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Food & Drink

How to truly experience Istanbul's culinary scene

The city’s best tapas

Whether you’re grabbing a drink after work, sitting down to dinner with your friends or just have a hankering for a small bite early in the morning, Istanbul’s top tapas destinations cater to your appetite around the clock.


May, 2012

by: Elif Yirmibeşoğlu

Corvus Wine and Bite

Corvus’s mouth-watering tapas menu is a hit with locals and international visitors alike. Favourites Avocado with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese, dry bean paste with strained yogurt and cucumbers, Gelibolu sardines with roasted peppers and rocket, courgette blossoms with warm cheese (only in August). Most filling Roasted eggplant with tahini, pine nuts and sundried tomatoes; Ezine cheese with beets and fresh thyme; Ezine cheese with pine nuts, pumpkin and honey. More than tapas Cheese plates, veggie towers, crispy oven-roasted chicken, meatless hünkar beğendi (creamy eggplant puree) and Corvus regulars’ favourite, lamb shank. Recommended drink A glass of white, rose or soft-bodied red wine. Prices 7-10 TL. Şair Nedim Sokak 5, Akaretler (0212) 260 54 70. Monday-Saturday 10.00-00.00 (kitchen open 10.00-22.00).


El Beso Restaurant & Club


El Beso Restaurant & Club’s tapas menu features 12 alternatives: spicy shrimp, Roquefort tenderloin, crispy duck in filo pastry, patatas bravas with shrimp, eggs with truffle oil, sea bass wrapped in bacon, four-cheese croquette, classic Spanish chicken croquette, crab tartlet, ricotta crostini, marinated salmon and bresaola. Favourites and prices Crispy duck in filo pastry (26 TL), shrimp patatas bravas (29 TL), Spanish chicken croquette (21 TL). Recommended drink Cava. Muallim Naci Caddesi 64/D, Kuruçeşme (0212) 287 57 59/www.elbeso.com.tr (Turkish-language website). Daily 09.00-until the last customer leaves.



This fairly new eatery in Şişhane offers tapas all day, which makes it a great lunchtime alternative for those who work in the neighbourhood. If you’re looking to dine on a full meal of tapas, we recommend ordering at least four or five different kinds, preferably those with bread. You can also opt to start with a couple of tapas and try the racion dishes with larger portions, among which the pineapple salmon is a can’t-miss. Favourites Chicken with Madras sauce; marinated sea bass, avocado and red onions on toast; fish patties; muska börek (triangular pastry filled with parsley and cheese) with green lentils; shelled mussels with spicy sauce; chicken patties; bread topped with mushrooms in a cognac and garlic sauce; carpaccio with black olives and manchego cheese; jumbo shrimp with garlic on top of warm fava beans; caramelised onions and goat cheese on toast. Turkish-inspired Çerkez tavuğu (shredded chicken with bread, pounded walnuts and red pepper sauce) on toast; rice with mussels. Prices Chicken with Madras sauce 12 TL; marinated sea bass, avocado and red onions on toast 9 TL; fish patties 8 TL. Meşrutiyet Caddesi 94 A, Şişhane (0212) 251 53 14/ www.gozo.com.tr (Turkish-language website). Monday-Thursday 11.00-23.00; Friday, Saturday 11.00-02.00.



Perennially famous for its cocktails, Lucca debuted a section on its menu called ‘tapas and small plates’ the day it opened eight years ago. Over time, that little section grew richer and more varied thanks to the kitchen crew’s gastronomic visits to Spain – in fact, that’s where they met Executive Chef Willy Moya five years ago. These days, Lucca’s menu offers not only the classic Spanish tapas but a whole list of small bites – 15 of them, to be exact – inspired by world cuisine. Favourites Fresh asparagus paste, fried chili calamari, haddock tempura taco, mini beef slider, duck roll, foie gras crostini. Classics Gazpachio, patatas bravas, tortilla de camarones. Recommended drink ‘It’s best not to think of tapas as a singular dish,’ Kitchen Coordinator Pelin Çakar says, ‘so we recommend a different drink for seafood tapas than we would for another dish made with meat, veggies or different flavours.’ A full-bodied wine goes perfect with foie gras crostini, while the best accompaniment to haddock taco is a good beer. Prices Fresh asparagus paste 12 TL, sea bass ceviche 18 TL, haddock tempura taco 18 TL, mini beef slider 16 TL. Cevdet Paşa Caddesi 51/B, Bebek (0212) 257 12 55/www.luccastyle.com. Monday 12.00-02.00; Tuesday-Sunday 10.00-02.00.


Meze by Lemon Tree

This eatery has the air of an old Istanbul meyhane (Turkish tavern), so it should come as no surprise that the menu consists mostly of meze (small bites). Each day, Meze by Lemon Tree prepares 14 different dishes for regulars, some of them more experimental than others. If you’re only here to try out the tapas and meze, we recommend ordering between six and eight dishes. Classics Meyhane cacık (cold dish of diluted yogurt, cucumbers and garlic), babagannuş (grilled eggplant, tahini and lemon) with pistachios, Antep salad (featuring tomatoes, yellow onions, garlic, parsley, green peppers, pickles, lemon, sour sumac, red pepper flakes, dried mint and pomegranate molasses). Favourites Smoked trout pâté with mustard, served between grilled oyster mushroom leaves; rustic peppers stuffed with pistachios and Ezine cheese; mackerel tandoor with pickled plums; marinated sea bass ceviche in a grapefruit-and-lime juice; roasted peppers with tahini, walnuts and Gruyère cheese; mustardy escargot pilaki (cold stew of dried beans with olive oil and onions); shallots with chestnuts and sour pomegranate. Recommended drink A high-acidity wine with minerals like Kayra Terra Kalecik Karası Beyaz with tapas. And of course rakı with traditional meze. Prices Vegetable meze for two 8 TL, seafood meze for two 11 TL. Meşrutiyet Caddesi 83/B, Beyoğlu (0212) 252 83 02/ www.mezze.com.tr. Daily 17.00-01.00.



For all intents and purposes, we’re treating meze as tapas – especially those that come from the kitchen of Münferit. Thanks in part to regular meyhane-goers who were quite bored with Çiçek Pasajı, Münferit has become somewhat of a culinary phenomenon. In addition to offering every meyhane’s must-have meze and warm starters, Münferit serves up some surreal meze that have – dare we say – reached cult status. Favourites Grilled shrimp with hummus, cucumbers with vinegar, pears with Roquefort cheese. Most filling Black couscous with calamari, lamb with celery. Recommended drink Unless you’ve got some dispute with rakı, it’s our clear choice to accompany the meze at Münferit. Prices Cucumbers with vinegar 12 TL, black couscous with calamari 19 TL, lamb with celery 19 TL. Yeni Çarşı Caddesi 19, Galatasaray (0212) 252 50 67/www.munferit.com.tr. Monday-Saturday 18.30-02.00.


Que Tal


The recipient of the ‘Best Small Plate’ award at the 2011 Time Out İstanbul/Gusta Eating & Drinking Awards, Que Tal is fast becoming an Istanbul classic for tapas done right. Every item on the menu bears the mark of partners Ayça and Burcu, who first discovered their love of tapas on a trip to Spain. Their devotion to what they do is what drives them to open the doors of the restaurant each morning and stay till close each night. Located on the ground floor of a building that dates back to the 1800s, Que Tal offers a seasonally-changing menu of tapas – we recommend trying two for a light snack and up to six for a filling meal. Favourites Fried courgette patties, grilled octopus, cold tapas plates. Recommended drink ‘Princesa’ (strawberry champagne cocktail) with smoked salmon, anchovies and red peppers, tapas pan con pescado (with mussels); sangria with chorizo (Spanish pork sausage served with crispy chickpeas); the Spanish wine Toscar Merlot with grilled chicken rolls, rollo de pollo with peppers and spinach; the Spanish wine Gran Fuedo Rosato with Spanish pork plate (including iberico, serrano, chorizo and mortadella). Prices Courgette patties 8 TL, cold tapas plate 9 TL, crispy chickpeas with walnuts 8 TL. Tünel, İlk Belediye Caddesi 5A, Beyoğlu (0212) 244 41 40/www.quetalbar.com. Monday-Thursday 11.30-00.30; Friday, Saturday 11.30-02.30.


Venta Del Toro

Known as the definitive eatery that introduced Istanbul to tapas ten years ago, Venta Del Toro has been serving customers at its new location in Taksim Talimhane for the past eight months. The owner of the venue refers to the menu – which features 50 hot and cold tapas, 20 main courses and two kinds of paella – as ‘mother’s cooking from Spain’. Olive oil, garlic and wine are fixtures in the kitchen, and the variety of meat – from seafood and beef to pork and chicken – is impressive. The menu gets updated each season by owner and partner Ana Gomez de Pablos. Everything can be ordered as tapas at Venta Del Toro. The venue stays open pretty late, especially on Thursdays and Saturdays, when a Cuban band plays salsa chuchu bachata, and on Fridays, when you can hear live bossa nova and Latin jazz. Favourites Handmade croquettes, ham and chorizo, tortillas, tigres (stuffed mussels with béchamel sauce), albondigas, pan tumaca. More than tapas The ever-popular paella. Recommended drink Wines from the different provinces of Spain as well as Latin cocktails and drinks from around the world – though our favourite offering is undisputedly the daily-made sangria. Prices Tigres 13 TL, Shrimp and fish patties (with tarator sauce) 15 TL. Şehit Muhtar Caddesi 2, Talimhane (0212) 243 60 49. Daily 11.30-04.00.


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