Article Published In The Monthly Culture And Art Magazine L'eventail About The Residence Of The Ambassador Of Turkey.
From the Sublime Porte to the Republic of Turkey in Uccle
The Art of Hospitality – Zeynep ERSAVCI
By: Gerald Watelet
Photography : José-Noël Doumont
For many years I have passed by this beautiful classical mansion on the corner of the Guy d’Arezzo square and the Jules Lejeune Street in Uccle. Even though everybody might know the building, entering it is not so easy however; because of the fact that since the 1940’s it is the residence of the Ambassadors of Turkey. The Turkish government purchased it in 1958.
The first permanent Ottoman legation started in Belgium in 1848, which was the beginning of 161 years of entente cordiale. Istanbul, the Bosporus, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi are nowadays names and places that evoke to us the splendor of the Ottoman Empire. The spouse of His Excellency, M. Murat Ersavci, 40th Ambassador of Turkey, invites us in this magnificent residence.
From the first moment on, Zeynep Ersavci welcomes us with warmth and genuine hospitality offering us a famous Turkish coffee and a few culinary specialties to accompany the coffee. She confesses to me having a weakness for the pastry of Patisserie Saint-Aulay. That place “is not exactly like Turkish counterparts, but still so delicious”, she says. Her husband, H.E. Ambassador Ersavci, very kindly, has waited to welcome me; we talk a little, but duty calls. I take advantage of his leaving, to stroll through the house, the large cloakroom with staircase which we will discuss later on, three joining salons in bright tones and a large dining-room.
The whole atmosphere of this house reminds me of other houses or more particularly of one other house. The mansion of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Paris, with its luxurious and refined interior, realized by the famous French interior decorator, Jansen. I share my feeling with the Ambassador’s wife, who is surprised and confirms to me that the decoration of the house had been awarded in 1957 to Stéphane Boudin, great decorator of Jansen, by His Excellency, Ambassador Zorlu.
Very pleased to see that we both like this famous style that has no equal, we turn the chairs upside down, find the hallmarks and even start to shift the furniture. On the other floors, I also discover other pieces of furniture furnished by this mythical Parisian house.
Zeynep Ersavci is in love with this graceful residence and since her arrival, she has not ceased to revitalize it, trying to offer her guests a Turkish touch in an otherwise rather occidental décor. The house has been designed and built in the early years of the 20th century for the Count R. de Liedekerke by the architects René Sergent, Léon Fegnan and René Betourne.
Already in the entrance hall, we have a sensation of grandeur and plenty of space that makes the luxury of these large houses. The staircase is superb; by close inspection, one can see that no step is alike: concave ones, convex ones, they all together form like a sculpture.
The Louis XV carpentry in the small salon, which makes the green and white stand out, and his wire netting are a mark of the Jansen fabricate.
The furniture in the same tones, the tables in lacquer, the consoles supported by “negroes” remind us of this exceptional touch that pleased the international courts and the great personalities worldwide. We must not forget that Jansen was commissioned by the Princess of Rethy to refresh Laeken Palace and to furnish Argenteuil.
Zeynep Ersavci makes sure to mix ancient Turkish silverware collections inherited by the family, tapestry of course, English dinnerware and a magnificent crystal service with gold decorations. Contemporary Turkish art is also displayed on the walls of several salons.
Tulips everywhere of course, since, before being Dutch, don’t forget that they come straight from Turkey where they knew their culminating point in the beginning of the XVIII century. Each spring, at the time of the full moon, in the gardens of Sultan Ahmed II, a sumptuous feast is given in honor of the “calyx flower”. In Versailles, under the reign of Louis XIV, she was the official flower. At the time, a bulb of a tulip was more valuable than the paintings that represented it.
The Ambassador’s wife has a soft spot for “Hereke” carpets, of which several pieces in different colors and themes are in themselves ambassadors of the Sublime Porte. In the large salon, one will march on a carpet of a rare color (“Celadon”) filled with red tulips, “Lalezar” which means “Garden of tulips”. In the entrance hall, another, smaller carpet in Ushak style with stylized birds is a replica of the one situated in the Ceremonial Hall of the Topkapi palace.
We stroll towards the dining room in Louis XV style. The table is put for dinner. Once more, in a certain harmony between East and West, Turkey is present in all kinds of refined details. Zeynep Ersavci makes sure that this house is emblematic of the Turkish culture and represents the country in all its aspects. Collections of unexpected objects decorate her table, going from silverware to coupes and scent bottles, passing by Iznik tiles.
After the visit, an excellent meal awaits us, a total discovery. From the starter up to the dessert, wines included, all is Turkish. We start of by mussels stuffed with rice and dill, fresh and delicate. We continue with grilled chicken and a puree of smoked aubergines and we finish with small sins : pudding Ottoman style and fresh apricots with cream and pistachio, even more sublime. The Turkish wines are surprising and very agreeable, and can stand comparison to many other wines that we know. We finish off as we should, with the famous Turkish coffee. The Ambassador’s wife tells us how fortunate she is of being assisted by a Maitre d’hôtel, Dursun Yilmaz and a chef, Abdurrahman Koca, who are in their way also ambassadors of Turkey.
Even though we have this great luck of having a bit of Turkey in our country, we can only advice you to visit the Bosporus and discover all its marvels.. and who knows, bring some to your home.
Recipe: Hunkar Begendi, Puree of smoked aubergines.
Recipe: Sakizli Muhallebi, pudding infused with mastic.