The girls hit Istanbul's Grand Bazaar early in attempt to beat the madding crowds. A fun destination if you aren't desperate for anything, and can enjoy the repartee with the stall holders - I do! It is easy to be overwhelmed by the acres of same same, and the constancy of being approached to buy. If you are 'just looking', they are definitely 'just selling'!
A couple of scarves, leather wallet and nonsense hats later we joined the growing throngs heading downhill towards the Spice Bazaar. The streets lined with a claustrophobic collection of stalls, with large emphasis on wedding 'ware' and 'wear'.
Oh dear, the senses are assaulted by the intense collection of meringue frocks, some reaching pavlova proportions! AND you could accessorise beyond your wildest dreams. Amongst this Em found a pair of black shoes at bargain price.
A relief to emerge from flummery into the Spice Bazaar - a visual, nasal, mouthwatering feast!
From stalls specialising in chilli powder to paste, to those with arrays of spices and herbs, others specialist in every conceivable version of Turkish Delight or nougat. Fruit and vegetable stalls, cheese stands, butcheries and fishmongers all get guernseys too, and a creeping collection of brand 'knock off' stalls somehow fit the 'Spice Bazaar' criteria - perhaps money?
Bazaared out, a quick lunch in the quiet of Hadi Restaurant close by, and a Bosphorous boat trip from the Galat Bridge opposite, gives both foot relief and visual splendor of a more relaxing kind! The magnificent architecture, where east meets west, from forts of Crusaders through Ottoman supremacy to now, the visual history is a feast, interspersed with swathes of green forest and parkland.
On return wandered via the Istanbul Railway Station, still gorgeous though dilapidated, of Paris to Istanbul Orient Express fame. The Orient Express Dining Room survives, I sense just, complete with rather forlorn photos of Agatha Christie, Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple still adorning the walls. The architecture and internal space is beautiful, seemingly all as was, no dreadful attempts at modernising.
From here a wander to what was Topkapi Palace grounds, now a Park with full grown shady trees and lawns, for a spot of people watching, then back to Kybele Hotel to prepare for our Big Night Out!
Yes, treated Emily to Asitane Restaurant, only featuring cuisine from recipes of the Ottoman Palaces. The guilds of cooks were fiercely secretive about their culinary tricks, consequently few recipes survived from the four and a half centuries of Ottoman rule (1453-1918). The chefs of Asitane researched surviving papers, libraries, in their course discarding recipes in which ingredients no longer exist in this day and age. Check out the website www.asitanerestaurant.com, and if you LOVE food, make this a destination! Not cheap, but the food is fantastic.
Asitane is close to the Chora Church, famed for its mosaics, and the best preserved building and artwork of the Byzantine period.
So, what did we eat? Some Ottoman treats to start with which included hummus blended with cinnamon and currants (recipe from 1469), a pounded cucumber and pistachio dip (1488), 'Lor' cheese blend which included green chilli pepper and tomato (1898), and a fava bean dip. We also shared calamari stuffed with shrimp, and a secret seasoned rice mix, and I had to eat the hassa boregi myself because of the pastry. Damn! This dish was sensational! Ground green olives, walnuts, onion, tulum cheese, currants, cinnamon, possibly mint, mixed with yoghurt spread on to filo pastry which was then rolled up and wound into a wheel. This was an amazing dish!
For mains we had aubergine stuffed with grilled quail (boned apart from the legs - see pic in album), in a rich pepper sauce, and stuffed melon - a half honey dew stuffed with a mince, rice, cinnamon, currant, mint, almond and other herbs we couldn't decipher, bake in the honey dew. This was followed by a complimentary pomegranate sherbet, a drink served with ice. For wines, of course Turkish, Narenge, a native white variety, and Okuzgozu, native red variety. Both were adequate, the red a better match for my quail dish.
Ah our last dinner in Turkey, and what a great note to leave on!