For me, one of the best things about travelling is definitely the local cuisine you get to try when visiting a new place. Often times, this is also another reason for me to say "screw it, I'm on holiday", and have that second ice-cream of the day. Although I have never officially gone on a "foodie trip", most of my travels certainly revolve around the restaurants I will be visiting once I get to that city.
With that said, trying to find a restaurant that's not completely touristic whilst travelling can be somewhat difficult. I tend to narrow down the best places to go by reading different articles, checking the ratings on websites such as Tripadvisor, asking a friend who has been to that city/is from there, and then cross reference all of that on Instagram to find out what the place REALLY looks like. Now, of course, not everyone has as much time as I do on my hands, so here comes the first of many (hopefully) handy list, to help you narrow down some places to go wine & dine when you're on holiday.
I have recently just come back from Istanbul, and I completely fell in love with the city. It is a city that is filled with so much character and history, but the local cuisine were the true gem and the highlight of my trip. I'm almost relieved I don't live in that city, as I'm guaranteed to gain at least 50 kilos.
Here are some of my favourite places I dined at, based on atmosphere, food, etc.
Cuma is a sweet cafe located at the antique district of Istanbul. It has a cute outdoor area, perfect for those sunny mornings, but it also has an upstairs for those days where the weather doesn't permit. It's open all day, but definitely go for the breakfast. My boyfriend had the eggs with asparagus and I had the eggs with spicy lentils and prosciutto. Both were such simple dishes, but were elevated with some great spices and seasoning. There are also usually a few cats lounging near the outdoor area sunbathing... But that's just a bonus for me as I'm a crazy cat lady.
Mangerie is a trendy brunch place located in Bebek, where the locals tend to flock to for some pancakes & mimosas. The place is usually quite busy, so be prepared to wait a bit, especially if you want to sit outside. Despite the wait, this place is definitely worth it. It offers some of the best view of Istanbul and the Bosphorus.
I stupidly forgot to take a picture of the restaurant whilst I was there, so heres a borrowed one on top... Although this restaurant is a bit of a trek from the main touristic parts of Istanbul, again, it offers some great views and vibes. I came here for dinner, but I would image the view during the day would be even better. They have an indoor and outdoor dining area for you to choose from, and offer some great seafood options. Order the butter prawns as part of your starters, they are amazing! The fish stew as main also gave me a good dose of food envy from our neighbouring table.
The Kempinski hotel is absolutely stunning in Istanbul. Even though, you may not stay at the hotel, it's a must go. Choose a sunny day and sit outside whilst enjoying some turkish tea or a light salad. Although the hotel only offered Caesar salads (in the salad section), they were more than accommodating when I asked for something different. After your meal, you can walk around the hotel, and absorb all the wonderful architecture.
I have to admit, Meze by Lemon Tree is a bit of a tourist trap, this is due to the simple fact that it's listed on most Istanbul travel guides and articles. As our hotel was located right opposite the restaurant, we decided to give it a try.
The restaurant offer some great dishes, and it's a great way to be introduced into the local cuisine. I liked that the restaurant has a section where the meze are displayed and the waiters take you there to introduce you to the ingredients. We eat with our eyes after all!
Although Meze by Lemon Tree was great, I have to say Aheste is even better! I absolutely loved the romantic atmosphere of the restaurant, and I personally preferred the meze offered. They have an a la carte menu, but for first-timers they recommend the tasting menu. This includes cold meze, hot meze, main course and dessert. What's even better is that the meze are unlimited. So if you enjoyed a particular meze dish, you can have second and thirds. I had to waddle out of the restaurant by the end of it!