Club Marvy Hotel review: a tantalising taste of the Aegean
With sailboats, sunsets and seafood, this marvellous resort rightfully takes its place as one of the Turkish Riviera’s finest
“We promise an authentic experience at Club Marvy,” says the skipper at the helm of our eco-friendly wooden sailing dinghy, where I am currently snugly wedged in the cockpit, port side, close to the bow.
Speckles of sea water sprinkle my face, a bucket of ocean lands in my lap, my sunglasses are in need of window-wipers, and my eyes sting from the salt. I am now sailing along with my eyes squeezed shut in a bid to stop any more water from entering. “There is no question that I am out at sea on a boat,” I reply laughing.
If you’re not willing to attend dinner while smelling like you’ve just sprinkled on “Eau de sea salt”, then you might not enjoy cruising before you dine, but the skipper has assured me that it is his first time hosting guests with weather that isn’t perfectly tranquil, and I believe him.
Our two hour sunset expedition of Kesre Bay (a 160,000m² wonder of nature with its protected pine and palm trees) set within the charming fisherman village of Özdere, has been a gentle sail up until this point.
The evening wind has picked up and the mirror-calm ocean ahead of me has turned a tad frisky since we set out from the coast of Club Marvy. Tucked into a secluded bay on Turkey’s Aegean coast, the spectacular resort is near sites that hold both historical and religious significance to many around the world. Ancient gems can be discovered at the famous ruins of Ephesus for example.
The sense of freedom is tremendous as we cruise along the coast. The Greek island of Samos, distinguishable in the distance, is 14 miles away and can be reached by ferry from Kuşadasi, 40 minutes’ south of the resort. The coastline is dotted with unspoilt coves, pine trees, fragrant orange mandarin farms and an array of luxury hotels. Izmir’s Adnan Menderes Airport is a 40-minute drive south.
The wind soon calms and the skipper cuts the engine. We sit in comfortable silence bobbing gently, soaking up the fresh air, vast view and cool breeze that come along with a boat ride. Fishing boats glide across the lapis-blue so slowly that it is hard to tell if they are moving at all. When you experience life enjoyed at this serene pace, it changes your whole view. I am shoulder-level with the waves as my fingers idly play with the water - the hypnotic hue beckoning me to plunge into its watery depths and explore the great panoply of nature’s glories.
We sit and watch the last rays of the fiery butter-orange sun bathing the tops of the hills, before it slips below the horizon as we munch on a picnic of dried apricot nuggets and local cheeses, accompanied by gorgeously dry Club Marvy home-grown rosé.
“Aside from cruising for couples, we also offer courses as part of the Young Sailing Program for those keen to learn how to sail or improve their sailing skills. The course consists of on-land theory training and sea training where trainees are taught sailing theory, basic cruises and manoeuvres. It’s a great excursion for families wanting to work on their sea legs,” skipper says.
On our return journey back towards Marvy, we are momentarily met by a series of gentle swells. I am now wearing my rosé. My wine glass subsequently refills with sea water. I can’t stop giggling as I toss it overboard; it’s like a comedy sketch. “Fear not! I have another bottle,” says skipper, swiftly topping me up.
Forty minutes later, we are back on dry land. A golf buggy and obliging staff are waiting to whisk me back to my Comfort Bungalow Partial Sea View Room for a quick shower and change from my wet clothes, before dinner al fresco at the İskele Meyhane (tavern) on the pier.
The waves below us now lap docile against the shore, and flaming torches keep the insects at bay. Fairy lights, candles, white table cloths, jubilant conversation and Prosecco and Raki galore – make it quite simply an enchanting dinner destination in a setting that celebrates the pleasures of great company and a fun-loving vibe.
At a discreet distance, the chef barbecues a succulent feast of local and Aegean specialities of colourful meze and fresh seafood tapas style. Think the sweet flesh of lobster cooked with green chilli and ginger and sea bass fillet drizzled with lemon accompanied with black eyed pea salad, plus warm rings of simit bread and flatbread soaked in olive oil, and grilled prawns and octopus sprinkled with paprika. A feast!
“Alcohol is our whole dining philosophy, food is the decoration. Chef Şemsa Denizsel of renowned Istanbul restaurant Canteen is the hotel’s food consultant and 30% of food comes from my mother’s licensed organic farm which is 30 minutes up the road,” says Owner Ece Tonbul, of the Paloma Hotels group. The daughter of a family who has been involved in the tourism industry for 40 years in Kuşadası, she was eight years old when her family took over the property.
“I have been working in hotels since I was 11 and have created what a lifestyle brand must represent. The most fundamental part of Marvy lifestyle is authenticity. How the locals live is reflected through our beverages, staff uniforms and the interiors. Whatever we do, we have to compliment the nature itself, and showcase cultural immersions. We have to make the place look and feel like it has always been here,” says Ece.
Marvy values all things local. Local people, products, morals, artisanship and economy. In short, they treasure their roots. The hotel’s string of shopping boutiques on Levi Street gives something back to the community. Craftspeople benefit - not designer chains.
Shop for home-made bedding and Turkish peshtemal towels which come from the town of Buldan, famed for its fine textiles. Fruit and vegetables, olive oils, vinegars, pomegranate and fig molasses, pickles and purées and organic wines in cool jars are from the family farm. If you’re a magpie for sparkle then Manuk’s Workshop of raw gemstone jewellery will have you pulling out your credit card.
Atelier Marvy is another differentiator of the resort as it includes a gallery space and the ‘Artist Residency’ programme and workshops. The aim is to generate contemporary art in the region. “There’s a lot of emphasis on local talented artists. It’s not a profit centre for the property; it simply supports, promotes, and gives value and a home to an artist that’s struggling to find a home. The art gallery for example doesn’t function as a classical gallery; all profits go straight to the artist,” explains Ece.
Given a complete renovation in 2017, acclaimed architect Fahrettin Aykut has helped transform Club Marvy from being an everyday style resort to a swanky beachside hideaway that is suited to couples and families alike. Built on an area of 180,000 square meters, it is now home to three suites, 338 rooms (123 with a sea view), fantastic restaurants with super-fresh international and local cuisine, five bars, two pools and private beaches, a family section bursting with water slides, children’s buffet, a kids’ club, mini golf, babysitting service and magic shows.
Golf buggies are on hand to whizz you everywhere if you don’t fancy walking. Flip the coin and you’ll find the adults-only Boho Beach haven and the Degirmen restaurant, which overlooks the sea and is set within a historical windmill, located at the highest point of the Bay. There’s also a Turkish barber, fitness centre, open-air Pilates, jet skis, multiple water sports, live DJ sets and a nightclub. In peak season, a beach party is thrown every few weeks with live performances (Islandman + Manu have me dancing barefoot on the sand until midnight).
Marvy has a final ace up its sleeve: the spa - a haven for harassed parents or couples without kids. I started every day here with sunrise yoga on the infinity pool deck and then been tranquilised by massages at the sea-facing Mar SPA and sauna with a 180-degree sea view.
You can’t come to Marvy and not try a traditional Hamman. Traditional Turkish baths are a hot and steamy affair that involves an intense full-body exfoliation and foam bath while you lay naked on a heated slab of marble. I am scrubbed, lathered, cleansed, polished and duly becalmed - and leave walking on air.
Rates from £146 per night. Price based on two sharing on a full board basis. To book, visit clubmarvy.com