I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my research for Istanbul Passage, but the most frequent one (by far) is: where did you eat? So here’s a general answer with a few restaurant recommendations. None of these are out-of-the-way places. They’ll all be known to your hotel and most taxis.
Istanbul Passageis set in 1945 so most of the places where Leon, its protagonist, ate are long gone (as is his favorite watering hole, the bar at the Park Hotel) but a few places from that era still survive:
The bar at the Pera Palas (Mesrutiyet Caddesi) has been newly refurbished but all the old ghosts (including Agatha Christie) are still there. Pandeli, located over the Spice Market, Misir Carsi 1, has been an Istanbul mainstay for decades, and the restaurants in the Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage) on Istiklal Caddesi, where Leon has lunch in the book, look much the same. So have a peek, if not necessarily a meal, then head for better food to:
Sofyali Sokak, a street near Tunel Square, just off Istiklal Caddesi, is lined with restaurants whose outdoor tables almost fill the street in good weather. Just grab the best table you can find and order mezes from the passing trays. A great Istanbul evening. Particularly recommended:
Refik at #10-12. Said to be popular with writers, a well-known meyhane whose walls are lined with caricatures of Istanbul media figures.
Flamm at #16/1. Slightly more inventive as well as standard mezes.
Sofyali at #9. Excellent mezes.
Views: Mikla, top floor of the Marmara Pera Hotel (Mesrutiyet Caddesi). If your budget isn’t quite up to this pricey (but good) restaurant, have a drink instead at the overhead rooftop bar. Probably the best view in Istanbul, magical at night.
Food: Hunkar in Nisantasi (upscale offshoot of the original in the old Fatih neighborhood). Turkish food at its best. Highly recommended.
Romantic splurge: Korfez in Kanlica on the Asian side. Have your hotel reserve. A private launch will pick you up on the quay near Rumeli Hissari and ferry you across the Bosphorus. After that romantic introduction, all is fresh fish and lights on he Bosphorus and illuminated fortress walls across the water— an unforgettable Istanbul experience.
More fish: Poseidon in Bebek, with a deck terrace over the Bosphorus. Balikci Sabahattin in Sultanhamet (nr. the Blue Mosque).
And don’t forget: street food is one of Istanbul’s joys: doner kebaps, stuffed mussels, towers of simits (sesame bread rings). Enjoy.