Despite my fear of heights, many of my favourite restaurants are at high altitude: places like City Social, Gavin at Windows and SushiSamba in London. What is it about eating in a tall building with a great view of the city that makes the food taste so much better?
In Istanbul, Anna and I visited two restaurants serving fabulous food and boasting incredible panoramas of the city.
When researching where to eat in Istanbul, Mikla was a name that kept coming up as the very best restaurant there was. Located on the 18th floor of the Marmara Pera Hotel, the view was just gorgeous:
Sadly, as you can see, the terrible weather meant very poor visibility but snow-capped Istanbul certainly looked rather beautiful. I also had a very pretty companion to look at 😉
I really liked the restaurant’s chic minimalistic interior too, and with floor to ceiling windows on a clear day you would be able to see Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia.
The menu represents Chef Mehmet Gurs heritage and is a fusion of Scandinavian and Turkish cuisine; something I’d certainly never tried before. Interestingly, the name Mikla is the Viking word for Istanbul, also representing the fusion of cultures.
Our amuse came beautifully presented in a carved stone and it was a delicious mackerel mousse between sandwiched between two crisp breads.
And also a creamy vichyssoise type-thing.
Never wanting to be too far away from a glass of wine I went to order the ‘usual’ New Zealand Sauv Blanc but the waiter suggested we try the Turkish version. I was sceptical as it’s not something that you usually see on a wine list, but it was fantastic and I’d highly recommend trying it if you visit. It’s actually strange that we don’t see it much in the UK as Turkey as are one of the world’s oldest wine producing regions.
Every restaurant that we visited in Istanbul served fabulous bread and Mikla went one better by pairing it with the choice of olive oil, butter or nut butter and the option of adding salt.
My starter was octopus from the North Aegean Sea served with tarhana (Turkish cracked wheat, yoghurt and vegetables fermented then dried), pickles, sumac and mullet roe. A beautifully cooked and presented dish…I’m also mastering art of telling waiters how to pour sauce for the perfect photo 😉
Anna’s was hamsi, a fish very similar to an anchovy caught regularly off the coast of Turkey. The little salty fish were incased in olive oil bread and served with lemon sauce. I thought it was an incredibly creative and very tasty dish…there is yet to be a Michelin star awarded to a Turkish restaurant but I think Mikla would most certainly be in line for the first.
My main course was grilled bluefish with olive oil, braised celeriac, wheat and charred red pepper. I’ve already sung the praises of this fabulous oily fish that reminds me of sea bass and Mikla’s version was beautifully cooked and served with delicious accompaniments.
Anna’s choice was roasted monkfish with Kalamata oil, Bandirma yogurt, Malkara lentil and wholewheat Eriste lettuce. You’ll notice, particularly on this dish that care is taken to source all the ingredients locally. The chef espouses the concept of the ‘New Anatolian Kitchen’ which involves using the freshest ingredients and cooking with traditional techniques. The thinking behind this is that the food culture from the past survives and evolves into something new and innovative. The movement also aids the survival of small farmers and fisherman.
I love a traditional British rice pudding and I was keen to try the Turkish version, Sutlac served with sour apple sorbet, black mulberry crisp and young sour orange. I loved this dish, the rice still had bite to it and wasn’t too mushy and I enjoyed the bitter sorbet that cut through the sweet rice.
Anna couldn’t help but be intrigued by crunchy candied pumpkin served with sesame paste, grape molasses, hemp seeds and…birdshit ice cream!? Ok, so it turns out that birdshit is slang in Istanbul for young pistachios, a rather more appetising description! I wasn’t such a fan of Anna’s dessert as the pumpkin was a little hard, but she enjoyed it…birdshit included!
Anna and I totally loved Mikla, with incredible food, views and service I can see why it’s rated one of the best restaurants in Istanbul. I’ll just have to return in summer for wine on the roof terrace and sweeping views of the city!
For our last night in Istanbul I booked a restaurant called Sunset. I had fond memories of this gorgeous restaurant on the hill and dining al fresco when I’d visited in Summer 2005. However, the snow was coming down hard and the roads were treacherous, all taxis refused to take us to the restaurant’s hilltop location. We’d have to go somewhere else…and then I remembered a gorgeous looking restaurant called Vogue from Mrs O’s blog
. The hotel concierge booked us in quickly and we were away. Arriving at a rather deserted office block, we were a little confused but a lift soon took us up to the top floor and into Vogue.
My disappointment at missing out on Sunset soon dispersed as I looked out on the beautiful view of the Bosphorus. Once again visibility was very poor but I did manage one decent picture of the view.
I loved the elegant interior of Vogue, which was rather more homely than Mikla. Vogue is actually something of an institution in Istanbul having been around for fourteen years and consistently in top restaurant lists.
Yet more great bread, served with a delicious tomato salsa.
The menu had an international feel so we decided to veer a little from Turkish food and ordered some spicy tuna sushi rolls and some sashimi.
As well as a fab platter of local seafood. Fortunately Anna and I have very similar tastes food-wise so there was a lot of sharing on our trip!
I chose jumbo prawns with roasted pepper and quinoa salad. It was a rather small portion for a main course, but as we had over ordered on the starters it was actually just right.
Anna chose octopus and local lobster with a chickpea puree. It was delicious but also on the small side and as we basically doing halvsies we only got a very small bite of lobster each.
As I knew I had a few weeks of detoxing when we got back to prepare for South Africa I decided to treat myself to dessert again. The mango and passion fruit parfait was the perfect choice as it was deliciously light and refreshing.
Vogue was a fabulous restaurant, with incredible food and ambiance; one I’d certainly recommend for a luxurious dinner but do bear in mind the portion sizes.
What are you favourite restaurants in Istanbul? Have you ever visited any with a great view?