Travel is a great passion of mine, and as a multilingual I always want to discover new places and cultures.
Istanbul had long been on my list, being such an interesting mix of eastern and western cultures. But the only experiences I’d had of Turkish food in the UK usually involved doner and subsequent regrets, so I was keen to sample the real thing.
As a large country spanning two continents, it follows that the cuisine should be varied, much of which you can sample in it’s capital city. And we were some hungry tourists…
Our first culinary experience took us to the far reaches of Anatolia at Kiva next to the Galata tower (the best area to stay in Istanbul if you’re considering a visit). The area is vibrant and bustling with boutique shops galore and restaurants with terraces and people spilling our onto the streets in the evening enjoying a beer in the shadow of the tower. Anatolian cuisine is like nothing I’ve ever tried with salads made from foraged unusual leaves and a plethora of wheat based dishes. I particularly liked that you could choose your own salads. The authentic soups were also delicious.
Next up, and also in the delightfully quirky Galata area, we tried new Turkish cuisine at Acik Mutfak. A fusion of western traditional meat dishes with an eastern twist, this restaurant has a blissfully short menu and each dish was beautifully cooked.
All along the Bosphorous you’ll find various seafood eateries, however for the best fish of all, we barely had to venture 100 metres from our hotel. Fureyya Galata was hands down the best fish meal of the trip if not best meal overall. It’s tiny so there’s usually a wait but it was well worth it. It doesn’t look like much but the vine leaf wrapped sea bass fillets were one of the most delicious fish dishes I’ve tried. I’d never have chosen it normally but as it came recommended by the owner, I gave it a go, and am now I’m trying to find vine leaves to replicate it. (No luck so far in Manchester!)
Another great fish place (though far pricier) was Balikci Sabahattin. It was a real treat to pick the exact fish you were going to eat from the counter and the meze was also good. A word of warning to other meze fans our there, Turkish meze, dissimilar to middle eastern style which just comes in huge quantities without ordering (something that I personally love) you instead pick exact dishes you want from a large tray and pay by dish. That being said, it was delicious. Much more eastern European influenced than expected, with a variety of dill flavoured dishes.
It’s also worth saying that if you are a fan of baklava, the delicious middle eastern sugar syrup coated pastries, there is great great baklava in Istanbul. As big fans, sought out Karakoy Gulluoglu – a baklava emporium of epic proportions with delicious, fresh and varied kinds. Even the art in the store was made entirely out of baklava…
Finally, yes there was lots and lots of doner. And it was truly delicious, certainly an improvement on Kebab King from my student days. So I’ll leave you with this, a behemoth amongst doners, a true sight to behold.