Between my food tour and my very long (but worthwhile) day trip to Gallipoli, I didn’t get to try as many restaurants as I would have liked. This was a semi-disappointment since the food scene in the Cappadocia region was lacking (more on that to come). But the ones where I did dine, I definitely enjoyed. And the really nice thing about Turkey at the moment? For a tourist traveling there from the United States or Europe, the dollar and the euro are valued quite strongly against the Turkish lira, so meals are incredibly inexpensive, even when dining at the Four Seasons (you’ll see what I mean below).
As for where I dined, I stuck to the city’s oldest and most popular (with tourists) neighborhood of Sultanahmet. It’s where my hotel was and also where the majority of attractions that I wanted to visit were located. Not to mention, since my food tour took place on the Asian side of Istanbul, I’d already had terrific exposure to one of the city’s most authentic native neighborhoods, Karaköy, so I didn’t feel like I was necessarily missing out being in Sultanahmet for my meals.
I stopped here for a quick lunch on the way back to my hotel before I was to be picked up for my yacht cruise on the Bosphorus. To the English speaker, the name doy doy may sound a bit ridiculous but in Turkish it means “full” which is an apt expression when talking about a restaurant that serves delicious pide, Turkish-style pizza that resembles a boat.
I ordered one (to go) with ground lamb and sauteed vegetables. It wasn’t the best pide I would have during my time in Turkey but it was still pretty good and only a block away from my hotel, the Eresin Crown.
You can get other Turkish foods here and apparently it has a great rooftop seating area too.
Küçük Ayasofya, Şifa Hamamı Sk. No:13
(Five minute walk to the Blue Mosque, a few extra minutes to get to Aya Sophia)
Deraliye Ottoman Cuisine
When doing my restaurant research, I came across a lot of places offering “Ottoman fare,” meaning these modern-day restaurants serve the same type of food that would have been served to the sultan and his entourage during the glory days of the Ottoman Empire. As a bona fide foodie, this was of major interest to me. At Deraliye specifically, it’s noted that the chef sourced 375 recipes from the Imperial Archives.
I ended up making a reservation at Deraliye (it was between here or Matbah but from reviews I read, staff was noted as being friendlier and more attentive at the former and I found this to be the case). The outdoor dining space isn’t the greatest due to passing cars and other noise, but if you’re visiting during the warmer months (as I was), you’ll find it more agreeable than the interior space which felt like no air was circulating at all.
I started with a personal favorite of mine, baba ghanoush (24 Turkish Lira or just around $4USD) which is a roasted eggplant puree mixed with yogurt, garlic, and olive oil. As pita bread isn’t a Turkish thing, I just ate the baba with bread.
For my entree I ordered the stuffed apple (80 Turkish Lira or $14USD). This consisted of an oven baked apple stuffed with minced lamb, veal, rice, pine nuts, molasses, and currants. It was also delicious but other things that caught my eye were the stuffed melon and the goose kebab (can’t say I’ve ever had goose).
Just a note that if you’re in need of a break from Turkish fare, Deraliye does offer more standard Western dishes like fish and pasta.
And for dessert, I went with Turkish baklava. (If you’re wondering what makes this baklava different from the Greek, it uses a simple sugar syrup instead of honey for sweetness.) I definitely preferred the Turkish version. I also ordered Dondurma which is Turkish mastic ice cream. This definitely took some getting used to, especially the chewing part.
All in all, it was a true treat to dine on dishes that would have once been served at a place like Topkapi Palace. If you’re looking for a unique dining experience when in Istanbul, Deraliye will definitely be it.
(Less than a five minute walk to Sultanahmet Square, site of the former Hippodrome of Constantinople)
Seasons Restaurant (located inside the Four Seasons Sultanahmet)
I’ll start by saying that my “splurge” meal in Istanbul still came out to only around $80USD. Yes, that’s how cheap food is in Istanbul, even at an extremely pricey hotel chain like the Four Seasons.
I wanted to dine here as the hotel is located in a former Ottoman-era prison (talk about both cool and creepy). You wouldn’t know it from looking at the elegant furnishings and interior, but architecturally, it’s easy to imagine when the hotel once held prisoners.
Unfortunately, the night I dined here was quite windy so I ended up eating indoors, which just had a “generic” feel to it. But I did do a little exploring after the meal.
The menu offers Continental fare along with some Turkish favorites but with a very “Western” spin. Although I was sorely tempted by some of the appetizers (the braised artichoke brulee for starters, consisting of a zucchini flower stuffed with tomatoes, shaved zucchini, and brioche croutons), I ended up passing as I wanted to be able to fully enjoy my entree and of course, dessert. The chef did provide a delicious salmon amuse-bouche to begin.
I got a cocktail that had the prettiest presentation I’ve ever seen, (seriously, it resembled something Princess Jasmine would have drunk were she allowed to imbibe), but alas the taste was too much. I like rose water, but this honestly seemed like I was drinking nothing BUT rose water (I unfortunately forget the alcohol in the drink, but it was either vodka or gin, my two favorites).
For my entree, I ordered the lamb skewer which came with grilled tomato and pepper, and onion with sumac. I wanted something a little lighter and it was good enough, just a bit plainer tasting than I would have preferred.
My friend went with the grilled aged beef rib eye which was accompanied with shaved truffles, crispy potatoes, tomatoes concassé, and seasoned green onions with mustard beef juice. Now that entree compared to mine had a lot of flavor in the best of ways.
For dessert we tried both the hot chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and the crispy “kadayif” which featured strawberry white chocolate and vanilla cream. Kadayif is finely shredded filo dough filled with walnuts which is baked in the oven then served with sugar syrup poured over it.
Service here was impeccable (as I knew it would at a venue like the Four Seasons) and as I mentioned above, quite inexpensive for a truly first class dining experience.
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet
Tevkifhane Sk. No:1
(A five minute walk to Topkapi Palace from here)
This uber-touristy trap was located directly across the street from my hotel so after getting back from the 14 hour day trip to Gallipoli, it fit the bill.
When I travel, the food I often end up craving the most/what I gravitate towards when I’m tiring of the local cuisine is pasta, and you know what? Their spaghetti bolognese was perfect.
Küçük Ayasofya, Gelinlik Sokağı No:8
Okay, so I lied. I am going to mention a cafe that is not in Sultanahmet but one where I had tea and a sweet treat during my half day private guided tour of Istanbul.
Patisserie de Pera, inside the Pera Palace Hotel
For all of you Agatha Christie fans, the famous and historic Pera Palace Hotel is where passengers on the Orient Express were hosted once they arrived in Istanbul. It’s located in Beyoğlu, which is the “newer” part of the European side of Istanbul (across the Golden Horn from Sultanahmet).
It was built in 1892 and is truly the grand dame of Istanbul hotels, especially since it enjoyed an extensive renovation that was completed in the early 2010s. While I didn’t want to stay in Beyoğlu, I did want to visit here and take some photos of the inside.
Thankfully I also had time to stop in the Patisserie de Pera and order a pot of tea and some treats (macarons in Istanbul, mais oui!).
it wasn’t crowded and not overly pricey, just a fun spot to say “you’ve been.”
Meşrutiyet Caddesi No:52
(It’s about 6.5 kilometers or 4 miles from the Blue Mosque)
What was the best meal you had when you were in Istanbul?
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