Escape for the weekend: Discover meat in Istanbul

Istanbul is an amazing city. It’s perfect for a weekend break and is easily reached. So after you’ve visited the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and the Spice market (and many, many more delights), where to eat? Let Lunchquest introduce you to the best steak anywhere. Over to you Blythe.

Aya Sophia Istanbul

The spectacular interior of the Aya Sophia

Istanbul is my favourite holiday destination, not least because it features some excellent culinary treats. On my recent visit, I was lucky enough to sample some really good dishes in some lovely places.

Although Scotland is rightly famous for the excellent quality of our beef, the steakhouse isn’t a restaurant type at which we seem to particularly excel. Istanbul, on the other hand, has two really good places, both of which I visited on this trip. Interestingly, both incorporate butcher’s shops within their premises.

Gunaydin beef

Gunaydin beef

Firstly, there is Gunaydin, a small chain of steakhouses, founded by Cuneyt Gunaydin in 1965. It now has half a dozen branches across Istanbul and Ankara. With a classic steakhouse blend of wood and cowhide, the range of produce on offer is impressive.

Gunaydin beef - Istanbul

Dallas steak

To the fore is their 30 day, dry-aged beef. Their Dallas steak (a huge chunk of ribeye) was extremely impressive. The aubergine stack, with a lovely piece of fillet, which was the dish I had, was extremely good, also. Gunaydin is a quality steakhouse experience, and one you could easily sample of a regular basis.

Lamb at Nusret

Lamb at Nusret

Nusret is much more of an occasion restaurant. It’s a good deal pricier than Gunaydin, but some of the items they serve are out of this world. On our previous visit, we tried their loin of beef, which was quite superb. This time, we were confronted by a full rack of lamb, which the owner carved for us at our table.

Served with the incredibly tender neck, also, this was a dish of pure theatre and magic. It would easily have fed a family of four, but in a “Man vs Food” inspired frenzy, we managed to polish it off between two of us.

Nusret carved lamb

Nusret carved lamb ready for us to devour!

The meat feasting didn’t stop there. Nusret have recently opened a burger outlet, which serves burgers to the same spectacular standard as the rest of their menu. Competing for the crown of “best of the rest” is Burger House, from which we ordered a huge amount of takeout.

With a 700g mega-burger among their list of options, this place is not messing around. A sampled their house special, which included sweetcorn relish, blue cheese sauce, caramelised onions, cheese and pickles. It was top quality stuff. I had a little sample of some of their other menu items, in the form of mini-burger sliders, featuring their standard, cheese, and mushroom burgers.

Sliders from Burger House

Sliders from Burger House

After all this red meat, we had time to try another staple of Istanbul takeaway in the form of Wienerwald’s roasted chicken. A German import, this is light-years beyond any takeaway chicken places you might have come across on UK high streets. My half chicken came with 8 herb sauce and a garlic and parmesan dressing. The chicken itself was beautifully roasted and packed with flavour.

To top things off, we changed pace to sample a from more traditional three courses bistro format, at Yenikoy’s Circle Café. This place looks out over the Bosphorus, and cleverly uses mirror to make the place feel much roomier than it’s relatively modest confines.

Seafood soup at Circle Cafe

Seafood soup

Returning to my comfort zone, I sampled their seafood soup, which was absolutely top notch. Using bread as the source of body for the soup, giving it a lovely light creaminess, it showcased the lovely fresh produce of the Bosphorus to excellent advantage.

A simple main of tortellini was followed by a real departure for me, with the indulgence in a sublime mille-feuille “Napoleon” dessert.

This wonderful dessert put a joyous cherry (or more accurately, raspberry) on the top of what had been a truly wonderful week of culinary indulgence in one of the world’s great cities.

Napoleon Dessert

Napoleon Dessert

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About BKR

Lunchquest provides us with a great platform for reviewing all the varied and alluring lunch and dining options that Edinburgh affords us. With over 1,000 posts on the site, we continue to be impressed with the quality we find. I'm a particular fan of soup, spend a lot of time drinking espresso, am always on the lookout of good cocktail places, and I'm developing a greater appreciation of our local beer ;-)

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