Two weeks ago, Jon and I were in Istanbul for the bank holiday. The sites, shopping and food were amazing, but our favorite high-end meal by a wide margin was at Muzede Changa, where Peter Gordon (of Providores fame) is consulting chef.
Located inside the Sakip Sabanci Museum in Emirgan, a leafy, ritzy part of town, the restaurant is a bit of a hike from Sultanahmet, the touristy section of Istanbul where we stayed. Luckily, on the Saturday night we ate at Muzede Changa, there was a ferry running from Eminonu to Emirgan. The journey was a 45-minute cruise up the Bosporous, passing all the big palaces, abandoned yalis and the sleek Bosprous Bridge. At just 1.4 Turkish Lira (90 cents/55 pence) for the ride, the ferry journey was itself a relaxing and cheap treat. (I especially admired the ferry’s tea-seller, who was able to memorize and track dozens of orders while running up and down stairs, delivering hot tea and change, and collecting empty cups and payment).
The Muzede Changa dining room included a large outdoor patio with views of the Bosporous, which is where we settled for the evening. I loved the casual-elegant decor and the thoughtful gesture of warm blankets for everyone (for when the weather turned slightly cool after sunset). Muzede Changa had me at hello.
We met several friends at the restaurant, making us a party of eight, and with such a big group, we were able to share a lot of dishes. Incredibly, every dish I tried ranged from merely “classic and tasty” to “what-a-unique-mix-of-flavors and tasty.” I know it’s super trite to talk about East-meets-West when in Istanbul, but Muzede Changa’s cooking reflected this idea in an elegant, seemingly-effortless way.
Salmon, for example, isn’t something I normally get too excited about it. Served as one of our mixed mezze (snacks), the fish itself was silky, and the blend of tang, salt and creaminess of mung beans, chick peas and olives livened things up.
Our dozens of mezze included a lot of expertly-fried goodies. Aubergine, a staple in most Istanbullu restaurants we tried, turned up in sweet, smooth form under a crisp, grease-free layer of bread crumbs. Dipped in fresh, zingy yoghurt, these slices were my favorite of the many very good fried mezze we shared.
After stuffing ourselves on shared mezze, we each ordered main courses. Although I’d already eaten some great kofte at the inexpensive-but-brilliant Tarihi Koftecisi, I still thought Muzede Changa’s version, which was infused with the rich flavor of cloves and paired with a tangy-creamy goat cheese salad, was worth every penny.
Despite having eaten my weight in mezze and kofte, I couldn’t resist trying the restaurant’s take on baklava, which I normally can’t handle because it’s too dense and sticky. Muzede Changa’s version, of course, was “modern” (i.e., light). The accompanying quince puree added just the smallest bit of refreshing sweetness and moisture while allowing the phyllo to keep its crispiness.
While Muzede Changa wasn’t cheap by Istanbullu standards (mixed mezze for two: 86 TL /£33; main courses: 30 TL/£12; desserts: 15 TL/£6), the prices were reasonable by London ones, especially for the quality of the food, service and surroundings.
With a few bottles of excellent Turkish wines and several cocktails, our tab came to 130 TL/£50 a person. (You could eat for a lot less if you skipped the booze).
I’d go back to Istanbul just to relive our dinner there, but next time I’ll try to go earlier to see the museum.
Muzede Changa, Sakip Sebanci Caddesi No. 22; Emirgan 34467, Istanbul, Turkey; +90 212 323 09 01;
How to Get There: It’s a 10-minute walk to the right from the Emirgan ferry stop, which is reached via a 45-minute cruise from Eminonu (1.40 TL/55 p). The ferry doesn’t run late or even very often, but our taxi back to Sultanahmet cost about 40 TL/£15 and took only 30 minutes via the (not-nearly-as-scenic) highway.