As a tourist in Istanbul... you will definitely wind up either visiting or even preferring to stay in the Taksim Square area. Conversely, as a resident, there's always a reason to go to Taksim!
Although Taksim Square is not a picturesque square right now (it used to look better and hopefully it will re-landscaped to attract visitors for its grandeur), it is a major hub and considered the "center of the city". Istiklal Street, the major pedestrian only (will most of the time!) street lined with cafes, retailers, art galleries, hotels, etc. and Sıraselviler Street, which links Taksim Square to Cihangir - a very hip, artsy yet bohemian neighborhood with fancy expensive apartment buildings, boutique hotels, cafes and more are parallel to Taksim Square. On the opposite end of these streets is Gezi Park with its lush gardens among all the concrete where you can sit under the trees and enjoy a break from the hustle and bustle of Taksim Square.
But, if you want to take a break and have a cup of coffee, breakfast, lunch, cocktails or a casual yet refined dinner, the choices are very minimal right around the Square.
However... good news! This has changed since the re-opening of Gezi Istanbul which is right next door to Gezi Park and the Atatürk Culture Center (closed for renovations - long story!) in May 2015.
Gezi Istanbul is a multi-level brasserie, pastry shop, cafe, bar and restaurant. It first opened in 1987 and changed ownership in 2002. The current owners closed Gezi Istanbul in mid-2014 for renovations and although the old space was nicely decorated, obviously it not only looks better now - the menu has also been totally revised.
I went to see the new Gezi Istanbul a few weeks ago and had lunch with Fatoş Ertaş Doğan who I met a couple of years ago when she was the Marketing Manager at P.F. Chang's. Since last year, she is part of the Gezi Istanbul team as Marketing Manager and she invited me to lunch so that we can not only catch up (we see each other outside of work), but to also see the new Gezi Istanbul.
I must say I was impressed! On the ground level and to the left is a lovely new terrace for outdoor wining and dining.
|Gezi Istanbul outdoor terrace|
Once you walk inside, you will be totally enticed with the selection of chocolates, cakes, savory and sweet pastries that Gezi Istanbul is known for.
|Gezi Istanbul - 2nd floor restaurant|
|Gezi Istanbul - 2nd floor restaurant|
|me with Fatoş Ertaş Doğan at Gezi Istanbul|
After reviewing the menus, I suggested we order dishes from both menus, but those that are "different" and not very "typical".
We started our meal with two appetizers: Spicy Shrimp (26 TL) and Yellow Fin Tuna Tartar with avocado puree, soy sauce and topped with crunchy fried onion bits (35 TL). Both are available on the restaurant menu, but the Spicy Shrimp is only available on brasserie menu.
|Spicy Shrimp @ Gezi Istanbul|
|Yellow Fin Tuna Tartar @ Gezi Istanbul|
The Yellow Fin Tuna Tartar was "out of this world" to say the least. The dish had perfectly balanced tastes and the crunch that the fried onion bits added to the flavor of the dish was an excellent touch!
Our next course is listed as Gezi Dumplings (24 TL) on their brasserie menu but called "mantı" in Turkish.
Mantı are bit-sized dumplings stuffed with chopped meat that are normally boiled (fried version available too) like pasta, strained and then served with plain yogurt sauce and drizzled with a spicy paprika based melted butter sauce. The version at Gezi Istanbul is more like a "soup" which I absolutely loved because I'm part Crimean Tartar (on mother's side) and we make a version of this but the dumplings are a little bigger. I couldn't get enough of this dish either.
The last dish we had was also from the Brasserie Menu and listed under the heading Pita.
|Browned Lamb Meat "calzone style" @ Gezi Istanbul|
Although I was totally stuffed by this point, Fatoş said I must try the "specialty of the house" dessert... listed as Ice Cream Profiterole stuffed with vanilla ice cream and topped with Swiss chocolate sauce (14 TL).
|Ice Cream Profiterole @Gezi Istanbul|
The next time I find myself in the Taksim area, I know I will definitely stop by Gezi Istanbul - even if to just have a cup of coffee, since I'm perpetually battling the bulge - with very little success I might say!
I highly recommend you try Gezi Istanbul too!
Inönü Caddesi No. 5
Tel: (0212) 444 76 39