Best fish and mezes restaurants in Istanbul
Istanbul is a city built between the Sea of Marmara, the Black Sea, and around the Bosphorus, the strait connecting those two seas. Naturally, because of its geographic position, seafood restaurants are abundant in the city. The culture of eating fish and mezes has existed since the Byzantine Empire era, when coastal cities used to welcome sailors looking for drinks and fresh seafood.
Istanbulites accompany meze and fish and seafood meals with rakı, an anise-flavored alcohol similar to the French pastis and the Greek ouzo. Turkish people say “go to a rakı balık,” which means go for seafood and drink rakı.
In such establishments, cold mezes, a selection of small appetizers often hailing from the Mediterranean and Aegean regions, are first presented on a plate to the restaurant customer. There are myriads of mezes and after the cold ones, you usually get a chance to choose between fish and hot mezes. Don’t miss the Karides Güveç (prawns cooked with mushrooms, tomato and cheese), fried kalamari, octopus à la plancha, fish köfte (meatballs), and many others …
If after the hot mezes your stomach still has room for fish, you can opt for a main course of seafood that is grilled without sauce but accompanied by a salad, a slice of raw onion and lemon.
The price of fish varies depending on the season and is not always indicated on the menu, so remember to ask the price.
Enjoying amazing fish, seafood and mezes in Istanbul is possible, but only if you know the right address.
Here is our selection of good fish and seafood restaurants:
Eftalya is one of the best, and it is hard to recommend a specialty because everything is good and the menu varies depending on the season. Eftalya is located in the Arnavutköy neighborhood on the European side between the two Bosphorus bridges. The view is fabulous and the seafood is excellent. To get a good table with a beautiful view, reservations are recommended.
Address: Arnavutköy Mah, 1. Cad, No:32, Arnavutköy / Link: www.eftalya.net
Eleos is a beautiful terrace on Beyoğlu’s İstiklal Avenue with an amazing view of the Bosphorus. The mezes are fresh and rich in flavors, and the prices are reasonable – what more could you want? Remember to reserve a table early in the day for weekdays and a few days in advance on weekends.
Located in the old Jewish district of Balat, this tavern dates back to 1890 and was bought two years ago by a Turkish cinema producer. The boss, Ezel, has tried to recreate the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the neighborhood and attaches particular importance to the culture of drinking rakı. Surrounded by Turkish, Armenian and Greek cooks, the team has recreated the seasonal cuisine of the last century. All the fare is very good, fresh and homemade; even the olive oil comes from their own fields. The subdued atmosphere also recalls the old taverns the past. The incredible mix of flavors makes Agora one of the most interesting places in town. The area is not particularly busy at night, but you can always jump in a taxi and go party elsewhere. Remember to book on weekends.
Address: Ayvansaray Mah, Mürselpaşa Cad, No:185 / Link: agorameyhanesi.com
Duble the Meze Bar:
Duble the Meze Bar is a rooftop restaurant overlooking the old city where the food is great and the ambiance is even greater. The place is especially nice because most of its customers are Turkish. One of our favorite restaurants on the list, it’s also a place where many start to dance after dinner.
This restaurant, located in the bohemian neighborhood of Cihangir, is very inviting with its small outdoor courtyard and cozy atmosphere inside. You can find Turkish, Greek or Armenian musicians playing live music on almost any day of the week. Although a little hard to find, this is a very good restaurant that is local and romantic. Be sure to come for a bit if you are walking through the area.
In the neighborhood of Tarabya toward the north end of the Bosphorus, Kıyı is an institution that opened its doors in 1964. While one might wish that it had a terrace, all the fare is sumptuous.
Address: Kefeliköy Cad, No:126, Tarabya, Istanbul / Link: http://www.kiyi.com.tr/
Karaköy Lokantası is an authentic seafood restaurant that is tastefully decorated. The restaurant is located in Karaköy, just across from the hustle and bustle of Eminönü. The restaurant boasts a comfy atmosphere; while there are not many choices, the prices are fair and the food is good. Going for mezes rather than meals might be the best bet.
Uskumru is a fabulous restaurant only accessible by boat. To get there, head to the Rumeli Hisari docks and board the boat with the name of the restaurant, bound for the other side of the Bosphorus. The best period to go there is between April and October because you can eat on the terrace next to the water -- something that is sure to be an unforgettable experience. The best time to go is on an evening or a sunny afternoon. The entrées are superb, particularly sea bass with basil or squid à la plancha with walnuts. The place is very popular, meaning scoring a nice table outside requires a reservation.