Some of Istanbul’s best luxury dining experiences are set on high rooftops, allowing visitors to revel in the city’s inspiring views and perfect climate. Leb-i derya is thought to be one of the leaders of this trend and, although it is now rivaled by many competitors, it still stands as one of the best. The menu offers a range of cuisines to match its guest’s tastebuds, including Turkish delicacies such as lamb shish with plums, pomegranate molasses, fresh thyme, spiced rice with current and pine nuts. There is also delectable pastas such as seafood linguine with salmon, calamari, shrimp, tomato cream sauce and fresh mint. Also on the menu are refreshing salads such as Thai-marinated grilled chicken salad with roasted yellow-red peppers and mango vinaigrette. There’s now two restaurants in the city and both locations act as havens for quality dining in beautifully designed settings.
Opened in 2005, Mikla is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants Istanbul has to offer. The restaurant is on the roof of The Marmara Pera Hotel. It offers beautiful views of the city and its most treasured buildings, including the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace. Chef and owner Mehmet Gürs brings his Turkish-Scandinavian background to the fore in the beautiful designed, tantalizing menu. Dishes served include grilled prawns with vegetable firik, chickpea flour, and zucchini blossoms. The restaurant also recently opened its new Anatolian Kitchen, transforming and updating traditional dishes through both contemporary and ancient gastronomic techniques.
Kizkulesi (or Maiden’s Tower) is an iconic structure that sits on a tiny island in the inlet between Bosphorus and Üsküdar. Regarded as floating between two continents, Europe and Asia, the tower’s history dates back to the Byzantine period and is shrouded by many stories and legends. Today the tower is a great destination for cultural travelers. Its restaurant offers visitors an incredible dining experience, in both atmosphere and taste, for lunch and dinner. Serving Ottoman-inspired cuisine, as well as other dishes from around the world, the restaurant treats travelers to a ‘mystical nostalgic ambiance’ that is enhanced by live music.
360 Istanbul is a multi-award winning venue which sits on top of a 19th-century building, offering sweeping panoramic views of Istanbul. Focusing on providing unforgettable experiences across cuisine, design, entertainment and atmosphere, the restaurant, bar and club has been praised by locals and tourists. The menu presents modern twists upon Turkishmeze cuisine, as well as much-loved favorites from around the globe. Guests are offered a culinary mix with dishes such as four piece unagi sushi juxtaposed against slow-cooked grilled octopus shish with sumac molasses, wilted rokka and porcini, and cherry tomato rice. Their ‘alternative pizzas’ also come highly recommended, such as the ‘360 decadance’. This has lobster, salmon, dill, golden caviar and cherry tomato. The dessert selection is infamously good. After a meal, the bar and club offer tempting cocktails and great live and DJ performances. 360 Istanbul have opened several other esteemed venues throughout the city.
Housed in a historic Art Nouveau building which is more than 100 years old, Changa is a renowned restaurant that fuses modern interpretations of Turkish cuisine with exotic international flavors. Dishes vary from creations such as wasabi and salmon tortellini with sautéed porcini and creamy lemongrass sauce, to intriguing plates such as the slow-cooked beef cheeks and Turkish noodles with goat’s milk yogurt sauce and gremolata. One of the highlights of Changa is its glass ceilinged kitchen, allowing guests to literally walk over its busy gastronomic laboratory. The sophisticated interior features an array of artworks by iconic Turkish artists such as Canan Tolon, Ahmet Elhan and Ferhan Kiziltepe. Changa has also opened a second restaurant called Müzedechanga at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum.
A favorite among travelers, Asitane Restaurant has dedicated its kitchen to reviving the forgotten cuisine of the Ottoman Palace. The restaurant is set in an enchanting location in Edirnekapı, lying in the shadow of the mesmerizing Chora Church. Priding itself on the research undertaken to rediscover more than 200 lost recipes, the restaurant uses traditional cooking methods. Some of these methods are more than 500 years old. The seasonal menu items are accompanied with the date of the dishes’ invention, such as the savory meat patties (1764); chicken stewed with apricots rezaki raisins and almonds, flavored with cinnamon and cloves and served with saffron pilaf. A fascinating journey through the history of Turkish gastronomy, Asitane Restaurant is a must for all history lovers.
A rooftop restaurant located at the top of the historic Passage de Petit Champs, Nupera offers an exciting mix of old and new. While the location exudes intoxicating history, Nupera’s design and menu focuses on the contemporary. Beautiful modern design is met by bewildering panoramic views, which can be taken in while sampling a mixture of international and local dishes. The restaurant describes their customers’ favorite cuisines as ‘homemade organic breads, wood-oven baked pizzas, red meat varieties, and homemade ice-cream’. Napera also runs a bar where refreshing beers, wines and cocktails, as well as a list of cheeses and cured meats, can be enjoyed.
While the awe-inspiring views offered of the Bosphorus strait, Bosphorus Bridge and Asian shoreline make Sunset Grill & Bar worth a visit, it’s the range and quality of food served here that make it stand out. From California-style grilled meats to Turkish classics, and from risotto to sushi, Sunset Grill & Bar has adapted their menu to international gastronomic trends. The Japanese cuisine is a particular highlight of the restaurant, with Hiroki Takemura – the Master Chef of the internationally acclaimed Nobu Restaurant in London – working in the kitchen on a permanent basis since 2010. Truly a place of stunning decadence, the venue’s bar offers fine cigars and exclusive cognacs and whiskies.
While it seems its impossible to get a unanimous vote of where to find Istanbul’s best kebab, Çiya is certainly one of the main competitors. The restaurant describes their dishes as taking guests on a journey ‘spanning from Mesopotamia to the Ottomans, from the Balkans to the Caucasus and from Asia to the Arabian Peninsula’. Each menu item is listed with where it was originally from. Their Ciya kebab (from the Ciya region) unites succulent knife-ground beef with walnuts, yogurt, mozzarella, parsley, mint and sumac, while the falafel from Orta Dogu is made from rich fava beans, chickpeas, coriander, parsley, onion and garlic. More affordable than some of the other restaurants in town, Çiya is perfect for the budgeting traveler who wants to try authentic Turkish gastronomy. Ciya runs two kebab shops as well as the Çiya Sofrası restaurant.
Although Hafiz Mustafa 1864 is not a restaurant, it deserves a mention as a must-visit for all sweet toothed travelers. Internationally renowned for the Turkish desserts it creates, this veteran bakery, candy store and cafe’s history dates all the way back to 1864. It was originally opened by Ismail Hakkı Zade as a rock candy shop and it was Ismail’s son Hafız Mustafa who brought true glory to the venue when he invented poğaça (palm size buns with or without filling). Hafiz Mustafa 1864 serves some of the city’s best sweet treats such as delicious Turkish delights, irresistible baklava, sensational halva and much more. There are several branches of Hafiz Mustafa 1864 around Istanbul.