The New York Times' Sunday travel supplement recently published an article by Liesl Schillenger titled “Tasting Istanbul, From Humble to High Cuisine,” in which the writer places the Agatha Restaurant, principal restaurant at the Pera Palace Hotel, definitely at the top end of this bracket. Schillenger writes that the restaurant “may well offer Istanbul’s most stately gourmet experience.” The new restaurant “exudes belle époque glamour,” with interiors that cannot fail to strike the imagination. “...As you descend a white marble staircase to the chandeliered dining room, you see, in a glass window case, shining pieces of 1892 Christofle silver, and in another case, a New Year’s Eve menu from 1924, offering ‘frivolités madrilènes.’” The writer notes that the menus change every month, with the chef's special tasting menus.
A recent theme mentioned in the article is “courses with olive oils,” with a different variety of olive oil used to add extra flavour to each dish. “The vegetable mosaic terrine resembled a French knot garden, bordered in chard, paved with sumac-spiced rice and pebbled with carrot and zucchini (...) Even the sorbet, silky smooth, made of limes and olive oil, was redolent of Turkey’s hillsides,” says Schillenger.
Pera Palace Hotel has a long tradition of quality dining and hospitality. It first opened in 1895, and was extensively restored in the 1990s during an operation that cost €23 million. The reopening on 1 September 2010 revealed the superb facilities which retain all the original grandeur of the building, brought up-to-date with state-of-the-art facilities, and 115 rooms including 16 suites. As well as the Agatha restaurant, dining facilities include the Orient Bar, the newly-opened Orient Terrace, the Patisserie de Pera, and the Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge.
As the festive season approaches, the Hotel is organizing its special events. Throughout December, a special New Year afternoon tea service is served in the Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge, with a delectable selection of seasonal specialities such as gingerbread, hazelnut star, butter heart and chocolate almond cookies, Christstollen, Buche de Noel and a special Christmas dry fruit cake. Enjoyment in the Kubbeli Saloon is ensured by live piano music.
On Christmas Eve, the Agatha restaurant will serve a special menu, including seafood variations (orange marinated scallop, octopus carpaccio, shrimp parfait with Mediterranean greens and cucumber sauce); oxtail consommé with mini mushroom ravioli, salmon fillet wrapped in Swiss chard with warm fennel salad; pineapple sorbet with Malibu liqueur; braised duck confit on apple Ä±nfused sautéed red cabbage with bread dumpling and cranberry sauce; and “bouche de noel” with gingerbread ice cream and cinnamon-flavoured vanilla sauce.
The menu for New Year's Eve at the Agatha restaurant is equally exciting, with salmon and shrimp dialogue (orange marinated salmon filet, shrimp tartar with avocado, celery apple salad and Mediterranean greens); truffle-flavoured Jerusalem artichoke soup; smoked turkey ravioli; rooibos chocolate tea flavoured chestnut sauce; mandarin sorbet with Absolut vodka; beef trio (milk marinated beef tenderloin, slow cooked beef cheek, confit beef rib) with oven roasted potatoes with trumpet mushroom, buttered asparagus and port wine sauce; and the gingerbread New Year dessert variations (gingerbread parfait, gingerbread ice cream, ginger bread chocolate mousse with vanilla and chocolate sauce).
If New Year in Istanbul tempts you, there are two possible packages. The special "New Year Package with Dinner" includes a one-night stay for two in a Pera view Deluxe room, the New Year dinner at the Agatha restaurant, and an open buffet breakfast. The package costs €485, excluding beverages at dinner and VAT. The same package in a Golden Horn view Deluxe room is €535.