On this short 3 night trip to Istanbul we stayed and dined in the old town around Sultanahmet Square. Although this is a popular tourist area we found it a pleasant place to stay with reasonably good restaurants.
Amiral Palace Boutique Hotel
Located in the heart of old town a 7-minute walk from Sultanahmet Square, the Amiral Palace Boutique Hotel is a quality option offering quiet comfortable rooms and good service. Amazingly we never did hear the call to prayer from inside our room. I had reserved a deluxe room but we were given a suite with a kitchenette in one room and a bedroom in another.
The space was clean and well maintained with all the usual amenities, coffee and tea service, albeit with instant coffee, safe, hair dryer, and a good Wi-Fi connection. The bed was OK but not super comfy. Although we did not cook in the room it was well equipped with cookware and an induction cook top. The bathroom was moderately spacious with a roomy shower and good water pressure. The hot water wavered a bit when others in the building were also using water.
The breakfast buffet is served in their roof top restaurant and offers a wide variety of choices. Hot and cold buffet items included several egg dishes, an extensive array of olives, pickled items and other salad offerings, as well as multiple bread and dessert choices. They also had a wide variety of cheeses and cold cuts. Their fruit selection was on the minimal side with only a bowl of fruit salad and a tray of watermelon. The restaurant is a lovely space to start your day with 360 views over the sea and town.
We had a couple of meze dishes in the restaurant the day we arrived – hummus, a cold salmon dish, and babaganoush. Although the dishes were reasonably good they were a bit pricier than other restaurants in the neighborhood.
Located in Old City near Hagia Sophia, Matbah Restaurant, a hotel restaurant has an upscale modern vibe and a lovely open air patio overlooking a treed garden with a glowing blue dome. The refined menu focuses on ancient recipes with the date of each dish proudly listed after the name. If you like eggplant this is the menu for you as at least half the dishes include it in one form or another. A welcome drink of a lightly sweetened basil concoction, a Turkish style tapenade and a white bean tahini dip are brought to your table free of charge.
We started with the stuffed eggplant, a relatively simple dish but lusciously cooked in olive oil. For mains we ordered the quail which turned out to be a sort of Turkish spiced stew served in a round eggplant and the chicken kebabs served over smoked eggplant. Both dishes exuded exotic flavors and were well prepared. Servings, however, are on the small side. If you are hungry 2 appetizers would be appropriate. We tried the baklava for dessert, good but nothing special. Service was attentive and friendly and the restaurant was about half full on a Thursday evening starting at 9pm.
Located near Sultanahmet Square on a street of many restaurants Deraliye is an upscale tourist restaurant serving Ottoman specialties. The dining room has large windows that open to the street in good weather. The decor is a colorful blend of traditional and edgy. I loved the chairs with prints of sultans in rich velour on the back.
The extensive menu focuses on traditional recipes with plenty of meat, fish and vegetarian options. If you want to go all out they have a multicourse pre fixe Ottoman Empire menu at 1250TL (70USD) for two. We instead chose a la carte starting with a simple Shepard salad – tomatoes and cucumber in a dressing laced with pomegranate syrup – and the grilled octopus served on a bed of pureed eggplant – well seasoned and tasty but much too chewy for my tastes. For mains we chose the lamb neck with dried fruit and the whole sea bream. Here they let us down. The lamb was not as succulent as many lamb dishes I’ve had and the dried fruit preparation too syrupy. While the fish was very fresh it was a bit overcooked and dry. We let the server choose dessert, Katmer – a phylo dough pastry filled with a pistachio butter cream and served with ice cream. A perfect ending.
Service is formal and friendly and amusingly male focused. When a server came with the tapenade served to the table before the meal he presented to my husband placing squarely on his plate not even acknowledging my existence. Later, after stating our intent to share both starters, they gave me the salad declaring “yummy, yummy” and presented the grilled octopus to Don. Although we laughed at their chauvinist ways it could annoy more feminist minded folks.
This is a fun thematic restaurant with an interesting menu, but for food-focused patrons the dishes aren’t as well executed as they should be.
Queb Lounge 360
Located on a street of many restaurants near Sultanahmet Square, Queb Lounge 360’s roof top terrace offers good food and panoramic views. The terrace is surrounded by windows that open at the top. We arrived around 7pm on a Saturday evening without reservations. The sea-view side of the small dining room was about half full of mostly families at this early hour.
The menu has a broad selection of traditional dishes including a couple of steak–for-two options. We started with a simple green salad and a Croatian yogurt salad with broccoli and asparagus. I’m sure it also had cheese mixed in but the server, after checking the menu, said it did not. In any case both dishes were fresh and well prepared. For mains we ordered the whole sea bream and the lamb shank. While not terribly inventive platings everything was well executed. The fish was served with roasted potatoes and the lamb shank on a bed of eggplant puree with a side of plain white rice. Both dishes also included a side of a vegetable medley heavy on peppers. The fish was moist and perfectly cooked and the lamb fall-off-the-bone tender. We tried the rice pudding for dessert. Again a well-executed preparation. Service was friendly and efficient. This is a solid restaurant offering good food and views.
June 23-25, 2022