One of the best things about living in the UK, apart from the weather, is that you are a hop, skip and a jump away from the rest of Europe and potentially in weekend break heaven. Never one to miss an opportunity, I decided it was high time The Beard and I had one… and so glorious Istanbul it was.
Boasting two continents, no wonder it is such a magical, hip and bustling city with an array of palaces, museums, bars and wonderful restaurants to explore….The Beard had his hit list and I had mine. Right at the top of it (mine of course) was the newly opened restaurant Yeni Lokanta, headed by Turkish born chef and restaurateur Civen Er. After studying economics in London, Civen then trained at Sofra in St Johns Wood before working at the famed Changa in Istanbul; six years down the line he has opened up his first venture in the European part of town, Beyglou.
Yeni Lokanta – literally meaning ‘new canteen’ – is a stylish and upmarket place with a number of different little rooms creating a wonderful, intimate and buzzy ambiance. It was obvious from the minute we walked in that this is a local fashionable hang out and it was full of beautiful, elegant Istanbulites, not a tourist in sight – apart from me and The Beard – so we struggled slightly to blend in (although after a few glasses of wine I thought my Turkish accent was quite good). We arrived bang on time and although the team had lost our reservation, within 5 minutes we were seated at the best table in the house (and not facing a wall!). Had we known or arrived a little earlier, there is a small and perfectly formed bar to the right of the restaurant which we could have had a drink at and it’s also possible to eat there.
The menu is creative and contemporary and made up of a selection of small and big plates and salads as well as a selection of meze. To start with we had home baked bread with burnt butter which was utterly divine followed by Vine wrapped cured beef patty and hummus with olives and ‘zahter’ (powdered thyme) – both perfectly formed little dishes. We then opted for a selection of meze which consisted of grilled meatballs with halloumi and vegetables from the wood fired oven, yoghurt and zucchini flower fritter and dried aubergine dumplings with ‘Antochian’ yoghurt sauce, all of which were a taste sensation. We perhaps should have stopped there but our eyes were clearly bigger than our stomachs and I am so glad we didn’t! We shared the raki flavoured sea bass with ezine cheese and roquette salad. The bass was huge and plump and full of flavour, so much better than the ones we get back home. What I loved about Civen’s food is that you didn’t really know what to expect but all were executed perfectly.
To accompany our food the sommelier suggested we try a red from the Gallipoli peninsula called Sur (a Bordeaux blend), which oddly we drank two of (so unlike us!). At 14.5% it was probably a little punchy but an utterly delicious choice. As a consequence The Beard had to drag me away from banging on to poor old Civan and off we went merrily into the night, very happy after our wonderful meal.
Yeni Lokanta is clearly a welcome addition to the Istanbul restaurant scene and definitely one to add to anyone’s hit list if visiting.
Dinner for 2 including wine was approx. £160.
Address: Kumbaracı Yokuşu 66, Beyoğlu Telephone: +90 212 292 2550
Hours: 11am-midnight; closed Sunday