The Quiet Side Of Turkey’s Beach Party Town: Susona Bodrum

Bodrum is booming. Sometimes literally—around the central marina in Bodrum Harbor you can hear nightclub beats until late in the night. In the old city, the narrow shopping streets are bustling with tourists, and so are the beachfront restaurants.

(The newer Yakikavak marina, where the megayachts prefer to to dock, is alive with a different kind energy, centered on high-end shopping and dining, right up to a Nusr-Et “salt bae” steak house.)

But for those who prefer something a bit more low-key, there’s Susona Bodrum, a quietly luxurious hotel that opened two years ago on the other side of the peninsula in Torba, about a 15-minute drive from the busiest part of Bodrum’s old city. The views over the Turquoise Coast—described by Homer as “the land of the eternal blue”—are no less spectacular. They may be even better because of the quiet.

That water is a focal point, and the resort takes its name from an aquatic creature in Turkish mythology that’s similar to a mermaid. Its marketing come-on is “Dance with the waves, move with the sea.” Its low-slung, discreet architecture was inspired by the shape and movement of a water drop, with an energy center (the restaurants) and circular rings (the rooms) radiating outwards. In between, the nature of the region is preserved, and the property is dotted with cactus and lemon, olive and pomegranate trees.

The 76 suites are enormous and gorgeously outfitted, with full kitchens, living and dining areas, and sumptuous bedrooms, all with full walls of windows and glorious sea views. The ones on the ground floor have outdoor dining areas and private pools, and they can be joined with those upstairs to create villas that have more of a home feeling for larger groups.

They’ll send over a private chef, if guests want, for people who book this option. But doing that every day would mean missing out on one of the big pleasures of Susona, enjoying the restaurants in that central energy center. Ezi, the all-day restaurant, specializes in simple fare in the dining room and on the terrace beside the hotel’s infinity pool overlooking the ocean. It has a particular focus on Turkish breakfast, with fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice from the trees on the grounds, house-made olive oil, jams and fresh sourdough bread, and fresh tomatoes, cucumber and herbs from the garden.

The other restaurant up here is Malva, which brings Slow Food principles to local products—as much as possible from the rooftop garden and nearby farmers and local markets, but nothing from beyond the Aegean region. There’s low-key live music in the evenings. And down at sea level, Frankie Beach Club & Restaurant, with a “power lunch” menu and resident DJs for a high-energy afternoon vibe.

Overseeing it all is executive chef Gökhan Sinmaz, who aims for food that’s as local as possible not only because it tastes better but because he cares about sustainability. A signature dish is the lionfish ceviche at Malva. Most chefs avoid it because it’s not easy to prepare, and only small-time local fishermen bother to catch it. But its a nonnative species and a predator that’s seen as a threat because it eats more valuable fishes, so if we can eat it instead, that’s a step toward solving a problem.

Sinmaz will also let guests accompany him on his shopping trips to the market in Turgutreis, where they can sample dozens of kinds of olives and watch an artichoke whisperer trim the vegetables at lightning speed as they watch the chef choose the best tomatoes, cucumbers and fruit. Back at the hotel he’ll lead a relaxed cooking class—with plenty of patience for newbie cooks who need to work on their knife skills.

PS: It’s part of Hilton’s LXR brand, which is useful for people who care about loyalty points and international service standards, but nothing about it has the feel of a chain hotel.

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