• kantin dükkan bebek

    April 17th, 2013

    1S0A5724

    1S0A5652

    1S0A5707

    1S0A5700

    1S0A5711

    1S0A5702

    1S0A5780

    1S0A5801

    1S0A5746

    There’s not much I miss about living in the Nişantanşı area, except perhaps when it comes to the lunchtime value of an eatery like Kantin. What always impressed me about this lunchtime spot was the quality of its ingredients and its clean, flawless service. That same level of professionalism has now been brought to its take-out store opposite Bebek Park. The same thoughtful presentation, incredibly clean kitchen environment — and most importantly — delicious food are all available. As for seating … the park awaits, and if the weather ever decides to cooperate, there are few better places than the seaside Bebek Park to take an impromptu picnic. Don’t forget to sample the homemade ginger ale — it’s been added to my list of elixirs.

    1S0A5727

  • beyoglu anonymous

    March 28th, 2013

    1S0A4632

    The most talented people in any profession don’t need to advertise. In fact, advertising or drawing undue attention often does more harm than good. If you not only know your trade, but have mastered it, your reputation will be more than enough. Last night I checked out a bar in Beyoglu that doesn’t even have a name. It doesn’t need one. Most people will probably end up calling it Alex’s Bar, as its proprietor, and his personality, are the driving force behind the experience. Not only is Alex a man who knows his drinks, he’s a man unafraid to refuse an order if he feels he can’t prepare it to his professional satisfaction. He’s not about to make a mojito out of season, especially if he doesn’t have the proper mint to create it. He will also mix single malt whisky as he puts it to, “Simultaneously defy ridiculous convention as well as perfect a fine drink.”

    I won’t use euphemisms like cozy or intimate to describe the bar. It’s small. It’s tucked away in a little alley down at the Tünel end of Istiklal Caddesi. That, it seems to me, is part of the recipe. A good drink isn’t something to be quaffed in a corner with booming music and a vast crowd, but something to be enjoyed and shared. And part of the enjoyment is conversing with the no-bullshit artisan behind it. In fact, that’s key to the alchemy. If you’re in Beyoglu and you want a proper after work cocktail or aperitif, look for the place with the covered windows and dapperly dressed, likely bearded gentlemen behind the bar at number 7b Gonül Sokak from Tuesday to Saturday sometime after 5pm.

    1S0A4634

  • A fire in the mind

    January 14th, 2013

    1S0A6355

    Only one colour can break the tonal tide of white/grey/blue that this season pours down upon us. It’s like a vitamin for the soul. A beacon in a white night. The hue of courage. Unlike cowardly yellow, it knows how to stand up to nature’s desaturation and never blench. Eat red. Drink red. Wear red. See red. Hold back the chill of winter. Kindle a fire in the mind.

    1S0A6089

    1S0A6526

    1S0A6365
    1S0A6257

    1S0A6093

    1S0A5728

    1S0A6597

  • The stairwell refuge

    January 12th, 2013

    1S0A6384

    In most business buildings, and many apartment blocks there’s an essential Turkish institution. Past the postboxes, across the scuffed, cracked tile floor, an illumined window, fogged with steam, behind which moves a shadowy indistinct figure. What’s brewing inside the uninitiated, non Turk might wonder? A magician in his lair? Almost. From that room, usually not much more than a metre or two square, a man or youth will emerge bearing a shiny silvery tray on which he carries an absolute Turkish necessity — piping hot, black tea accompanied by a tiny spoon and two little bricks of sugar. Outside pushed against the narrow corridor wall, a stool or two, maybe a chair with its vinyl cushion torn, exposing some yellow foam cushioning, and a table with an ashtray and stubbed out butt. This time of year, this is the cheapest refuge from Istanbul’s rain-spattered streets, where for less than 50 cents you can buy yourself a quick infusion of warmth and escape the bone-clinging chill that the wet season brings. The hallway tea room. A Turkish institution that earns its rent in 75 kuruş increments.

    1S0A6398

    1S0A6379

    1S0A6397

    1S0A6385

    1S0A6395

    1S0A6381

    1S0A6390

    1S0A6383

  • Istanbul’s Vietnamese Speakeasy

    December 30th, 2012

    1S0A3065

    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.

    1S0A5314

    1S0A2939

    1S0A5336

    1S0A5344

    It would be all to easy to walk past Cochine’s discreetly marked doorway. From the street you can’t see inside and the entrance is just around the lane with a heavy door and buzzer monitored by  a camera. But don’t be intimidated by the speakeasy appearance of the door or the decrepitude of the graffiti-spattered street. Inside is a welcoming interior put together by the owners, exuding their charm and good taste, bathed in golden-red light. The staff that greet you offered the kind of relaxed welcome you want when the heavy iron door swings open. Now don’t waste anytime. The first thing you need to do is order one of their signature Earl Grey martinis, without a doubt my new favourite cocktail — and don’t be deterred from trying it even if you don’t like the tea of the same name. It’s the best way to shake things up a little before dinner.

    1S0A5337

    1S0A2926

    1S0A5351

    1S0A5347

    And the verdict on the food? In a city where disparate far-east Asian cuisines are all too often lumped together and served under the same roof — Japanese-Chinese-Thai from one kitchen? — it’s nice to see one small but adept kitchen focusing on providing food from one region, in this case, Vietnam. Chris Maxwell, who originally hails from New Zealand knows his way around the world of food. His years travelling the globe and working in some of London’s top kitchens have paid off. The vote at our table of 15 was unanimous. The food was a sensation we all wished to repeat. True alchemy. Now all I have to do is find out where they source my favourite vegetable in the world — Pak Choy.

    1S0A5348

    1S0A5357

    1S0A5442

    1S0A5361

    1S0A5418

    1S0A5406

    1S0A5441

    By the way, if you don’t yet have plans for New Year’s this year, there are still some seatings available. I know I’ll be spending many hours in 2013 seated in Cochine. Oh yeah, and before I sign off … Happy New Year!

    1S0A5353

    COCHINE 

    Tomtom Mahallesi Kumbaracı Yokuşu, Camcı Fevzi Sokak No. 36/A, Beyoğlu, Istanbul
    +90 212 243 92 81

  • Festive cheer about town

    December 22nd, 2012

    1S0A4835

    Sometimes you’ve got to overdo it to do it right. One might even say ’tis the season. Once you’ve accomplished all there is to accomplish, it’s time to live it up. So here’s my agenda for the perfect day of moderating the moderation, and lounging about before it’s time to get all ambitious again for a new year.

    1S0A3988

    Start by finding yourself a good breakfast. You can’t go wrong with a mid-morning breakfast at either Auf or Unter, currently stealing my heart with the beautifully appointed interiors, honest food and fantastic staff. You’ll get a great cup of coffee and something really satisfying from Zeynep’s bakery or Esra’s kitchen. These two love food, and so do their people. It’s a welcoming way to while away the bleary morning hours. When you’re done, maybe amble your way towards Nisantasi and finish off the last of your seasonal shopping, and check out the over-the-top street decorations. They’re a big hit with someone I know.

    1S0A4896

    This time of year, I don’t think lunch should be rushed. Lunch should be a long, lingering affair, to the extent that maybe you never make it back to the office. That is if you’re unfortunate enough to still have to go to one. Arrange to meet friends, lots of them, somewhere exactly like Park Samdan, and splash about a bit of wine, between courses. Eat too much chocolate. You’re going to get fit in the New Year, remember?

    1S0A4879

    1S0A4915

    1S0A4914

    When things start to get a little dim, don’t worry, it’s not you. The days are short. It’s not the end of the world — sorry, Mayans. It’s either time for a nap, a hamam or a new venue. What better venue for the early evening than a cheerful pub? Head to the Bosphorus Brewing Co and sidle up to the bar and get yourself a proper ale, or a homemade ginger ale, if you haven’t yet overindulged sufficiently. Phillip Hall and family have pulled out all the stops to bring the refreshing taste of real ales to Istanbul. Judging from the enthusiasm of both Turks and foreigners, the Hall family are here to stay.

    1S0A0652

    1S0A1184

    Once you’ve done with the ale aperitifs, It’s time to slink into a dark corner. Make yourself a reservation at Cochine on Kumbaraci Yokusu in Beyoglu. This secluded spot was once the den of four artists, and it’s now the place to quench your nighttime appetites in the seductive, low warm light. Owned by chef Chris Maxwell and partner Melis Onderoglu Maxwell, an incredibly charming couple who met in London and decided to move to Melis’ homeland to open up this swanky nightspot, featuring French-influenced Vietnamese food and their signature earl grey martinis, it’s a cozy little spot to keep indulging until you can indulge no more. Chris and Melis are fantastic hosts — it’s not just the fireplace that exudes warmth. This young couple have a feel for old world charm.

    1S0A2982

    1S0A3020

    1S0A2948

    Any questions? If so, you now know where to find me. Happy holidays.

  • The mystic fruit

    September 14th, 2012

    It’s a great time of year to be in this part of the world. Pomegranates or nar as they’re referred to in Turkey are native to this region. Whether they’re squeezed on a citrus press into a refreshing juice, sprinkled on a salad in aril form (the little juice-encased seeds you can see above) or simply popped one at a time into your mouth, you’ll never encounter anything quite like a pomegranate. These amazing fruits have been cultivated for thousands of years, and are mentioned in Greek, Judaic, Christian and Islamic texts, associated with both paradise and the underworld. Some Hebrew scholars even believe that it may have been the original forbidden fruit. Interesting then that it’s been associated with so many disease-fighting and longevity-promoting benefits. Taking pictures of them  yesterday evening in the late day light I was thinking how an uncut pomegranate looks a bit like a whirling dervish who has spun  so fast that he’s transformed into a fireball of ecstasy.

  • Büyükada Evening

    July 10th, 2012

    Late afternoon. The sun beginning to descend and properly fortified by the gifted cooks at Club Mavi, it was time to move. Bicycling to the station midpoint of the Island, I locked up my rental bought myself a couple of cold bottles of water and proceeded to climb the hill on foot. Though some people ignore the postings, you can take your feet or hire a donkey to take you to Aya Yorgi (Saint George). This is where it gets a bit touristy again, but to be honest, the ascent is well worth it, whether you want to send a request to the director of the universe, or simply take in another impressive, but perfectly secular, view.

    After visiting the church it was time for a refreshment with a bit more of an edge to it than that provided by spring water. I opted for a cold white, which wasn’t amazing, but sufficient for toasting the view. This is my favorite spot for an evening drink. Read More…

  • Summer Elixir

    July 2nd, 2012

    For some of us, summer isn’t always the holiday we want. Or sometimes it’s too much of what we want—sun, drink, late nights. That’s why when I’m feeling like I’ve overdosed on any or all of these things, I resort to my favorite seasonal elixir, which helps me detoxify physically and mentally. The key ingredient here is fresh turmeric root, something which is not always easy to find in Istanbul. I’ve tried with the powder, but don’t seem to enjoy the same feeling afterwards. Fortunately, as I was watching cool little video the other day, shot by I noticed that the natural food and organic supplier in Besiktas, Kirkambar, had some on the counter. Read More…

  • The organic market & gözleme

    June 16th, 2012

    This morning we returned to the Saturday Şişli Organik Pazarı in Bomonti for the first time in a while, and I was pleased to see that it was bustling with life. Turkey is fortunate to have such a great climate for produce, and the colors of the fruit and vegetables here were like something from a Cézanne painting. Perhaps it’s been a long while since I was last here, but it seems to me that there are more producers than before. The atmosphere was great, lots of people, families, and friends we hadn’t seen in a while. There’s wasn’t only food, either, there was everything from cosmetics, to children’s toys and textiles, all 100% certified organic. There was even some homegrown talent providing live music, though I’m not sure whether or not you can certify that organic or not.

    But let’s be honest, we were there for the food, which I’m a little obsessed with lately. Delicious, fresh, crisp Turkish produce. Growing up in a cold climate, it used to be hard to appreciate fruits and vegetables. By the time they were transported to you, the taste, and probably a considerable amount of nutrition had vanished. Read More…