Welcome back to the second part of our adventure around Istanbul. Check out part one here if you missed it on Friday. Again this post is a tad picture heavy so grab a glass of Turkish coffee and dive in.
On our second day we hit up all the cultural sights and wonders that make Istanbul so special. We managed to avoid all the queues by heading out early but actually I think we were a early in the cruise season to be overcrowded. We started out at Hagia Sophia, which was utterly stunning. With the morning sun streaming in through the windows upon the mosaic walls. A former Greek Orthodox basilica then later an imperial mosque which makes for an interesting mix of architecture and cultures. The Hagia Sophia was used as inspiration for the Blue Mosque.
Stumbling out into the deliciously warming sun, looking for some breakie. All around Istanbul there are stalls selling Simit, a brilliant combination of a sesame seed bagel and a pretzel which are then split and slathered with Nutella. Best breakfast ever and even better they are 1 Turkish Lire each, so around 25p for these warm treats. All washed down with a cup of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice.
Strolling away from the Hagia Sophia towards the Blue Mosque, you are overwhelmed by the size of the mosque against the turquoise sky.
One of my favourite views of the holiday…
We then took to the underground to cool off to the Basilica Cistern, the largest of several hundred cisterns under Istanbul, built in the 6th century. A calming space of darken archways with a suspended walk away over a couple foot of water where fat carps lazily swim around.
Now after all that culture it had to be lunch time and with a recommendation from our guide from the food tour the previous day in our mits we headed to Sehzade Erzurum Cag Kebabi. For one of the most delicious meal ever. Unfortunately in the UK the kebab has a bad rap and gets smothered in sauces to mask the poor quality meat after far too many drinks. However, this kebab was a thing of beauty….
Horizontal rather than a vertical spit in front of the charcoal fire, where the chef selectively carves off little slices of the cooked to perfection meat which was then aloud to marinate in the cooking juices. Then skewered in a kebab fashion with flat breads and a grilled green pepper.
Not sure about this option on the menu…..
Bring on the pain – actually hot but calmed down with a number of fresh tomatoes included.
There we have the beauty in all it’s glory.
Topped with a crown of a fresh tomato and cucumber salad and buffalo yoghurt. We may have had another of kebabs each, at 16 Turkish Lire each we would have been fools not too!
You can’t finish a meal like that without a plate of honey-soaked baklava.
Making friends wherever I go….
Then we headed to the Grand Bazaar, where I tried not to lose all my money through terrible haggling skills I have.
I managed to pick up some nice things and copper cooking kit, which I could have gone slightly crazy in!
The following morning we got up early for a Turkish Bath. All I’m going to say it was an interesting experience, one which I and my friend won’t forget any time soon! After having most our skin scrubbed off, we were given some apple tea to replenish our spirits.
We had more turquoise skies above us when we sailed the Bosphorus Strait across to the Asia side of the city. Beautiful views back to the bustling city.
For our final night we treated ourselves to a special dinner to mark the two Charlotte’s 30th birthdays. Mikla is one of the top restaurants in Istanbul, boosting the top two floors of the Marmara Pera Hotel in the historic Pera region with views to the historical peninsula and the Bosphorus.
My view at the table allowed me to see the chefs plating up but also behind them the Blue Mosque laminated amongst the night sky.
There was an amuse bouche of vegetable purée, fresh sorrel and sliced green almonds. Fresh and flavoursome, a beautiful little plate.
Our individual bread accessories, nutty oil, ground salt, buffalo butter and buffalo clotted cream with walnuts ground inside.
For my starter I went for the ‘Dried Tenderloin – Salted and Dried Beef Tenderloin, Antep ‘Birdshit’ Paste, Green Lentil Hummus, Tomato “Ezme”, Pomegranate, Walnut, “İsot” Flakes’ When ordering I did ask the polite question as to what was the ‘Birdshit’ turned out to be pistachios! A wonderful plate that had layers of flavours that just developed with each mouthful.
My main course choice was excellent one – ‘Trakya Kıvırcık- Lamb Chop, Smoked ’’Frik’’ Bulghur Pilaf, Eggplant “Beğendi”, Mushroom, Plum Mollasses’ . Tender buttery lamb with the smoked pistachio crust paired with the plum mollasses cutting through the richness of the dish. With the plump morrel mushrooms and tomato pilaf, the dish didn’t not last long. Beautiful.
The desserts were very special. It was hard to pick just one from the mouth watering sounding menu. I went for the ‘Chocolate-Intense Chocolate, Buffalo Kaymak, Pear and Tahini. The chocolate was indeed intense rich and with the crisp shards of the sesame brittle added a wonderful earthy note. Divine!
The others tried the ‘Sütlaç- Rice Pudding With Mastic, Sour Apple Sorbet, Black Mulberry Crisp, Young Sour Orange’ Was utterly delicious and an unusual texture that just made the rice pudding so much more creamy and the sour apple sorbet balanced out the creaminess. Another strong choice.
Expensive for Istanbul but with wine it was relative to a fabulous meal in London and as we were celebrating it was well worth it. As well as being a special way to end a wonderful holiday exploring a new city with fabulous, amazing friends. Bring on the next holiday!
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