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Grab a kebab – and more – in Istanbul

Who doesn’t love a good kebab? Ooh, the memories I have of those greasy doners we used to buy from unsalubrious looking joints in our 20s after a night of too much booze (OK, so some of us still do it!). Mr Gallivant and I recently sampled some rather more refined examples in their birthplace – Turkey!

Hamdi Restaurant 

Hamdi Restaurant, near the Spice Bazaar, in Istanbul’s Eminonu Square, doesn’t look much from the outside, but the views from the upstairs eatery are wonderful – make sure you book ahead and ask for a window seat or the verandah if it’s a warm evening.

The first thing we noticed was that Hamdi was jam packed with locals – always a good sign. The owner founded the restaurant 30 years ago after originally having a kebab cart in the area… so this obviously used to be the boozy night alternative, Turkish style!

The service was slick and our waiter sweet, kind and very patient with our pathetic attempts at speaking Turkish (NB. When writing this I noticed some poor reviews about staff on Trip Advisor but I can only speak from our experience, which was good).

We kicked off with Lahmacun – a kind of Turkish flatbread, covered with minced beef, parsley and garlic. It was delicious. This was followed by kebabs – what else? I tried the ‘pistachio’, which also contains lamb and veal.  It was an Adana Kebab, where the meat is kneaded together and then wrapped around a skewer. The meat was succulent and beautifully spiced. If nothing but a Doner will do, they are also on the menu :-). Pudding was tooth achingly sweet baklava – and we couldn’t resist buying some more from the restaurant’s downstairs shop to take away.

Eating out in Istanbul is great value – for our meal we paid around £60 total, Now this was back in March, when exchange rates for us were already pretty good. Now, since the recent plunge of the Turkish lira, by my reckoning you’d pay around £39 for the same meal.

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Balikci Sabahattin

This was our second good find – a specialist fish restaurant. The place looks a little makeshift, set up in a kind of marquee style affair, with the kitchens in an old townhouse. We thought we’d rocked up at the wrong place. However, yet again, the service was super efficient and friendly.

They make life very easy for you here. First, a big platter of mezze dishes is whisked before you and you pick out what you’d like – in our case unctuous sun dried tomato and smoky aubergine tapenades , zingy tzatziki, and of course a basket of bread to mop everything up.

You decide which fish you’d like from a very long list. It’s served very simply – ours was grilled, with a bit of potato and salad on the side. Then they plonk a couple of puds on your table – stewed apricots with vanilla ice cream and a cake made with semolina I believe – not sure what it was called and, to be honest, I didn’t love it but, hey, it was good to try something typically Turkish!

Prices were similar to those at Hamdi Restaurant.

It’s a great time for us Brits to check out this amazing city– click here for our Top 5 things to do there…

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