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 marking upside down maps with clarity. I’ve met my share of perfunctory concierges, delivering cookie-cutter advice to every guest. Thus, when I find a passionate team that listens and creates a bespoke plan based on their collective breadth of city knowledge, I recognize what a gem they are to both property and guest. This column is dedicated to those stars of the industry.
Recently, I found such a star team behind the concierge desk at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet.
I visited the recently renovated property with my husband in early September. With a prior trip to Istanbul under my belt, one that included sightseeing at major attractions proximate to the hotel such as the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar, I wanted an insider’s look at a neighborhood tourists rarely visited.
Sabuhi Yavuzer, the young concierge at the desk, had a thought. As a resident of the Kadıköy district, he asked if I’d ever visited the Asian side of Istanbul. Istanbul, the fifth largest city in the world by population, spans two continents divided by the Bosphorus Strait: one half sits in Europe, the other in Asia.
Located on the Marmara Sea coast, the Kadıköy district and its Moda neighborhood in particular, have soared in popularity. Younger people have been flocking to Moda for its relaxed atmosphere. It’s widely considered artistically and socially freer (see plethora of drinking establishments), or so Sabuhi described diplomatically, careful to avoid taking a position on politics.
Sabuhi and his colleagues Alper Gunalp, Asena Su Demir, and their manager Derya Kocak, all chipped in with ideas and directions to the ferry. Sabuhi even provided his Whatsapp number so we could create the perfect itinerary once on the ground. In other words, the team went above and beyond desk duty.
To get to Kadıköy, one jumps on the tram at the Sultanahmet stop near the hotel, then picks up a ferry at the Eminönü stop. The 20-minute ride makes frequent runs across the strait, a fun activity in its own right. Once in Kadıköy, we crossed the busy, restaurant-dense streets which eventually blended in to the border of Moda. You’ll know when you hit Moda. Filled with coffee shops, bars, and restaurants, it feels a bit like New York’s East Village.
Here’s a guide to the best spots to eat and drink, thanks to the concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet.
For Restaurants and Cafés
Considered the best “wine house” in Kadıköy, according to Sabuhi. Wandering in, the large, plant-filled garden caught my eye as the key attraction at this restaurant-café-bar. A mixed menu of Turkish and international fare ranged from salads to meze to 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. Indeed, the owner Musa Dağdeviren has been collecting homestyle heritage recipes from around the country for 25 years to serve across three establishments located nearby in the same district, the Kadiköy Market. The menu changes frequently and has been called, as described in the New Yorker, a “laboratory of Anatolian cuisine,” an “ethnographic museum,” and “the garden of lost cultures and forgotten tastes.”
Yer Café A cozy interior decked in vintage wooden chairs and a small red shiplap bar, add charm to this all-day breakfast-cum-cocktail bar café. Grab a breakfast of coffee and pastry, tuck into fresh salads at lunch, or stop by in the evening for Turkish comfort food, pasta, and tasty drinks. It’s a sister restaurant to popular, creative all-day breakfast spot Dün.
Zevk Lokanta Located on the main drag in Moda, Zevk Lokanta fuses contemporary ideas with traditional regional cuisine spanning Turkey, Greece and the Levantine. The faded walls and amber lighting lend a turn of the century vibe, bolstered by candlelit tables and vintage fonts. Open and spacious, the second floor balcony seats offer a great view of the action.
Montag Moda The Turks love coffee, a fact you’ll confirm after just five minutes walking any street.ut Moda boasts the best of the city’s bunch, from design to coffee quality. Montag epitomes the new or third wave coffee shop that’s proliferating across the city. The glass frontage of this roastery/café looks straight out of Copenhagen.
Rafine Espresso Bar If you prefer espresso to filtered pour over, and fresh baked goods with your caffeine, Rafine is your spot. The company also roasts their own beans which you can purchase to take home as a reminder of Istanbul’s coffee scene.
Altkat Coffee With a charming abiance set to a backdrop of ivy-covered walls, Altkat serves high-quality esresso-based drinks and filtered coffee such as V60 using single origins like washed African beans. Croissants, desserts, and ice cream satisfy a sweet tooth.
Fil Bistro Moda Fil Bistro looks like the kind of crowded, three-story bar you’d find in Thailand, a suggestion implied in part by the elephant motif. A decent beer list is supplemented by cocktails and bar food ranging from pizzas to mezze.
Ayi Moda With few places to drink beer in the city, and even fewer to drink craft beer let alone find an IPA made by a Turkish brewery (just sayin’), Ayi Moda stands out on a street of bars. Mostly known for music, it attracts a small crowd that spills out into the street.
Mathilda’s Cocktail Bar The dark bar may look ho-hum, but you’ll quickly forget after the sun goes down and a gorgeous, creative cocktail lands before you. Staff have a reputation for being fun and friendly and willing to make a bespoke drink with a little input from the guest.
Inizio Expect fresh, floral, and fruity cocktails infused with piquant bright flavors from ginger to lemongrass, topped in pretty flowers. An split-level outdoor terrace allows for enjoyable people-watching.
For Ice Cream
Meşhur Dondurmacı Ali Usta With nearly two dozen flavors to choose from (pistachio for the win), it may take a minute to decide – and get through the notoriously long line. Once you do, wander down to the seaside park frequented by locals for a 2 Euro Turkish tea to accompany your cone and waterfront view.