In 2014, the Mandarin Oriental Bodrum opened to great fanfare and massive critical acclaim. Even then, it was the place to be and by the summer of 2015 everyone from Kate Moss to Leonardo di Caprio was sunning themselves at the resort’s popular beach club. The resort has long been on Dominic’s hit list of hotels and so in October, he headed to Turkey to see it for himself.
Since the hotel’s inaugural years, Turkey has had a rough time and despite there being little cause for concern to anyone in Bodrum, tourists have stayed away and headed elsewhere in the Med for their vacations. This year, things have been much more settled and so, in search of some autumn sunshine, I took the opportunity to finally get out there and stay for a few days over a long weekend in October.
Having landed at Bodrum airport in the afternoon sunshine, we were eager to hit the pool by the time we arrived at the hotel. As we made our way down the winding driveway I was immediately hit by the amount of greenery surrounding the hotel. The drive up took us past a number of resorts and some yacht filled bays brimming with beach clubs and restaurants, so to arrive at the imposing facade and be greeted by a panoramic view of pure blues and greens was really incredible.
You enter the hotel through a towering lobby area that felt almost Egyptian in its scale. Walking through the sliding doors you soon arrive at the outdoor welcome lounge which offers 180 degree views across the resort out to the surrounding bay and myriad islands shimmering on the horizon.
The pool restaurant was serving late lunch so we took a table in the sunshine and enjoyed a delicious selection of meze followed by a sizzling lamb kebab straight off the charcoal grill. It was the perfect introduction to Turkey.
Being October, the days were running shorter so I decided to head straight down to the beach. The hotel has two beaches, a long uncrowded bay speckled with loungers and inviting day beds and a second cove which was closed in October but opens as the Sands Beach Club throughout the summer. Whilst chatting with Guenther, the commanding GM who has presided over the property for the last two years, he explained that they like to create two completely different environments to compliment the varied guest base that they welcome. On the one hand, the hotel makes for a fantastic family friendly spot which is reflected at their main beach, however alongside this, the hotel remains an A-list spot which is hugely popular with the yacht crowd too. The Beach Club gives guests a chance to be a part of that scene by offering complimentary access to all hotel guests, giving them a taste of the Turkish Riviera in the comfort of the hotel’s surroundings. They do have a family area in the Beach Club too, set out under the olive trees so that families wanting to head down there together are still really well looked after. It’s just great to have the option.
As the day cooled off and the sun began to set, I spoke to Ekaterina, my butler, who had introduced herself on arrival and explained that she’d be on hand to help with everything I needed throughout my stay. She had suggested heading to the spa for a massage after our flight and once suggested, it was hard to say no so I duly booked in for that evening.
After an incredibly relaxing spa treatment, it was time for dinner. In October the restaurant options are limited but that certainly didn’t hamper the quality of the food. I ate the freshest tuna tartare I’ve tasted followed by a perfectly grilled ribeye, it was indulgent food but in those surroundings it just had to be done!
The hotel offers a fantastic choice of room options. Rooms and suites are within the main hotel complex and there are also apartments set into the hillside. I was in a Deluxe Sea View room; it was huge, open plan, with a terrace big enough to eat on and a massive egg shaped bath and a walk-in shower. Views took in a gorgeous 180 degree panorama of the bay and with enough space to swing a tiger let alone a cat.
I did take a look at the apartments too as they would be perfect for guests traveling as a family. They’re super stylish, come complete with Gaggenau kitchens and are either ground floor with great lawn space to play on or upper floor with sea views from the terraces. Either way you can’t go wrong.
I was due to head out with Mustafa, our guide, at 11 so I fuelled up with a great breakfast which included cold pressed juices from their in-house juice bar. The options for a healthy breakfast were some of the best I’ve seen in a hotel, they have really thought about what people want, not just the standard egg station (although their Eggs Benedict are something quite special).
Mustafa met me in the lobby and we headed out on a tour of the peninsula. There is a lot of history in Bodrum and you can still visit the Roman amphitheater which brings it to life. Heading into Bodrum town for lunch we strolled around the Marina where traditional gulets line the bay waiting to take out passengers. “This is a must do” says Mustafa eyeing up his favorite boats. “You can take a boat from here for the day and head out into the archipelago of islands that surrounds the town. Its full of the clearest coves for snorkeling and finding a deserted beach to enjoy a freshly grilled sea food lunch is easy”.
For those looking for a little more action, Bodrum is famous for its beach clubs and within 15 – 20 minutes of the Mandarin Oriental there are some amazing spots to don the sunglasses and knock back the rosé.
Being out of season we opted for something a little more basic. Mustafa took me into the fish market where the stalls are located opposite a selection of restaurants. We chose our lunch from an amazing selection of seafood at the market which was then taken over to our preferred restaurant to be cooked and served up. The restaurant provides the meze and the drinks but it makes for a really fun way to enjoy some super fresh seafood at market prices. We feasted on giant shrimp grilled over coals and then a beautiful sea bass cooked with local spices. It was great fun and a must for anyone who is on the hunt for a unique local food experience.
Speaking with Mustafa about Turkish cuisine, he told me about his tour company which operates 4×4 tours into the mountains surrounding the peninsula. He works with a lady in his local village that offers cooking classes in her home. It sounded like great fun and we have promised to make a date for my return to Turkey. I certainly won’t be leaving it long.