• Food & Drink

    cochine

    Just wanted to share with you a sample of some photography I recently did for Cochine in Beyoglu. It’s a cozy spot halfway down Kumbaracı Yokuşu I first mentioned in a separate post last year that serves French-influenced Vietnamese cuisine and is run by a super great couple, Melis and Chris Maxwell (immediately above). This year there’s a new menu and some fantastic new talent in the kitchen, which is why they called me in to take some shots. I really love the place as it’s one of the few venues in town I will continue to hang around in after a great dinner. At most places, you might eat a good meal but won’t feel an inclination to linger once the plates have been cleared. That’s not the case here. With live music on many an evening and some quite nice cocktails being whipped up behind the bar, it’s…

  • Places

    çukurcuma colour

    The cat’s expression at the top of this post says it all. It’s been a while, so I’m trying to get back in the swing of things by tramping around Çukurcuma, peering up, down, backwards and sideways as well as into windows to reignite my creative spark. Not much luck, today, I’m afraid. I’ve retreated to Holy Coffee to see if some java can reignite my curiosity. Some days you just have to trust that Istanbul is keeping her real treasures curtained for a purpose that is beyond your ken. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. That, and the day’s, not over, right?

  • Art / Design / Craft

    printemps’ last late night

    Last night was the final late night of Printemps Des Artistes 2013 and offered some its most enjoyable moments. Opening night was so busy you could hardly move, let alone appreciate the art on the walls. A particular high moment was watching Takayoshi Sakabe perform his Butoh dance. It was truly dramatic — and not simply because I thought he was going to knock some of my work off the walls. The man not only knows how to produce the most delicate brush strokes as a painter, he knows how to convey a series of really powerful emotional movements. It’s impressive to see such motion/emotion in  a gallery which can feel so otherwise restrained environment. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the exhibition there’s still this evening until 8pm and tomorrow until 8pm at Sainte Pulcherie Fransiz Lisesi. Thank you to everyone who came by. It was…

  • Places

    serdar-ı ekrem sokak

    When I first moved to Istanbul I rented a flat in the Galata neighbourhood which was scruffy but interesting area on the city map. Later, like a lot of Beyoglu, it became a bit disillusioning. As we all know, economic progress doesn’t necessarily benefit a neighbourhood’s character or hospitality. Especially when the new businesses and residents decide to do a sad or cynical interpretation of someone else’s culture for the benefit of non-residents. So it became easy to give the Galata neighbourhood a miss without missing anything at all. However Serdar-ı Ekrem Sokak seems to have undergone a mostly positive transformation, comfortably mixing old and new and featuring design businesses and small boutiques which draw on the local culture and architecture as much for the benefit of Turks — at least so it seems from the people sitting in the street-side cafés and coffee joints — as for outsiders. Change is…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    şişhane sweetspot: the kamondo mansion

    If I were to plan an indulgent escape for adults, without leaving the city limits, I would stay in the slightly spooky, somewhat spare restoration of the Kamondo family’s 19th Century mansion. Home to the Adahan Hotel, Comedus, Baylo and Gram, there’s something particularly louche about this street corner, especially in the evening hours. 18:00 – 18:15 … check into the Adahan Hotel. 18:15 – 19:45  … for your discretion. adult only content. 19:45 – 20:05 … compose yourself, make yourself respectable — at least briefly. 20:15 – 20:30 … go down to Comedus and stock up your room with some essentials (for later). 20:35 – 21:00 … take in the view at the Adahan restaurant upstairs with an aperitif 21:00 – 23:00 … enjoy some more Mediterranean delights. restrict yourself to those on the menu, for a while, anyway. 23:00 – 02:00 … indulge at Baylo, a New Yorkistan…

  • Places

    Dilapidated doorways and detailing in decay

    How’s that for an alliterative title? I really wanted to call this piece: a diminutive demonstration of dilapidated doorways and decadent details in decay … but it wouldn’t fit in the headline space my template allots. Still, I probably managed to go purple enough with my prose style to describe the beauty of these passageways and halls which have lost none of their magic despite the neglect. Or has the neglect only enhanced it? The hallways and doors of Beyoglu, may go unnoticed in terms of restoration, but they still turn my head.

  • Food & Drink

    Istanbul’s Irish pub

    Sometimes life doesn’t feel real enough. There’s socializing and then there’s socializing. One type involves trying to impress people, another involves sharing in a good drink and an honest conversation. For the latter, there’s few more genuine places to than the U2 Irish Pub just off Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoğlu. Owner Leo is a true innkeeper and proof that you don’t have to come from the British Isles to operate a proper public house. A pub is a place that should offer welcome to any class of lady or gentleman, and Leo does just that. At little more than four metres square it’s also proof that some of the best pubs don’t need to be big. He’s been open for about six years and leaves a friend or regular in charge on the few occasions when he needs a holiday. The smoking lounge is essentially the stairwell connecting to the…

  • Art / Design / Craft

    Adahan Hotel

    Today I had a chance to get a glimpse of a really interesting renovation in Beyoglu. While it might feel somewhat sparsely furnished with the cavernous ceilings, the ample light, and raw feel of the materials gives this place a real beauty. I’ve seen many Beyoglu buildings restored, but nothing quite like this. Its feel, and the amount of wood make this something special. The other feature which makes it special is the fact that its owners refused to use any concrete in the restoration process. Sedat Sırrı Aklan, who supervised the renovations, is adamantly opposed to the use of concrete on moral grounds, because it is both anti-artisan and only used for profit motives. One of the things I really appreciate is the light touch they’ve used, leaving some of the beautifully weathered surfaces exposed. Here’s a glimpse of this vastly different hotel. I’m eager to check out their…

  • Places

    Go Galatasaray!

    The football club bearing the above name may be having a lousy season this year, but the neighbourhood in Beyoğlu is winning hands down on several counts. I’d like to list a few ways this colourful intersection between Taksim and Tünel currently scores as the number one place I’d maroon myself in the unlikely event that I ever be forced to maroon myself somewhere. Following are four reasons to go to the Galatasaray Mahallesi right now … BEST COFFEE. Let’s start with the most important drink of the day. After nearly eight years and countless kilos of bitter beans, thousands of litres of scalded milk, and several burnt lips I have finally tasted caffeinated perfection. Or the closest thing I’m going to find to it in Istanbul. Kronotrop in Galatasaray, the “Espresso Blend Atelier” wins hands-down, without a doubt, absolutely, definitely — sorry if I’m overselling this — for the…

  • Food & Drink

    Istanbul’s Vietnamese Speakeasy

    In a recent post I described what I’d do with a leisurely day left to my own devices, and in it one of the places where I said I’d finish my day was Cochine. On Saturday night, however, I was able to put the place to the test with 15 friends for dinner and drinks. From now on, If I have my way, I will never veer from eating out  anywhere but owner-operated kitchens. It makes all the difference. Food preparation is a kind of alchemy. It’s not just the ingredients, or the measurements, it’s the spirit of the people putting it together that determines whether or not they create gold.  There’s a lot of gold at Cochine, located on Kumbaracı Yokuşu, thanks to the complementary talents of its owners Melis Onderoglu Maxwell (pictured immediately below) and Chris Maxwell. It would be all to easy to walk past Cochine’s discreetly…