Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vogue Restaurant & Bar: The "backdrop" for a lovely lunch with an old friend...

Dear readers,

This post is literally hot off the presses! Just a few short hours ago, I was having a lovely lunch with Dr. Esin Atıl - an old friend!
Dr. Esin Atıl (left) and me (right) - Vogue Restaurant & Bar
The "backdrop" for our get together after years was Vogue Restaurant & Bar another one of the Istanbul Doors Group restaurants (Anjelique, Zuma, Gina, Da Mario, Masa, Kitchenette, Carlotta, C'a'doro, etc.).

The reason I say "years" is that Esin lives in the USA and this is the first time she has been back to Istanbul in years! I met Esin in November 1999. At that time, I was in my first year as the Manager (and then Director) of Advertising & PR at the now closed Koçbank (merged with Yapı Kredi Bank in mid 2000s).

Esin Atıl is a distinguished historian of Islamic and Turkish Art. For about 25 years she was the curator of Islamic Art at the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute (now retired). She has written many books and among them are The Age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent; Turkish Art of the Ottoman Period; Ceramics for the World of Islam among many many others (most are available via www.amazon.com and www.amazon.co.uk).

Before I started working at Koçbank, an agreement was made whereby Esin's book titled Levni and the Surname: The Story of an Eighteenth Century Ottoman Festival (available separately in English and Turkish) was commissioned and sponsored by Koçbank.

Levni and the Surname
The book was launched in November 1999 with a party at the Sadberk Hanım Museum (owned by the Vehbi Koç Foundation, a subsidiary of Koç Holding). I met Esin at the party and we immediately became fast friends and have kept in touch ever since. In fact, while I was at The Guide Istanbul, she wrote a series of articles on some of the Ottoman Sultan wives as well as other articles.

Esin arrived in Istanbul about 2 weeks ago to speak at a seminar at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Emirgan and as a result decided to hang around for a couple of weeks to catch up with old friends and I'm proud that she includes me in her small inner circle! We spoke the night she arrived and made plans to get together for lunch today (January 17). 

Initially we were planning on going somewhere else, but when we spoke last night, she told me she preferred to go to a place "with a view". I understand her totally because when I used to live in the US and visited Istanbul on vacation, I always preferred restaurant on the Bosphorus or with a view of the Bosphorus!

We had our first major snow storm in Istanbul yesterday (although we did get a dusting over the weekend on Saturday).

Snow in Istanbul (January 17) view from Levazım/Levent (with Bosphorus Bridge in background)
In a matter of a few short hours, the entire city had turned into a winter wonderland! Actually, it wasn't much of a wonderland for commuters as the snow started at 3:30pm and it took people hours to travel the shortest of distances. A very typical occurrence in Istanbul which normally has a major traffic problem... add snow, ice... well, you can guess the rest!

Esin is staying at a hotel in Nişantaşı, so she wanted to go somewhere nearby otherwise I did have a couple of other ideas ... so I suggested Vogue because not only does Vogue have a wonderful panoramic view of the Bosphorus, the food and service is very good too!

Vogue is located in an area called Akaretler on Akaretler Row (Suleyman Seba Street)...
View of Akaretler Row (Suleyman Seba Street) from Vogue - the building in the center is the W Hotel
At the bottom of this hill is a neighborhood called Beşiktaş and at the top of the hill, when you hang a right, you will find yourself first in Maçka and then Teşvikiye and Nişantaşı.

Vogue itself is located on the top floor of Block A at the BJK Plaza half way up the hill on the right hand side... it has been open for about 14 years and I was at their opening party and then again when they celebrated their 10th anniversary and then again when the decor was totally revamped a couple of years ago. Of course, I have been to Vogue umpteeth times in between - for lunch, dinner and drinks!



Vogue Bar
The interior of Vogue is spacious, elegantly decorated and airy with floor to ceiling windows all around... Additionally, there are two terraces open during milder weather, but one (the smaller side terrace) is open now for smokers (like me!)
Vogue (small terrace with view of the Bosphorus Bridge)
The menu at Vogue includes a vast selection of Mediterranean and International cuisine and there is also a sushi/sashimi bar. As can be expected, the prices aren't exactly cheap - but look where you are! Again, depending on what you order, it can cost you a pretty penny (especially if you order seafood like lobster, prawns, etc.)! 

However, especially at lunch, Vogue has a separate lunch menu with about 10-15 items priced between 21 TL and 44 TL.

We opted to order from the lunch menu as the selections were quite satisfying and munched on mini rolls and herbed olive oil while we waited...

 After all that snow we had yesterday, today was a glorious sunny day (yet very very cold) and I was able to take some wonderful pictures while I "indulged" (well.. unfortunately smoking is an indulgence for me - not proud of it, but at least I'm honest!)on the terrace...
view from Vogue

view from Vogue
view from Vogue
From the main terrace in the front of the restaurant (we were sitting in front of it), you also get a view of the Maiden's Tower and old part of the city, however I wasn't able to go out onto the terrace to take pictures.

Then... our food arrived! Esin ordered Kayseri Mantı (mantı is prepared in a variety of ways.. the ones from the city of Kayseri are itsy bitsy ravioli stuffed with meat served with plain yogurt and tomato sauce) and I ordered Köfte (Turkish version of grilled meatballs)...

Köfte on a bed of oven baked potatoes

Kayseri Mantı
As you can see from the above, the portions were quite adequate and both were good.

We had a lovely afternoon at Vogue with Esin! We were lucky that it was a sunny day and we had a picture perfect view of the Bosphorus. That's one of the other great things about Vogue - there are no obstructions to block your view while sitting). The food was good and the service very efficient. There wasn't any loud music playing in the background (I can't promise the same during dinner), so we were able to have a conversation without having to scream at each other to be heard!

So, if you have a guest visiting Istanbul, you yourself are visiting Istanbul... or you live in Istanbul and want to have a nice, relaxing and elegant lunch... Vogue is definitely a good bet!

I also highly recommend that you make reservations for lunch or dinner.Vogue is open daily from noon to 2:00am and Sunday Brunch is served between 10:30am and 4:00pm. (Tel: (0212) 227 44 04; www.istanbuldoors.com)

Bon appetit!

The macchiato was excellent - wish I had ordered a double!

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