The Best Meze in Istanbul
The best meze in Istanbul is unquestionably at Meze by Lemon Tree:
The origin of meze is often disputed and claimed by a number of different countries.
The Turkish meze is extremely diverse and worldly and owes this to the Ottoman empire and the Silk Route. Given that the empire stretched from Europe to Asia a few centuries ago, the influence on food is obvious. The enormous kitchens in the Topkapi palace will give you an idea of the importance of cuisine to the Sultans who stressed on innovation in this field. Chefs were constantly encouraged to adapt and evolve new recipes.
The meze at Lemon Tree is a modern version of the same phenomenon. For example, the Overnight Beef Brisket with Pesto and Honey Mustard, is not something you would expect as a Turkish meze. It is, however, truly delicious!
The restaurant is small and across the street from two contradicting hotels – Soho House (sleek & modern) and the Pera Palace (ornate & heritage). It is not easy to get a table which get taken up quickly by locals (I have rarely seen tourists here). On being seated you are handed a menu and encouraged by the server to look at the meze in glass counter. There are usually around 15 – 20 meze that the chef or server describe in detail. They all sound amazing and you will undoubtedly over order.
You can sit back at your table and people watch while enjoying warm fresh bread and the scrumptiousness of each meze. I have never been able to decide which one is my favourite.
We order :
- Slow roasted sweet pepper with Feta cheese and honey
- Overnight beef brisket with pesto and honey mustard
- Sea bass ceviche with radish and dill
- Fried eggplant with hung yogurt and marinara sauce
- Babaganoush with pomegranate
Unique, clean and fresh, this restaurant tops my list of "must do" in Istanbul.
Note : Meze cannot be confused with tapas. The latter is small plates typically eaten at as an appetizer or at bars while the former is mostly considered a full meal.