Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Gunaydin Butcher and Steakhouse

Gunaydin is a small, popular chain of steak restaurants, with branch in various smart spots across Istanbul. We visited the branch in Istinye Park, to sample their meaty goodness. The place is all wood and cowhide, in a style that MJ would simply adore, with cabinets of beef dry ageing for maximum flavour.
On our visit, we picked a steady but not overly busy time, so we were quickly seated in a nice spot at one of the tables, just next to the adjoining fruit and veg market. As you would expect, the menu is heavy on meat options, with a good two pages of choices. The first page featured an array of different dishes featuring lean, fillet steak. The second offered their 30 day dry aged beef steak, in a range of styles.
From these, I opted for something called a New Orleans fillet, which was a tower of aubergine, steak, more aubergine, cured meat, hot sauce and topped with parmesan. My dining companions chose lokum, which was thinly sliced fillet, and a Dallas steak, which was a colossal ribeye. Dishes appeared remarkably speedily, and all looked rather good. I had severe ribeye envy. It looked like a mighty morsel that Desperate Dan might chew on for a moment or two. But my tower looked pretty enough.
Cutting in, the meat was perfectly rare and of high quality. Each mouthful was meaty and satisfying. The simple accompaniments of potatoes and a few leeks, mushrooms and carrots seemed a little strange but worked remarkably well. The dish was well-balanced, well thought out, and hit the mark accurately. It lacked a wow factor, but struck me as the kind of experience you'd be happy to repeat on a weekly basis. Overall, Gunaydin struck me as a very good, reliable steakhouse, with pleasing service, high quality ingredients and smart steakhouse setting. It doubles as a butchers, so you can happily take home many of their fine ingredients to cook at home. Our visit was a very happy one, so I'd happily return to have another go at one of their massive hunks of meat.
Blythe scores Gunaydin
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 16/20

Today's questers were: Mina, Emir, Blythe

We ate: lokum, Dallas, New Orleans

We drank: water, Efes, coffees

We wore: holiday steakware

Total bill: 156 YTL

Thursday, 29 September 2011


Blythe's Verdict

Ajia is a super-stylish boutique hotel, located in one of the many Ottoman yalis that line the Asian side of the Bosphorus. It is all contemporary minimalism, with a heavy reliance on clean white lines, giving a simple elegant feel.

We were there for a wedding, but needed a little sustenance to get us through to the evening's festivities, so took the opportunity for a little lunchtime quest.

The menu was extensive, a little unstructured, but we settled upon a tuna steak, some buffalo mozzarella, and skewered prawns and scallops.

We demolished the excellent bread basket in record time. It was a very fresh and tasty selection, with flavour-packed dips to add bursts of brightness.

The main courses were eye-catching. My skewer featured a jumbo prawn, encircling two sweet scallops. It rested on a bed of smoked aubergine, with some tomatoes dotted about the place, with a little side dish of rocket risotto.

I'm reliably informed by Mina that the risotto was a typical example of how its generally prepared in Turkey. It was good, but not very risotto-like.

The rest of the dish was first class, with the light smokiness of the patlican working beautifully with the seafood.

Within the context of the hotel's main focus of the day being satisfying the nuptial requirements of our darling Acelya, the lunch was extremely good. There is no better setting in the world than the Bosphorus, but I have to say that I preferred Sumahan's interpretation of that particular classic.

Overall, Ajia is slick and chic, a place to be seen, with quality food to match the style. They even made a good fist of serving al fresco dinner for 270 folk, later that day. But that story is more the territory of Wedding Quest...(now there's an idea;-))


Blythe scores Ajia:
4/5 for food
5/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 17/20

Ahmet Rasim Pasa Yalisi Cubuklı Cad. No 27
34812 Kanlica / Istanbul / Turkey

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Alarga Hotel in ASSOS

We've never reviewed breakfast before, but this place just has to be shared. In a tiny three-room hotel right in the centre of the archeological site of Assos is a covered terrace. This terrace, a few hundred feet away from Athena's Temple, is where we were served a luscious breakfast. Beautiful homemade jams (apricot and clove, raspberry and cinnamon, sour cherry...), borek pastries, eggs (however you want them), olives, tomatoes, cheese, freshly pressed grape juice...the list goes on. Everything was absolutely delicious, the place simply beautiful and there as a little bell to ring incase something wasn't to your liking.

If you're ever travelling in the area, stop by. And don't forget to visit Athena's Temple. Even if ancient history is not your thing, the view is worth it!
Alarga Breakfast Spot

Fresh Grape Juice
Fried Eggs 
Home Made Jams, Cake, Olives, Borek and Tomato Salad

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Ferdi Baba ALACATI

Located on the Alacati Port, Ferdi Baba has a view of water and sail boats; a particularly nautical place. Lots of nice wooden tables outside with some white booths for those who crave a little more comfort. The fish and mezes are behind glass, so as in many Turkish fish restaurants, there is no menu. A waiter accompanies you as you point out your choices.
meze meze meze!

Mina's Verdict

We had lots of mezes to start. The haydari (yogurt, dill, lemon and garlic combo) was really good and went down beautifully with the warm rolls that our waiter brought to the table. The calamari was excellent; the batter light, the calamari cooked just the right amount so as not to give it that chewy-ness. The levrek (seabass) in lime with peppercorns was good, but could have been served a little bit colder (hot fish is good, cold fish is good, but luke warm fish is a little bit wrong).

Sea Bass in lime and peppercorn

The shakshuka (aubergine in tomato and green pepper sauce) didn't have enough aubergine. The tomato was overwhelming (large chunks) and some of the peppers were very spicy, almost as if the chef forgot to do the taste test before cutting them up. We also had cheese borek, which was good but nothing special. What was pretty different was hallumi cheese wrapped in grape leaves and grilled. It was a bit salty, as hallumi cheese invariably is, but the combined flavours of grilled grape leaf and cheese took me back to my great-grandmothers concoctions (she was originally from Crete, and liked to feed me all kinds of food they used to make 'back on the island').

Overall, a good fish restaurant with a lovely view and obviously popular with the locals since it was chalk full even though its off season now in Alacati.

Patrick's Verdict

So, I had no choice in what I ate at Ferdi Baba, which was just as well as I was properly shattered after a day spent in the back of the car!  My delightful mother in law ordered for all of us from a large glass covered counter containing countless fishy delights.  I manned the well-presented table and tried in vain to stop a cat from jumping on Mina's seat.

Warm roll with dill  yogurt, aubergine in tomato and pepper sauce, stuffed pumpkin flowers and the Sea Bass

Our mezze platter was rather tasty.  The dill yoghurt was especially nice and went really well with the fresh crusty bread.  The aubergine in tomato sauce was not as good as other places but the stuffed pumpkin flowers were innovative and interesting!  I liked them a lot!!  The sea bass was a little overpowered by the taste of the lime juice, but the octopus was really very good, one of the best I have had.  Next up came haloumi cheese melted inside grape vine leaves - again interesting but so salty that it took a pint of water to get rid of the saltiness.  The cheese borek was good but nothing special.

Interestingly presented fish stew concoction

The main course however was rather good.  A huge sea bass cooked in tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, peppers and lashings of fresh herbs.  It came in a huge communal pot into which we delved hungrily!  There wasn't much left by the end!  All in all, a pretty mixed bag.  The fish was good and some of the starters a little meh.


Mina's Scores
Presentation      3/5
Setting              3/5
Service             3/5
Food                 3/5
Total                12/20

Patrick's Scores
Presentaion       3/5
Setting              3/5
Service             3/5
Food                 3/5
Total                 12/20

We wore: beach wear and tired expressions

We ate: good fish and mediocre accompaniments

Monday, 19 September 2011

Sailors Hotel Restaurant

In the beautiful town of Alacati, walk past dozens of art galleries, stone houses with lila and blue shutters...take in the creative energy, the flowers bursting out of mounted pots, dripping from wooden balconies...walk over the cobble stones and between the boutique stores and you will find the Sailor's Hotel Restaurant.
lovely stone houses of Alacati

We arrived in warm spirits and after a very helpful waitress suggested a particularly cool spot, placed our orders from an extensive Menu. A pretty wooden bowl full of bread, a little plate of pickles and tiny bottles full of olive oil, sour pomegranate juice and balsamic vinegar were brought to the table in short order.

cobble stone streets lined with art galleries and boutiques

Mina's Verdict:

I had the 'summer pasta' which was very nice. Pasta with fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, roasted pine nuts and famous Izmir Tulum (cheese). Light, fresh and tasty. The pine nuts gave the whole thing a nutty flavour; unusual, but tasty!
Summer Pasta with fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, roasted pine nuts and Izmir Tulum cheese

Next to the pasta, I also had some bulgur salad. It worked really well with the sour pomegranate juice and olive oil. Finally, the double espresso was just right.

Patrick's Verdict:

This restaurant on Alacati's main street is ver cute. A dozen tables outside and a well-stocked bar inside. We sat outside and had a very tasty lunch after a half days doing not very much! I fancied something simple- kofte and potatoes. It came on a rectangular grey plate - 7 pieces of spiced meatballs and a good portion of thick cut chips with a spicy pepper and a nice little side salad. The kofte was very good - well cooked, not fatty and with a great kick. The chips were perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside and fluffy within and the salad was fresh. Thoroughly enjoyable. Cappuccino also tasty - great foam.

kofte and potato wedges


Food                3/5
Presentation     3/5
Setting             4/5
Service            3/5
Total score     13/20

Food                4/5
Presentation     3/5
Setting             4/5
Service             3/5
Total score      14/20

We ate:        Kofte, Pasta, Salad
We drank:   sparkling water, espresso, capuccino
Price:           about 50TL/18 pounds

Sailors Hotel Restaurant
downtown Alacati (between Izmir and Cesme)

Saturday, 17 September 2011


We can't let our fun of earlier this week pass without a word for the cake that Mina picked up from Peilt (their Istinye Park branch) for our dearest Laila's birthday.

Now, I don't know if you've heard, but I don't really do dessert, but I seem to have been making a few exceptions to this rule, lately. I think it's fair to say that I'm glad my exceptions extended to experiencing this mighty fine item.

Chocolate and pistachio cake; how does that sound to you? Intriguing, perhaps? You'd be right to be curious and your curiosity would be well rewarded. It was an absolutely top-quality piece of cake. It was even better than my homemade Lemon Tart! ;-)

I demolished my piece in record time. My fellow diners were slightly more challenged by its intense richness, particularly after a filling lunch, but it was smiles all round.

Perhaps Mina knows a little more about whether this is Pelit's speciality or whether everything they make is awesome, but I'd certainly recommend trying out their wares, next time you're looking for a little celebratory sweet indulgence.

No scores for this quest - just a recommendation for a great bakery :-)

Branches across Istanbul

Monday, 12 September 2011


What's a steakhouse meant to look like? How about massive wooden tables, stone walls, an open kitchen and huge frigidaires with large steaks on display? When you walk into Nusr'et it smells like wood. I couldn't say if its oak from the oak smoked meats in the kitchen, or the wood furniture...maybe its some kind of teak table polish. Either way, it smells like rich wood. Just like a steakhouse should.

Mina's Verdict:

We ordered a large salad to begin. Something with corn, tomatoes and tulum cheese; crisp and tangy. Next, I asked for a filet mignon (200-230g). It arrived, perfectly medium, lovely flavour and the bits of sea salt on top was just right. My knife fairly melted through it. Yumm yummm! It was a little worrying that I (who eat steak about once every two months because I'm not a big fan red meat) not only finished my entire plate, but could easily have had a little bit more.

Filet Mignon, Spinach and Baked Patato

Tulum Salad

 To finish there was an espresso (good) and a bit of chocolate & orange tart (interesting nutty base, very good quality chocolate). Loved this place. Really, just absolutely fantastic. I also happened to see some burgers drifting by to other tables and asked our very helpful waiter about them (apparently they are a customer favourite). We'll need to come back and try those a.s.a.p!

Blythe's Verdict:

On the advice of our darling Ayse, we headed for Etiler to seek out Nusret, a steakhouse nestled in a smart residential area. After some fun and games finding the place, we found ourselves seated in a wood-laden meat palace.

Mina took charge (she does that, sometimes) negotiating with the attentive, helpful and knowledgeable waiter to secure us a range of dishes.

After a little salad to whet our appetite, we were delivered our first wooden serving board, with slices of beef accompanied by a baked potato and spinach. The beef was excellent, but it was the spinach that was the real star of this platter. It had been cooked in an artery-hardening amount of butter, but boy did it taste good.

Lamb Chops with Oregano Spiced Fries

Next came excellent lamb chops with fries. The oregano and pepper seasoning was just beautiful. I will be investigating whether it works in other contexts beyond lamb and fries, when I return to Edinburgh.
The next platter returned to the baked potato and spinach accompaniment, with milk-fed lamb fillet as the main feature. It was completely magnificent; party-going-on-in-my-mouth goodness. It was streets ahead of any piece of lamb I've ever eaten, with lingering flavour explosions turning my palette in to a very, very happy place to be.

Now, I'm not a dessert person (did I mention that before?!) but I thought I'd give it a whirl, today. It was worth it simply for the theatre of our waiter enhancing the pistachio baclava with an ice cream filling. The chocolate orange tart was pretty darn good, as well.

Chocolate and Orange Tart

Pistachio and Kaymak Ice-Cream filled Baklava

Coffees arrived to round off an excellent meal and highly enjoyable restaurant experience.

Overall, Nusret has to be near the top of your list of places to visit soon. The quality of the meat is very high and their skill in preparing it is plain for all to see. I have a feeling we merely scratched the surface of the delights that the place has to offer, as well, so look forward to a return visit, next time I'm in the neighbourhood.

Patrick's Verdict:

When leaving the house on today’s Lunchquest, my beautiful, heavily pregnant sister in law Ayse recommended a place to us; Nusret in the upmarket Istanbul suburb of Etiler.  I have to say I couldn’t really be bothered, preferring to eat somewhere on the Bosphorus as its was a scorcher of a day today.  Anyway we drove to Etiler and got lost trying to find Nusret.  We were just about to give up when we saw it.  Thank God we persisted!!
The restaurant was semi-open to the elements but with enough covered areas to make it warm and shady.  The inside is very nice with elegant wooden tables and one whole wall open to the impressive kitchen.  Our waiter showed us to our table and gave us the menus.  My delightful wife explained we were Scottish and the waiter decided to give us a platter of dishes which were not on the main menu.  Hurrah!  First up, we ordered a salad which was big enough for the three of us and had lovely tulum cheese and a pomegranate dressing - an odd but wonderful combination of tastes.
'Lokum' Steaks 
The first (of three) main courses arrived.  Small pieces of expertly cooked steaks (three for each of us) with half a baked potato and the most sumptuous buttery spinach in the world.  We asked for it medium rare and it was exactly medium rare. It came perfectly presented on a large wooden platter which was a nice touch.  It was a promising start.  Second up came two lamb chops (one of my favourite things anyway) and these were among the best.  They came on a huge bone and covered with lashings of oregano, spicy red pepper and sea salt.  They were properly tasty.  Nusret saved the best for last, however.  They produced a dish called ‘milk fed lamb’ which had the same seasoning as before but was the most tender lamb I have ever had - proper melt in the mouth stuff.  I was a happy camper.

Kusleme (milk-fed-lamb)
For dessert, we left it in the hands of our expert waiter.  He brought a chocolate and orange tart which I really liked and pistachio baklava with vanilla ice cream.  Blimey.  He set the plate down and proceeded to expertly saw the large baklava in half horizontally before spreading the ice cream in the middle and replacing the top like a big gooey sandwich.  Happy days!!  Big smiles all round - it was a nice touch.  I followed it up with a cappuccino which was particularly good.
one cappuccino and two espresso's

The place seems to be a place for people watching too with one of the Turkish national basketball team and a TV presenter there at separate tables.  It was extremely good value too, being one of the cheapest on our Lunchquest travels.  And boy is it worth a visit.  If steak is your thing - this is your place.


Mina's Scores

5/5 Food
4/5 Presentation
5/5 Setting
4/5 Service
Overall Score: 18/20

Blythe's Scores

5/5 Food
4/5 Presentation
4/5 Setting
5/5 Service
Overall Score: 18/20

Patrick's Scores

5/5 Food - meat perfection
5/5 Presentation - innovative and interesting
4/5 Setting - a little difficult to find for non-locals
5/5 Service - attentive without being overbearing and excellent choices made by waiter for us
Overall Score: 19/20

Todays lunch questers:  Mina, Blythe, Patrick

We drank: water, coke

We ate: lots of meat, chocolate-orange tart, pistachio baklava

Total Bill: approximately 195TL/ 70 pounds

Nusr'et Steak House
Etiler Çamlık Mevkii
İhsan Aksoy Sokak No:6
Etiler - İstanbul
Tel: 0 (212) 265 30 37-38