Following right on from part one of my adventures eating out in Istanbul, albeit not very promptly since my first post was published back in April this year, I have had part two of this delicious post sitting in my drafts since my trip to Istanbul back in February. You may wonder what has taken me so long to go live with this post, but I honestly just did not know when to schedule it.
Throwing caution to the wind, I am posting it now and I don’t really think that I will ever be able to write about one of my favourite cities and not be sad at the fact my trip is now over. *Memo to self; book return trip soon.*
I would recommend giving part one of my food adventures the once over, if you have not already, because the Turkish delicacies only get better from here. When we left things, I was just finishing up my birthday cake – a chocolate masterpiece from a Turkish ice cream store on one of Istanbul’s busiest streets.
After devouring the cake we headed off for a lot more site seeing, stopping by the Hagia Sophia and Basilica Cistern before returning to our hotel to get ready for my birthday dinner. Looking at a bunch of places online, the one I picked ultimately did not serve anything we really liked. Unfortunately this did not become clear until we arrived in the somewhat empty restaurant on a lonesome Monday evening in February, after a relatively terrifying ride in a death cab up a vertical incline to get it. (OK, so the cab was not that scary, but the journey did involve a driver that spoke no English, a cab that had no glass in the windows and a super dodgy brake system which resulted in us sliding backwards on a what seems like a 45 degree incline as the driver tried to turn the corner, and us leaping out of the taxi before he tried to drive up some steps!)
We headed back down the hill on foot and ended up in a small kebab shop with fluorescent white lighting. Not exactly how I had envisioned spending my birthday dinner, but knowing Istanbul like I do, I was confident it would not let me down. We warmed ourselves on big bowls of red lentil soup and ordered dishes that involved grilled lamb, chicken, peppers and Turkish salad. Karakoy Gedikli Kofte and Grill was all but everything we needed that evening with great food and that fantastic Turkish hospitality.
After food, we had picked out a bar to venture to for a drink or two but to our surprise it was no where to be found. The only place at the address given was a pretty seedy looking cafe which was evidently closed. (Why would it not be closed, given it was a freezing Monday night in February and there was hardly anyone anywhere?) Pacing the deserted streets we did find another place. Taking a seat in the warm orange light that hugged the bar, it quickly became clear that there was a birthday party going on – well the best of us are born on the 11th of February after all, no? Picking a couple of their salubrious cocktail concoctions, this charming little place became home for the remaining few hours of my birthday. I did not even know the name of the place so my geo-tag on the pictures in there are no use – as it was a little place in a side street full of little bars and after-hour cafes that would no doubt be bustling in the summer months.
The next morning on the way to the famous Grand Bazaar, we stopped at one of the tiny Turkish cafe’s that pepper the streets so abundantly in Istanbul. We decided that it was much too early for anything kebab like so we picked a place, again, name unknown, for what was essentially a cheese sandwich. One of the best cheese sandwiches I think I have ever sampled, and it was not even toasted. With about 6 different types of cheese in each roll, we picked up these and a hot drink each for what came to about £3.00. This is literally why eating out in Istanbul is one of my favourite pastimes.
Later that day, after exploring the bazaar, I wanted to try visiting Büyük Valide Han, if for nothing else but the famous views from the dome. Unfortunately, being February, it was closed for restoration work, which was apparently set to take 6 months. The owners of a lovely little cafe under the famous dome welcomed us with open arms and for our efforts, we bought some traditional Turkish drinks and listened to what seemed to be Arabian hits from about 1932.
Later that day, we explored more of the city on foot, passing one of the largest university campuses in Istanbul. It was here that we experienced our foodie moment of the trip. Stopping at a street vendor for lunch, I wanted Farhan to try the best street food I have ever known. I am not really sure how to describe what we picked because it was part kebab (again, not the sloppy, grease filled kind the UK is familiar with) and part chicken baguette. Bigger than my head when stuffed, filled with mildly spicy chicken, some Turkish salad, herbs, spices and a minty, garlic sauce, the sandwich was sawed in half and with a bottle of water to go, this lunch cost us approximately £2.00.
That evening, after a traditional Turkish show and a walk around the city in the rain, we called in to Dürbün Cafe. This charming, yet somewhat smokey little jaunt on the roof of a building on the banks of the Bosphorus served us our last supper in Istanbul. Opting for one more kebab in the city that does them best, my partner picked out Turkey’s take on fajitas and some fries. Just before our food arrived, the owner peeled back the perspex roof, which given that it was a drizzly Tuesday evening in February, did not go down well. People scrambled for cover as the shisha-smoke-filled-air waffed up into the night sky. We relocated indoors, not wanting to dine in subarctic conditions and finished our food. As with most places, complimentary apple or regular Turkish tea followed the food.
Leaving Istanbul after my birthday was as hard. It is a city where, for no apparent reason, I feel completely at home. I would love to spend more time in the city in the coming years and I would especially love to take my parents and show them the best parts of a city I hold so dearly in my heart. Because of its famously gargantuan airports, it makes for a perfect stop on the way to somewhere else so fingers crossed I get to go back to Istanbul one day soon.
Have you ever been to Istanbul? If you have, what did you think? If not, is it somewhere you have ever considered? Let me know in the comments below.