September 01 2011
“My wife, Agavni, and children, Yeraz and Arden Simpat, spend the summer in Bodrum, but my workshop in Istanbul is open six days a week, so I am usually up by 7am on Saturdays. I never need to think about what to have for breakfast because every morning my wonderful neighbours fill a basket outside my front door with fruit and homemade bread, so I just help myself to that. While I’m eating, I watch the TV and then read the newspapers.
As it’s Saturday, I’ll ride my Harley-Davidson into work, which is in the jewellery district of Istanbul, just one minute’s walk from the Grand Bazaar. There’s a guy who sells pogaca [savoury pastries] on the street and there’s also a patisserie called Çigdem, which makes lovely acma, a Turkish-style bagel – so, if I’m still hungry, I’ll find something to eat and sit in the park between the Blue Mosque and St Sophia Church before I go into work. It’s a great area for people-watching – it’s a bit like being in a time machine, because people must have been hanging around that neighbourhood, gossiping, for at least 1,000 years.
The routine at the workshop is a little different on Saturday; we go through the previous week’s work and decide what we are going to do the following week, but I always stop for lunch.
One place I often go to is Café Fes. The owner, Metin Tosun, changed life in the Grand Bazaar because he was the first person to introduce good international coffee to the area. Turkish coffee is excellent, but it’s great to be able to get a cappuccino or an espresso.
The other places I might lunch at are Onur et Lokantasi or Seyhmus, which are great kebab houses, or Aslan, probably one of the best places in the city for traditional Ottoman cuisine. It serves dishes such as begendili kebap, a meat dish with aubergine mousse – anything with aubergine is a favourite of mine.
I try to leave the workshop by 5pm and ride my bike to the W Hotel, located in the recently renovated Akaretler Row Houses in the Besiktas district, where I have a gallery. I’ll hang out around there for an hour or so, chatting to my staff or visiting galleries such as Rampa and Art-On. I enjoy collaborating with artists, and go to exhibition openings and private views nearly every day. There’s also a shop called Haremlique, which creates beautiful textiles for the home and for yachts.
In the early evening, I might ride to a beautiful spot along the Bosphorus called Bebek and have a beer at Lucca, which is a bar popular with bikers. It’s a very fashionable area, so as soon as it starts to get busy, I’ll go to meet a couple of my friends at Eleos, a Greek restaurant near my home, which specialises in fish and seafood dishes, such as octopus with curry sauce, shrimp and grilled baby octopus. It has a wonderful ambience, so we’ll hang around, chatting and drinking raki.
On Sundays, I always go to church with my mother and brother and then we’ll have lunch at my mother’s house – something traditional, such as kofte [grilled meatballs]. After lunch we visit my father’s grave. I would never miss that. My father passed away four years ago and he was a great influence on me.
Istanbul is a beautiful but overcrowded city, so in the late afternoon I like to escape with a couple of friends and sail my small boat, which I keep at the marina not far from my house, over to Burgazada island in the Marmara Sea. It’s warm enough to jump off the boat and swim until early November. We eat dinner at the restaurant Kalpazankaya, which does great seabass and has wonderful views. You’d never believe there were 13m people close by.
Later, I relax with a few DVDs – action films or comedies. Then I turn in, excited about the week ahead.”