One of my favourite things to do in this wonderful city is eat!
Surrounded by 10’s of thousands of restaurants I’m always spoilt for choice here. Istanbul being a port city of course offers a lot of fresh fish and I wanted to eat fish as the locals do.
Most people who have been to Istanbul will know that the guide books mainly talk about two locations to eat fresh fish. The first being the famous Nevizade found in the back streets of Taksim.
Nevizade is a very well known narrow street that is packed with fish restaurants and bars that are open to all hours of the morning and is frequented by locals and tourists alike. A great place to go in the summer and sit on the side of the pavement, eat fresh fish, drink the local Rakı (a type of Pernod or Ouzo) and people watch ( another one of my favourite things I like to do). Nevizade also backs onto the fresh fish market and Çiçek pasajı (Flower market). I’ve eaten here a number of times and have paid anything between 30-60 TL. A bit pricey for what you get, but well worth it if you are in a small group as the atmosphere is awesome. Gypsy violinists and singers rarely leave you alone and if you go with some Turkish people, they soon join in and sing along.
The other place the guide books tell us about is the long sea front straight between Ortakoy and Yenikoy. This long stretch has probably the most expensive fish restaurants Istanbul has to offer, a more upper class of dining is had, but with the magnificent views right on the Bosphorus you really can’t blame them for charging so much.
Anyway, back to eating tasty fish at prices everyone can afford. Apart from the two main areas I discovered a much cheaper option. I walked from Taksim to Galata tower and then headed towards Sultan Ahmet. To get to the old city, I needed to cross the Galata Bridge. Like most bridges in Istanbul, there were fishermen side by side, old and young passing the time with their favourite hobby. Some were catching fish for sport and throwing them back in, some were fishing for their family’s evening meal and some were selling them to passersby. Under the bridge was a row of fish restaurants, so I decided to check out their prices. I figured that this could be a great place to eat fresh fish but at local prices. Unfortunately they too were clued in on the tourists and prices weren’t much different from Nevizade.
I was just about to give up, when I noticed that across the bridge, there was a hoard of people gathered around these huge fishing boats so I walked over. To my surprise I saw these boats bobbing up and down and they had fixed a huge coal grill on the land side of the boat. The smell was amazing, fresh grilled mackerel. It was as if they were pulling them out of the sea and straight on to the grill I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were young men shouting at the top of their lungs “balık ekmek” which means fish and bread. I elbowed my way to the front and by pointing upwards indicated I wanted one. The sizzling mackerel on the grill was deboned in a matter of seconds seasoned and put in half a loaf of bread with tomatoes and quickly handed to me. Another guy asked if I wanted a drink so I got a can of coke and moved along to the third guy who I paid. A “balık ekmek” sandwich and coke cost me 5TL.
What more can I ask for….