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Turkish food isn’t all kebabs and mezze, though they’re fantastic too. Been there readers suggest great places to eat and drink across the country
WINNING TIP Midye on Galata Bridge, Istanbul
Most people argue that when in Turkey you should eat kebabs in all their incarnations. But walking across the bridge at sunrise, eating midye (mussels stuffed with rice and lemon juice) gives you a real taste of Istanbul. The rice absorbs the saltiness of the sea and the sourness of the lemon. On this bridge, at this time, with this food, you feel the beauty of the Queen of Cities. Stalls along Galata Bridge MichelleNM
The House Cafe
This is the place for the most beautiful breakfast in Istanbul, with the most stunning view. House Cafe is on the banks of the Bosphorus serving an east-meets-west selection for a reasonable price (much better than the surrounding hotels). I recommend its scrambled egg on rye bread followed by a fresh virgin apple mojito.
Salhane Sokak 1, Ortaköy, thehousecafe.com
Istanbul’s skyline is magical at night and one of the best places to enjoy it is from the restaurant on the rooftop of the Adamar Hotel in Sultanahmet. The terrace has a 360-degree view, great food and a romantic atmosphere. The sound of the muezzins’ evening calls to prayer echo and collide in the night.
Yerebatan Caddesi 37, adamarhotel.com
The Pudding Shop,
Ageing hippies might like to know that Istanbul’s Pudding Shop is still there, still acting as a meeting point and still serving good food at a reasonable price. It opened in 1957 and in the 1960s became a place to meet for travellers heading out towards India and Nepal. In a pre-electronic age its bulletin board acted as a communication hub, passing on messages and offering and asking for lifts. Today it is a self-service cafe offering decent Turkish food in Sultanahmet close by the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar. Don’t go for a gourmet experience – go for a nostalgic one, from when travelling meant hitchhiking and VW vans, not easyJet and Ryanair.
• Sultanahmet Divanyolu 6, +90 212 522 29 70, puddingshop.com
Galata Konak Café
You might think this little back street patisserie is just that, but when you take the almost hidden lift to the third floor you can enjoy beautiful views of Sultanahmet across the Bosphorus. There’s a large terrace on the roof with excellent service, good prices and tasty Turkish, Italian and international dishes as well as cakes from downstairs. It’s a great place to watch the sun go down.
• Haci Ali Sokak 2/2, Beyoglu, +90 212 252 5346, galatakonakcafe.com
Barbecued mackerel straight from the boat
For the freshest fish in Istanbul, head for the harbour, where a large traditional boat is moored on the quayside. As the fishermen land their catch, another group fillets the fish and lays them on a vast barbecue on the boat. It is quite a sight to behold as the golden mackerel sizzle gently before being placed on warm Turkish bread and served by men in colourful braided waistcoats. The queue is long but fast moving as hundreds of Turks and tourists enjoy a delicious lunch for two for less than a fiver.
• Beside the Galata Bridge, which crosses the Golden Horn at Eminönü, facing the Yeni Camii mosque.
After a long ascent in the foothills of the Besparmak (Five Fingers) mountain range we arrived at the ruins from the Hellenistic period. While we explored, the wife of the site guardian brewed tea and made a feast of traditional Aegean dishes. After lunch we continued our hike along Turkey’s new long-distance footpath, the 800km Carian Trail.
Labranda lies north-east of Milas town
Lake Egirdir fish restaurant
We strolled along the causeway that connects the fishing town of Egirdir to a tiny island that is home to a few restaurants. We meandered past a couple of empty ones and came upon one that, although not full, was showing signs of having recently been enjoyed by many – busy smiling staff and the smell of many flavours still in the air. We sat under a lemon tree by the lake: the only boat in view was a small one where two old men sat smoking and talking under the guise of fishing. We had freshly caught, perfectly cooked fish. It was one of those meals where you wouldn’t change a thing, topped off with a bill of about six quid.
Third restaurant on the island’s south side as you walk on to it
Last Chance Saloon, Antalya
Son Çare (meaning Last Chance), in Antalya’s atmospheric old town is just behind the picture-postcard Clock Tower. It comes into its own late at night when bars, clubs and music venues are starting to disgorge their customers. The smell and sound of sizzling köfte will direct you to the right place. Ask for a köfte sandwich and the guy will throw four or five meat balls on to the barbecue, followed by a generous portion of bread. A large counter displays every kind of fresh salad – lettuce, rocket, parsley, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, carrots … Next, there are bowls of spices: pul biber (red pepper flakes), sumac, thyme, cumin, black pepper and small but deadly pickled chillies. Fill your sandwich to your heart’s content and wash it all down with a cool glass of ayran – a refreshing salty yoghurt drink.
• Just off Dönerci Çarsisi, in Kaleiçi
Cemil’s Pension, Cirali
An hour out of Antalya lies a small village called Çirali. We asked at the pension where he could recommend for dinner. “Come back at 7pm and it will be ready,” said Cemil then set off in his little boat. At 7pm in the cushioned area at the front of the pension Cemil laid out a wonder of treats. Baba ganoush, warm bread, tzatziki and olives. The main freshly caught fish and home-made sizzling koftas with a delicious fresh salad. We ate to the sun setting, looking out to the sea and drinking cold beers or raki and water.
• +90 242 825 7063, cemilpension.com
Ocakbasi Iskele, Fethiye
On the harbour, just in front of the ancient theatre by the marina, is this resort town’s best restaurant. Unlike the tourist restaurants , Ocakbasi Iskele stays open all year round. The local community comes here for tasty meat dishes and the morning’s catch. Sit in the sun or inside, where they’ll cook flavoured kebabs in front of you while you wolf down the best mezze in town. Starters from around £1.50
Corner of Fevzi çakmak Caddesi
Balik ekmek from boats and cafes around Akyaka bay
Balik ekmek is a large fried fish sandwich with salad, pickled chillies and lemon juice, all washed down with a glass of ayran (refreshing salted yoghurt drink) while you soak up the sun and the view of either the bay or the river and watch the world go by. About £4 for two. Perfect.
Sipping kusburnu çayi in a Turkish teashop
The perfectly and quaintly named kusburnu (pronounced kush-bur-noo) is a tea made from rosehips, which is at its best with a hefty spoon of sugar. It’s a delicately pink steaming syrup, and the tiny tulip-shaped tea glasses enhance its appeal. Sightseeing anywhere in Turkey can be exhausting, but there is always a teashop where you can perch on a stool with a street view, play a game of backgammon, and get refreshed with a kusburnu for less than a lira.