A whistle-stop guide to Istanbul: the city of two continents
Steeped in history, the city balances its heritage with an enthusiasm for the new and novel – whether it’s modern interpretations of local traditions or NFTs from one of Istanbul’s best chefs
Saturday 19 March 2022 By Jess Aureli
As Soho House Istanbul turns seven, our teams have put their heads together to come up with the best the city has to offer.
Where to eat and drink
Situated in Pera, one of Istanbul’s most historic neighbourhoods – and adjacent to a truly spectacular vine-covered facade – Aheste (Persian for ‘slowly’), fuses Turkish, Ottoman and Middle Eastern influences. Its relaxed vibe, mezze-style menu and friendly service all add up to an atmosphere that’s buzzy, but also pleasingly low key. The wine list is small, but expertly curated, and if you leave without trying the slow-roasted lamb shoulder, we won’t be mad – just disappointed.
At Neolokal, chef Maksut Aşkar plates up a riot of colour and texture via his modern interpretations of Anatolian food, which he thinks of as a ‘bridge between the past and the future’ (his recent NFT GIF project, in which customers get the chance to cook with him, is even more proof of this forward-thinking attitude).
The restaurant is located in the historic SALT Galata cultural centre (formerly the headquarters of the Ottoman Bank), and its menu is a multicourse, sharing-style affair – be sure to save room for the hazelnut tahini halva (we don’t want to overstate things, but honestly, it’s a revelation).
Designed as a cross between a classic French bistro and an esnaf lokantasi (a traditional workers’ cafe), Karaköy Lokantası has become a firm favourite in the city’s buzzy Karaköy neighbourhood, charming one and all with its glazed turquoise wall tiling, marble detailing, and mosaic floors. The menu is unfailing great – you’d be hard-pressed to make a bad choice – and while the lamb and aubergine hünkar beğendi stew is probably the star in the line-up, insiders know that it’s the fried crispy courgette that’s not to be missed.
2022 has been the year in which many of us have had to navigate a problematic relationship with Sex And The City follow-up, And Just Like That…, but the show’s enduring legacy, the Cosmopolitan, remains a kitsch nostalgia fave – and Mikla’s version is better than most. There’s a lot to talk about here – the Cosmo, the ever-changing menu, the carefully sourced produce, and the views that are generally acknowledged to be the best in the city. But, given its established status as the best restaurant in Istanbul, we’ll save us all some time and just say: go.
Petra Roasting Co
In a city with no shortage of coffee shops, it’s the little details and added extras that make Petra Roasting Co stand out from the crowd. Steamed eggs, sourdough tartines and the noisette double espressos are almost distressingly moreish, and its locally roasted coffees are presented in packaging that doubles as a mini work of art. Plus, a special mention also has to go out to its robust array of Spotify playlists – perfect for recreating that chilled-out Petra atmosphere at home.
What to see and do
Inspired by a novel written by Orhan Pamuk, which recounts the story of Istanbul family life between 1950 and 2000, Masumiyet Müzesi (or ‘The Museum of Innocence’) showcases the objects used, worn, heard, seen, accumulated and imagined by the book’s protagonists. A unique snapshot into the history of the city.
Soho House Istanbul turns seven
As Soho House Istanbul turns seven, come along to the House to dance and sing along with the one and only Sister Sledge. London-based DJ, producer and drag queen, Jodie Harsh, also joins us for an energetic set, with a warm-up by Q-BRA. Garan Garan brings his specially selected selections to the main bar, and Sarp Dakni rocks his greatest hits on the ground floor, accompanied by our beloved resident, Vasil Vingas.
Monday Club: Rain Lab
Recognised as one of Turkey’s top producers and hip-hop artists, Da Poet’s beats and turntablism meets Idil Mese’s songwriting and vocals in their trip hop collaboration, Rain Lab, as they perform at the Embassy. The duo is accompanied by songwriter and trumpet player, Bariş Demirel.
Backstage Stories: Serra Duran Paralı and Emirhan Paralı
Fashion editor, vintage fashion collector, multi-disciplinary artist and vocalist, Hakan Bahar, speaks to creative director Serra Duran Paralı and entrepreneur Emirhan Paralı about their journey, exploring the unseen parts of their stories.
Where to stay
Soho House Istanbul
At the end of a long day exploring the city, a welcoming home away from home awaits. Located in the creative heart of the city, the Beyoğlu district, Soho House Istanbul is set across four buildings: the Corpi Building, the Annex Building, the Chancery Building and the Glass Building. It features a screening room, gym and Cowshed spa with two hammam rooms, as well as a variety of spaces where you can eat, drink, and relax.
Book a bedroom at Soho House Istanbul here.
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