A concierge acts as the first point of contact between guests and a hotel. They are tasked with answering guest inquiries, making reservations, providing advice, and clearly marking flipped cards. I’ve met my share of perfunctory concierges offering cookie-like advice to every guest. So when I find a passionate team that will listen and create a bespoke plan based on their collective knowledge of the city, I realize what a gem they are for both accommodation and guests. This column is dedicated to these industry stars.
I recently found such a star team behind the concierge desk Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul in Sultanahmet.
I visited the recently renovated property with my husband in early September. With a previous trip to Istanbul under my belt that included sightseeing at top attractions near the hotel like Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar, I wanted an insider’s look at a neighborhood that tourists rarely visit.
Sabuhi Yavuzer, the young concierge at the front desk, had a thought. As a resident of the Kadıköy district, he asked me if I had ever visited the Asian side of Istanbul. Istanbul, the world’s fifth largest city by population, stretches across two continents divided by the Bosphorus Strait: half is in Europe and half in Asia.
Located on the coast of the Sea of Marmara, the Kadıköy district and especially its Moda district are very popular. Younger people flock to Moda for its laid-back vibe. It is widely regarded as more artistically and socially free (see abundance of drinking establishments), or so Sabuhi described it diplomatically, carefully avoiding taking a position on politics.
Sabuhi and his colleagues Alper Gunalp, Asena Su Demir and their manager Derya Kocak have all contributed ideas and directions to the ferry. Sabuhi even provided his WhatsApp number so we could create the perfect itinerary on the spot. In other words, the team went beyond desk duty.
To get to Kadıköy, hop on the tram at Sultanahmet station near the hotel and then take a ferry at Eminonu station. The 20-minute drive makes frequent trips across the straits a fun activity in its own right. Arriving in Kadıköy, we crossed the busy streets full of restaurants, which eventually merged into the Moda border. You’ll know when you meet Moda. Filled with cafes, bars, and restaurants, it feels a bit like New York’s East Village.
Thanks to the concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, here is a guide to the best places to eat and drink.
To the restaurants and cafes
Victor Levi Sarap Evi
According to Sabuhi, it is considered the best “wine house” in Kadıköy. As I walked in, the large plant-filled garden caught my eye as the main attraction of this restaurant-cafe-bar. A mixed menu of Turkish and international dishes ranged from salads to meze and steak. Skip the house wine and order from the bottle list, which touches on regions of Turkey you won’t find back home.
“Ciya offers the kind of cooking we grew up with,” said Sabuhi. In fact, for 25 years, the owner Musa Dağdeviren has been collecting traditional traditional recipes from all over the country to serve in three nearby venues in the same district, Kadikoy Market. The menu changes frequently and, as described in The New Yorker, has been called a “laboratory of Anatolian cuisine,” an “ethnographic museum,” and “the garden of lost cultures and forgotten tastes.”
your coffee shop A cozy interior with old wooden chairs and a small overlapping red bar add charm to this all-day breakfast cocktail bar cafe. Grab a breakfast of coffee and pastries, enjoy fresh salads at lunchtime, or pop in for Turkish comfort food, pasta and delicious drinks in the evening. It’s a sister restaurant to the popular, creative all-day breakfast spot Dün.
Zevk Lokanta Located on the main street in Moda, Zevk Lokanta combines contemporary ideas with traditional regional cuisine from Turkey, Greece and the Levant. The faded walls and amber lighting lend a turn-of-the-century vibe, helped by candlelit tables and vintage typefaces. The open and spacious balcony seats on the second floor offer a great view of the action.
Monday fashion Turks love coffee, a fact you’ll confirm after just a five-minute walk down any street. ut Moda offers the best of the city, from design to coffee quality. Montag is the quintessential New or Third Wave coffee shop sprawling across the city. The glass front of this roastery/cafe looks straight out of Copenhagen.
Refine espresso bar If you prefer espresso to filtered pour over and fresh baked goods with your caffeine, Rafine is for you. The company also roasts its own beans, which you can buy to take home as a memento of Istanbul’s coffee scene.
Altkat coffee With a charming ambiance set against a backdrop of ivy-clad walls, Altkat serves quality espresso-based drinks and filtered coffees like V60 made from single origins like washed African beans. Croissants, desserts and ice cream will satisfy those with a sweet tooth.
Fil Bistro Moda Fil Bistro looks like a crowded, three-story bar you’d find in Thailand, hinted at in part by the elephant motif. A decent beer menu is complemented by cocktails and bar food from pizza to mezze.
Ayy Moda With few places in town to sip beer, and even fewer to sip craft beer, let alone find an IPA made by a Turkish brewery (just saying), Ayi Moda stands out from the street full of bars. Known mostly for music, it attracts a small crowd that spills onto the streets.
Mathilda’s cocktail bar The dark bar may look ho-hum, but you’ll soon forget it as the sun goes down and a gorgeous, creative cocktail lands in front of you. The staff have a reputation for being fun, friendly and willing to create a custom drink with a little input from the guest.
initiation Expect fresh, floral and fruity cocktails with zesty, bright flavors ranging from ginger to lemongrass, topped with pretty flowers. An outdoor terrace on two levels allows for pleasant people-watching.
For ice cream
Meşhur Dondurmacı Ali Usta With nearly two dozen flavors to choose from (pistachio for the win), it can take a minute to make up your mind — and get through the notoriously long line. When you’ve done that, stroll down to the seaside park, frequented by locals, for a €2 Turkish tea to accompany your cone and the view of the water.