Part of the excitement and appeal of visiting any new destination is getting to grips with exotic local cuisine. Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and the country’s cultural epicentre, is no exception.
Whilst a fine dining experience may be found in many of Istanbul’s prestigious hotels – The Prime restaurant at the 5 star Park Hyatt Istanbul Maçka Palas, for example, is highly regarded – the city has no shortage of excellent eateries in which to sample the widest range of Turkish specialty dishes and world cuisines.
Quirky, offbeat, unique, entertaining; Istanbul has a restaurant to suit every taste and dining style. Any list of great restaurants in Istanbul is bound to be subjective but, for our money and in no particular order, here are the 10 best places to eat in Istanbul.
Imbat Restaurant, Hudavendigar Street
A Trip Advisor award-winning restaurant, Imbat has been praised for its location, attentive service and, of course the presentation and quality of its dishes. Stuffed vine leaves, authentic kebabs and herb-marinated veal are among the specialties but the restaurant’s baked lamb dishes are particularly acclaimed.
Galata House, Galata Kulesi Sokak 61
This restaurant is literally captivating; it was Istanbul’s Old British Jail up until 1919 (some rooms still have barred windows), but it is now a family-run eaterie that specialises in Georgian and Russian cuisine. Menu highlights include Hingali, which are Georgian meat-filled dumplings and Pilmeni, a Russian dish of potato-filled ravioli.
Akdeniz Hatay Sofrasi, Adnan Menderes Boulevard
An oft-repeated word of advice when it comes to dining out abroad is to eat where the locals eat, and many of Istanbul’s denizens choose Akdeniz Hatay Sofrasi for its sumptuous range of regional Turkish specialities including mütebbel (eggplant yoghurt), Tuzda Tavuk (salt-encrusted chicken slowly baked in a wood-fired oven) and Oruk Firinda – minced meat, chilli and walnut in a cracked-wheat crust.
Konyali Lokantasi, Topkapi Palace
This is the only restaurant within the grounds of the spectacular Topkapi Palace, and thus gets very busy, but the chance to dine alfresco on a mouth-watering selection of kebabs, salads, lamb dishes and desserts in such grand surroundings is unmissable.
Siva Cafe Restaurant, Akbiyik Street
Whether for a romantic meal for two, a family dinner or to celebrate a special occasion, Siva Café Restaurant is highly commended for its friendly waiting staff and superb Turkish specialty dishes including Iskender Kebab, Farm Köfte, stuffed courgette, Chicken Shish Kebab and many more.
Albura Kathisma, Cankurtaran Mahallesi Yeni Akbıyık Caddesi
One of the first restaurants established at the heart of Istanbul’s atmospheric Old City, Albura Kathisma stands on the site of Byzantine ruins and specialises in Ottoman and Byzantine cuisine, which includes a decent selection of exquisite vegetarian dishes. International fare in the form of pasta, steaks and seafood ensure that Albura Kathisma has something to please every palate.
Amedros Cafe & Restaurant, Divan Yolu Caddesi Hoca Rustem Sokak
Picking up awards and accolades by the armful, Amedros Cafe & Restaurant is an informal but atmospheric restaurant serving traditional and modern Turkish, Anatolian and international dishes created from ultra-fresh ingredients. A house specialty is the spiced boiled lamb which is prepared from a sixteenth-century recipe originally devised for the Sultan of Topkapi Palace.
Khorasani Restaurant, Divanyolu Caddesi
New, elegant and stylish, it hasn’t taken long for Khorasani Restaurant to win legions of admiring fans for its modern take on classic Turkish and Middle-Eastern cuisine. Besides a selection of excellent kebabs, diners can enjoy lamb ribs, shaslik, moussaka, steak, chicken and a range of vegetarian specialties, served by polite, attentive waiting staff in a quiet and romantic location.
Asitane Restaurant, Kariye Camii Sokak
Restaurant critics have fallen over themselves to praise the exquisite Ottoman cuisine served by Asitane Restaurant, which enjoys a location in the most historic part of Istanbul next to the Chora Church. Asitane’s menu is comprised only of dishes that featured in the kitchens of the royal palaces from the fifteenth-century onward, lovingly recreated to present the finest and most authentic Turkish/Ottman dining experience in Istanbul: guests literally dine like Sultans.
Karakoy Lokantasi, Kemankeş Caddesi
As popular with locals as it is with overseas visitors, booking for dinner is a must. Karakoy Lokantasi’s beautiful tiled décor is matched by its range of superb Turkish specialties which include among others, kofte, baked lamb, calamari, grilled aubergine and a baklava which one enthusiastic diner considers the best in Istanbul.