This week the opening of the Istanbul Biennial is drawing the international art crowd to the wondrous city on the Bosphorus to discover new art from the region and beyond curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. The cosmopolitan destination has plentiful other attractions for these cultured travelers as well, including rich and robust dining offerings. Here are five places that visitors should be sure to search out when in town.
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The NADA Network Protocinema Founder Mari Spirito on the Manifold Challenges Facing Istanbul's Art Scene
(Photo by Nagib Khazaka)
Past the velvet rope, burly doormen, and picky door policy is one of the city’s few bona fide nightclubs, which pulses with the latest house music. International DJs maintain the energy levels of local media and fashion celebrities with the help of expertly prepared cocktails. Entry can be guaranteed through a dinner reservation at the bar/restaurant, which serves Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. A revamp by Autoban created more space in the social fishbowl that is the Bosphorus-side terrace.
Salhane Sokak 5, T 212 327 2844, www.anjelique.com.tr
In 2005, six years after opening the legendary Changa, which has now closed, restaurateurs Tarik Bayazit and Savaş Ertunç launched this slick sequel. Müzedechanga translates as "Changa at the museum," and the duo’s aim was to cater to the cultured set who were flocking to the Sakıp Sabancı Müzesi (T 212 277 2200). The glass-cube structure that houses the restaurant was conceived by architect Ayşen Savaş, and the retro-edged interiors with timber furnishings were designed by Autoban, who chose Poul Henningsen and Noguchi lamps to bathe the space in light. Consultant chef Peter Gordon’s menu reflects his unique take on Turkish cuisine, in dishes such as the house sucuk, a spicy local sausage with pistachios.
Sakıp Sabancı Caddesi 42, T 212 323 0901, www.changa-istanbul.com
Situated behind the Galatasaray Lycée, Münferit’s discreet setting incorporates a modish dining space with wood-panelled walls and white tablecloths. The breezy terraces make this an ideal place for an alfresco summer mezze. Time your visit to coincide with owner Ferit Sarper spinning records in the upstairs cocktail lounge. Closed on Sundays. Follow-up venue Gaspar (top photo; Müeyyeyzade Mahallesi, Necatibey Caddesi, Arapoğlan Sokak 6, T 212 293 6660) launched in 2013 down the hill in vibrant Karaköy, adopting the same formula of an interior by Autoban, an inventive yet accessible menu, and music provided by the owner. The restaurant serves up international dishes using Turkish ingredients, such as a duck confit salad with local beetroot and tangy strawberries. The cocktails are equally punchy.
Yeni Çarşı Caddesi 19, T 212 252 5067
(Photo by Ali Bekman)
Upmarket Bebek, on the Bosphorus in the Beşiktaş area, is brimming with cafés full of ladies who lunch. Mangerie, tucked away on the upper floor of an otherwise drab building in the center of the district, is undoubtedly the finest of the bunch. The bright dining room and wide terrace offer stellar views over the strait. Open from 8 a.m., Mangerie has a cracking breakfast menu as well as an alluring list of healthy dishes served throughout the day that keep the place humming. Sample the balık ekmek (grilled fillet of seabass in cornbread), a variant of an Istanbul street-food classic.
Cevdet Paşa Caddesi 69, T 212 263 5199, www.mangeriebebek.com
(Photo by Emre Dörter)
Of the recent crop of café/restaurants, Naif stands out for its friendly vibe and simplified new Turkish cooking. Drawing on the knowledge they absorbed managing many of the city’s top restaurants, its two owners, Seray Öztürk and Ayhan Aruç, have created a charming eaterie with a characterful interior by downtown design firm Lunapark; graphic text on the wall (Ne Yesek? Ne Içsek?) translates as the local phrase, "What should we eat? What should we drink?," which sums up the venue’s practical approach. Tucked behind Kiliç Ali Pasa Hammam, Naif serves small portions at reasonable prices, making it an ideal pitstop between a visit to Istanbul Modern and the surrounding art galleries.
Kemankeş Mahallesi, Mumhane Caddesi 52, T 212 251 5335, www.naifistanbul.com