On our first day in Istanbul, just after we landed, we were somehow starving. Middle East Airlines decided that the flight was too short for a decent breakfast, so they gave us a mini-breakfast.
After the check-in at the hotel, we asked the receptionist for recommendations in Galata area – we had planned to visit Galata tower on that day. He suggested we go to Café Pepo.
Even though he gave us directions, and with the help of Google Maps, Café Pepo was still hard to find. We finally managed to find this small bistro, tucked down a small street near the Tower.
The place is lovely. The atmosphere is friendly and chilled, and the terrace is super nice – recommended whenever it’s not raining like it was on that day.
The waiter was friendly and tried to help us and answer all our questions, even though he did not have good English.
I started with a lentil soup – my excuse: I was feeling a bit sick. We ordered starters: zeytinyagli dolma (Stuffed peppers), begendili borek (eggplant rolls) and cevizli manti (Turkish Ravioli with Walnut).
The soup was good – mine is better of course, but I still enjoyed it. We all loved the borek – dough filled with eggplant and deep-fried. As for the dolma, we were 2 to love the dish and 2 to hate it: quite different from our stuffed veggies, mainly with the herbs and spices used. I loved it, of course!
The manti was yummy and different from the Armenian one that we know: the dumplings are boiled (instead of baked) and served with yogurt and walnuts (no tomato sauce).
For Main dishes, we opted for Adana – Urfa kebab and Iskender Kebap. Both dishes were delicious: the Iskender Kebap consisted of super tender thin strips of meat, served on dough pieces with a spicy tomato sauce and yogurt on the side. The dough pieces were extremely delicious, and the whole dish was a success.
The Adana – Urfa kebab was not named this way after the cinnamon – “urfa” in Arabic – as we speculated first. In fact, Urfa is the name of the region where this Kebab originates from. These 2 skewers of minced meat grilled and served with potato wedges and bulgur (in tomato sauce) definitely made our day – except for my sister who hates some spices that they use for the kebab (and that we did not discover yet).
My biggest surprise was the Ayran. I was never a fan of this beverage, but it’s really good in Turkey! I could drink a whole liter… Plain or minted, it’s really a must-try at Pepo.
Prices were good – I would even say cheap because of the devalorization of the Turkish Lira.
The first experience was very promising. I wasn’t expecting much when it comes to food since I’ve heard a lot of negative feedback, but Café Pepo did convince me that a lot of interesting discoveries were waiting for me on this journey!