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Saturday, 14 May 2011

Dire Straits? Never

Istanbul may be a long way to go for a cocktail. But it's a better reason to go than to eat. I'll expand on that later. It's a good spot, too, to have a glass of tea, a baklava or two and puff on the old nargile (water pipe) while being entertained by some local musicians and a whirling dervish.

If, however, you fancy going a bit upmarket, you can go on the roof of the Marmara Hotel in the Beyoglu district of the city. All 18 floors up.

That's the lovely Lula overlooking her empire (me!) while indulging in a classic Dry Martini. The rooftop bar doesn't have a cocktail menu as such but the staff are happy to make you a drink to the recipe of your choice. So, before you head skyward, you'd better know what you want – and how you like it. A little of what you fancy etc.
If the Marmara roof bar is too giddy an enterprise you could had a few metres south and enter a world of revitalised splendour: the Pera Palas Hotel, where the rich and famous have stayed down the years, including Mata Hari, Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and Agatha Christie. The room she stayed in during her famous 'disappearance' is available for guests to view. Also on view is a the original lift, one of the first to be built, and the remains of a sedan chair, used to transport guests to and from Sirkeci station, the end of the Orient Express line.

In their cocktail bar, one of several gorgeous public spaces in the beautifully restored Pera Palas, staff serve a mean cocktail, too. I had another Dry Martini – you musn't mix your drinks, no! – and Her Highness had a Cosmopolitan. Their recipe: vodka, cointreau, squeeze of lemon and, in place of the usual cranberry, they used sour cherry juice. No burnt orange peel but my companion pronounced it "just perfect".

Next day after a boat trip on the Bosphorus we had to head home to Blighty. 
Now it's the bus for us.
Great trip but the food could be better, one has to say. Kebab and chips everywhere. Even an apparently top restaurant we tried was less than wonderful.
What would old Ataturk think, I wonder?

Mustafa nother cocktail, possibly.

No offence, obviously.