Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nişantaşı Tour: Abdi Ipekçi and Atiye Streets

Dear readers,

If you live in Istanbul, you know we are now celebrating the 3-day Ramadan Holiday which began on Tuesday, August 30 and will end on Thursday, September 1. This means that there is a 3- day official holiday in Turkey. However, since the holiday falls smack in the middle of the week, the government made Monday and Friday public holidays and most private companies also gave their employees the days off - while others took a couple of vacation days. As a result, the 3-day holiday turned into a 9-day holiday! Previous to January 1, 2011, this would have excited me, but since I now work freelance... THANK GOD I no longer have to worry about holidays and vacations and can make my own program.

For this reason, I didn't make any vacation plans this week and decided to stay in Istanbul: I will be going to Bodrum mid next week to attend a friend's wedding and will be spending 3 days there and will prepare a post on Bodrum to give you a flavor of this very popular resort town on the Aegean coast upon my return to Istanbul - this trip I DON'T plan on taking my pc - I just want to relax for a change, so no work and no posting in my blog!

Following the news and just by observing, I can tell you that Istanbul - for Istanbul - is like a ghost town!!!! The city has a 13+ million population and I think half went on vacation! I haven't gone down to the Bosphorus yet (that I will do tomorrow), but I did go to Nişantaşı yesterday and let me tell you - it was empty ... empty... empty... as you will see from the pictures!

As I said, yesterday was the first day of the Ramadan holiday. Since 99% of my relatives live in NYC, the "family" visits I have to do is minimal: my mom lives in Istanbul and so does my sister... but she is still on holiday with her family in Çeşme. So, the only obligatory holiday visit I had to do is to my mom! Also, most of my closest friends are also somewhere in Europe or the Aegean or Mediterranean coast in Turkey with their family or friends too.

So... Luka and I went to visit mom yesterday.. she lives close to me in Levent and we got to her house around noon.

Mom and Luka

Mom... god bless her soul is 85 years old! In her day, she was a very beauty! Unfortunately, she is not very mobile now and has difficulty walking, so is home most of the time - even though I will be taking her to Bebek tomorrow to one of her favorite places - Bebek Bar - and she is really looking forward to it!

After our visit, Luka and I headed to Nişantaşı to meet my friend Yazgülü Aldoğan - a journalist and columnist who writes for Posta, the highest selling newspaper in Turkey. I met her years ago during a press trip to Ankara and we have attended many press trips through the years and have remained friends.

My lunch with Yazgülü was both business and pleasure and we decided to meet at one of the new places that opened on the now "pedestrian" only Atiye Sokak in the hub of Nişantaşı.

Atiye Sokak - facing Teşvikiye Street
Atiye Sokak - facing Abdi Ipekçi Street

Before continuing, I think I should say a few words about Nişantaşı for my international readers. Nişantaşı is a major high brow neighborhood in Istanbul with some of the trendiest cafes, restaurants and retailers in town. My tour of this neighborhood will only include Atiye and Abdi Ipekçi Streets, but rest assured there is sooooo much more in Nişantaşı and I will write about other areas at a later date.

Back to Atiye Sokak... this one-block street is parallel to the two main streets in Nişantaşı: Teşvikiye Caddesi and Abdi Ipekçi Caddesi. Until a few short months ago, car traffic was allowed, but since then, the street was totally transformed and is now pedestrian only. In a very small area, there are SO many cafes - to include Salomanje, Casita, Quick China, The House Cafe, Elio and Hardal along with quality retailers to include Gönül Paksoy, a prominent Turkish designer of clothing and jewelry; Ela Cindoruk/Nazan Pak, popular Turkish jewelry designers (and Ela is my friend and her jewelry is truly one of a kind - of course, I have a few pieces!); Tiffany and Frey Weille on opposite ends of the street at the intersection of Abdi Ipekçi Street, among others.

Quick China


Frey Weille

Another noteworthy venue on Atiye Street is KAV Wine Boutique Shop.

KAV Wine Boutique
KAV was closed for the holiday, but when open, there are tables placed outside where you can sample different wines from Turkey and abroad... or buy to take home with you. Snacks are also served.

Yazgülü and I met at 2:30pm and we decided to sit at Hardal, one of the newcomers on the street. Hardal, which means mustard is new to Nişantaşı, but they also have a branch which opened a little over a year ago in Asmalımescit. A little side note... one of the partners of the restaurant group is the son of Tansu Çiller - former Prime Minister of Turkey. Of course we sat outside, but the indoor section is also quite spacious, there is a small terrace in the back and they have an "open-kitchen" (very clean!) on the basement level.

We were handed a menu -which was like a book! Since it is more of a cafe, the menu was extensive!!!! This type of menu usually drives me nuts and this one - like most of these types of cafes - included tons of pictures too!

Long story short... I ordered an appetizer "Avocado and Mozarella cheese" served with cherry tomatoes on a bed of arugula and Yazgülü a pizza with roasted eggplant.

The menu might have driven me crazy, but the most important thing - the food - was excellent! My appetizer had just the right amount of garlicy olive oil dressing and the pizza was thin and loaded with ingredients!

If I have to criticize one other thing at Hardal - just like I did at Backyard - the chairs are not very comfortable at all - if they had a cushion, the sit which is very hard would have been softer on the butt!

The prices were modest at Hardal and I would definitely go again, but when the city is back to normal, I know it will be very difficult to find a place to sit.. but the staff loved Luka, so I think I have an "in" now!

We had a lovely lunch.. and the "business" part of our get-together was to finalize the schedule for translating her popular bestseller book titled "Kiralık Adam" from Turkish to  English. Her book came out several years ago and will be sold abroad once I finish translating it. I'm so excited for her! She is a very good writer and I hope she gets the international exposure she so deserves... she is already at the half way point of her 2nd book! I hope to translate that into English too!

After we said our goodbyes... and since I decided to prepare a post on Nişantaşı... I headed to Abdi Ipekçi Street to take some pictures.

Abdi Ipekçi Street - left side from Atiye Sokak

Abdi Ipekçi Street - right side from Atiye Sokak

Now, on a "normal" day, Abdi Ipekçi Street is not this desolate! The street is usually full of people shopping or hanging out at the cafes/restaurants and the street is full of cars... I pretty much had this street to myself today!

Abdi Ipekçi Street is about 6-7 blocks long... on the left side after you turn from Atiye Sokak is Mont Blanc, the entrance to the Milli Reasurans Mall (there is also an entrance on Teşvikiye Street), a branch of Midpoint Cafe and Gourmet Burger Kitchen and a little further down... other venues include Brandroom (which includes the designs of Elie Tahari and DVF among others) and Hermes. Just a few notes on the mall.. the 2-story Milli Reasürans is overrun with cafes, restaurants, bars and retailers... my two favorites include Zanzibar and Aşşk Kahve, but tex-mex lovers can visit Ranchero or you can have drinks at Touchdown.

Entrance to Milli Reasürans Mall from Teşvikiye Street
Aşşk Kahve

Actually.. the right side of Abdi Ipekçi Street after you turn from Atiye Sokak is where most of all the action is! I didn't walk the entire street to the end where it intersects with Vali Konağı Street... but rest assured that some of the major retailers to include my favorite Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tod's, Cartier, Alexander McQueen, Brioni, Chanel, Ermenegilda Zegna, Escada and Marina Rinaldı among others line Abdi Ipekçi. And, right above Prada, is The House Hotel/Nişantaşı, a fairly new posh boutique hotel with branches in other parts of the city.

Other shops along this street include the Turkish brand Punto, if you are looking to buy leather goods, L'Occitane en Provence for lotions, soaps, etc., and the Turkish brands Vakkorama (young fashions) and Vakko (men's and women's designs) among others.

My final stop on my mini Abdi Ipekçi Street tour was at one of my favorite haunts - Nişantaşı Brasserie - commonly called Beymen Brasserie because it is at the entrance of the multi-level posh Turkish department store Beymen and across the street from Louis Vuitton.

Nişantaşı Brasserie - a.k.a. Beymen Brasserie

The square on Abdi Ipekçi Street

As Luka had "sniffed" his way up the street, the walk took a little longer than we thought, so we stopped by Nişantaşı Brasserie for a little rest and water for him and a glass of red wine for me!

I have been a steady customer of Nişantaşı Brasserie since it opened over 5 years ago. The menu includes a wonderful selection of dishes from French cuisine and it is expensive, but definitely worth it! It is owned and managed by Metin Fadıllıoğlu, also the owner of Ulus 29, the popular fine dining restaurant in Ulus.

After our break, we walked back the same way we came and then stopped by The House Cafe for a cup of coffee on the corner of Teşvikiye Street, right across the street from Atiye Sokak... the "first" House Cafe is on Atiye Sokak and there are many branches all over the city.

It was a long, but very nice day! Luka and I were totally wiped out... we got home around 7:00pm and we were both out cold by 9:30pm!

Note: The places I mentioned in this post are just a "drop in the bucket"! There are sooooo many more places to visit on Atiye and Abdi Ipekçi Streets not to mention the other areas around Nişantaşı... but that's another post!


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