Chef's table: what and where to eat in Istanbul

Istanbul offers a wealth of epicurean experiences. Chef Civan Er shares the best of his hometown

By Civan Er
Published 2 Aug 2019, 08:00 BST
Roasting chestnuts in Istanbul market
Roasted chestnuts are a popular street snack in Istanbul.
Photograph by Getty Images

Turkey’s largest city has been a meeting point of different ethnicities — and their cuisines — for centuries. Those passing through have brought aspects of their own food culture to the city, and today you can find fine examples of kebabs, meze, one-pot dishes, pastries and much more. For a dining experience that’s distinctly ‘Istanbul’, try işkembe çorbacısı (tripe soup) with garlic sauce; restaurants serve it in the middle of the night to ease your stomach after a few glasses of raki, but it’s even better as a hangover cure the next day.

Where to eat

Zübeyir Ocakbaşı
Kebab os arguably one of Turkey's best-known culinary offerings, and this is by far the best place to get it in Istanbul. My top dish? Beyti, a minced kebab with garlic and parsley. 

For a real taste of local Istanbul cuisine, head to this restaurant in Karakoöy for regional dishes even some locals aren’t familiar with. Try the likes of yeni dünya kebabı (minced meat with loquat).

Dönerci Şahin Usta
Over by the Grand Bazaar, this local favourite makes some of the best döner kebabs you’ll ever taste. Open for lunch only. T: +90 212 526 52 97.

What to eat: the dishes

These minced meat dumplings, served with garlic yoghurt, are a popular dish in homes across Turkey.

Thin pastry or flatbread dough is topped with minced meat and cooked in a wood-fired oven.

Also known as bluefish, lüfer is Turkey’s most delicious fish. It’s at its best during the winter months.

Simit and cheese 
For breakfast, try this tempting combination of sesame bread rings topped with cheese (usually feta). 

Must buy
Urfa biber (also known as isot pepper) — stock up on the dried flakes, which have a lovely nutty flavour, at the city’s Spice Bazaar

Civan Er is chef-owner of Yeni Lokanta in Istanbul and its sister restaurant Yeni in London.  

Published in the September 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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