The Shangri-La brand is not very strong in Europe, with only a handful of hotels (Paris and London) serving rather unimpressive afternoon teas. Fortunately for us, the Shangri-La Istanbul afternoon tea is an amazing experience, which successfully blends the best of Eastern and Western traditions:
The Setting ★★★★★
The Shangri-La Bosphorus Istanbul is set in the vibrant neighbourhood of Bekistas (European side), like many other international five-star hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton, the Ciragan Palace or the Four Seasons.
The building is a former tobacco storage warehouse, dating back to the prosperous 1920s. The interior is gorgeous and has been decorated for the Chinese New Year, though I’m assuming these are gone as I’m writing this article in mid-February.
The Lobby Lounge ★★★★★
Afternoon tea is served on the ground floor’s lobby lounge. While there’s no amazing view of the Bosphorus, the venue is both pleasant and relaxing. The sofas and armchair are really comfy so it’s basically the perfect place for an afternoon tea on a cold winter day.
The Tea & Beverage Selection ★★★★★
The tea is supplied by Ronnefelft, a very reputable supplier which seems to be working with 90% of the city’s establishments. There are 17 teas and infusions on offer, more than enough to accommodate everyone.
Allow me to recommend the Dibek coffee: this Turkish coffee is roasted in a peculiar way, granting it an extraordinary flavour. Coffee is also included with the afternoon tea so by all means, try it if you can stomach it!
Classic teas offer 17 (5 black, 4 green, 1 white, 1 oolong, & 6 infusions)
Brewing method: At the table; in a ceramic teapot containing the leaves (no strainer or tea bag)
Tea & coffee refills: yes
The Savouries ★★★★★
The afternoon tea starts with many delicious savouries which are a combination of Chinese and Turkish cuisine:
- Vegetable quiche (egg & mushroom) ♥
- Pide (sausage and minced meat)
- Baby prawn salad Blini
- Salmon & cream roll
- Veggies & cheese toast
- Vegetable terrine topped with a pomegranate fruit ♥
Not only are these savouries plentiful and tasty, but the staff also generously offered to refill them. I love these little attentions which are quite common in the UK but too rare elsewhere.
On top of this, the afternoon tea also included a special for the CNY, with some scrummy pulled noodles (Lamian) and tasty shrimp baozi ♥♥ straight from the Shang Palace, the in-house Chinese restaurant at the Shangri-La Istanbul.
These specials change according to the season (Valentine’s Day, Easter, Xmas, etc…) so expect it to change or perhaps not be part of the afternoon tea at all.
The Scones & Churros ★★★☆☆
I’ll say it right away: the scones are the weakest aspect of this afternoon tea. They’re not bad per se but they sit on the buffet under heating lamps, so they dry up and even become crispy (not the desired texture for scones). It would have been a lot better to have them brought from the kitchen!
However, the Churros (third picture below) are very nice and served warm along with three flavours to fill them with (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry). I recommend focusing on these to act as a transition between the savouries and the cakes; perhaps even skipping the scones entirely 🙂
The Cakes & Sweets ★★★★★
The sweets buffet is too huge to effectively described: chocolate cakes, red velvet cakes, chocolate, fresh fruits, marshmallows, meringues… I’ll let you take a look at its contents in the photos below (no drooling!).
The selection is as tasty as it is beautiful and even the sweetest tooth would be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity (and quality!) of cakes. No specific preference here, everything is pretty awesome ♥
The Service ★★★★★
Each member of the staff was fantastic and friendly (Ana, Vurkan, Baturay…), thus making the experience both remarkable and memorable.
Below is a video detailing the contents of the afternoon tea (savouries, churros and sweets buffet):
Conclusion & Overall Mark ★★★★★
The Shangri-La Istanbul Afternoon Tea is my favourite in the city, along with the Raffles Zorlu Center. The tea selection is great, the food is tasty, plentiful and varied (both the savouries and the sweets, the scones a bit less so…) and the staff is fantastic.
However, the Lobby Lounge does not offer a view of the Bosphorus so keep that in mind if that’s important to you. You may consider the Ritz-Carlton, the Ciragan Palace or the Four Seasons which are all viable alternatives, albeit inferior on the value for money/quality fronts.
+: The hotel and lounge
+: The Ronnefedlt teas
+: The specials
+: The delicious Savouries
+: The Cakes & Sweets Buffet
+: Excellent service
+: Fantastic value for money
-: Slightly underwhelming scones
-: No view of the Bosphorus