Want to flee from Istanbul for a day or a weekend? Past Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge and the rough roads towards Ulupelit village lies Lavanda Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, an alluring getaway that offers majestic scenery, indulge-worthy food, and seclusion from all that you want to get away from.
Tucked away in the tiny village of Ulupelit 45 minutes away from Istanbul, Lavanda is a family-owned haven where 13 cozy rooms await city dwellers, embellished with a country house atmosphere, the comfort of your own home, and expansive views. The entire decor of the hotel was either designed by the owners or are family antiques that have been preserved and put to good use in the bright and airy rooms that all exude a Provence meets Quaker style with a beautiful view of the big green garden with blooming flowers.
This family-owned boutique hotel serves to complement the busy Istanbul life, allowing Istanbulites to wind down, relax, and master the art of doing nothing. The hotel is complete with uniquely designed rooms, a state-of-the-art restaurant, a heavenly spa, and the breathtaking beauty of nature.
Whether you like to pamper or break a sweat, Lavanda promises a dose of much-deserved downtime.
Even if you can’t pull yourself away from the city for an entire weekend, spending a few hours at Lavanda is well worth the drive. The best way to enjoy the hotel is to go there on a near-empty stomach and indulge in the refined Mediterranean cuisine of the restaurant.
One of the reasons why all the dishes at Lavanda are so delicious is that only the best ingredients are used. The Black Trumpet Mushroom is picked in Ulupelit village, chestnuts come from Zonguldak, artichokes make their way from Çeşme, and foie gras comes all the way from France. Chef Emre Şen even has a spice garden where he grows basil, rosemary, tarragon, and a variety of other spices.
The Man Behind the Food
The young and talented chef behind the mouth-watering food is Emre Şen, the eldest son of the Şen family who own and manage Lavanda. A graduate of the Mutfak Sanatları Akademisi, Emre has worked with Mehmet Gürs at Mikla and Michelin-starred Maurilio Garola in Italy before joining his family at Lavanda.
You can venture through the menu with their tasting menu or the a la carte menu. Dishes change according to the season, but on our last visit, the menu included such delicacies as Tuna Tartare with Wild Thyme and Pine Nuts; Tagliolini with Wild Boar Ragu; Baby Lamb Neck cooked for ten hours and served with Caramelized Beet Root, Grainy Mustard Potatro Puree, and Asparagus.
There is an extensive wine list including selections from Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, Australia, the United States, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, Argentine, and Chile. A welcoming surprise is the inclusion of two selections of white wine from Greece. If you feel overwhelmed by the options or don’t want to go through the 10-page-long wine list, ask your waiter to pair your food with a bottle of wine. The restaurant has received an award from Wine Spectator magazine two years in a row.
What to Do Once You’re There?
Lavanda is the ideal I-left-the-world-behind hotel - you know, birds chirping, wind brushing through leaves, fresh air, and an inviting landscape. You can cozy up with a cup of tea or savor a glass of fine wine or cognac by the fireplace. After you’re slightly tipsy, try your hand at billiards in the game room, or sober up with a walk in the forest or bike through what seems like the wilderness to a true urbanite. If it’s warm enough, take a dip in the pool. Nearby facilities can satisfy all your outdoorsy cravings, with a rally track, hunting grounds, and a club for adventure sports like hiking, ATV, and paintball.
When you’re ready to retreat back into inaction, pamper yourself at the spa. Get a facial treatment with Darphin products or let the Balinese therapists transport you to another dimension with Ayurvedic, Hawaiian, Balinese, Shiatsu, Thai, Swedish, Reflexology, or hot stone massages. But whatever you do, don’t miss out on the sauna and jacuzzi complete with a view of the forest!
Make it a Romantic Getaway for Two
Anyone wanting to woo their better half in an intimate setting should consider a romantic getaway at Lavanda. Cuddle under a blanket, bond over your shared passion for great food, and just enjoy the company of each other. And do not forget about the jacuzzi!
How to Get There
Cross from Europe to Asia over the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, take the Şile exit and keep going straight. After driving 7-8km, you’ll pass through Çekmeköy. Another 15km later, you’ll pass through Ömerli. You’ll see a sign for Ulupelit (see the photo above) - take that exit. You’ll come across a large mosque where you’ll need to turn right. Soon after, you’ll see a small pinkish sign for Lavanda – just follow that and you’ll reach the hotel. Just watch out for cows on the road and keep in mind that they won't back up, you'll have to move around them.
Lavanda Boutique Hotel & Restaurant; Ulupelit Köyü Seçkin Sokak No. 2, Şile; P: (0216) 736 56 40. For more details, check out the hotel's website here.