A short sharp ‘livener’ in Istanbul is just what I needed. Plenty of sunshine, a dip into the Turkish culture, oodles of food and drink and a beautiful Hotel room to call my own, for three days at least. The lovely people at Yeni Raki were keen to show a few food writers and bloggers why we should un-rush our world – the mantra you must adopt when you sip the national drink, Raki.
A leisurely British Airways flight scheduled for the late afternoon from Terminal 5 meant we arrived in the evening, too late for a drink, but time enough to unpack and soak up the Istanbul skyline from my balcony.
I have to tell you readers that I sleep in earplugs. Always. I didn’t hear the call to prayer that others were woken by, but I remember the crisp bed sheets and fluffy pillows, slippers and bathrobe that I absolutely love about hotels of top-notch quality (it’s the small things). I join the others in the restaurant and after a wonderful never-ending breakfast buffet, including peeled and de-pithed oranges, arranged overnight by the orange fairies.
We’re taken to the area of Kabataş, where we board what can only be described as a luxury liner. We take in the sights, sip on apple and mint tea and watch dolphins leap out of the water.
We’re given a wonderful narrative from local historian, professional tour guide and author Saffet Emre Tonguç. It’s not long before our chat turns to food and we moor the boat at Tapasuma, a former factory distilling Raki.
We’re treated to some super meze, prepared especially by the Executive Chef Gökay Çakıroğlu who prepares us modern Turkish food.
He’d even ensured we got a hit of Yeni Raki in a palate cleasning Raki and Cucumber sorbet.
And a sliced apple, sprinkled with cinnamon ends the meal.
Next door is a rather lovely boutique Hotel, Sumahan on the Water, and after a brief tour, I’ll definitely return. It benefits from having its own boat too. The water here so clear you can see the odd jellyfish.
Next up, it’s a trip to Kadıköy market on the Asian side of Istanbul to sample the sea of fast-food eateries, cafes, fish stalls, fruit and vegetable stalls and delis.
Here’s the Mercan store, it’s here where they deep fry mussels, squid and serve kokoreç (lamb intestines) they’re served by stuffing a heavily salted mixture in a fresh bread roll.
We can’t resist a large Tahinli Çörek, just warm, from the Kovan Fırın bakery. Tahini, spread inside sweet dough and quite delicious, a little like a flattened Chelsea Bun.
Islak Kek is ‘wet cake’
Next door candies, turkish delight and marzipan beckoned in Cafer Erol. Time for a quick mint tea and we were off again, packing in as much as we could with architect turned food historian and journalist Aylin Öney Tan.
On to Özcan Turşu or the pickle shop, where hangovers are greeted with a cup of pickle juice, it’s also here that housewives grab all manner of pickled vegetables.
We wander past fishmongers with magnificent displays, including anchovies. The red gills on show to prove just how fresh the catch is.
Colourful fruit and vegetable stalls.
Then it was a quick stop to Çiya, a must-visit for traditional Turkish cooking and where the bread maker makes these beautiful loaves to order.
A quick hop back to our Hotel the Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah and off to dinner at Duble Meze Bar. Lively. Everyone but everyone was drinking Yeni Raki and it was a fun place to eat dinner. A night-time view of the Bosphorus was spectacular and our long table at the bar had a prime view. Beautiful meat, fabulous salads along with dips and the more unusual chargrilled aubergine with lashings of cheese, were just some of the fabulous dishes served up here.
When the party truly started, we wandered over the road to our Hotel and bed.
Day 2 ….. to follow.