EID break in Turkey

Turkey has been on my travel bucket list for a little while now. Since moving to Dubai over 4 years ago I’ve fallen in love with the food and met some lovely Turkish people too (Hi Tuba!).

So we finally managed to book a short 6 night trip covering Istanbul (the country’s largest city) and Cappadocia (one the prettiest regions I have ever seen).

 

Istanbul
As soon as we landed I was hungry for borek. A recommendation sent us down the street from our hotel to a famous little pastry shop. Not only was there numerous flavors of borek to order there was plenty of sweet options too. This is the first place we noticed that the language barrier might be a little difficult for us only “English speakers”.
We familarized ourselves with our surroundings and headed back later to our hotel so we could check in, change and further explore. Not before heading to Nusret burger to refuel. FYI, the burgers only come cooked one way, medium, so if you’re not keen on a juicy pink burger patty then you might want to inform the waiters before hand.
We paid a visit to the Sultanahmet District home to the famous Blue Mosque. We started up at Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia before working out way down to the mosques. We didn’t realize it at first but a lot of these tourist attractions were closed due to EID. So all we managed was mainly photos from the outside. I’ve heard the interiors of Sofia Hagia is a must see though.

We end up finding a cute multi story hotel with a rooftop
hotel with some amazing views of the Blue Mosque. Here we stop for a drink and a snack to replenish what the heat had already depleted from us. It’s a shame a lot of the famous mosques have repair works going on so there is scaffolding up on the structure.
We headed towards the Grand Bazaar in a taxi only to reach and find out that it too, is closed. So we wander around and find another rooftop restaurant, Alpek, for dinner & drinks with a view. However it was the amazing kunafa that stole the show
The next morning our friend arrived and we headed to Cesme Bazlama Kahvalti in Nisantasi. We queued for around 45 minutes before we were seated but it was definitely worth the wait. It’s a set menu traditional style Turkish breakfast with loads of various breads, spreads, eggs & more! The Turkish ladies sit on the floor and make the bread by hand before baking it in front of your eyes.
We needed to walk it off so we walked down to Dolmabahce and by the time we reached, we needed a drink, so sat down at the busy cafe and ordered something refreshing. Little did we know during this time the entrance to Dolmabache had closed due the EID weekend so again we could only see it from the outside! What luck.
We then head towards Bosphorus and the markets for an afternoon stroll. The market places are super crowded so we head away from there and decide to try and catch the sunset at Galata Tower. Although the queue for Galata was not moving and our lack of the local lingo meant we didn’t know where to buy tickets or who to ask so again we admired it from the outside whilst I stuffed my face with some local street food.
We found some cute boutique shops as well as a street full of colorful graffiti walls and murals. We managed to barter for some straw bags as well before heading back to our hotel to get ready for the evening but not before picking up some fresh pomegranate juice from the local street vendor.
The hotel made us a reservation at Gunaydin but on our way the taxi broke down. We were near Gurkan Sef and decided to give that a try instead. Read about my awful dining experience here. After leaving the restaurant we were desperate for a drink and used good old google to locate the nearest bar and came up with Backbar located inside the Backyard restaurant. It’s a chilled garden bar with a dj spinning house tunes. They offered us blankets whilst we sat outside sipping on our wine under the light of the full moon.
Earlier that day our concierge had given us a recommendation for a good cocktail bar where all the locals go. Alexandra cocktail bar has a rooftop bar playing a strange mix of music but with a unique cocktail list and unrestricted views of the Bosporus Bridge which is lit up at night. We pretty much stayed until closing time before calling it a night.
The next morning we had a quick breakfast in our hotel before heading to Maya’s Corner, a colorful cafe for a beverage stop before trying to find a view point for some panoramic pictures of Istanbul. Buyuk Valide Han is a Turkish Coffee Shop inside an old abandoned marketplace. Ahmed was lucky enough to give us a private tour of the place and we enjoyed some delicious apple tea. Unfortunately the roof was undergoing restoration so we couldn’t capture the pictures we wanted however we enjoyed the experience anyways.
In the afternoon we hopped on a ferry across to Kadakoy and had lunch at Ciya. This place is famous for it’s kebaps and we can understand why. Perfectly juicy, meaty goodness in every variety that we tried. (Beware of beggars)
Cappadoccia
Translating to “the land of horses” but visually covered in these giant, cone shaped rock formations that the locals call “fairy chimneys”. The clusters were made thousand of years ago. Apparently the city used to be under water and a volcanic eruption caused this unique landscape to form. The fairy chimneys were also once used as homes.
After flying into Nevsehir airport and driving around 40 minutes or so we arrived at Mithra Cave Hotel. Our check in process was made more sweet as we were greeted by the cutest mother and son combo; Findik & Zeus, two adorable Spanish cocker dogs who call Mithra Cave Hotel home. The property itself is impressive as every room in this boutique hotel are caves that have been converted into guest rooms. They also have a rooftop that makes the perfect viewing deck for watching the Hot Air Balloons but it also means super early starts every morning if you want to get a good spot.
We had booked ourselves in to do an ATV tour which started in the afternoon we arrived and ended just after sunset. However as we were in a large group the first timers really slowed us down. So if you’re an experienced rider I’d recommend booking a private tour.
On day 2 we hired a driver and visited Derinkuyu Underground City. If you suffer from claustrophobia or have a fear of tight spaces I wouldn’t really recommend it as I had a mini panic attack whilst we were underground. We also stopped for some photo opportunities in Goreme National Park at various churches.
The next morning we are booked for our Hot Air Ballon ride with Royal Balloons. We’re up before sunrise and make our way to the hotel checkpoint where we make payment and have breakfast before making our way to the take off site. I’m nervous and excited as it’s my first time flying in a hot air balloon. The team and pilot at Royal Balloons are professional but also crack jokes and make us smile and enjoy the experience and before we know it we are flying through the air over this magical land watching the sunrise. The sensation is amazing although I’m hesitant to go near the edge of the basket during the first half of the flight but slowly gain more confidence as we continue to float in the air with approximately 150 other hot air balloons. It really is a sight to be seen and an experience to be had. After an hour or so we start our descend where we have land and it’s not as rough as what we had thought. We finish off our experience with a champagne toast with chocolate covered strawberries and an award ceremony.

We spent the afternoon exploring the local town, eating our favorite salad, having a traditional Turkish hammam and then drinking wine with some locals. We then had one last mesemerizing morning watching the sunrise with the hot air balloons before packing our bags and heading back to Dubai.

Watch my YouTube video of my Turkey trip below.

Sherefe Turkey! I’ll definitely be back to explore more of you one day.

We traveled August 2018. The temperature averaged 30 degrees during the day.

Flights: AED 1960 with Pegasus from DXB > SAW (Istanbul) ->ASR (Keyseri in Cappadoccia) > SAW > DXB

Accommodation:
AED 497pp based on twin share for bed & breakfast at the Vault Karakoy for 3 nights. Read my review here.
AED 1300pp based on a double occupancy including breakfast for 3 nights at Mithra Cave Hotel. You can read my review here.

Visa: USD 60 payable upon arrival for Australian passport holders

Currency: They use Turkish Lira and Euros.

Until next time,

Nossy x

 

SLAB – Proved me wrong…

Never judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, a restaurant by your first visit. Although Dubai restaurants do lack consistency my second visit to SLAB is one that I’ll remember most and will also make me want to return.

Don’t get me wrong, I know sometimes people have off days, or ingredients don’t arrive, or whatever the case may be so when the owner of the restaurant invited me back I willingly accepted, ready to give such a highly regarded restaurant amongst my local foodie friends, a second chance.

SLAB is located right near SALT at La Mer and has a cute patio with geometric patterned chairs, with an open kitchen inside. Albeit small, this place did start out as a sandwich shop.

The menu although it’s straightforward, changes seasonally and inspiration comes from the head chef Omar Rodriguez’s roots so you’ll see a hint of Peruvian and New York on the menu but SLAB doesn’t classify itself under just one cuisine. This contemporary restaurant likes to keep things fresh with weekend specials too.

Their mocktails are outta this world and even though we wish they contained alcohol, are so impressive without too. If you’re a fan of sour opt for the yuzu grapefruit sour and for something unusually surprising try the hibiscus chicha cooler.

The ceviche wong arrives and disappears as if some kind of magic. Which was impressive considering my friend doesn’t like raw fish. It’s thinly sliced seabass cured in a sour orange juice with aji limo koshu and topped with chopped pecans. It’s a dish that definitely gets the tastebuds dancing.

The burrata isn’t served with your standard tomato medley and instead comes surrounded by preserved lemon juice and chopped green olives with a generous basket of warm sourdough.

The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is the second time I’m trying this dish and it’s still not my favorite wings. The twice fried crunchy pieces are coated in a honey soy & garlic coating but too sweet for my liking.

The beef tataki comes served as medium rare with chichurri sauce dotted around with swirls of crema asada & crispy chili oil. The 3 sauces compliment each quiet well regardless of their different tastes.

However it’s the crackling short rib that comes up trump when it comes to the main course. Tender on the inside with that a thin crackle on the outside pairs nicely with a side of white stewed beans. It reminds me of a hearty Sunday roast and a dish I’d definitely order again.

The coconut panna cotta although it’s missing the coconut taste is made up for with a passion fruit purée, shards of meringue, basil leaves and a sprinkling of crunchy fried quinoa.

Their weekend strawberry dessert with Yuzu custard, fresh strawberry granita and biscuit crumble was also pretty special, although only available for a limited time. If they get a good response from the customers, they will consider adding it to the menu.

For those that live around the area they have delivery options although for obvious reasons not all dishes can be delivered.

However there’s no reason not to dine in, with free parking at La Mer and the seaside only a few steps away it makes for a great non-pretentious casual dining restaurant with quality food.

SLAB – La Mer North

04 298 8899

Mocktails

Burrata & Ceviche

Beef Tataki

Korean Fried Chicken

Coconut Panacotta & Strawberry Element

SLAB – La Mer

Slab Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

21 Grams – The hidden Balkan Cafe

When they talk about hidden gems I never thought it would be that hard to find the entry to this Balkan Cafe. I got dropped off by taxi and walked passed the hotel entrance assuming the cafe had it’s own entrance only to not find one and walk back inside the hotel to then find the entrance to the right as i entered. Oops. Lucky I was early so my friend didn’t witness my clumsiness.

Located inside the Park Regis Boutique this cute & cozy cafe serves up some of the best coffee I’ve had in Dubai. So good I was tempted to order another one immediately but it was already 8pm and I didn’t want to hinder my chance of sleeping that eve.

I was there to try a new set menu they had introduced with my friend. The 4 course set menu had a few options for each and we alternated between each so we could maximize our tasting experience.

The spanakopita salad was an usual spin with the crispy phyllo pastry adding that extra crunch.

The stuffed vine leaves with minced beef served on a bed of mash potato and a dollop of yoghurt was apart of the second course and was my preference over the Istrian fusi; a hand-rolled pasta dish complete with mixed mushrooms and aged cheese.

By the time the mains arrive I’m already getting full but push through as I’m eager to try some meat. The lamb shank is off the bone and the tender meat is atop some purple cabbage and garnished with herbs. The marination is subtle and I don’t notice the horseradish sauce. The other main, Pljeskavica which is the national dish of Serbia, is a mince wagyu beef patty stuffed with bacon and cheese and served on top of a flatbread which has a chopped tomato sauce. An interesting dish but I wasn’t quite sure on how to eat it. Was I suppose to make a wrap or eat each item separately?

Last but not least the desserts. We tried the Krem Pita and Tufahija. The former make use of that phyllo pastry again with layers of it between soft cream cheese and topped with berries and fruit sauce. The latter was walnut stuffed poached pears served with a vanilla sauce.

Overall it was an interesting tasting menu though I’m more inclined to come back for their delicious coffee and to try their burek. Especially if I wanted a quiet cafe to get some work done without any interruptions.