Today, our ‘My Favourite Hotel’ review is from Antalya, Turkey. As always you can find all of the ‘My Favourite Hotel’ reviews by clicking here.
This review is a little different. Tim is a long-term HfP reader and commentator who is often critical of what he sees as overpriced ‘international brand’ hotels compared to what is on offer from independents.
He offered to cover the hotel where he will, again, be spending a chunk of the Winter. Last year he paid £26.75 per night with food and drink included. How could we refuse?
Today’s hotel is the The Villa Side Residence in Antalya – A Winter-bargain if you want to escape the gloomy UK in exchange for some sunshine.
Here is Tim’s review:
At a little over 8,000 square miles and with 408 miles of coastline, Antalya Province is around the same size as Wales. There are over 20,000 hotels with over a quarter of a million beds (TURSAB figures). Despite this, Antalya is far less known to English-speaking visitors than Turkey’s Aegean coast, with Marmaris and Bodrum some 5-7 hours drive away. Indeed, Antalya Airport figures put UK visitors at only around 5% of all arrivals.
For me the Antalya coast has an unbearably hot summer – with temperatures regularly going over 40°C – but does have a very pleasant winter climate. It makes for the perfect extended escape from the dark days and persistent precipitation of my native, but otherwise beautiful, Yorkshire.
Choosing a winter hotel is no simple matter. Almost all hotels’ advertised facilities, service, modus operandi and even their reviews apply only to the summer season. Finding a great one is like finding a diamond in a coal mine. The Villa Side Residence – my new ‘favourite hotel’ – is such a diamond. I will share it with you….
On arrival, there is an audacious, verging on ‘bling’, international five star reception: smart bellboy with pantomime trolley to greet our transfer vehicle, ornate granite floors, plush furniture, polished brass, three scenic lifts (that speak Turkish and English!) facing the atrium to the roof above the the lobby.
Check-in took just seconds – scan of our passports, signatures and handover of printed ‘winter concept’ information to us – before the bellboy was despatched with luggage to give us tours of our rooms. It has never been slicker.
The hotel comprises two almost-equal sized wings, set at a ‘wide right angle’ to each other. They are connected by the atrium containing the reception lobby on the ground floor, with guests rooms on the seven floors above it.
Rooms are spacious and well-furnished with headline features: pillow menu, minibar replenished daily, tea and coffee station, 32” LCD TV with several English channels (including BBC); DVD player, generous toiletries down to dental and shaving kits, heavy, fluffy white towels and bathrobes, three layers of curtains – net, blackout and decorative, free safe, room wi-fi and air conditioning.
There was an included laundry service – a godsend for those of us who prefer to travel with hand luggage only!
Food and drink
Ether side of the lobby are two bar areas around the same size. In Winter, one is used as the main venue for live music and other evening shows. The other is the ‘quiet bar’ with leather sofa sets, library and card playing area for those, like me, who want to avoid the entertainment. Waiter service in both is devastatingly efficient.
A range of imported spirits and international cocktails are included in addition to the usual all-inclusive fare.
Beyond the main arena is the patisserie / bistro which is used for afternoon coffee and cakes, as an all-night buffet and for late breakfast. Food and drinks are available 24 hours.
At level -1, or as the lifts put it “Minus first floor”, there are the three a la carte restaurants: fish, Italian and Turkish for which reservations and a €10 cover charge are required. I usually avoid the a la cartes – not because I am a tight Yorkshireman, but because of the sheer quantity of food. Over an extended stay, my clothes start to shrink. I tried the fish a la carte – superb but it took two days of fasting before I was comfortable in my suit trousers.
In the opposite wing is the main buffet restaurant. Its eating area has just five tables across and is broken up lengthways by decorative screens such that any one area feels like an intimate restaurant. Tables are decorated with cloths, runners and a little flower vase. Lunch and dinner have places set with two sets of hollow-handled cutlery and cloth napkins. Waiter drinks service is efficient. After a couple of days of asking for a glass of red wine, my wine usually arrived at whatever table I chose at the same time as myself.
The buffet runs the full length of the restaurant. There was a huge variety of food plus display cooking of the specials every meal. At lunch and dinner there was an international selection plus Turkish specialities, soups, always a choice of meat and fish options, several counters of sweets, fruit and at the very end, the popular ‘ice cream man’.
At breakfast, there is every form of eggs including the delicious Turkish spicy tomato scramble, various other cooked items plus all the salads, cold meats, huge cheese selection, vast bread and sweets counters, cereals, strained yoghurt, preserves and honeys, dried and fresh fruit, etc etc etc. Food quality and presentation were consistently excellent – the best of any hotel or cruise ship I have experienced.
The outdoor pools and terraces (one heated in the winter) are at “Minus second floor”. Sadly the swim-up bar was decommissioned for the Winter but a trolley service of drinks came around during the day (or so I am told – I was usually at the beach bar) and there was always someone to bring sun bed mattresses.
Inside on that level is the spa, indoor pools, shops and ladies and gents hairdressers with an extensive menu of beauty therapies, the doctor, gym and games room.
The beach bar, reached via a tunnel from the pool terrace, is open all through the Winter. The beach here is broad and sandy and part of a 10km stretch running West from the Side peninsula.
There is a full bar with waiter service and kitchen staff – in full costume. Inside, a self service buffet has soups, salads, cold starters, a couple of cooked main dishes. Outside the daily specialities alternated between a barbecue and a kebab rotisserie.
Overall: superb room, food and service, the facilities and activities of a cruise ship, the most generous all-inclusive system plus that private beach bar open through the golden sunny winter days.
I will be at the Villa Side Residence for six weeks this coming Winter with my office established at the beach bar – why work at home when you can work at the beach?
We paid £26.75 per night in February 2020 for sole occupancy of double rooms on an all-inclusive basis. We booked with Travel Republic but always check Trivago for the latest deals. The best prices tend to be found 6-9 months in advance – the current price is around £45 to £50 for the same dates.
(EDIT: Since Tim wrote this review, the hotel has decided to close for Winter 2020/21 due to reduced tourist numbers in Turkey. It is planning to return to Winter opening next year.)
Here is the hotel’s website if you want to find out more.