Renowned for around 150 years as the heart of İstanbul’s food and entertainment scene, a favorite destination for all those who pass through, Beyoğlu offers the opportunity to spend a gastronomically nostalgic day. What sets it apart from other ‘hip’ neighborhoods in the city is that it is home to exceptionally well-established spaces that seamlessly integrate into its original fabric.
If you would like to spend an evening as if you got teleported to a century ago, start your journey with an authentic teatime at the Kubbeli Lounge inside Pera Palace Hotel. When you step into the hotel, which can be described as the protagonist of Midnight at the Pera Palace, a Netflix production that has reached millions of viewers worldwide, you find yourself disconnected from the external world and the present moment. In this place, built in the late 1800s for Orient Express passengers, the grandeur of the marble walls reflecting the taste of the era is complemented by the soft velvet carpets. As you enter the domed drawing room, the first place that comes to mind for “the teatime” for decades, the gentle strains rising from the piano mingle with the scents of delicious treats on the tea buffet.
From smoked salmon canapés to traditional Turkish pastries, classic French and English teatime desserts to Antep-style baklava, flavors recreated by the hotel’s chefs are gracing the tables here every day between 3 and 6 pm. Accompanied by carefully selected teas, coffees, and even a cocktail or a glass of champagne if you like, these flavors change weekly. The pumpkin cheesecake that you see in the autumn may be replaced by a strawberry one in the spring, but some things remain the same: the impressive elegance of the tearoom, the soothing harmony of the gentle music, and, of course, the refinement of the hotel’s delectable offerings.
The service is limited to 60 people in the tearoom; therefore we recommend you make a reservation to ensure a comfortable teatime experience. This is not our only recommendation: after tasting the delicious teatime buffet selections, you can take a tour of the historic hotel and see the museumized room of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Türkiye, the most precious guest of the hotel where many famous names have stayed, from Edward VIII to Elizabeth II, Hitchcock to Hemingway.
After spending a little more time in this lively cultural area of the city, if you wish to extend your experience by having an exquisite dinner without losing the feeling of going through a “time tunnel”, your next destination should be 1924 İstanbul, one of the city’s oldest restaurants. Established by White Russians who came to İstanbul after the Soviet Revolution in 1917, formerly known as “Rejans”, the restaurant is a reminder of why the city’s cuisine is so rich today: this place is much more than “a restaurant where Russian food is served”. The interaction with Belarusians marks a significant milestone in İstanbul’s gastronomic identity as a true intersection of cultures. Most of the restaurants founded by White Russians emigrants are no longer in existence. However, today everyone in İstanbul knows the Olivier salad as the “Russian salad” and gives it a place on their table at festive occasions such as New Year’s Eve, and veal stroganoff or chicken kievsky are still often served at ceremonies -like weddings. Therefore, we can say that the Belarusian restaurants have left a strong legacy whose influence continues to resonate in present-day İstanbul.
At 1924 İstanbul, a distinguished representative of the exceptional diversity in İstanbul’s cuisine, you can start your dinner with the restaurant’s exclusive selection of special vodkas. Presented on an elegant trolley, the vodkas are made by the bartender who infuses them with various fruits and fruit peels. Their vibrant colors captivate you even before you take your first sip. The most famous one is the lemon-infused yellow one, a perfect companion especially for Russian-style pickles, butter with salmon, and charcuterie boards. If you prefer to start with a cocktail, you should check the signature cocktails on the menu, such as Spice Bazaar Martini and Cheers Hemingway.
When it comes to choosing your courses – beyond the dishes previously highlighted – the restaurant comes out on top with classic flavors such as pirozhki, duck with orange and apple sauce, and Medovic with honey. However, if you find yourself spoilt for choice between the tempting, partly familiar-and also attractive dishes, the 9-course tasting menu will definitely help you.
It is impossible not to be impressed by the chefs’ skillful blend of traditional flavors with a modern touch at 1924 İstanbul, but it is not just a place for your taste buds; your eyes will feast too, as you relax with your starters and wine. The elegant ceramic floor tiles, giant crystal mirrors, glittering chandeliers, and dark wood paneling will gently embrace you in the soft light of the place, you can even imagine yourself dining here in the early 1900s with historical figures. Just turn your head to discover their names on small brass plaques adorning the walls: From Agatha Christie to Greta Garbo, 1924 İstanbul has a prestigious guest list that may rival the long list of celebrities at Pera Palace. However, the most distinguished regular was the same, the founder of the republic, Atatürk and his table always remains “reserved” to honor him.
These places where many important issues have been discussed and who knows, what adventures have taken place still represent an important tradition today: never compromising on the importance of taste, attention to service, and a magical atmosphere that takes us away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It is true that you can discover many exquisite places in İstanbul, but if you are seeking a historic journey, a nostalgic opportunity that you do not get every day, these specific addresses worth exploring should be on your list.
Illustration image // Kubbeli Lounge 2 – interior // Kubbeli Lounge