The Raffles Istanbul Zorlu Center serves one of the best afternoon teas I have ever had. If you fancy a luxurious treat with plenty of delicious food and beverages, look no further:
The Setting ★★★★★
The Raffles Istanbul is housed in the Zorlu Center, a massive complex which is located in the Northern part of Istanbul. Its location in the vicinity of the business district makes it quite far from other five-star hotels as most of them are on the Bosphorus.
The Lavinia Lounge ★★★★★
The Gazebo Lounge is located on the hotel’s ground floor. If you’re keen on impressive statues and flowers reflected in the water, you’ll love this place.
I recommend sitting on the outer edges of the lounge (close to the water) as it offers more privacy than the middle tables. The pianist is a true virtuoso so if you appreciate live music, the Lavinia Lounge high tea will feel even better.
Live music: Every day (piano)
The Tea & Beverage Selection ★★★★★
The tea selection is excellent, with 26 teas from Melez (a local supplier) and 2 teas from Palais des Thés (a French supplier). While most hotels in Istanbul serve 15 different teas at most, the Raffles offers the most comprehensive tea selection in the city. It even includes white and oolong teas, which happen to be my favourite.
The tea is brewed at the proper temperature and the staff is very professional: they systematically replace the teacups and filters after bringing another tea.
28 teas & infusions from Melez and Palais des Thés teahouse (black, green, white, oolong and infusions); 3 coffees.
Brewing method: Brewed in a teapot brought to the table; infusion cannot be stopped (the tea is bound to over-brew sooner or later)
The Raffles Istanbul Afternoon Tea
The Raffles afternoon tea is made up of three different options, which all include hot beverages (tea & coffee):
- The Cakes & Sweets Buffet (excluding savouries & scones)
- The Lavinia Afternoon Tea (including savouries, scones and the cakes & sweets buffet)
- The Champagne Afternoon Tea (includes everything plus a glass of Champagne)
The choice is about preference but also about appetite, as this afternoon tea is among the most plentiful I’ve ever sampled.
The Savouries ★★★★★
I’m often underwhelmed with the savouries, probably because too many afternoon teas don’t innovate beyond the usual sandwiches. The Raffles Istanbul chef went the extra mile and created the best savoury selection I have ever sampled, all countries considered.
- Turkey Sandwich (green bread) ♥ ♥
- Smoked salmon Sandwich (black bread) ♥
- Cheese Sandwich (red bread)
The three sandwiches are the perfect example of how small details can make a huge difference: The chef used different types of bread (black bread with salmon) and toppings (the slice of cucumber on the Turkey sandwich), which enhances the flavour beyond expectations.
On top of the sandwiches, there are five other savouries served with the afternoon tea:
- Salmon Maki ♥
- Cream Cheese Puff Pastry
- Salmon on Quinoa ♥
- Börek (minced beef)
They are reminiscent of many different cuisines: English, Turkish, Japanese… Each of them is fantastic, though I had a slight preference for the salmon.
The Scones ★★★★☆
Each guest is served with one plain scone and one raisin & cinnamon scone. Both are excellent scones but it’s a pity that they weren’t brought separately so they would’ve been warm once we were done with the savouries.
They are brought with Honey from Balparmak and Turkish clotted cream (which is closer to whipped cream). I thought it was odd that they didn’t come with other toppings but that’s because the jams are available from the buffet. There are 9 sorts of jam on offer: strawberry, plum, cherry, tomato…
None of the afternoon teas in Istanbul are served with traditional clotted cream so this criterion cannot be taken into account
The Cakes & Sweets Buffet ★★★★★
After the savouries and scones, you probably won’t be able to sample more than a few cakes. Unfortunately for those of you with small appetites, you’ll have a hard time choosing as Chef
This list is non-exhaustive and I wasn’t able to sample even half of it. I loved everything I tried, from the Macaroons to the Pastries:
- Tarte au Citron
- Mango, Chocolate & Cream Cake
- Pistachio, Strawberry & Chocolate Cake
- Fresh Fruits
The service is excellent: the staff is friendly, professional as well as knowledgeable about both the food and the beverages.
Below is a video detailing the contents of the afternoon tea and the sweets buffet:
Conclusion & Overall Mark ★★★★★
The Raffles Istanbul Afternoon Tea is the best in the city, especially so if you’re a tea connoisseur as well as a gourmet. The tea selection is excellent while the food is tasty, plentiful and varied, no matter which option you choose (buffet or full afternoon tea). I strongly recommend going with the full afternoon tea as it would be a pity to skip the savouries.
It is my favourite afternoon among the six hotels I have reviewed in Istanbul. However, it falls short if you’d rather have an afternoon tea with a view: the Lavinia Lounge cannot compete with the Four Seasons Bosphorus or the Çırağan Palace terraces on a beautiful day.
+: The Lavinia Lounge
+: The wide range of teas
+: Three options (with or without savouries and scones)
+: The delicious Savouries
+: The Scones & Toppings (10 options!)
+: The Cakes & Sweets Buffet
+: Excellent service
+: Fantastic value for money
-: A bit far from the centre
-: Indoors only
Phone: tel:90 212 9240200