“Tonight we’re going to a special place. It’s my favorite restaurant,” Fatih told us as we set off.
Rain poured down onto the famous Istiklal Street of Istanbul, washing away the footprints of the thousand tourists of the day. Our guide and apartment owner decked us out in cheap umbrellas (“Thank China,” he said), and we all started the journey in the dark, wet evening to the mystery destination.
Of course I couldn’t tell you now how we got to where we went (it was on side streets for sure), or even the name of the restaurant, but it was an adventure made possible all because we booked into a Roomorama apartment.
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A day earlier (this was back in April by the way), we checked into our eclectic studio apartment in the trendy region of Galata and Taksim. If there was one thing we could say about our place, it would be that the vibe and feel was more local Turkish than we expected — and not in a bad way.
We had booked into a more budget apartment (our owner has all classes of apartment for rent on Roomorama), so we were prepared for the basics, and here that included: a kitchenette, a cooktop, a washing machine (yes!), and free Wi-Fi (double yes!).
During our initial meeting with Fatih, the apartment owner, we got to chatting about his business, our travels, and what there was to do in Istanbul. He seemed genuinely interested in my life – and, actually and surprisingly, has been in contact with many travel bloggers I kind of sort of know.
He was adamant about showing us around the area, and instead of just hitting the streets, he took us to another of his apartments with access to the roof (one of the tallest in the area). From there, we could see across the bridge to Sultanahmet.
Being interested in travelers and travel life, Fatih then invited us to dinner the following evening to visit a special place that not even many locals knew. Not wanting to miss out on a non-Lonely Planet type experience (it’s not in the guide books he told us), we obliged.
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Given the rain, the time of day, and overall inconspicuous nature of the restaurant’s position (low — basement almost), I walked right past to the corner to have Fatih shout that I needed to come back. Whoops!
It was downstairs and barely visible from the street.
The tables were packed.
Locals smoked, ate, and drank raki like it was going out of business. There was a slight fog only cleared by the cool wet air that blew in at every open of the front door. The sounds of Turkish tongues clacked quickly in excited chatter. And there we were — the awkward foreigners trying hard to be at ease as we knew — from the smell — that we had been taken to a local fish joint.
Did I ever tell you that I hate seafood (unless it is fresh fried fish and chips)?
Did you know that my boyfriend vowed previously to not eat it in Istanbul after seeing the look of the Bosphorus?
There was only one non-seafood item on the menu, and when I went to order it, both Fatih and the waiter jumped at me to not get that specific dish. Uhm…
Pat was then softly forced to get a strong and oily fish casserole with cheese that he really didn’t want — but what could we do?
The atmosphere was booming. The chef was behind the counter working away with a burning cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth. The noise was on loud, and the locals were having a brilliant time.
Pat and I laughed and raised a glass of beer.
When in Istanbul, right? This evening was another we would not soon forget!
*Our stay at the apartment was comped by Roomorama, but all words are my own.