"It's not much but it's ours"

Friday, May 09, 2008


If I could bring back any three places from the restaurant heavens, where good eateries go to die, they would be, in no particular order

High Holborn, a short lived high-end place which garnered a well deserved Michelin star and then closed almost immediately to become a chain pizza restaurant.

The Sutton Arms, where Rosie Sykes cooked so splendidly that DH ate there over one hundred times between us in the two years she was behind the stove.

And, last but certainly not least, The Angel Mangal, the much missed and never bettered uber-Okabasi, where superlative grilling, combined with huge salads and pungent context wines, made Turkish food a staple of the DH diet.

We still bemoan our loss of it and its charmingly taciturn owner, Mustapha whose lips would twitch into a micro smile at the mention of his beloved, but under achieving football team, Besiktas.

So, because of that, I had high hopes for Istanbul, which makes it even harder to report that it has been such a disappointment, on the food front at least.

You could say that, thirty countries in to the EAT MY GLOBE trip, I am just jaded. But, the same was true in Madrid last week and yet, at the first sight of Jamon and with the first whiff of frying Puntillitas, I still did a strange, but oddly erotic, little dance of delight.

You could ask if I have not “gone native” enough, and stayed too close to my guesthouse slap bang in the middle of Sultanahmet and two minutes walk from The Blue Mosque. But, the fact that my favourite pair of calfskin Merrill’s are now worn out and consigned to the bin should be a testament to the fact that I have traipsed over half of Istanbul, Old and New cities in search of decent grub.

You could even ask if a cuisine based predominantly on grilled meats is ever going to be that good. To which I would reply “don’t be so bleeding stupid” and point you towards pictures of Morocco, South African Brai and just about everything I ate in Argentina and America.

I have had a couple of Pide, which just confirm my “snot on toast” opinion of the pizza genus and, I have supplemented the grilling of more standard meats such as chicken wings and lamb chops (all served with the rather odd double starch combo of rice and chips) with the “sadakat” option of offal and still found it lacking any spark.

It should tell you all you need to know, particularly if you are aware of my “fish does not make a meal” philosophy, that the best thing I have had to eat has been a Balik Ekmek, a sandwich, served on the edges of The Bosphorus in the early evenings, which combines freshly grilled mackerel, a good slosh of lemon juice and sharp, raw onions. Delicious, but hardly the keystone for a six-day trip.

In the end, the ingredients are simply not good enough and the techniques not good enough to cover the failings of the ingredients.

If the food is mediocre, then fortunately, there is much in Istanbul to distract me from a disappointed belly. Its monuments are rare treasures and I have filled my time happily wandering from extraordinary sight to extraordinary sight. I have seen The Topkapı Dagger and The Alexander Sarcophagus and I have even let a large bearded Turk beat me up whıle I was good and sweaty.

Yet, this is not a trip about the joys of antiquity. It is about the food and, on that basis, Istanbul, like Besiktas, must rank amongst the also rans of the EAT MY GLOBE adventure.

Sorry Mustapha.

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Blogger warriorgrrl said...

Dear Dos Hermanos

I'm just writing to let you know that Aidan Brooks from the blog Aidan Brooks: Trainee Chef was singing your praises in a video interview we did with him recently - you can watch it here:

Best wishes

Friday, May 09, 2008 10:51:00 am  
Anonymous Eytan Behmoaras said...

it is a pity that you didn't have a good eating experience in Istanbul but I would say it is partly your fault; no one who lives in Istanbul ever goes to Sultanahmet / Old town area to eat...if you asked me I wouldn't be able to name a single eatery in that area. Also, your assessment that "...a cuisine based predominantly on grilled meats" is wrong and I suspect might be based on what you have seen / experienced in dalston to where only a very small (unsophisticated) part of Turkish cuisine has been exported. Turkish cuisine is extremely regional and eating grilled meats / kebabs is mainly a southeastern Turkish phenomenon. I wouldn't want to go into detail here, but I would say vegetables (with little minced meat in them usually) make up a larger part of turkish cooking than grilled meats...I can give you some recommendations if you are still aorund:
kiyi in tarabya, or iskele in rumelihisari for excellent fish but pricey; hunkar for ottoman cooking;
kanaat in Uskudar, typical esnaf lokantasi (home cooked style);
kenan'in yeri, amazing hole in the wall kebab house;
boncuk, one of the best meyhanes, serves mainly armenian specialities;
ciya in kadikoy, kurdish specialties;
arnatuvkoy ali for meatballs (kofte) or filibe koftecisi in sirkeci;
hamdi in eminonu (amazing upscale kebab with a view)
...and marmaris nihat bufe in taksim for the street food experience (try the turkish style burgers)
...the list can go on....

and usually ingredients are amazing if you manage to go the right's a pity that you have had better eating experiences in simple, semi-nomadic places like iceland than in istanbul, a city with so much culture, sophistication, and diversity which is obviously reflected on its cuisine...


eytan behmoaras

Friday, May 09, 2008 2:47:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Hı And thanks for your comments

I thınk you may have mısread my post. I am stayıng ın Sultanahmet, but have not eaten there as ıt seems to be entırely devoted to extractıng money from tourısts

I have been to Taksım, to Sutluce(sp) and other places ın search of good food, I have just not been wowed wıth what I found.

I have no questıon about the culture, sophıstıcatıon and dıversıty of Istanbul. I have just not been lucky enough to fınd ıt ın the food so far.

I walkıng ın an out of Hamdı when I heard a loud voıce go 'at least they have starbucks here so I can get decent coffee' and marked ıt down as a tourıst place.

I have two more days. I would love any suggestıons that you can gıve and thanks agaın for the ınput


Friday, May 09, 2008 5:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Eytan Behmoaras said...

yeah, I realized that I had misread your post after I reread it...sorry.

I stick to the recommendations that I made in my previous comment. Some additions / warnings:

Boncuk (really amazing "meze"s armenian and others) is not really suitable for solo diners; you just won't be able to sample all on offer; same goes for kiyi...if you are dining with someone, then you can try either for amazing (albeit quite different) seafood experiences.

ciya - is in kadikoy, which also has an amazing food market - where you can get really good kokorec (lamb intestines); I highly highly recommend that you go to Ciya for lunch and sample some of their stuff, Musa, the owner speaks good Enlish (has been featured in NYT etc.) and will gladly help you choose.

kanaat - is in uskudar, one of the oldest neighborhoods in istanbul, off the beaten track, and you can go there by boat from besiktas...nice views...kanaat is mostly a lunch place where trades people eat and its desserts are famous and one of the best ice cream in istanbul. If anything go there for dessert / ice can then walk to kuzguncuk along the bosphorus to see a quintessential old istanbul village.

kizilkayalar in taksim square - go that "bufet" for the most delicious (and greasy)turkish style burger...believe me; it's authentic

"ali baba" in arnavutkoy - tiny shop, amazing meatballs, that's all they serve, no bullshit place...lunch only...bring yourself to arnavutkoy and ask around

kenan'in yeri in beyouglu, very hole in the wall, but believe me they serve much much better sweetbreads than you would find in sutluce...sutluce is too dodgy...

and hunkar, it is upscale, it is in nisantasi, but lunch in hunkar (yes it is heavy food) is just amazing...doesn't get more authentic; don't worry if you see some might have even made it to one of those global 100 best restaurants lists (I am not a big fan of lists but...)


if you make it to one of the traditional "bufe"s (turkish lunch places) - I recommend marmaris nihat in taksim, try (at any time of the day):

- dilli kasarli tost (panini like, with tongue and cheddar like cheese)
- gorali (turkish style hot dog with russian salad and tomato sauce; we call russian salad american salad; ironically)...

and be at those places are amazing usually...


Friday, May 09, 2008 6:43:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...



I am perfectly prepared to accept that I got Istanbul 'wrong" in no small part based on sheer exhaustion after 30 countries and 100 cities in just over a year.

Also, I think, not having the help of locals here does impact on your ability to find and share local specialities. In the case of Iceland, which you mentioned. It is not a case that the food is better it is that I was with locals whose enthusiasm was transmitted and who showed me things I would never have found on my own

I have managed to develop a cold, but I am off to see which of your very kind recommendations I can find

I am definitely off to get me some of that greasy hamburger

Thanks again


Saturday, May 10, 2008 7:18:00 am  

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