Needless to say, we ate well in Istanbul! The choice was amazing and luckily I was with my friend Laura, who is a foodie and was able to take us to places we would have never known of, with the help of a fab little book called Istanbul Eats.
Our first lunch was spent at Doyuran Lokantasi a husband and wife-owned hole-in-the-wall, situated in the touristy Kumkapi district, but popular with local workers. There was a tasty selection of dishes to choose from and I went for an amazing aubergine dish.
After lunch on our first day, we went to a little place over the road that served amazing halva, washed down with a cup of tea.
A dollop of cream always helps things go down well!
We often saw these street vendors that sell a combination of rice, chickpeas and chicken.
You can't come to Turkey and not sample Turkish delight, or lokum as it's called there.
My favourite was the pomegranate and pistachio.
One evening we went to Hatay Sofasi where a massive tray of starters is brought out for you to choose from. You can get a kebab that is about 2 metres long and is placed down the middle of the table for all to tuck into, and they also have a novel way of cooking chicken inside a salt dome. The dome is brought out on a trolley, in flames, and the waiter chisels it open with a mallet before serving it up to you at your table.
On our second morning we headed over to Kadakoy on the Asian side of Istanbul to seek out some brunch eateries that we'd read about in Time Out. It took us down many side streets (led by a kindly local who took pity on us) before we found ourselves as a quaint little place where everything was in Turkish and our waitress couldn't speak English. She was lovely, and was able to show us what she had to offer. It looked scrumptious, so we sat down to savour the delights of eggy breads, cheese, tomatoes, dips and endless cups of tea.
After brunch we stopped at a street vendor to get freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. It was actually quite tart, so he added some grape juice to tone it down a bit. You can see the beautiful jewel-like colour of it below.
We had read about a food market in Kadakoy, so headed down to that to check it out.
We were amazed by the freshness of the produce and of the smells and colours around us.
Garlands of dried vegetables hung from shop fronts including dried aubergine, which I've never seen before. I loved the streaky colour of the beans below.
Luckily we were pretty full from brunch, as these cakes could have been easily snapped up. There was a little square off the market in Kadakoy that had a selection of patisserie shops.
There was also a well established shop selling all manner of lokum and boiled sweets.
These babies were decorating the tops of individually wrapped sweets.
Boiled sweets lined up in old fashioned glass jars.
The beautiful sights and smells of the Spice Market.
I was taken with these jasmine buds that we saw in the market.
Just one bud needs to be placed in a litre of hot water.
On our last day we headed to Karakoy Lokantasi for lunch. It's tucked down the backstreets of the dock area and has great food and tasteful decor. We were lucky to get a seat next to one of the open doors, and chowed down on charred whole aubergines and a cool yogurt and barley soup.
A trip to Istanbul is not complete without a taste of baklava, so after lunch at Karakoy Lokantasi we headed just long the street to Karakoy Gulluoglu to sample its heavenly sweetness.
On our last evening we headed back to Karakoy to a restaurant called Lokanta Maya where we ate zucchini fritters and caramelised sea bass. Yum!