At the convergence point of East and West, nothing highlights the cultural melting pot that is Istanbul like its delectable cuisine. To save you from confusing kofte with a kebab, see our recommendations on what to eat and where in the the LUXE Istanbul guide.
Kick-starting any legit local meal you’ll usually find meze, a selection of small appetiser dishes spanning meats, vegetables, cheeses, salads and breads. Though traditionally found at relaxed n’ rustic meyhanes, meze is now being elevated to star status at even the most upscale of establishments. Whether you’re gussying up glam or flopping down casj, we’ve got the top meze spots not to be missed in Turkey’s twinkliest town.
High-end: Mükellef Karaköy
It’s stilies on and get spruced for superstar chef Arda Türkmen’s time-honoured platters inspired by his passed-down family recipes. While the classic dishes including dolma and bakla are tweaked ever so slightly with substituted ingredients, the final products remain true to their heritage. And while the food is delish, Karaköy’s trump card is its setting: a chic n’ simple white linen dining room, plus sceney rooftop with sweeping vistas from Galata to the Golden Horn. It’s buzzy and oft heaving, so book ahead.
Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mahallesi, Maliye Cd. 8/A, Karaköy. +90 212 252 8636. mukellefkarakoy.com
Mid-range: Meze By Lemon Tree
Snug, intimate and perma-rammed, this lively all-sorts box makes the cut thanks to its daily-changing, deliciously twisted global takes on classic meze plates – curry-infused fava bean puree, smoked salmon-stuffed oyster mushrooms, a coconut-y shrimp casserole, and vine leaf-wrapped trout pâté, to name but a few. Diners can expect regular visits from the chef throughout their meal, and a very liberal saucing of either imported wines or the traditional liquorice spirit-slash-jet propellant, raki. When in Istanbul – sag olun!
Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Meşrutiyet Cd. 83/B, Beyoglu. +90 212 252 8302.
Casual: Asmali Cavit
The original – and some would argue the best – place to experience a genuine meze meal is at an old-school meyhane, and this beloved Beyoglu spot ticks all the boxes. Expect the occasional round of rowdy singing at this blithe old-timer where friendly owner Mr Cavit keeps the topik creamy and the raki ever flowing through cold and hot courses starring the freshest ingredients and seasonal specialities. He’ll even arrange for menu item to be cooked to order – a sadly all but lost level of service in this saturated dining district. Exactly what a good meyhane should be – sleeves up, bums down!Asmalı Mescit Mahallesi, Asmalı Mescit Cd. 16/D, Beyoglu. +90 212 292 4950.
For more tempting Turkish tidbits, check out the LUXE Istanbul guide.