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.
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.