Turkey was do an afternoon tea. And yes, on.my.own. When I was in Cairo, Egypt last year, I did an afternoon tea there as well, at the Four Seasons hotel. I made a passing comment on this blog somewhere that I should do an afternoon tea at all the Four Seasons hotels around the world. What a great idea. I’m going to do just that! Henceforth, whenever I’m overseas, I’m going to find me a Four Seasons hotel to partake in afternoon tea at. I’ve already done Egypt, both the Four Seasons hotels in Tokyo, and I can now cross Istanbul, Turkey off the list. The next one will be in Bangkok, Thailand later on this year. I skipped all the million and one things I could have done as a tourist upon my arrival in Istanbul and instead headed straight for the Four Seasons hotel – only a few stars more than my current hostel lodgings! The previous post was merely just photos I took on my way to finding the hotel. I had until 6pm to get myself in before afternoon tea ended, and it was already nearing 5pm. I should mention that the coolest thing ever about the Four Seasons hotel in Istanbul (Sultanahmet district) is that it used to be an old jail during the Ottoman Empire! So cool, it’s positively criminal! The jail was revamped into a hotel back in the early 90s and only opened in 1996. (There is also another Four Seasons hotel in Istanbul on the Bosphorus side). I gotta admit, the hotel was really easy to find because it looked like a giant square fortress. They’ve done a great job of decking it out into an opulent hotel though. It’s colour too, very distinguishing – a Colonel Mustard hue. Due to the fact that it used to be a jail , the architecture of this hotel is very unique – four perimeter walls, an inner courtyard and watchguard turrets. It would be really cool to stay in a room there, sharing quarters where a criminal once lived. Huge novelty factor. In fact, Google Maps still lists the hotel as Sultanahmet Jail (Point A)! What a great venue to do afternoon tea – at a former prison, now a Four Seasons hotel.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Afternoon tea is in the lobby lounge which has 3 separate seating areas – Here:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Here:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And here:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

I settled on the latter – a covered patio area. There was more natural light, garden views, and it’s where all the other people were seated. I’m sure the hotel staff thought that I was weird, sitting on my own ordering afternoon tea on a Saturday afternoon. Crazy lady, they probably thought, one of those people whom you’ll find dead in a house full of cats. Seriously, that won’t be me! (Thou doth protest too much I say). Here are some photos once inside the former-prison hotel.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

On the menu were two offerings – traditional afternoon or Turkish tea set. It was tempting to opt for the Turkish one just for something different and a bit more local, but I wanted to stick with the traditional one. The scones won me over. I even splurged and went the Royal option, which included a glass of champagne sparkling wine. Hell, why not. I was on holidays after all. And I had a week of swimming ahead so I could indulge a little without the guilt. I was sure as hell I’d be burning it all off soon enough. I sat myself down and got settled in for an afternoon tea on my own.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

The afternoon tea setting was very traditional, classic English rose. Very un-Turkish, but pretty nevertheless.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

The huge pot of tea came complete with a tea candle warmer. Bless! That totally made my day.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

The signature Four Seasons emblem/logo:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

The afternoon tea set offered perfect portions for one. Three savoury morsels, four sweet treats, and a scone, with a huge pot of tea (enough for about 5 cups of tea). Tea selection was limited, but so long as they had English breakfast tea, I didn’t really care. Tea for One:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Savouries:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And sweets and scones:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

First up on the menu was a turkey, tomato and gherkin sandwich. Eating turkey in Turkey. Check.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Followed by a Turkish bruschetta of sorts:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And smoked salmon and caper open finger sandwich:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And then onto the sweet stuff:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Here is the parade of the assorted cakes:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

And I always save the scones for last.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

A tea party for one. I’m such a loser!

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

On the wall behind me were some of the old prison locks. Pretty cool. If these walls could talk, ay. Imagine the secrets and crimes that these walls held.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Afternoon tea was very reasonable. Turkey is still a relatively cheap country to travel through. Not a part of the EU so you’re not subject to Euros. The Afternoon tea was only 40 Turkish lira (60 with the champagne).

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

I then took myself on a little tour of the hotel, as you do. It’s not a particularly tall building – only 3 or 4 levels high but I went and checked out the views from the Terrace Bar. This is definitely a nice spot to grab a drink. Views of the Blue Mosque, haghia Sophia and even water views of the Sea of Marmara.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Terrace Bar:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Surrounding fortress walls:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Views of some of Istanbul’s top tourist attractions:

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Quite the luxurious hotel. Didn’t get to see the sleeping quarters, but it would be fun to stay a night there in an old jail! I imagine the rooms would be pretty plush.

From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul
From Four Seasons Tea Istanbul

Afternoon tea in Istanbul – accomplished.The one and only afternoon tea I did during my two-week holiday in Turkey. Had wanted to fit in one more at another venue, but alas, did not have time. I’m glad I prioritised it on my first day in Istanbul! A criminally delightful venue! Complete album link. Hotel details.

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