The Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus serves a delicious Turkish afternoon tea which can be enjoyed on the waterfront. Weather permitting, it is a rather amazing experience and a “must-try” for any respectable afternoon tea aficionado.
The Setting ★★★★★
This former 19th century Ottoman Palace is among Istanbul’s most luxurious hotels. It sits comfortably on the seashore of the Beşiktaş neighbourhood, on the European side of the Bosphorus.
This is probably the most beautiful hotel I have ever visited for afternoon tea: it is stunning inside and out. The Bosphorus is the natural strait that separates European Turkey from Asian Turkey. It is one of Istanbul’s most majestic sights and the view from the Four Seasons terrace is truly magnificent.
The YALI Lounge & Terrace
A Yali (literally “seashore, beach”) is the name given to the holiday retreats of Ottoman/Turkish elites, people who were wealthy enough to be able to afford a luxurious seaside mansion. Almost exclusively located on the Bosphorus strait, these lavish residences are still the most expensive houses in Istanbul (they cost up to 100 million US$).
The YALI Lounge itself is a nice casual bar, but it lacks the distinctive atmosphere of the waterfront. With its stunning view of the Bosphorus, the YALI terrace is the ideal venue for a relaxing afternoon tea. The marble floor, the flower arrangements and the greenery contribute to its unique atmosphere. The terrace is opened according to the weather, so I strongly recommend going on a warm sunny day.
Since neither the YALI lounge nor the YALI terrace accepts reservations, it is possible to improvise an afternoon tea on the Bosphorus. However, this “no bookings” policy also means that a specific table cannot be secured and that your party may have to sit inside.
The Hotel at sunset & at night
The Tea & Beverage Selection ★★★★★
The Palais des Thés selection is rather generous with choices of black teas, green teas, white tea, oolong tea, rooibos and aromatic blends. The tea is brewed at the appropriate temperature and with the right amount of tea leaves.
The “Thé des Lords” black tea and the “Montagne Bleue” and “Fleur de Geishas” green teas are your safest bets while the “Tropical Wulong” tea is the most disappointing. Though Rooibos/red bush is not tea per se, the “Rooibos du Hammam” is the tastiest infusion on offer.
I recommend ordering Turkish Coffee towards the end: it is masterfully brewed and extremely pleasing, even for people who normally would not like European style coffee.
The Savouries ★★★★★
No run-of-the-mill sandwiches here, as all the savouries are typical of Turkish cuisine.
Simit with Olive Paste, Kaşar Cheese and Tomato ★★★★★
The strong distinctive flavours of sesame and olive blend very well with the softer flavours of cheese and tomato.
Sigara Börek with Cheese ★★★☆☆
This cheese roll has a soft subtle taste but is nothing out of the ordinary.
Muska Börek with Potato ★★★★★
This samosa/triangle shaped savoury is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. It is delicious and light.
Open Pumpernickel Sandwich with Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon ★★★★☆
This sandwich is both fresh and strong. The Pumpernickel rye cookie base is a good call, the slightly sweet and yet heavy flavour is the perfect match to salmon and cream.
Open Sandwich of Smoked Turkey, Ricotta Arugula and Cucumber on White Toast Bread ★★★★★
The turkey and cucumber blend well with the Ricotta cheese. It is equally scrummy and refreshing.
Quiche with Mozzarella, Tomato and Pesto ★★★★★
This is one of the best quiches I have ever had. The slightly sweet pesto flavoured crust adds a touch of originality to an otherwise ordinary tomato & cheese quiche.
The Scones ★★★★☆
The raisin and lemon scones are freshly baked and rather small in size (the smaller scones are often the tastiest). They are served with strawberry jam and a Turkish clotted cream: Kaymak (made with milk from water buffalos, cows, sheep, or goats).
While the Kaymak cream is not bad per se, I find it a bit odd with scones and jams. Still, it is a good thing that the chef went the extra mile to make this cream in the proper Turkish way.
The Sweets ★★★★☆
Though the sweets are not typically Turkish (no Loukoums or Baklava,), who could say no to such a mouth-watering chocolate éclair? With the notable exception of the crème brulée, the cakes & sweets are succulent:
Chocolate Éclair Filled with Dark Chocolate Cream ★★★★★
A crispy éclair with a strong dark chocolate cream inside. The chocolate rectangle on top is the cherry on the cake of perfection!
Mastic Crème Brulee with Berries (in a glass) ★★☆☆☆
Whatever this is, it’s not a proper crème brulée. The texture is too soft and the flavour is rather peculiar. I suspect the Mastic may be to blame as it seems to be a bit of an acquired taste.
Sweet Baked Pumpkin ★★★★★
This is the best pumpkin-based food I ever had. The flavour is distinctive and just sweet enough. The walnut on top creates a perfect balance of flavours.
Pistachio Raspberry Layered Cake ★★★★★
I’m not normally a fan of layer cakes, but this is an excellent combination of both colours and flavours.
Tahini Roll with Pistachio Croquant ★★★★☆
While the pistachio croquant on top is delicious and crispy, the roll itself is a bit plain.
The Service ★★★★★
The staffs are politely efficient and speak good English. We stayed after 6 pm and were never pressured to leave, which is always a nice attention.
You cannot book a table at the YALI lounge & terrace so there is no need to contact the hotel prior to the afternoon tea.
Conclusion & Overall Mark ★★★★★
The Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus serves one of the best afternoon teas I have ever had. At 80TL/person (roughly £19/22€), the price/performance ratio is outstanding as well.
The delicious food, the smell of flowers, the greenery and marble floor as well as the stunning view of Istanbul: this experience is a delight for all the senses. That’s a perfect score, for a perfect afternoon tea.
+: The YALI terrace on the Bosphorus
+: The beverages (that coffee!)
+: The food is delicious & original (the savouries!)
+: Excellent service
+: Price/performance ratio
-: Good weather is essential for the terrace
-: No bookings