I have been a vegetarian for over three decades. When I moved to Turkey 15 years ago I was basically the only vegetarian on the block. Interestingly, over the past few years, more and more people have been joining me in my devotion to and adoration of vegetables and grains.
The problem with eating in Istanbul has never been a lack of vegetarian choices at restaurants. I have never actually returned home hungry after a lunch or dinner outing. However, up until about five years ago, what used to be thoroughly lacking in Istanbul were cool, clean, quick, quirky, healthy, stylish, well-designed spaces in which to grab a coffee or a quick lunch.
And so, while I would never leave a place hungry for food, I would often find myself still hungering for more creative dishes and more inspired spaces.
Years ago, I used to lunch at Zencefil in Beyoglu, Doğaya Dönüş in Teşvikiye, House Cafe in Nisantasi (the original small space), Mangerie in Bebek, Kantin in Teşvikiye and Aşşk in Kuruçeşme when I wanted fresh, inventive, vegetarian-ish-comfort food in a nice space. Although these are all now Istanbul-classics, after a while, going to the same places over and over again became pretty tiresome.
Then two things happened: 1) along came Karaköy (a re-claimed hip neighbourhood in Istanbul with tons of inventive cafes and independent boutiques) and 2) tons of Starbucks shops started popping up everywhere with their newer modern-organic-industrial-rustic store concept (think lots of glass, black metal, reclaimed wood, ceramics tiles and worn-out leather).
These two developments set the tone for a new type of cafe design. Moreover, the clean-eating, you-are-what-you-eat, detox frenzy of the last five-ten years has created a feverishly fertile environment in which plant-based dining has became uber-cool and worthy of similarly super-hip spaces.
Fast-forward a few years to now and this is what we have at the moment in Istanbul: tons and tons of new, gorgeous spaces in which you can satisfy your clean-food craving stomach and your pinterest-houzz-instagram-trained-design-sense-and-sensibilities all whilst grabbing a quick lunch.
So, here are 12 such places from my 'hood that are on my radar for this month...Enjoy...and please let me know what I have missed.
A website about simple ways to add more "splendid" into your life. Curated finds from Istanbul and beyond, plus tips and candid reviews to make shopping, travel, going out, entertaining and living splendidly accessible to everyone. Life is hard but leisurely activities should at the very least be simple and splendid all the time.