Istanbul Dining A to Z

Afyet Olsen!

Istanbul is improving its range and quality of international cuisine from Japanese to French, but you’ll be sampling many dishes from throughout Turkey. Especially in meyhanes (traditional restaurants),
meat and fish meals usually kick off with mezes (hot or cold starters): try börek (hot filled pastries), patlıcan soslu (smoked eggplant puree), dolma(stuffed vine leaves) or the wonderful ezme(spicy tomato dip). Fresh fish is usually grilled or fried (waiters will advise on the freshest). Kebabs from around the country include patlican kebap(cubed meat grilled with eggplant), Iskender kebap (lamb on pidebread (like naan) with yoghurt and tomato sauce) and of course many varieties of köfte(meatballs). As a vegetarian, I love Imam bayeldi(stuffed eggplant with tomato and onions) and seasonal varieties of zeytinyagli(vegetables cooked slowly in olive oil). End dinner with baklavaand fresh fruit, and wash it down with raki (local aniseed liquor). !erefe! (Most people will wish you ‘afyet olsen’, the local equivalent of bon appetite.)

OTTOMAN Here’s a good way to find out what the sultans ate, with menus based on palace archives.
Try specialty lamb casserole with apricots, almonds and honey, or baked melon stuffed with lamb,
veal and pistachios, reflecting Arab and Mediterranean fusion cuisine. Located next to the Kariye Museum (see p 20), its dining room is simple, the garden lovely in summer. 6 Kariye Camii Sok. 0212 534 8414. Entrées 20–35TL. AE, MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Bus: 87.

Probably the area’s best bet for a good-value feed, this fresco-filled restaurant opened in 2007 and is popular with local office workers, especially for lunch. From Banyan’s stylish terrace. window-seats overlooking Misir Ç[email protected]’s stalls, feast on hunka begendil kabab(lamb stew with eggplant puree). Kids will enjoy thelunch buffet’s selection. 39/47 Misir Çarşisi. 0212 520 7878. Entrées 10–15TL, V. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Tram: Sultanahmet.


This familyrun restaurant in a traditional house is complete with dark wooden floors, pretty kilims, and a fabulous fish menu that brings middle-class Istanbullus flocking. Start with octopus salad or jumbo shrimps to get you in the mood for grilled fresh fish. Summers see tables spill out onto the peaceful courtyard. Reservations recommended. 1 Cankurtaran Cad. 0212 458 1824. Entrées 30–45 TL. MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Tram to Sultanahmet or train to Cankurtaran.
With a huge terrace for summer (plus heaters) and a stylish dining area for winter, Banyan has been a
real hit since opening in 2004, with fresh Asian fusion food. Try the sakemarinated char-grilled fillet mignon, steamed seabass in banana leaves, or satay selection, accompanied by fruity cocktails. Weekends are busy, especially summer nights. Stylish and fun. 3 Salhane Sok, Muallim Naci Cad. 0212 259 9060. Entrées 31–42TL. AE, MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily.
Bus/boat: Ortaköy.

One of many meyhanes(traditional restaurants) on noisy Nevizade Sokak, this has distinct Armenian flavors as well as favorite Turkish mezes. You’ll find many mezeshave a nutty addition to their ingredients. Perennially popular, try the (noisy) street-level tables or slightly quieter terrace, and check with the waiters for the freshest fish of the day. 19 Nevizade Sok. 0212 243 1219. Entrées 15–20 TL. MC, V. Bus/funicular: Taksim.
Brasserie Nişantaşi NISANTASI EUROPEAN

The perfect respite between chi chi boutiques, the über stylish terrace is the place to be seen with your new purchases. Sip a glass of wine with pasta, or nibble a healthy salad from the mirrored bar with huge chandelier. Perfect style and make-up, and that’s just the staff. 23 Abdi Ipekçi Cad. 0212 343 0443. Entrées 15–25TL. AE, MC, V. Métro: Bourse.

Café du Levant HASKÖY
FRENCH A cozy hideaway bistro by the Rami Koç Museum (see p 43), the flower-filled bar, art nouveau posters and photo-laden walls set the scene for top-notch French cuisine. Feast on bonfilewith mush- rooms followed by (of course) crème brulée for a decadent, to taste several dishes. With Indian
art on ochre walls and tiled floors, the terrace is fabulous for summer evenings, overlooking Haghia
Sophia (see p 7). 10 Incili ÇavuşSok, Alemdar Mah. 0212 513 7308. Entrées
15–22TL; set meal 31 YTL. AE, MC, V. Daily lunch and dinner. Tram: Sultanahmet.
This waterfront venue with outdoor tables and a heated pavilion in winter, serves Ottoman dishes with
contemporary twist, like roasted pomegranate-glazed duck or octopus with cinnamon. The terrace is
loved by visiting celebs for the view of Ortaköy’s mosque and Bosphorus Bridge. A great choice for a romantic treat; reservations highly recommended. 40 Ciragan Cad. 0212 227 2216. Entrées 25–35TL. AE, DC, MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Bus/boat: Ortaköy.

Superb views from the Swissotel’s rooftop (see p 147), which has a cozy and romantic feel. The short menu has seasonal dishes with a couple of meat, fish and seafood options, perhaps steak in red wine sauce, or seared salmon. Everything is beautifully presented, with imaginative desserts ending the meal perfectly. Booking essen- tial; indoor seating in winter. Swissotel the Bosphorus, Bayildim Cad. 0212 326 1100. Entrées 35–60YTL. AE, DC, MC, V. Daily dinner, summer
months only. Metro or bus to Taksim, then taxi.

Originally the priests’ living quarters for adjacent Aya Triyada church (see p 53), the back section has fantastic murals, and the original fountain that spouted wine for booze-loving priests. Try traditional
Ottoman dishes like lamb shank with eggplant; friendly staff will point out dishes to help you choose.
39 Istiklal Cad. 0212 244 1886. Entrées 18–25TL. AE, MC, V. Daily 11am–1am. Bus/Metro: Taksim.
This is my favorite place for gözleme (stuffed pancakes) with meat, spinach, or potatoes. A great lunch
spot, there are good choices for vegetarians, like hingal, (potatofilled ravioli), plus mercimek (lentil
soup) and çoban salata (shepherd’s salad) for a filling and cheap pitstop. 26 Çukurlu Çeşme Sok, off
Büyük Parmakkapi Sok. 0212 293 7531. Entrées 4–10YTL. AE, MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Bus, or
tram/funicular to Taksim.
Hamdi Et Lokantasi EMINÖNÜ TURKISH

Although popular with tour-groups, try and book a seat with that unbeatable Bosphorus view. Spread over four floors, Hamdi has a fabulous selection of kebabs from southeast Turkey, includinghouse specialties erikli kebap (minced sucking lamb) and testi kebap stew for groups of ten. Settle inside for your coffee and baklava, baked downstairs. 17 Kalçin Sok, Tahmis Cad. y0212 528 0390. Entrées 12–20 TL. MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Tram: Eminönü.
This is where stylish Nişantaşi meets an earthy lokanta. Traditional dishes include lamb shank with smoked eggplant purée and köfte (meat-balls), and if you need some recommendations the staff are happy to advise. The large dining room spills out onto a tiny, pretty patio. 21 Mimar Kemal Öke Cad. 0212 225 4665. Entrées 16–21TL. Lunch and dinner daily. Minibus: Nisantasi (from Taksim).


I never get bored of gazing at the walls here, adorned with scenic photographs by Istanbul ace Ara Güler (who dines here most lunchtimes). Inside gets buzzing on chilly evenings with cultured locals
of all ages feasting on pasta and köfte, with the large courtyard a real bonus. 8 Tosbaga Sok, off Yenicarsi Cad. 0212 245 4105. Entrées 10–18TL. MC, V. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Bus/tram: Taksim, then walk.
Istanbul Modern Café & Restaurant TOPHANE MODERN EUROPEAN

Attached to the fantastic museum (see p 17), afternoon sees ladies-who-lunch dining on the terrace on risotto or home-made linguini. When evenings heat up, there’s hardly space on the terrace. For those chilly nights, the bar faces a long mirrored wall so no one needs miss a thing. Fish is pricey; meat dishes are better value. 4 Antrepo, Liman Işletmeleri Sahasi, Meclis-I Mebusan Cad. 0212 292 2612. Entrées 15–56TL. AE, DC, MC, V. Breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon-
Sat; breakfast and lunch Sun. Tram: Tophane.
Sixth floor and glass-fronted with panoramic views, this stylish restaurant is famed for its 40-spiced beef fillet, plus international dishes like lime and ginger chicken. The slick white bar serves fresh fruit cock- tails, open till late, served by young, white-clad, and improbably trendy staff. 6/F Richmond Hotel, 227 Istiklal Cad. 0212 243 4375. Entrées 25–40 YTL. AE,
MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily.
Housed in the renovated French Pasaj known as Nu Pera, this winteronly restaurant (see Nu Terasfor
summer) has a contemporary yet cozy interior on a quiet street. Try the moules Marinere and braised
lamb shank, and watch the bar lights subtly change color. (No, you haven’t been drinking too much.)
Relaxed and stylish with friendly service, this transforms into a club at weekends. 149/1 Mesrutiyet Cad. 0212 245 Entrées 22–35TL. AE, MC, V. Dinner daily. Closed mid May–early Oct. Bus: Tepebaşi.
Lokanta Helvetia TÜNEL TURKISH

Cozy, with exposed brick walls and large wooden tables, this is popular for its reasonable prices. As a
vegetarian, I love a plate of delicious mixed hot and cold dishes like potato with lentils or roast peppers in oil, and carnivores have a good choice of chicken and lamb dishes. Great for those who love Tünel’s trendiness but can’t afford it, think quick filling meal rather than lingering dinner. Z12 General Yazgan Sok. 0212 245 8780. Entrées 10–15TL. No CCs. Daily lunch and dinner. Tunnel: Tünel.


A no-frills barbecue joint with tables on the pavement, the Antakya-born owner serves up the freshest of grilled kebabs. Try spicy Urfa or milder Adana (lamb) kebab, or good old chicken wings, with piles of salad and fresh bread. Probably the cheapest dinner in town. 113 Ipek Sok, off Küçük Parmakkapi Sok. 0212 243 0585. Entrées 5–8TL; no CC. Lunch and dinner daily. Bus or metro/funicular: Taksim.

Ascend the Marmara Pera Hotel elevator to the terrace and some superb Scandinavian/Turkish fusion cuisine, heavy on meat but not on the stomach. Decked out in chic black and pale wood, with two levels of terrace tables with Golden Horn views, finish up with after-dinner cocktails by the pool to the in-house DJ’s soothing sounds. The late-night bar is popular with wealthy thirtysome-things at weekends. Reservations recommended. 167 Mesrutiyet Cad. 0212 293 5656. Entrées 35–50 TL. AE, MC, V. Lunch and dinner Mon–Sat. Bus to Tepebaşi.

Co-owner of this finedining restaurant, Coşkun Uysal is one of Turkey’s rising stars, who cut his teeth at Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’. Opened in November 2007, his experimental cuisine introduces lamb with jasmine tea jelly and panfried red mullet with truffle mousse. Über-stylish décor with white walls and a splash of contemporary art; DJs from Nu Teras (see p 124) play at weekends to well-heeled foodies. 67 Mesrutiyet Cad. 0212 245 6089. Entrées 20–35TL. Lunch Mon–Fri; dinner Mon–Sat. Closed Jun–Sept. Bus: Tepebaşi.

Oozing style, with open kitchen and huge windows, the best feature of this restaurant, attached to the Sabanci Museum, with exhibits of calligraphy, is the huge terrace. With light lunchtime dishes, it’s all gourmet food for dinner (think grilled lamb loin with quince sauce) changing seasonally, making it a hit since opening in late 2005. Sakip Sabanci Müzesi, Atli Kosk, 22 Sakip Sabanci Cad. 0212 323 0901. Entrées 22–49TL. AE, DC, MC, V. Lunch and dinner Tues–Sun. Bus: Emirgan.
Summer months see Lokanta (see p 111) decamp to this rooftop restaurant. Enjoy eye-popping Bosphorus views with great mezes, pizza, and pasta around the open kitchen. 149/1 Mesrutiyet Cad. 0212 245 6070. Entrées 22–35TL. AE, MC, V. Dinner daily. Closed early Oct–mid May. Bus: Tepebaşi.
Cakes, puddings, ice-creams…the menu at this popular café is lengthy and fabulous. Great for a post-dinner coffee and dessert—[email protected] with dried fruit and chopped almonds is wonderful—grab a balcony seat overlooking Istiklal Caddesi. Other city-wide branches arearound
town.206 Istiklal Cad. 292 9678. Desserts 7–15YTL. MC, V. Morning tolate night daily.
Treat yourselves on the waterfront in Istanbul’s posh neighborhood for fresh fish, usually simply grilled or fried. Kick off with grilled calamari and go for anything in season. Check with the waiters, who will
advise you whether prices on the menu are per portion or per kilo. 58 Cevdetpaşa Cad. 0212 263 3823.
Entrées38–60YTL. AE, DC, MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Bus: Bebek.

Spread over four tiny floors, two with open fires, this friendly restaurant with brick and terracotta walls has Turkish dishes like chicken with rice, raisins, and pine-nuts, and international choices including  risotto. A print house until renovated in 1994, winter evenings are snug and candlelit, summers see everyone trying for the tiny terrace. 8 Ticarethabe Sok, off Divan Yolu. 0212 512 0008. Entrées 15–25 TL. AE, MC, V. Daily lunch and dinner. Tram: Sultanahmet.

FISH Fish is always pricey in Istanbul, good fish even more so. But this perennially popular restaurant is loved by well-heeled locals, for rich mezesand simple fried fish or hearty bugulama (fish stew). Book a waterfront table for a touch of romance. 1 Yahya Kemal Cad. 0212 263 2997. Entrées 40–75TL. AE, MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Bus: 25.

A charming homely café in a 200-year-old wooden house, ‘village’ breakfast is served all day, including clotted cream, fresh eggs and grilled peppers; evening menu includes local favorites like manti (ravioli) and köfte (meatballs). The street-level is semi-alfresco for summer, and houses many of the owner’s collectables, like wooden furniture and ceramic nick-nacks. 36A Yahya Kemal Cad. 0212 358 2324.
Entrées 15YTL. Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bus: 25
A branch of the famous US Saf (the Turkish for Pure) this is perfect for a tasty detox from all those kebabs, as everything here is organic, raw (or cooked under 48°) and unbelievably healthy. Tasty wraps, maki rolls, fresh juices, and cakes are all vegan and seasonal. 70 Mesrutiyet Cad. 0212 245 7870. Wraps 10–15TL. MC, V. Oct–Apr; lunch and dinner daily. Bus: Tepebaşi.

Even if you can’t afford a night here, enjoy a romantic (but pricey) dinner in the garden’s glasswalled gazebo. It might lack local atmosphere, but the quality of seasonal dishes is good. Typical choices include thyme-roast chicken or fresh seafood pasta. A children’s menu is also available. 1 Tevkifhane Sok. 0212 638 8200. Entrées 30–45 TL. AE, DC, MC, V. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Tram: Sultanahmet.
Sirkeci Balikcisi SIRKECI
SEAFOOD This new fish restaurant keeps prices down but doesn’t lack quality. On a quiet side-street with a few outdoor tables and rooftop terrace in summer, the assorted fish platter is a great way to kick off. Then choose from freshly caught fish, served grilled, fried or steamed. Simple and delicious, with good service. 5 Taya Hatun Sok. 0212 528 4344. Entrées 20–30TL. MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Tram: Sirkeci.

One of the best meyhanesin the area, this is a cozy place with a charming host, mustard-walled interior and small terrace with outdoor heaters. Away from the crowds, you can enjoy hot and cold mezeslike my favorite semizotu(purslane in garlicky yoghurt) and dolma(peppers stuffed with meat) washed down with local Efes beer. 9 Sofyali Sok. 0212 245 0362. Entrées 25-40 TL. AE, MC, V. Lunch and dinner Mon–Sat. Bus to Tepebaşi.

With a stunning hill-top location in Ulus Park, Sunset is always full, with superb dishes ranging from sushi, seabass and T-bone steak. The menu caters for locals wanting modern European and visitors prefering to try traditional Ottoman cuisine. The decked terrace is perfect on summer evenings; daytimes see business lunches and wealthy ladies. Adnan Saygun Cad, Yol Sok, Ulus Park. 0212 287 0358. Entrées 50–75 TL. AE, DC, MC, V. lunch Mon–Sat; dinner daily. Taxi.
My favorite for an all-day breakfast of menemen(sloppy egg dish with tomatoes and peppers). Although it has a fabulous ornate ceiling, this isn’t as formal as it looks, with standard Turkish dishes like kebabs,
soups and salads. Try a table by the upstairs window overlooking Istiklal Caddesi. 7 Istiklal Caddesi. 0212 251 3270. Entrées 8–12 YTL. MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Bus or tram/funicular: Taksim.

With several (and more opening) branches city-wide, this is the best, with chic and informal dining area and vast waterfront terrace. Think stylish comfort food, with innovative pizzas and salads plus children’s menu, and delicious brunch like Eggs Benedict. Popular with upmarket bohemian locals, especially for after-work cocktails—delicious! Weekends see the bar pumping till dawn. 1 Salhane Sok. 0212 227 2699. Entrées 20–30TL. AE, MC, V. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Bus/boat: Ortaköy.

Opened in late 2007, floor-to-ceiling windows have staggering Bosphorus views, with a menu to match. Dishes favor meat and fish, expertly cooked and presented with lovely service. Guest chefs bring their own individual cuisine to the menu, and the in-house DJ plays just the right level and mood of music. 50 Inönü Cad. 0212 249 1001. Entrées 30–50TL. AE, DC, MC, V Lunch and dinner daily. Bus/Metro: Taksim.

With Bosphorus views from a rooftop terrace, this is where the beautiful people dine on top sushi. Settle on the terrace’s soft white seats (indoors in winter) with contemporary cuisine, like braised zucchini rolls and hot chestnut cake; Sunday buffet brunch is a highlight. Reservations essential.
13/F, 48 BJK Plaza, A-Blok, Spor Cad . 0212 227 2545. Entrées 30–60 TL. AE,
DC, MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Bus to Beşiktaş.

This top-notch new restaurant imported from London fits well into Ortaköy’s trendy dining scene, and one for a splurge; try the tasting menu or select from crispyfried squid or miso black cod. The first floor opens onto a terrace, with sushi bar and Japanese robati grill, all earthy wood tones and sleek sofas. Dress to impress; reservations essential. 7 Salhane Sok. 0212 236 Entrées 25–60 TL. AE, DC, MC, V. Lunch and dinner daily. Bus/boat: Ortaköy.

Food and Drink Basics
Breakfast kahvaltı kah-valtuh
Lunch ögle yemegi ur-leh yeme-i
Dinner akşam yemegi aksham yeme-i
Beer bira bira
Soft drinks meşrubatlar meshrubatlar
Mineral water su su
Starters (assorted) meze meh-zeh
Red/white wine kırmızı/beyaz şarap kurmu-zu/beyaz sharap
Dessert tatlı tat-lu
Fish balık baluk
Aubergine patlıcan pat-lu-jan
Chicken tavuk tavuk
Meat et et
Eggs yumurta yumurta
Beans fasulye fasul-yeh
Bread ekmek ekmek
White cheese peynir peynir
Anchovy hamsi hamsi
Fried tava tava
Grilled izgara izgara
Tomato domates do-mah-tes
Savoury pastries börek burek
Meatballs köfte kuf-teh
Vegetables w/olive oil zeytinyagli zeytin-yarluh
Turkish coffee Türk kahve Turk kar-veh
Tea çay chay
Juice suyu su-yu
(Lentil) soup (mercimek) çorba (mer-ji-mek) chorba
Rice pilav pilav
Salad salata salata
The bill, please Hesap, lütfen hesap, lutfen

Istanbul is preparing to host the two-day 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit next Thursday and Friday. According to a statement from the president's...


Istanbul is preparing to host the two-day 13th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit next Thursday and Friday. According to a statement from the president's...