5 of the Best Restaurants in Istanbul

Turkish mezze: aubergines, hummus and muhammara

These are the 5 best restaurants in Istanbul I went to in July 2022.

Turkish mezze

One of them we even went to twice.

And two of them will be opening in London this year!

These are all fairly high end restaurants, but still at least a third cheaper than a similar quality restaurant in London:

  1. Al Medina – this is one of the ones opening in London and the one we went to twice. It was reasonably priced and traditional Turkish food and they were great with families. It’s heavy on meat but there’s lots of vegetarian mezzo and the bread is fantastic, hot and free-flowing.
  2. Aheste – the restaurant I wish I went to twice. My favourite. Also Turkish but with a twist. Extremely good value for the quality. Very sad I didn’t try dessert. It is also beautiful inside – like a stone-walled cavern for storing wine – and the staff were absolutely brilliant.
  3. Yeni Lokanta – also opening in London at some point! Modern Turkish, too, but more Michelin-like in it’s style and apparent aspirations. The amuse bouche, starters and mains were excellent. I was underwhelmed by dessert.
  4. Mürver – on the rooftop of the Novotel with views over the Golden Horn (water). This one is quite glam but also relaxed. It’s huge and they also have large tables. It was probably the priciest of the lots.
  5. Galeta Kitchen – this is a casual place, more of a cafe or canteen. The food is pre-cooked and behind glass. Everything we had was delicious. There were lots of vegan options. Near Galeta Tower in Karakoy, a cute (and hilly!) area. There are excellent views from the tower and great scenes for photography below, too.

Aheste, Yeni Lokanta and Murver each only had one vegetarian main option (sometimes not even listed on the menu) and, as mentioned, Al Medina only had vegetarian mezzo and rice.

These restaurants are all in the Pera, Taksim and Karakoy regions of Istanbul which is on the European side and can all be reached within less than 20 minutes walk of one another.

Here’s the podcast if you want to know more about where to stay, what to see and what else to eat (baklava! chocolate mousse!):

Listen above or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts! (It’s Episode 24.)

Or watch with a map of Istanbul and pictures here:

Full podcast transcript of the best things to eat in Istanbul:

[00:00:00] ! This is The Next Delicious Thing. And I have some Istanbul tips for you. Normally we are in London, but this week I’m talking about Istanbul. I went for five days. I ate at many restaurants and I have four suggestions for you if you’re going. And even if you’re not two of them will be opening in London. So you might want to keep listening.

[00:00:19] If you know anyone going to Istanbul make sure to tag them or to forward this to them. This week. I am also recording on YouTube, for YouTube. If you are watching that seems obvious, but if you are listening, you can go and watch. I’m going to be sharing my screen so that I can show a map of where I stayed, where I think it might be a good idea to stay, where the restaurants and the coffee shops and chocolate shop, plus some baklava that I want to share with you are.

[00:00:46] If you look at the show notes, that’ll link you to the YouTube, but feel free to keep listening because you can also find all of the links and the images if you go to thenextdeliciousthing.com. 

[00:00:57] Those of you don’t know me, I’m Jen and I work in the food industry in London, and I really love to eat and I’m quite fussy.

[00:01:03] Um, so all these places that I recommend, are pretty darn good. I’m gonna show you a map first. 

[00:01:09] So here is a map of Istanbul, or a map that includes Istanbul, which is not the capital of Turkey, but it is its most populous city. The capital is Ankora which was moved here to be further away from the oceans when they were under attack, many centuries ago. 

[00:01:27] So Istanbul is the only city in the world, which is half in Europe and half in Asia, I didn’t even make it to the Asian side of Istanbul while I was there in five days. Technically I did, because I went to Prince Island, which is this one here. And has these stunning, much more European and almost like American colonial style houses. We did a little tram tour. I was upset not to visit the beach. Apparently the beaches are better on the islands rather than in Istanbul. Our guide advised us against going to the beaches in Istan, because they were too crowded. We maybe made a mistake about that, but, we did lots of other interesting things and you are here to find out about restaurants.

[00:02:06] So let me get back to that. Both these sides of the Golden Horn, which is what this section of water is called. Um, you’ll notice, it looks a little bit like the Turkish flag, um, are in Europe. We went to this side here because we visited the Hagia Sophia and also the Topkapi Palace.

[00:02:25] Now I just completely butchered the pronunciation of those words, and I’m going to continue to butcher the pronunciation because I’m going to try and pronounce them how they look written down rather than how they are actually pronounced. Because if I try to do that: one, I’m going to fail. And two, it might not help you in figuring out where the places are.

[00:02:46] So my sincere apologies to anybody who is Turkish and listening to this. Feel free to laugh at me. I have highlighted here this place called Fenat which is also on the European side, but quite far away from where we stayed, which is really beautiful, apparently. I haven’t been, but I wanted to highlight it for anyone who’s interested in getting pretty scene photography. Lots of colorful houses also on the Asian side, near Uskidar there is a region called Kuzguncuk . , I’m gonna type it so that I can show you properly on the map. If you are listening, it will be in the show notes so you don’t need to worry about how to spell it. Also really pretty area, according to the guide that we had for a couple of days.

[00:03:28] There’s apparently a nice chocolate shop there. I think more of a, kind of like, high street kind of chocolate shop for iced chocolates and things. I was also recommended to a Brekkie and Croissant place that is on the Asian side as well, roughly around here, but didn’t make it.

[00:03:45] I would not necessarily recommend going to Istanbul with a toddler. It’s quite hilly, but we coped pretty well. And people in Turkey love children. 

[00:03:54] I stayed in this area called Pera. Taksim’s kind of… My Turkish friend described it as the Trafalgar Square of Istanbul and this tramline here runs along what I would call the Oxford Street of Istanbul. This area down here called Karaköy is where there are lots more hills, very steep hill. There’s a beautiful tower. This tower here, the Galeta Tower, which has stunning views.

[00:04:17] Great for street photography. And some fantastic cafes and baklava places and restaurants as well. I have a baklava place to recommend to you. This is where I’m gonna mess up the pronunciation Güllüoglu Karaköy Güllüoglu. I’m going to show you a picture in a second. It was amazing. Um, and then there’s also a restaurant here that I will show you pictures of called Mürver.

[00:04:41] First that baklava, there are other baklava places that are almost on par. There are lots more of them, called Hafiz Mustafa 1864, which is because that’s when it was founded. Also very good. But I definitely think that this one that starts with G: Güllüoglu is better.[00:05:00]

[00:05:01] I bought a whole box of the baklava. This is a very close up, pretty terrible photograph of it. It’ll be on the blog as well: thenextdeliciousthing.com. They were all so good. We didn’t get breakfast included in the hotel by choice. And so this was my breakfast for the following four days, very hearty and filling and, you know, honey and nuts and a bit of pastry, perfectly appropriate breakfast.

[00:05:22] While we were visiting, we sat down and had the cold baklava which is something I’d never even heard of, but it was basically like ice cream layered between the filo pastry or the, kataifi pastry, and then sprinkled with chocolate and more pistachios. And it was so, so good. Definitely recommend going and having that. The restaurant that I showed you that was in the area was one of four that I want to tell you about.

[00:05:50] The restaurant in the area was one of four that I want to tell you about.

[00:05:54] It is the one called Mürver and it was recommended by my chef friend at Tom Cenci who used to be a chef at Duck & Waffle and also at Stoney Street. He’ll be opening a place of his own this year, which is very exciting. 

[00:06:07] Mürver is on the top floor of the Novatel hotel, has beautiful views across the Golden Horn and the food.. This tomato salad was incredible. The bread was wonderful. All of the food was just so delicious and especially the desserts. I didn’t get good photos because the light had already gone by then. But this is called burnt pistachio cream and it was kind of like a milk pudding custard creme bruleé type, just deliciousness, with a cherry sorbet. The chocolate dessert, which was chocolate and hazelnuts came in two parts and you kind of mix it all together.

[00:06:43] And that was also sensational. These are actually the best desserts that we had, but that’s partly because we didn’t have desserts at Aheste, which was my favorite restaurant of all of the places that we went.

[00:06:54] I didn’t get any photos of Aheste, but this is where it is on the map, right in Pera. So really easy to get to and this is their Instagram @ahestepera. I wish they were in London because they were so good. 

[00:07:09] This is their website. So this is what it looks like outside, and it is a stunning inside as well. So it’s like an old wine cellar cavern. They’ve got a back room that is just all exposed stone and just absolutely beautiful. The staff are amazing. We surprised my sister-in-law and niece there. They were really helpful in putting together the surprise and they were just so nice.

[00:07:34] So, the menu. We had the seasonal mushrooms, the tomato salad with grilled fennel. Their bread was sweet and brown and nutty and so delicious, not actually nutty, but just like really, really great quality wheat. The asparagus with nectarines, the carrots with za’atar and goats’ cheese cream, the leeks with cabbage cream, the home style meatballs with mashed haricot beans. For a main course, I had a kind of vegetarian kofte with Bulgar wheat and filled with mushrooms and lentils as well. It was just so, so, so good.

[00:08:04] The other two restaurants. I should just say if you’re planning to go to Mürver at the top of the Novatel there’s also a restaurant next door called Karaköy Lokantsi, which is also similarly kind of high end and supposed to be excellent, but I didn’t make it. 

[00:08:18] The other recommendation also from my friend, Tom, was Yeni Lokanta, which is opening in London apparently. So that’s exciting. And this was really creative food. Here is the restaurant inside. Very pretty. Let see if I can see the a la carte menu to share with you. I have a photograph of this menu actually so it’ll be on the website, thenextdeliciousthing.com, but very creative smoked tomato, watermelon, coriander, sumac and sour cherry sorbet was a really delicious starter. I also had a vegetarian kofte here and we had the Manti, which is the local dumplings and they were brilliant.

[00:08:56] Here’s a picture of the kofte they made for me. And there is part of a picture of the dumpling and that sauce. I don’t know what it was, but it was creamy and wonderful.

[00:09:06] The final restaurant that I want to recommend to was one that our guide took us in. That was actually good. The rest of them were terrible. There was a lot of terrible tourist restaurants, just like there is in any city. So, um, in Prince Island and near the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, we ate it very, very average restaurants.

[00:09:24] Sometimes that’s just price of just a holiday. They were edible, but just very not great. Just have baklava for lunch, that’s seems perfectly reasonable. 

[00:09:33] So this final restaurant that was excellent and we went twice was called Al Medina. This bread was served hot and in abundance, it arrived at our table with great frequency. They brought a tray full of mezze to choose from. So this is Muhammara, which is red peppers and walnuts and chili. And hummus plus this is aubergine and tomato, but they had a huge selection and it was all amazing.

[00:09:59] It’s [00:10:00] mainly known for meat though. So they have things like salt baked lamb and pies, lots of theater, drumming and fires and smashing plates. Very entertaining. The 28 year old chef proprietor is an internet celebrity in Turkey. He has 3.8 million followers, which explains why he has such a large place with such a prominent central site.

[00:10:21] There are photos of him with various Turkish and international celebrities all along the walls. And he is opening in London, which I’m really excited about because I could eat this kind of food at least once a week.

[00:10:33] So there’s a fifth kind of restaurant cafe that I want to share with you. Plus a great coffee shop that I had cakes were baked by this grandmother. And we were there when she brought them. I had the honey cake, which I think just honey, cake’s not exciting enough for me. Um, but it was still very good and I wish I’d tried some of the others.

[00:10:51] It was between Aheste and Karaköy and it’s at the bottom of the World Boutique Hotel, which is here. There we go. And, um, yeah, just a tiny little coffee shop, serving decent coffee and around the corner from that was a cafe that had a buffet of things to choose from. It wasn’t particularly cheap for a lunch, but the food was also excellent.

[00:11:12] The bread was a bit dull, but the food generally was excellent. Lots of meat and vegan options as well: called Galeta Kitchen. 

[00:11:19] And then the final thing I want to share with you is a bean bar chocolate shop that I went to visit. There were other chocolate shops that I missed, which I’m sad about. , but I was there hanging out with my extended family from all around the world. So I didn’t get to do all the things I might have liked to do.

[00:11:32] We went walking in Yildiz Park, which is really beautiful, a nice, like little bit of forest within Istanbul. It’s one very steep hill, basically with a few playgrounds and a lake. I think it was made with the Tanzania 74%. We got to try through the range of Tanzania, Belize and Madagascar. I can’t believe Goshka and her husband have only been making chocolate for a year.

[00:11:57] They were truly outstanding chocolates. I think we ate them when they were very fresh; they were just so good. She also serves brownies and which she didn’t have the day we went because it was just before Eid, but she did have the chocolate mousse which was amazing. I think someone needs to start a chocolate mousse shop in London.

[00:12:15] That’s my top business tip for the day. 

[00:12:18] If you have any questions, please let me know. If you visit Istanbul, tag me, if you go to any of these places. 

[00:12:24] And that’s all my recommendations for Istanbul. They’re all available at thenextdeliciousthing.com. Please like, and subscribe, rate five stars on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. And I will see you next week with more London recommendations. Until then. I wish you a very happy eating.

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