delicious dining in Istanbul, Turkey

Monday, January 26, 2015

Istanbul has always been a city I've wanted to visit. Famous for its architecture, culture, sheer size, and the fact that it's split between two continents so you can visit Europe and Asia all in a afternoon, Istanbul is a thrill I have always wanted to experience.

What took me by complete surprise about Istanbul though was the amazing café culture and restaurants on offer. Yes, that's right - Istanbul is also a foodies heaven! Venture out of the historic old town and across the bridge to Karaköy or Beyoglu - and you'll quickly find yourself with so many eating and drinking options that you won't know where to start.

My top 10 'best eats' in Istanbul, Turkey...


Located on a side street just off İstiklâl Caddesi, Kafe Ara is named after one of Turkey's most well-known photographers Ara Güler. On the walls of this cosy but lively café you'll see several samples of his work, and even the placemats are paper prints of Ara's photographs. The food here is just divine - fresh and full of flavour. Try everything if you have time, and if not I highly recommend the farrah salad seasoned with pomegranate dressing and a winter tea...

Kafe Ara - Istanbul, Turkey

Winter tea at Kafe Ara - Istanbul, Turkey
winter tea at Kafe Ara, Istanbul

2. Pim Karaköy Kitchen & Patisserie
One of the many cafés in the small winding streets of Karaköy, and situated just around the corner from the heavenly Kılıç Ali Paşa Camii - Pim Karaköy stole my heart with it's warm lighting, graffiti wall art and extensive menu. I stopped by here a few times for tea and lunch...

Pim Karaköy Kitchen & Patisserie, Istanbul Turkey

Lunch at Pim Karaköy Kitchen & Patisserie, Istanbul Turkey
smoked salmon papardelle with aş otu cheese
at Pim Karaköy Kitchen & Patisserie, Istanbul

3. Meze by Lemon Tree
Hubby and I had a meze feast here on New Years eve. From the moment we entered this warm restaurant (it was sleeting outside) we knew we were in for a treat. Generous with the new years raki bottle and serving the most amazing selection of meze, the service and food at Meze by Lemon Tree was spot on. A lovely, creative spot to visit if you're after some damn good meze...

first round of meze at Meze by Lemon Tree - New Years Eve 2014, Istanbul
first round of meze at Meze by Lemon Tree - New Years Eve 2014, Istanbul

4. gram
Another friendly restaurant / café serving up fresh, delicious food right in front of your eyes. The interior of gram was pretty cool too - furnished with two large wooden tables where you sit elbow to elbow enjoying your healthy but tasty freshly made meal. Try the salads - amazing...

gram, Istanbul
gram, Istanbul

5. Pilav with chickpeas and chicken - street food
Pilav (rice) comes in lots of varieties in Istanbul. I was introduced to pilav cooked in chicken broth served with chickpeas and chicken by my friend while exploring the Grand Bazaar. Like her, I became rather attached to the dish. You can find it pretty much everywhere - restaurants, street carts, small hole-in-the-wall type places. Oh so simple. Oh so yummy...

pilav with chickpeas and chicken - in the window of a small restaurant, Istanbul
pilav with chickpeas and chicken - in the window of a small restaurant, Istanbul 

6. Fresh juice
Another amazing cheap and delicious street food. Looking for something with a bit of zing? You can't go past a cup of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice!

juice seller - Istanbul
juice seller - Istanbul

7. Karaköy Güllüoğlu
The best baklava you'll ever eat. There's not much more to say here other than skip the tourist shops in old town and head straight to Karaköy Güllüoğlu for a cup of chai tea and a selection plate of baklava. The place is easy to find - just a few minutes walk from Karaköy wharf, situated underneath a large car park. You'll go back again and again I tell you. My favourite was the baklava stuffed with almond paste...

Karaköy Güllüoğlu - Istanbul. The best baklava you'll ever eat
Karaköy Güllüoğlu - Istanbul. The best baklava you'll ever eat

baklava from Karaköy Güllüoğlu - Istanbul
baklava from Karaköy Güllüoğlu - Istanbul

8. Kronotrop
If you get a little tired of Turkish coffee while in Istanbul head to Kronotrop in Beyoğlu for a flat white or latte. This coffee shop comes highly recommended by my coffee loving friends, and since it always had a bustling crowd I'm going to assume this coffee shop has lots of fans...

Kronotrop coffee shop, Istanbul
Kronotrop coffee shop, Istanbul

9. Solera Winery
Looking for the perfect place to sip on some local wine? Look no further than Solera Winery. This little wine bar has atmosphere, an amazing cheeseboard and the best selection of Turkish wine at affordable prices around. Solera Winery even had mulled wine by the mug while we were there - perfect for warming up and starting the evening!

Solera Winery, Istanbul
Solera Winery, Istanbul

10. Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge - Pera Palace Hotel
Last but not least, my Istanbul food post would not be complete without mentioning the descendant afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel. The sweet selection was amazing. The tea list bountiful. The  tea room like royalty, and the service spot on...

sweets at afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul

sweets at afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul
sweets at afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel, Istanbul

Hungry yet? Get yourself to Istanbul quick. I will be heading back soon for sure...

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4 comments

  1. That baklava looks amazing! I would love to eat my way around Istanbul, sounds delicious and a cuisine I know little about.

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    1. I love to eat my way around most cities :) Eating is one of my favourite parts of travel.

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  2. Wow you found so many good places! I'm definitely going to have to go back to try these :)

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    1. Thanks Jessi. I was very lucky to be with some friends who know good food and had been to Istanbul previously. I'm not sure I would have found half these places on my own!

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