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Where to Eat in Istanbul

Where to Eat in Istanbul

Meşrutiyet Caddesi 15, Istanbul Province (00 90 212 293 5656;

At the top of the 18-storey Marmara Pera Hotel at Meşrutiyet Caddesi 167/185, is arguably the most ambitious and revered restaurant in the city. (Others will tell you that accolade belongs to Murat Bozok’s Mimolett.) Finnish-born chef Mehmet Gurs’ menu fuses local and Scandinavian influences, so you’ll find shoulder of lamb cooked for 24 hours with pomegranate molasses and pilav, rose-scented chicken and smoked lamb loin (even smoked potatoes) alongside gravlax and dried beef.

Istiklal Caddesi Misir Apt K:8, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 251 1042;

This rooftop restaurant-bar in a glass-walled penthouse is one of the city’s trendiest spots. Come to see the amazing 360-degree views of St Antoine’s and the Bosphorus and the rooftops of Beyoglu. The fusion menu is made for sharing, with most things mezze-sized: duck dim sum; chicken satay; polenta-crusted calamari with almond aioli; grilled sardines in vine leaves. There’s also pasta, and fun pizzas like the Bollywood, with tandoori chicken, or the Local, with sucuk, olives, and goat cheese. A good post-dinner drinks spot when DJs play. Try the Bomb Baby (vodka, fresh watermelon, mint and cardamom) or Porn Star (Bacardi, citrus, papaya).

50 Arnavutköy, Istanbul (00 90 212 358 6087;

Sup with the arty set in a converted waterside villa at Abracadabra, where seasonal local ingredients are conjured by flamboyant chef Dilara Erbay into experimental forms, such as raw ‘meatballs’ made with salmon.

Kariye Camii Sokak 18, Edirnekapi, Istanbul (00 90 212 534 8414;

Asithane stands close by the church of St Saviour in Chora, in a restored wooden Ottoman house. The menu includes dishes originally prepared for the circumcision feast of the sons of Suleyman the Magnificent, and could include baked aubergine with grilled mince meat, tomatoes, and green peppers, wrapped in a sheet of pasta and served with peppermint sauce, and spring chicken stewed with almonds, dried apricots and red grapes, seasoned with honey, cinnamon and lemon juice. Open daily from noon to 2pm and 7pm to 11pm.

Where to Eat in Istanbul

Siraselviler Caddesi 20, Taksim, Istanbul (00 90 212 252 8713).

In Turkey, döner kebab is always freshly sliced, crisp on the outside and tender inside. Placed in bread or Turkish pide, it provides all the satisfaction (and no doubt the health-giving properties) of a bacon sarnie. Good anywhere, but eat one standing up at a ‘buffet’, a humble establishment that serves toasted sandwiches and freshly squeezed orange juice. Bambi, at the Taksim Square end of Siraselviler Caddesi, is a cheap 24-hour stand up stall where locals go for the best doner kebab.

4 Kücük, Istanbul (00 90 212 287 10 30;

House Café is a small chain with locations on Istiklal Caddesi, on the shores of the Bosphorus at Ortaköy and near Tünel, whose beautifully designed spaces amd alluring unpretentious menu make it a good bet at any time of day. Satsuma juice gives a sunny summer twist to the in-crowd’s drinks list at Bebek House Café, the latest branch of the stylish Turkish chain.

Orman Caddesi 8, Florya, Istanbul (00 90 212 663 2992;

Beyti Güler is the Horatio Alger of grilled meat, graduating from a modest eaterie to a grand establishment frequented by visiting statesman and starlets. Beyti is the only living Turk (and only one of two in history) to have had a type of kebab named after him: it’s an eyelet of lamb. The meat at his restaurant is simply cooked in the Balkan style – which means mildly seasoned.

Yalikosku Caddesi 60-62, Eminonu, Istanbul (00 90 212 232 42 01;

This is the original in what is now a chain of restaurants. The food is fresh and seasonal with good grilled meats and rich milk puddings. Open from Monday to Saturday, from 7am to 9pm.

Where to Eat in Istanbul

Hayriye Caddesi 46, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 245 9980;

This café-restaurant-bar, housed in a former school, attracts a lively crowd. It is composed of a number of rooms of varying levels of noise and energy, with sofas, a dancefloor and great mojitos. The back room, with original floor tiles, soaring ceilings and a long wooden bar, is a stylish place for sampling inventive meze and fabulous couscous.

Siraselviler Caddesi 47, Taksim, Istanbul (00 90 212 251 7064;

One of the most glamourous restaurants in Istanbul, Changa (Swahili for ‘mix’) opened in 2001 with consulting chef Peter Gordon at the helm (of the Sugar Club and Providores restaurants in London). Though he is not resident in the kitchen here, his touch is obvious: Turkish ingredients are fused with his usual Pacific Rim offerings, so you may find colourful dishes like olive-oil-braised kenger (spanish oyster plant) with poppy seeds and shiso leaves; grilled lamb chops with firik (smoked bulgur) pilaf and harissa; and Turkish coffee ice cream with biscotti and bitter almond liqueur. Try the Pazzimoza cocktail: Champagne, passion fruit juice and orange juice. The restaurant, situated in one of the city’s only Art Nouveau buildings, is just as glamorous as the food with its glass floor and chrome chairs. Open for dinner only; closed Sundays.

Sifahane Sokak 6, Suleymaniye, Istanbul (00 90 212 511 8414;

Food is prepared in the 500-year-old kitchens of the Suleymaniye Mosque and eaten in a courtyard. Lentil, spinach and meatball soup makes a filling lunch. Open daily from noon to 11pm.

Where to Eat in Istanbul

Kabatas Kultur Merkezi, Ciragan Caddesi 124, Ortakoy (00 90 212 227 2216;

Feriye stands in the grounds of a summer palace right on the shores on the Bosporus. Owner Vedat Basaran has studied ancient texts to recreate Ottoman court cooking traditional Turkish and Ottoman cuisine. In complete fidelity to traditional methods of preparation, time-honored recipes The fish is exemplary. Open daily from noon to 3pm and 7pm to 11pm.

Anadolu Pasaji, Istiklal Cad 210, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 243 4528).

Haci Salih is a temple to Turkish home-cooking. However, it’s not a very colourful temple, as no alcohol is served and it shuts at around 6pm. It’s also difficult to find, being off Beyoglu’s main street in an arcade opposite the Inci pastry shop. On the other hand, the dishes simmering on view (lamb or vegetables and thick soups) are just that bit better than anywhere else, but still moderately priced.

Kefeliköy Cad 126, Tarabya, Istanbul (00 90 212 262 0002;

In the resort town of Tarabya, Kiyi, which opened in 1964, specialises in fresh fish and traditional dishes, plus a range of hot and cold mezes. In addition to the main restaurant, it offers private dining for up to 34 people.

Körfez Cad 78, Kanlica, Istanbul (00 90 216 413 4314;

Sea bass baked in a hard crust of salt is a speciality at Körfez, in Kanlica, a restaurant which has pushed the Bosporus meal as far up-market as it can go. A private boat picks up diners at Rumeli Hisari and offers pre-dinner drinks on the way over.

Kumbaraci Yokusu 115/7, Beyoğlu, Istanbul (00 90 212 293 4989;

A chic rooftop restaurant, with an outdoor terrace and bar lined with white wood chairs. The real draw is the setting rather than the food, which is international fare. In the starters, you will find potato skins, spiced fries, nachos and Cajun chicken, alongside traditional mezze. The dinner menu is dominated by steak of all kinds (in pieces, on kebabs; spiced and grilled; with eggplant and Tulum cheese) and pastas. Come for Sunday brunch to try simit (a kind of croissant with sesame), eggs, borek, kashar cheese and homemade bread, and see the lovely Bosphorus views.

Where to Eat in Istanbul

Lutfi Kirdar Convention & Exhibition Centre, Harbiye, Istanbul (00 90 212 219 6384;

This gorgeous space, inspired by spacious New York restaurants, is in Istanbul’s main exhibition centre; chef Umit Ozkanca serves world cuisine, drawing influences from North Africa and China among other places.

Mesrutiyet Caddesi 149/1, Tepebasi, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 245 6070;

Its name translates as ‘restaurant’, but this place could have been called Popular. Here, post-industrial meets Notting Hill: brick walls, stripped floors, a big bar and an older crowd. The menu mixes fish and salads with more substantial dishes.

Misir Carsisi 1, Eminönü, Istanbul (00 90 212 527 3909).

Since 1956, this Istanbul institution has occupied a wonderful set of domed, blue-and-white tiled rooms above the entrance to the Spice Bazaar. Every tourist knows about it, and the waiters have a friendly if aggressive way of forcing food on visitors to pad the bills. But Pandelli still clings to greatness. Sea bass en papillote is a classic Istanbul dish, and there are good grills and sweets. Reserve a table or eat late. Open for lunch only.

Olivio Gecidi 15, Istiklal Caddesi, Galatasaray, Istanbul (00 90 212 244 1610;

Established by Russian immigrants fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution, Rejans still serves its piroshkis, stroganoffs and iced lemon-vodka with a real sense of drama. There’s live music some evenings. Closed Sunday.

Where to Eat in Istanbul


Divanyolu Cad. No 26, Sultanahmet, Istanbul (+ 90 212 5229785);

You can find the best taste of meatballs in traditional Turkish dishes. Many famous people in the world come here. Open daily from 11:00am to 10:00pm.

Divanyolu Cad. Ticarethane Sok 8, Sultanahmet, Istanbul (00 90 212 512 0008).

Rumeli occupies an old printworks, and is owned by the hoteliers across the street: twin sisters Esra and Hamra of the Nomade Hotel. It serves good Turkish staples such as imam bayildi (puréed aubergine with grilled lamb and tomato sauce) and borek, which is filled with spiced ground meat and pine nuts, or go for one of the many salads. Open daily from 10am to 2am.

Where to Eat in Istanbul

Istiklal Cad 102-104, Beyoglu, Istanbul (00 90 212 292 3434;

Although Turkey is famous for baklava and milky sweets, they are not typical desserts but rather something to be eaten on their own. The place to do so is in a muhallebici, a type of cafe selling exotically named sweets such as ‘nightingale’s nests’ or ‘ladies’ thighs’, as well as thickened and caramelised milky rice puddings. This is also a good place to try the tavukgögsü, a sweet gummy pudding made with chicken that would be less difficult to avoid in another less-tempting establishment.

50 Inönü Cd, Istanbul (00 90 212 249 1001;

At Topaz, breathtaking views over the tree tops and the Dolmabahce Palace compete with fabulous Ottoman-meets-Mediterranean fare such as grilled loin of lamb on aubergine purée.

19 Yeni Çarşi caddesi (00 90 212 252 50 67;

At Munferit (the name is a play on words by owner ‘Ferit’ Sarper and means ‘unique’), the traditional tavern is given a contemporary spin by Istanbul architects du jour Autoban. Worth a visit just for its excellent cocktails and retro European ambience.

4 Galata Kulesi meydanı (00 90 212 292 98 98;

Eating at colourful Kiva Han next to the Galata Tower is like taking a crash course in regional Turkish cuisine: authentic dishes from all over the country are prepared with a modern twist.

43A Akarsu Yokuşu sokaği (00 90 212 245 44 74;

Follow the locals to MoMo, an espresso bar with a bright yellow interior that serves cakes, muffins, pitza (its take on pitta-pizza combo) and great coffee, Turkish or otherwise.

Where to Eat in Istanbul

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