But... even the best laid plans change from time to time and that is exactly what happened today.
A good friend and I got together to have lunch and upon arriving at Salt - located at the new Garanti Bank Art Gallery on Istiklal Street (the main street that runs from Taksim to Tünel and filled with retailers, a new shopping mall, eateries galore, etc...), we were disappointed to see that the terrace was closed. Salt Bistro is not on the main street, but rather in the back of the building. The terrace was understandably closed because there is some construction work going on next door. However, since it was a lovely and sunny day and we didn't want to be indoors, so we decided to try this new eatery that has been getting good reviews another time. Salt is owned by Murat Bozok, the Executive chef and owner of the 1+ year old fine dining eatery Mimolett, which is on Siraselviler Street - steps from Taksim Square. So, Salt is definitely worth trying!
Since we were very close to an area called Asmalımescit - we decided to have lunch in this district. The area of Asmalımescit is off of Istiklal Street - close to Tünel and the neighborhood is a bunch of narrow and long winding streets lined with side by side restaurants, cafes and bars - spilling out onto the streets making it impossible to walk down the streets especially in the evenings. It is often compared to Greenwich Village in NYC... but I totally don't agree - even though I might have written this myself in some of my articles prepared for The Guide Istanbul when I worked there.
The venues in this area attract all age groups and have offerings for all budgets. All types of cuisines are also available - from tavern type eateries to regional Turkish cuisine and International to Indian and Italian cuisines.
Since I don't have any "favorites" here, I am not going to make any recommendations and just suggest that you walk around and pick a place to your own liking.
We opted to go to Otto. Otto has two places in Asmalımescit and a much bigger eatery/bar at Santralistanbul (but that's a whole other story and neighborhood). Actually, Otto is a primo hangout bar and it is always packed to the hilt in the evening - with very loud music and lots of young people just having a good time and hanging out with friends. However, it is also an eatery and they have a very nice menu with appetizers, salads, pizza and mains.
As we were there for lunch, it was not crowded at all and we had a very nice meal (grilled salmon with mixed greens - 32 TL) and a glass of wine (14 TL).
After our very relaxing lunch and since I was in the neighborhood, I headed to another area - called the Pera District. It is difficult to explain when Asmalımescit ends and Pera begins because these are very small areas packed with so much activity!
One of my favorite restaurants in Pera is La Brise Brasserie. As its name suggests, it is a French restaurant that opened several years ago. You will literally feel like you are in a French bistro in Paris because the decor is very authentic. La Brise is owned by a very young and gifted Turkish Executive Chef. Her name is Esen Hünal Blake. They don't have a website, so I will give you there telephone number: Tel: (0212) 244 48 46. La Brise has indoor and outdoor dining areas and is closed for lunch until the first week of September. I highly recommend that you make reservations for dinner.
Steps from La Brise is the recently renovated Pera Palace Hotel, which re-opened a little over a year ago. If you want to read up on this historic hotel, visit their website (www.peraplace.com). I had heard that they had re-decorated and opened the Orient Bar Terrace and I wanted to see it for myself. Well... they did a wonderful job! I personally think it looks great and took some photos which I am now sharing with you.
I liked the tranquility of Orient Terrace Bar... it is spacious, nicely decorated with soft music in the background. I looked over their very extensive menu which includes a wide choice of apps, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, main courses, desserts AND a snack menu! All sorts of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are also available... and once again, for a hotel bar - I thought the prices were quite reasonable and comparable to some of the cafes around town. The bar is open daily until around 1:00am, so it is a good place to stop by for coffee, a drink or a meal anytime of day.