From Istanbul to Paris, this touristic district has excited the imagination of many writers. Being the easternmost terminus of the Orient Express may have been Sirkeci’s claim to fame in the past, but now it’s known for its boutique hotels, bookstores, and traditional food. Speaking of which, if your stomach is rumbling, here’s a list of the six best restaurants in Sirkeci.
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Best Sirkeci Restaurants:
1. Güvenç Konyalı
This bit of wonder has a traditional, easy-going vibe that facilitates conversation, making it perfect for a long catch. Speaking of long, their Etli Ekmek (pide) is probably longer than Rapunzel’s hair!
Although the concept is oven-cooked food, there’s nothing quite like their Gavur Dağı salad that has that sweet-sour pomegranate sauce and crunchy walnuts to make the veggies palatable or the cheesy Roquefort bread for a touch of class in your comfort food.
If you’re going for a typical kebab, the Iskender is like the Turkish flag: it pairs a brilliant white yogurt – which is so creamy that it can be cut with a knife – with a sauce so red, it’ll make the British telephone box blush in shame.
However, the buttery way the soft mutton leg (Konya Fırın Kebabi İncik) melts in your mouth is still the highlight. If you really want to get distracted, order the peanut künefe straight after.
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Location of Güvenç Konyalı:
If you thought scrumptious, healthy food doesn’t exist at a kebab restaurant, you’ve never paired the walnut salad with the cheese stuffed mushrooms and followed it up with a honey-yogurt dessert at Bitlisli.
The overwhelming number of images of drool-worthy kebabs and dishes may have you scrambling to choose, but just a quick tip: the round plates of the Ali Nazik is a killer: the grilled, smoky eggplant with garlic paired with a touch of meat to unleash your inner carnivore may initiate the embarrassing chef’s kiss gesture.
The vegetarian pide is like a pizza experience. Also, we couldn’t help but compare the çiğ köfte to Josephine Baker, as it shared a cute, wavy style with the sultry star.
If you’re feeling super adventurous, you may wish to pair the liver shish kebab with the şalgam (purple carrot/turnip juice). It’s tastier than it sounds, plus the juice is good for digestion, and the liver is good for anaemics.
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Location of Bitlisli:
3. Kasap Osman
A vibrant place brimming with bright lights, mirrors, and plants hanging outside like ‘yo, chill’. Even though you can sit in the buzzing streets to people-watch, this busy place feels like a bit of a getaway.
The Beyti looks like a sun: with a creamy sauce drizzled over the white rice in the center and the yogurt to the side, a slice of grilled tomato is followed by a slice of meat followed by a slice of grilled peppers. The meat itself is wrapped in phyllo as if each bite was a gift from the gods. Everything is drowned in a creamy white sauce and tangy, tomatoey sauce that still makes our mouth water just thinking about it.
The Iskender Kebab is another delicious dish that is meat swimming in a luxurious tomato sauce with a dollop of velvet yogurt to the side. Pair it with a colorful seasonal salad and bulgur rice that’s such a bright orange that it reminds us of the moment when Cinderella’s carriage turned into a pumpkin. The plates come prepared for their Instagram debut.
Location of Kasap Osman:
4. Hamdi Restaurant
We’re still undecided if this elegant spot is perfect for date night or quiet family dinner, but its intimate warm-yellow lighting inside and the breath-taking views, if you sit by the terrace, are quite something.
Either way, you have to make reservations just to try the pistachio kebab, which is 50% beef, 50% lamb, and 100% fabulous with its green pistachios poking out like a cat playing hide-and-seek. It comes with a luxurious red bulgur pilau, onions, and grilled veg. If pistachios aren’t your thing, they even have a succulent poppy seed kebab that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
By the way, the muhammara – a spicy red dip with walnuts and pomegranate molasses – paired with the Kalecik Karası red wine is a burst of flavors that may reoccur in your dreams late at night.
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Location of Hamdi Restaurant:
A once-in-a-lifetime restaurant located in the Spice Bazaar, Pandeli, will make you squeal with delight, especially if you’re an Agatha Christie fan. With the kind of vibes that’ll make you feel like you’re on the historic Orient Express, the sophisticated restaurant doesn’t disappoint with its healthy yet wonderful dishes.
The classy Hünkar beğendi – a tomato sauce covering soft bites of lamb sitting on a bed of smoky, garlicky mashed aubergine – is so smooth that it deserves its own ode. It matches well with the red Turkish wine that’s favored internationally: Pendore’s öküzgözü grape wine with legs as long as the Orient Express route.
Their aşure (Noah’s pudding) has that sweet, crunchy flavor but with a sprinkling of nuts and thin slices of fig, it seems descended from Mount Olympus.
If you’re trying to be healthy, the spoon salad (Cevizli Kaşık Salata) with the sweet-sour pomegranate sauce and the crunchy walnuts is so colorful; you may struggle to eat it. Not to mention, the seasonal fruit compote will excite Poirot fans for just how well this place delivers on taste.
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Location of Pandeli:
6. Balkan Lokantası
You’re running low on cash, you can’t speak the language, your stomach is rumbling, and you want to impress a friend. What do you do? Easy, just point to the kellepaça (offal) soup to warm you up to your soul on a cold winter’s day.
At Balkan Lokantası, like a school cafeteria, you point to whatever dish you want and throw it on your plate. Unlike a school café, however, the pretty princess-pink spangle puddings, the rice and pasta dishes that’ll inspire a carb overload, the veggie dishes that’ll ensure you get your 10 a day actually taste good.
And when we say taste good, the beans on bulgur rice will make you think that you’re in a warm cottage of a loveable local. The Tas Kebab, with its tender meat tightly hugged by a tangy tomato sauce, is another thing altogether. And if you hate leek, be prepared to have your mind blown! This is a fantastic restaurant where you can try the local cuisine and taste the locals’ favorite dishes.
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Location of Balkan Lokantası:
If you are looking for the best restaurants in Sirkeci, we have compiled a list of some favorites. All of these places serve delicious dishes that will satisfy any craving.
And if you’re interested in learning more about Turkish food culture and history during your visit, join our Istanbul Food Tours! We offer walking tours to explore the backstreets of Sirkeci and Kadıköy while tasting new foods along the way. Check out our upcoming tours listed here.
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