The best spot for kebaps and kunefe with a view is Hamdi Restaurant. An easy walk from Rustem Pasa, across from the New Mosque, downhill from the Grand Bazaar and a stone’s throw from the Spice Bazaar, Hamdi’s view sweeps the Golden Horn with the Galata Tower standing sentinel over the moody pastels of Karakoy’s waterfront.
The first-floor cafe has the most extraordinary selection of baklava one could imagine.
Reservations for lunch or dinner on the upper floors are a good idea. Kebaps are the star of the show. The dizzying selection is based on combinations of two basic components. Meat can be beef or lamb alone, or a mix of the two. The spicing, however, teases and taunts taste and smell memory. Even when familiar individually, the combinations defy deconstruction for future replication at home. My advice? Savor every bite and enjoy the view.
For those who prefer meat in chunks, not ground, order the “shish.” But your taste buds will be missing the party.
Vegetarian kebaps and an abundance of eggplant and tomato dishes are also delicately spiced and satisfying.
Consider shopping for baklava from the café—to enjoy later back at the hotel—and sharing a kunefe as dessert. Mild white cheese is wrapped in cut pastry, baked until golden brown, sprinkled with a light lemony syrup, and garnished with an abundance of chopped pistachios. Turkish tea provides just enough energy to tear yourself away from the view and immerse yourself in Istanbul yet again.