Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: Hardal "Eat Drink Play"

Dear readers,

After my post on Set Fish Restaurant, I decided to do another restaurant/cafe review...and my pick for this post is Hardal on Atiye Sokak in Nişantaşı.

But... as always, before I begin to write about Hardal, I want to give you some other info on my day yesterday, which included my 3rd visit to Hardal.

It was kind of a bleak day in Istanbul... cloudy, overcast and rain in the forecast! After being spoiled with wonderful weather for months, the thought of rain (even though we do need it!) wasn't a happy prospect!

Especially since I was going to the Hilton Hotel in Harbiye (steps from Taksim, the center of the city) to attend the IWI (International Women of Istanbul) Orientation meeting and planned a day out with my sister Meltem which included a leisurely lunch.

Hilton Hotel
The Hilton Hotel is the oldest international hotel chain in Istanbul and their landmark hotel on spacious beautifully landscaped grounds in Harbiye has been around for over 50+ years! In fact, it holds a special place in my heart because my dad - who was in the hotel business - did his internship here in the mid 1950s when it first opened.

The IWI ( is a non-proft organization which I have been a member of for about 10 years now. It is made up of foreign women (or Turkish women with a foreign passport), with I believe about 700 members from different nationalities. The purpose is to bring together women from different backgrounds to share information, organize all sorts of events, etc. It has a board made up of volunteers and the funds gathered from the membership dues and events are used to prepare the monthly Lale Magazine and a major portion of the funds from the events (i.e. Christmas Bazaar) are donated to a number of Turkish charitable organizations that the IWI supports.

The Orientation meeting is held every year in mid-September so that new members can join and existing members can renew their memberships. It is held in the hotel's ballroom and there are many stands set up where members can get information on the different clubs they can join and many schools also set up stands to give information on educational opportunities for expat kids. Also,some magazines (Time Out, Cornucoppia, etc.) set up stands to introduce their magazines to newcomers to Istanbul. When I was at The Guide Istanbul, we set up a stand each year where IWI members could sign up for a subscription or just buy the lastest issue of the magazine. This year, they had a stand again and below is a picture of me with Seray Ulucan Kanberoğlu, who is the Advertising Manager at the magazine: we worked together for nearly 10 years before I left my job at the end of December, 2010.

The event ends at around 1:00pm and my sister and I initially had every intention of having lunch at Al Bushra, an excellent Lebanese restaurant, which is on the grounds of the hotel. During the winter months, it moves back indoors and is on the 9th floor of the hotel with a lovely view of the Bosphorus. Unfortunately, at lunchtime, there were no customers - I guess the potential bad weather deterred people from sitting outside - so we decided to go to Nişantaşı instead. Also, her friend Denise - who I had met several years ago, but never had the chance to get together with again - joined us too.

As the "expert" on where to eat in Istanbul, Meltem and Denise asked me where should we go... There are many places to choose from in Nişantaşı and we have been to most of them ... but I decided to recommend a place that neither had gone too, but I had the chance to go to twice in the last month (the last time on this past Tuesday!) and thought they would enjoy it too... in other words, Hardal!

Hardal is located on Atiye Street, parallel to Teşvikiye Street and Abdi Ipekçi Street in the heart of Nişantaşı. Just a few short months ago, this one block street was transformed into a "pedestrian only" street by the municipality of Şişli. So, now there are many side by side restaurants and cafes as well as high-end boutiques and jewelry shops lining the street. Most of them have been around for awhile (The House Cafe, Casita, Salomanje, Gönül Paksoy Boutique, Ela Cindoruk-Nazan Pak jewelry store, etc.), but the newcomers on the eating and drinking front are Hardal and Elio (Italian). There was some controversy with this decision: some liked it, while others did not. The pros were that the street "got cleaned" up from unnecessary traffic and received a facelift. The cons came from the dwellers on the street - with all the new cafes/restaurants open until the late hours and major crowds, people living on the street did not appreciate the noise and crowds. Also, the "dolmuş" (shared ride in a minibus) stop (this minibus took passengers to the Asian side of the city) on the corner of Atiye Sokak and Teşvikiye Street had to be moved to another location.

I went to Hardal for the first time during the Ramadan Holiday at the beginning of September with my little "Luka" and my friend Yazgülü Aldoğan, a journalist. As it was the holiday, the city was pretty much empty and we had no problem getting a seat at Hardal - or actually any other restaurants/cafes on this street or all of Istanbul! Luka was a "hit" that day with Hardal's staff and put on his charm as he always does - he is so lovable and friendly! The second time I went was this past Tuesday to meet another friend - who I had not seen in ages - for lunch. So, yesterday was my 3rd time in the past 3 weeks, so I felt compelled to review Hardal.

Hardal, which means "mustard" in Turkish, is a cafe, restaurant and bar, their motto is "eat, drink, play" and the location on Atiye Sokak is their 2nd branch. Their first - in Asmalımescit on Minare Sokak opened last year.

The decor at both venues is the same: a bright orange awning, several tables in the front; a spacious, modern & eclectic look with a large bar indoors and a small terrace in the back of the restaurant. As I mentioned in my earlier post on Hardal, I just wish the chairs were a little more comfortable and had a cushion because you do wind up getting numb and fidget quite a bit in your seat if you sit for a long time!

The menu at Hardal is very extensive... it includes anything and everything from International cuisine - from basic appetizers, salads, sandwiches and mains to pizza, pasta, noodles and fajitas! A comment on the menu's design... it is huge and not designed very well at all in my opinion (as well as those of the friends I went with)! You literally receive a vinyl covered book with vinyl pages filled with pictures and the menu selections. Ok, it is a cafe - a relaxed atmosphere, but the menu itself is a bit cheesy and very "diner"ish!

On the other hand - and definitely more importantly - the prices are very reasonable for Nişantaşı and the food very very good! On my first visit, I had an appetizer: avocado and mozzarella cheese with cherry tomatoes (Denise ordered this on my recommendation); the second time I ordered a main course -  grilled köfte (Turkish style meatballs) with a side of fries and salad and this time, I ordered grilled calamari. My sister order a grilled salmon salad. Each one of our dishes cost between 17 TL and 19 TL. While waiting for our meal to arrive, we asked for some bread and a dish of olive oil with balsamic vinegar. One problem though... Hardal does not have any whole wheat bread. Don't get me wrong, the bread is good, but only includes white bread, corn bread and white bread with sundried tomatoes - not very dietetic! Not that eating bread and olive oil is dietetic to begin with!  

The portions were quite generous and we were all happy with our selections which we had with a foreign brand of red wine (14 TL), mint lemonade and iced tea. We were there a little longer than we thought, so after having a cup of coffee each (espresso, macchiato and capuccino), I had another glass of wine! I did mention I do love my wine before right? The total bill for our meal cost about 112 TL and we left a 10 TL tip.

Now, let me mention the atmosphere and service...

Even though we were sitting in close quarters with the other tables, it was surprising that we did not hear their conversation and they didn't hear ours. There are two rows of tables (for 4 and 2 people) with a total of 6 tables outside. The tables are just the right size, so that once served, there is enough room between the plates and the other stuff placed on the table (bread basket, olive oil, salt/pepper shakers).

When it comes to the service, it is a little sporadic - but the waiters have such a good attitude, you tend to look past it! For example, if you are in a rush, you will find the service slow - sometimes it takes a long time to just get a beverage. They can make mistakes... my friend wanted balsamic vinegar for her carpaccio when I was there on Tuesday and she got soy sauce instead (didn't realize it of course until she tasted the carpaccio!), but they were very quick at giving her a new dish. Finally, some waiters are not very knowledgeable and cannot give you detailed information on menu items.

All in all... I definitely recommend Hardal for a casual and moderately priced meal in the "all expensive" and chi chi and trendy Nişantaşı!

Atiye Sokak No. 7 Nişantaşı
Tel: (0212) 219 73 23

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