After a long day flying in from London to Istanbul, followed by visits to the Grand Bazaar and the park between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, we made it back to our room at the Hotel Nena around 8 P.M. My wife and I contemplated eating at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, but the food there really isn’t all that great, and I preferred to get out and walk a little to ward off jet leg for a couple more hours. Fortunately, Sultanahmet is full of dining options for a variety of budgets and tastes. After a quick internet search, we randomly chose Cafe Amedros, which in an alley just across the tram line from our hotel – a perfect option in that we wouldn’t have to go far, but we could still take in some fresh air.
Amedros Cafe and Restaurant
- Divanyolu Caddesi, Hoca Rüstem Sok. No: 7, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
- Hours: not listed, but appears to be open from roughly noon to midnight daily
- Price: YTL 40-60 (currently $13-20) per person, no alcohol
Location: roughly halfway between the Çemberlitaş and Sultanahmet stations on the tram line. Just down the street (Divanyolu Caddesi) from the Blue Mosque.
I’ll start with the obvious – Amedros is on the expensive side for Istanbul. You can find places considerably cheaper by going to one of the kebab houses or street vendors a couple of blocks off the main drag. But my wife and I wanted a nice, leisurely meal, and for that matter, neither one of us are really street food people, unless we get a recommendation from someone we know. (For what it’s worth, the area around the Blue Mosque is crawling with food carts selling roasted corn on the cob for 2 lira – roughly 70 cents – apiece. I tried it on our last visit, and it is delicious if you’re looking for a quick snack.)
Amedros is tucked into a little alley containing perhaps a half a dozen restaurants on both sides. Being literally down the street from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, this is a busy corner, and I expected to have a significant wait for a table at 8:30 on a Friday night. Surprisingly, though, we were seated without a wait, and even snagged an outdoor table to boot. If you’re worried about getting a table at the time you want, you can make a reservation. I’d highly recommend getting a table outside of the weather is nice, as it was on the day of our visit; this is a great spot for people watching given the location. NOTE: I read on another site that Amedros and the two restaurants on either side, Faros Old City and the Anatolian House, may in fact be one restaurant, sharing the same kitchen. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, but they appeared to me to be three separate establishments.
Amedros has a large, varied menu, with the focus, of course, on traditional Turkish/Mediterranean dishes and fresh seafood. If you’re not feeling adventurous, there are also a selection of pastas, Western, and Asian dishes on the menu. To start, we ordered the mixed meze plate, featuring seven different types of meze. The plate is served with a side of fresh pita bread.
The meze plate consists of: hummus, baba ghanoush, tzatziki, dolma (stuffed grape leaf), a red pepper tapenade, Turkish tabouleh, and Şakşuka, a dish featuring cubed eggplant, potatoes, carrots, green peppers and zucchini in tomato sauce, all served with mixed sliced vegetables. Both eggplant dishes were delicious. The baba ghanoush had a delightful smoky flavor, while the Şakşuka had a terrific sweet-salty mix going on between the carrots and tomato sauce. The tzatziki was also excellent, cool and tangy as it should be, with a bit of zip from the dill. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you’re eating sour cream dip, instead of something somewhat healthy. The hummus was average; decent flavor, but a bit on the grainy side. The last three items (dolma, tabouleh, and tapenade) were fine, I’m sure, but not really my thing. Arguably the best part of the plate, though, was the pita bread. It was perfectly crispy but not hard on the outside, tender on the inside. In a way, it brought back memories of the sinfully rich butter naans I used to get all the time during my days in Hyderabad.
For the main course, I went with the Köfte Güveç, meatballs cooked in a stew of carrots, peppers and tomato sauce, topped with melted cheddar cheese. Prita, not feeling adventurous I suppose, selected the seafood linguine.
When I saw “meatballs” on the menu, my jet-lagged American mind immediately figured they must mean beef. I should have known better and expected lamb, which is what they were. I really don’t like the taste of lamb or goat, or goat cheese for that matter, at all, so I probably wouldn’t have ordered the dish if I’d realized. But I actually liked this dish, so for once, I’m glad I wasn’t thinking when I ordered it. The tomato sauce/carrot/pepper mixture muted the strong flavor of the meat that I dislike. Not to mention, the stew was delicious, with the sweet-salty-spicy mix common in Turkish food coming through again. Plus it looks cool, served in that iron skillet and all. I’m always a sucker for cheese, though it didn’t really seem to fit on this dish. The cheese became noticeably “sticky” when mixing with the stew, making it hard to eat.
We decided to skip dessert, but the manager was kind enough to bring us each a cup of apple çay (tea) on the house.
Basically hot apple cider, it hit the spot quite nicely, especially as we both really just wanted to go to bed by this point.
I was really impressed by the service on our visit, though truth be told, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve found the Turkish people to be some of the warmest, most hospitable I’ve encountered in all the places I’ve visited, and the staff at Amedros was no different. We were seated and served promptly despite it being a busy Friday night, and though the manager had a limited command of English, we had an interesting conversation about how “kofte” is also a common dish in India (called “kofta” over there, though usually a vegetarian dish). And of course, he threw in the apple tea for free.
Rating: 4 stars. A little on the expensive side, relatively speaking, and a bit touristy,but good food in a convenient location if you’re exploring Old City Istanbul.
Note: this post is part of my multi-part trip report series about my wife and I’s trip to Europe in June/July, 2015. Read the trip report introduction for an index and background about our trip.