Eating out in Istanbul – a visitor’s guide.

Teresa Curran offers top foodie tips in Istanbul, and finds that Turkish cuisine is a lot more exciting than the 3am greasy kebabs she was used to.

Spices for sale in the Egyptian Market, Istanbul. Photo courtesy of Teresa Curran

Want fast food? Nothing is faster than a cob of corn for about £0.30, freshly barbequed in front of you on the vendors grill.

Like kebabs? Sure, you can get these too. Five minutes from my hotel was one of the most popular kebab stands in Istanbul. It has people serving on all four sides, even to taxi drivers who pull up by the kerb and get served without leaving the cab. These are kebabs at their best, the meat freshly cooked, the lettuce crisp, the tomatoes powerful, and the bread fresh. At about £1.50 this is a meal you’ll want to eat again and again.

Fancy a snack? Head down to the Egyptian Market where you can get the freshest nuts, dried fruit and Turkish delight. Plus there is a whole street dedicated to cheese!

The Egyptian Market is a great place to explore - a feast for the senses. Photo courtesy of Teresa Curran.

If you’d prefer a sit-down meal, grab a seat at the nearest neighbourhood restaurant and order a meze. You will get the restaurant’s best selection of dips and snacks, served with homemade Bazlama bread. Hopefully, one of the dishes will be Acılı ezme (Red pepper and walnut dip) a firey and fresh combination that will have you reaching for some cooling yoghurt and cucumber before tucking in again. There may be Patlıcan salatası, similar to baba ghanoush, made from the ubiquitous aubergine. It’s fragrant with garlic and gleaming with olive oil. Wash it down with a cold Efes beer or a glass of fruity red wine and you will soon be ordering everything in sight.

Meal with a view? Along the waterfront you can get a seat on a rooftop terrace and watch Europe and Asia facing each other across the Bosporus. You can probably get a decent kebab here, but you might be better to have a glass of wine or two and head back to street level for something more substantial. Or walk down to the Galata Bridge for a fish sandwich. You’ll never find one fresher.

If you are not full from all of this, you can always snack on fresh watermelon, or grab an ice-cream from one of the street carts and take a stroll by the sea. Turkish food can be fresh, tasty and delicious…and a very long way away from that deadly döner.

If you’re looking for good Turkish cuisine in London, head east to Kingsland Road for some of the best Turkish restaurants around. And if you’re in West London, pop over to West Kensington to Best Mangal, probably one of the best Turkish restaurants we’ve ever tried. And it’s right next door to the On the Go office! Nothing beats Istanbul though – head to our website for details of our group tours, tailor-made holidays and city stays in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey.

Read more about Teresa’s travels on her blog.

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