But we soon revived. We each put 20 TL (about 8 GBP) into the kitty so that I could handle payments on behalf of everybody more easily as we went and off we set.
Here are some of the foodie highlights of our stroll through Beyoğlu:
First stop was at the Vitamin Shop just down from Tünel with its colourful display of fruits and carrots. Pomegranates are in abundance here but they weren’t always appreciated as they are today.
Then we followed the little winding street full of shops selling mostly musical instruments down the hill towards the famous Galata Tower built in 1348-1349 by the Genoese.
There is Nazmi, the kokoreç vendor who has been selling his wares from his little mobile stall on exactly the same spot for decades. Indeed, he is well-known. and does a brisk business around lunchtime with his intestines. I think the way he prepares them is delicious myself but two of my friends declined to even try! He chops them fine, adds a hearty sprinkling of thyme and flaked red pepper and puts it all in either half or quarter of a nice fresh loaf of bread!
After paying, eating, chatting and dawdling, we were cold so decided to take a small break and have a look at the newly-renovated Pera Palas Hotel at the same time. It is a historical landmark in the city and now with its new look, a great place to meet friends for a drink or tea. We missed it for the two years it was under wraps. It is all very gracious as befits the old Istanbul.
Leaving the warmth of the hotel, we briskly strode out in the direction of the Balık Pazarı/ Fish Market near the British Consulate. There is one little alleyway there that all the old hands will know that is full of enticing foodie-type shops and we thoroughly enjoyed them all.
Here is the pickle shop, a vibrant display of colour that never fails to please:
Lovely though it is, none of us actually bought anything: we just admired. Pickles are very popular here as you can see but just not our taste.
More or less opposite is the shop where we bought our Christmas turkey this year on the advice of Lesley, one of my friends in the picture, who always gets hers here. This shop is run by the friendly Şerif Bey who was sitting at his desk so I introduced myself as I had only spoken to him on the phone before. We looked at his other wares with great interest as they are a rare sight here: rabbit and quail, for example. Lesley bought half a kilo of oxtail and will report on the soup she plans to make! And no, we didn’t buy the below!
We wandered into this next Aladdin’s Cave and I think we all ended up buying at least something. I bought soft juicy prunes that had been de-stoned. They look perfect for a luscious chocolate cake that I made from a Delia recipe except last time I used Migros prunes and they weren’t the best. I’ll make it again and let you know.
A little further on still in the same alleyway is Muzaffer, the midye dolması vendor, whose stall is just what you see here: a tiny outdoor table arrangement displaying his wares. These are mussels from the Bosphorus, he told us, and they are stuffed with a rice mixture. 1 TL for one. Or you can have them fried on a stick. Generally speaking, I never buy these when I am out and about as it is really important to know where they are coming from in terms of freshness and cleanliness. I was personally recommended this stall by a reliable source so felt comfortable recommending it to my friends.
And from here, we walked along and turned left into the Fish Market itself, the main alley of this picturesque little area. Down, and there opposite was the kelle vendor! What is kelle, you ask? Well, this was the piece de resistance in my opinion: the sheep’s head! This vendor is also very well known and he represents the third generation of his family making his living like this. They originally came from Kayseri where there were a lot of Rum – Greeks born in Turkey – and they taught them all there was to know about this trade. Apparently it is quite a Greek delicacy! But my friends were not convinced and I found myself alone in buying a portion. It’s really tasty: after all, it’s lamb and he adds freshly sliced onion, parsely, herbs, salt and the inevitable red pepper flakes. He could have put it in bread like the kokoreç seller but I thought I would take it home since the others were not going to join me! Also it was really cold and he operates from a tiny platform jutting out from a little lokanta ie outside. My paket cost 10 TL and I demolished the contents with relish when I got home.
We finished the day with a visit to a fantastic bakery down a little sidestreet that Lesley knew. You will never find it unless you have Lesley with you. With the last of the kitty, we each bought a crusty freshly-baked round loaf full of sunflower seeds which TT adored.
I had it in mind that we could round things off with profiteroles from the long-established İnci back on İstiklal and then one coffee for the road at popular Ara Cafe but we decided to call it a day. Our kitty was exhausted and so were we!