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Arriving at night, I flung open the French windows in my room at the House Hotel Bosphorus and stepped out on to the balcony for a stunning view of two continents: European Ortakoy's bustling harbour, the neon-lit Bosphorus Bridge and, across the shimmering water, the twinkling lights of Uskudar in Asia.
The third venture from Istanbul's dynamic House mini-chain has transformed a 19th-century waterfront mansion into a contemporary boutique hotel. The elegant Simon Kalfa building - he was part of the Balyan dynasty that left Istanbul with an impressive Ottoman-era architectural legacy, including Dolmabahce Palace - had fallen into disrepair but now, like the city itself, it's a well-thought-out combination of old and new.
As in the other House hotels - House Hotel Galatasary in a 19th-century Ottoman mansion in the up-and-coming antiques district of Cukurcuma, and the Art Deco House Hotel Nisantasi, perched above Prada in the city's most upmarket shopping district - the renovation has been sympathetic to the building's origins. The original lofty ceilings, ornate plasterwork and parquet floors are complemented by luxurious interiors from the award-winning Turkish design duo du jour, Autoban, making good use of their signature materials of marble, brass and oak.
The hotel has five floors topped by the enormous Penthouse Bosphorus Suite, with 180-degree views. On the ground floor, the trendy House Café serves traditional Turkish and international dishes, along with potent cocktails. It spills out onto a patio overlooking the Bosphorus, the bridge and Buyuk Mecidiye Camii, a magnificent neo-Baroque mosque. One floor up, the open-plan Lounge houses a formal restaurant, lounge, library and bar and is decorated with muted tones, a marble fireplace and sleek, low-slung cream leather sofas. Turkish dishes are presented with a contemporary twist, served with good local wines such as Sarafin, Corvus and Sevilen 900. This is also the place to sip raki, a potent anise-flavoured spirit while you people-watch - Kevin Spacey and Monica Bellucci are recent guests.
A leisurely breakfast is also served in the Lounge - a top pick is menimen, scrambled eggs, with feta, tomatoes and parsley.
Cosmopolitan Ortakoy, “Middle Village” in Turkish, is one of Istanbul's coolest districts. The Buyuk Mecidiye Camii sits on a platform next to the iconic bridge; fishing boats bob in the harbour and the muezzin vies with beats from the city's glitziest super-clubs, including Reina and Anjelique.
Ortakoy's cobbled alleyways and squares heave with people at weekends, drawn by its street market, chic boutiques and waterfront bars and restaurants. The café culture of Bebek, one of the Bosphorus villages, is a stroll away, and you're only a short taxi or tram ride from historic Sultanahmet and the nightlife of Beyoglu. The coast road can get gridlocked in rush hour, but it's about 45 minutes from the main Ataturk airport and 60 minutes from the no-frills Sabiha Gokcen Airport.
There are 23 rooms divided into six categories, ranging from superior to the penthouse. Almost all have river views - four suites and four rooms have full waterfront views, other rooms overlook Ortakoy Square with side views of the strait - with small balconies perfect for a post-sightseeing wind-down while you watch boats ply the water. The interiors are cool and calm, mingling the traditional with the hi-tech - king-sized beds with crisp white linen, gleaming white walls, polished parquet, original mouldings offset by Autoban's signature funky light fittings, remote-controlled curtains and a large flatscreen TV.
My deluxe suite's separate living area came with a streamlined sofa and dark-wood furniture, as well as a second TV and Nespresso machine. The marbled-tiled bathrooms have powerful rain showers and L'Occitane toiletries, while the penthouse suites have large Jacuzzi tubs, and wraparound balconies. There's free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and a small gym.
House Hotel Bosphorus
Salhane Sokak 1, Ortakoy, Istanbul, Turkey (00 90 212 244 3400; thehousehotel.com).
Double rooms start at €159 (about R1 800), including breakfast. - The Independent