October 1st, 2013
Last week I was invited to lunch by Duke, Istanbul as I have been producing the words and photography for Marie Claire Türkiye’s Deluxe Mekan section for several months now. I must admit I was a little unsure of what to suspect. Duke is in Trump Towers in Mecidiyeköy — a region of the city which does not rank high on my list of preferred destinations. As many people now know, we’ve had a few issues in Istanbul regarding urban space, retail spaces and which direction one of the world’s most historically significant cities is headed. Mecidiyeköy “functions” as a business, transport and shopping hub. To say it does so gracefully would be something of a stretch. So I wasn’t necessarily prepared to like what I saw. To reach Duke you must enter Trump Towers and pass through the usual security inspection. You’re immediately doused with the usual hubbub of mall noise. About 15 metres from security you take an elevator to a separate floor on which the massive new restaurant unfolds. This experience of separate spaces within larger malls reminds me somewhat of Tokyo and its high rises, where you might enter an office building in order to reach an upmarket hotel like the Conrad or Park Hyatt. However, once inside you’re in a different place altogether.
Duke is a co-venture between Borsa, Doğus and lastly, D&D London, the English capital’s largest restaurant management company. However, Duke Istanbul, despite an upmarket appearance and old school, professional-looking servers is actually designed to give the current players in the mid-market dining experience —The House Café, Kitchenette and Big Chefs a run for their money with their take on contemporary English cuisine and quality versus quantity. This is quite possibly Istanbul’s largest restaurant, with a huge kitchen and sprawling terrace where the planters are bursting with herbs and garnishes which are dressed into the food.
And the verdict on the food? High marks. As you can see in the photos, I focussed on the seafood side of the menu. The house-smoked salmon is excellent. The grilled octopus with lentil, fennel and potato salad, equally excellent. The fish (seabass) and chips, good, but not as strong as the appetizers. The desserts, in particular the sticky toffee pudding and home-made ice cream, I tried were exactly the kind of sweet you want at the end of an indulgent meal. If being sent to Mecidiyeköy means an opportunity to dine at Duke, I’ll be less reluctant.