Back in February this year, for my 25th birthday, I got to visit one of my favourite cities. Straddling the Bosphorous strait and being the world renowned point of where East famously meets West, the cultural metropolis of Istanbul provided some of the best food I have ever sampled, anywhere in the world. In the city for five days, I already have a few meals in mind that I am considering giving their own post – they were just that delicious.
Arriving into Istanbul late on a Saturday afternoon, our trek across the city on public transport immediately awakened all of our senses to what culinary delights loomed large over the next few days. Our first point of call on Saturday evening was (not the place we intended to visit – more on that later) the rather bizarrely named, but delightfully delicious Food & Beverage Culture. Eager to get my Mr to try traditional Turkish Pide, as even the best replicas in London simply don’t do them justice, we both opted for the one with a spicy, Turkish sausage topping. As you can see, it had been a very long day, and my #HungryEllie instincts kicked in before my blogger ones and I took a bite before I got a picture!
After a good night rest at our wonderful hotel, we headed into the centre of the city on Sunday morning and picked Poika as our first port of call. A humble, speciality coffee shop tucked away from the bustling streets on a tiny alleyway, Poika provided us with with interesting Turkish pastries that were cheese based and very light, as well as toasted Turkish sandwiches, tiny Turkish omelettes and traditional Turkish teas and coffees. The vanilla rooibos is always a favourite of mine and was what I went for.
Spending a good seven or eight hours getting lost in the city, before heading back to our hotel we collapsed into a wonderful Turkish restaurant not far from Hagia Sophia, which I believe was called Mahmiye. I say believe because the place did not show up on geo tags, it is not on Google street view at all and none of the pictures of the restaurants in the street resemble the ones I have. Despite this, here we feasted on Tavuk Güveç, which literally translates to chicken casserole. The chicken is cooked with an array of vegetables and Turkish herbs and spices in a guvec pot – a traditional clay pot which is made food proof by a glaze they put on it. We also sampled a Turkish version of a calzone pizza (far more filling and tasty than it might look) and a dish which consisted of more meat and vegetables with rice at the centre, served with some soft, cheesy bread.* Followed by an abundance of complimentary Turkish tea, it is safe to say that this (possibly unnamed little place) was one of my favourites on the trip.
* Before seeing all of this food, I should probably state that me and my man met up with his brother whilst in Istanbul so if there seems like there is more food than there usually is for the two of us, there was!
Like any good blogger, before travelling to Istanbul I took in some suggestions of places to sample on my visit. One of the places that came up a number of times from a few different bloggers was Cuma Cafe. Selecting this one for my birthday breakfast on a sunny Monday morning, it was located a 20 minute walk from our hotel, going via the beautiful Galata Tower. Describing themselves as colourful, fresh and ever changing, this little cafe on the hill caters for all sorts of vegan dietary preferences you may have whilst providing typical breakfast for the meat lover as well. Their bread is much denser than bread you may be accustomed to in much of the city. This is because it is made with a heavier wholemeal flour but is still nothing short of yummy. We all opted for a variation of eggs and smoked salmon with two pans of smoked Turkish sausage on the side. You get bonus points if you can spy the Cuma Cafe kitty in the pictures below!
Later, on my birthday afternoon we made our way to Istiklal Caddesi which is basically Istanbul’s version of Oxford Street. Apparently visited by almost three million people on weekends, the pedestrianised street provides a vast array of shops, boutiques and of course chocolatiers, restaurants and cake shops.
With it being my birthday it seemed pretty sinful not to stop at one of the cake shops to grab a slice and the window of Mado drew us inside. The Turkish ice cream brand, founded in 1850 became a global brand in 1991, spanning from Australia and Malaysia to Georgia and The Netherlands. I picked a piece of the most chocolatey, chocolate, chocolate cake ever, dusted with cocoa and drizzled in a slightly bitter chocolate sauce, it was definitely the only slice I needed to turn 25 with.
With the remainder of my birthday and two other days still to cover, I will leave it here for now – part two coming very soon! Have you ever visited Istanbul? Were you as impressed with the food there as I was?