Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Fethiye Restaurants: Steak Sampling At Mancero Kitchen

When you move to another country, family birthdays and Christmases become events celebrated when you're together again for that short period of time. Yeah, you can post gifts or order stuff online to be delivered (we do that, too) but it's still nice to do something altogether, too. Last week, my dad was over to visit so he decided we all needed to go out 'for a steak' for birthdays. 

"Where's good for steak," asks dad.

Hmmm, the pressure's always on for questions like this because there's always the chance you make your suggestion and then you sit down to a scraggy piece of meat. We're the ones who are supposed to be all-knowing as far as he's concerned. Ask us about budget eating and we can rhyme off any number of places...but out for a more pricey meal; we do that rarely.

Fethiye Restaurants - Mancero Kitchen
Mancero Kitchen
The going-out-for-a-steak situation has improved rapidly over the years in Fethiye and, these days, there are a few places where you can enjoy a good hunk of red meat to satisfy your craving. As it was birthdays we were out for (and because dad was paying), we decided to give Mancero Kitchen a try for the first time. This is the place that was previously Shaka, along Fethiye harbour, and we've been curious for a while. Lots of our friends went to eat there over the summer while they were on holiday, so it was time to see for ourselves what it's all about...

Mancero Kitchen (and the seafood restaurant next door) is owned by the Hilmi people; they of Hilmi Restaurant and Hilmi butchers fame in Fethiye fish market. We've shopped at Hilmi butchers quite a lot in the past, so we figured it should follow they're going to be butchering/serving decent meat in the restaurant. I asked one of the waiters we know if it was okay to go inside and take some photos...
Mancero Kitchen Meat Display
The meat and deli counter in Mancero Kitchen
...And was greeted with an open kitchen and meat & deli counter. This place is a red-meat-eater's dream. All sorts of different cuts on full display. So, if you're perusing the menu and worried about whether your chosen meat won't be as you expect, you could always wander inside to have a little peek first. 

Anyway, to the food. Mancero Kitchen also does 'Mediterranean cuisine' but we were all here for a steak so we didn't take too much notice of that part of the menu. My dad and his friend ordered soup-of-the-day for a starter (me and Barry decided to save ourselves for the meat feast) and then we all ordered our main meal. What an adventurous bunch we are! Every single one of us plumped for the aged ribeye steak served with roast potatoes. 
Mancero Kitchen Appetisers
Olives and bread are served before the meal
Ahh, we were right not to opt for a starter. Fresh bread and black olives in olive oil and nar ekşisi (pomegranate molasses). Yummy, and a bonus that my dad and his friend just don't do olives. Me and Barry made short work of that while they polished off their decent-sized bowl of mushroom soup. 

And one bit we did like was when the waiter came to clear the soup bowls, we were asked if we wanted our meal straight away or did we want to wait a while. We opted for a few minutes break between courses and then the waiter came back to double check we were ready to eat again before our steaks were cooked.
Rib Eye Steaks At Mancero Kitchen, Fethiye
Just huge, simple hunk of steak - perfect
And then our meal arrived. This is my ribeye steak from various angles. No need to photograph anyone else's seeing as they all looked the same. It was all very simple. Seared vegetables (courgettes, peppers and mushrooms), the roast potatoes - and then what is easily the biggest, thickest slab of steak we've had in Fethiye. But was it good?

Ribeye is my favourite and this was definitely a quality chunk of meat. Barry ordered medium-rare, I ordered medium and the others went for well done. I've got to say, I'm relatively new to the world of medium steaks (I used to be a 'very-well-done' person) and I'm still not great if blood / red juices appear. Nothing of the sort on this steak. So juicy and very pink in the middle. Was mine heading towards medium rare? Not sure, but I was enjoying it too much to care.

And yes, I used to be a waitress in my student days and the chef would always shout 'philistines' across his kitchen if we placed an order for well done steaks from customers. Well, each to their own, I say. I'm saying this because my dad's steak did have a touch of pink in places. He still loved it (which makes me think he should order medium because he commented on how juicy and tender it was - but he'll not admit to preferring medium, I suspect). But, if you fancy going to Mancero and have any sort of aversion to the sight of pinkness in your steak, maybe mention this to the waiter when you order. 

Will we eat steak at Mancero again in the future? If we're in the mood for a simple steak feast, most definitely. 

Mancero Kitchen - Useful Information
  • Mancero Kitchen is along the phase 2 section of Fethiye harbour on Cahit Gündüz Caddesi
  • They're open all year and serve a range of dishes as well as various steaks and burgers
  • For more Fethiye restaurants, eateries and bars, you can visit our Fethiye Eating & Drinking page for ideas about where to go.
Saturday, 18 October 2014

Topkapı Palace Part 4 - The Practical Bits

Our visit to - and subsequent blog posts about - Topkapı Palace were long overdue for this blog. It should have been a presence many moons ago. However, all that is now put right (we do get round to these things eventually) with the mini series we did to try and give you a flavour of what to expect if you do visit.

Part 1 of our series was a walk around the grounds of Topkapı Palace. Centuries old palace buildings, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn as a backdrop and gardens of ancient trees; it all makes for a pleasant amble, and that's before you've even gone inside. 

In Part 2, we took you inside Topkapı Palace to have a look at the decor, the furniture and the rooms where the Imperial Council deliberated, planned and plotted. Many rooms where displays are on show don't allow photography so you can visit for yourself to gaze at the jewels, clocks, daggers and other artefacts. 

And Part 3, well we couldn't not go for a little exploration of the Topkapı Palace Harem. Lots of photos taken and the slideshow below is a little 2-minute summary of our visit in photos, complete with two or three photos that didn't make the blog posts.

Topkapı Palace - Useful Information
  • Topkapı Palace is open every day except Tuesday. On Mondays, nearby Aya Sofya is closed so if you're planning an Istanbul trip, visit Topkapı Palace on Monday and Aya Sofya on Tuesday as there are *slightly* thinner crowds.
  • Autumn and winter are also less crowded. We visited in late autumn and were rewarded with beautiful garden scenery.
  • Visitor hours for summer season are from 09:00 - 18:45 (April 15th - Nov 1st)
  • Visitor hours for winter season are from 09:00 - 16:45 (Nov 1st - April 15th)
  • According to the official website, Hagia Irene is now also open to visitors with a separate entrance fee. 
  • Clothing: Be aware that there is a section of the palace housing very important sacred Islamic relics. You need to wear appropriate clothing - no shorts, mini skirts, strapless tops. Basically, make sure your legs and shoulders are covered. 
  • If you have a Müze Kart, entrance to Topkapı Palace is free but there is a fee for entrance to the Harem.
  • If you're in Istanbul to tour all the sights, it's worth you investing in a Museum Pass to save money. These can be bought from mobile booths in Sultanahmet or from museums which are part of the scheme.
Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Topkapı Palace Part 3 - Exploring The Harem

We've been around the grounds of Topkapı Palace, we've stared through glass display cabinets at huge jewel encrusted daggers, clocks and watches and jewellery items (no photos allowed in those rooms) and we've also explored some of the Topkapı Palace rooms such as the Kubbealtı in the Imperial Council building.

But what about where the sultan of the time, along with his wives, children, mother and siblings, lived? Yes, this is the famous Harem section of Topkapı Palace and this is where 'Barry and Julia practicalities' stepped in. We were at Topkapı Palace because last we year, we had a Müzekart. Entrance to Topkapı Palace is free if you have one of those...but if you want to see the Harem, you still need to fork out a further 15 TL. Hmm, did our budget justify us paying 30 TL between us? Well, these are the type of money questions we're always asking when we're away and Barry very happily volunteered to wait on the bench outside enjoying the gardens whilst I went inside to explore... 

Harem Entrance, Topkapı Palace
Entering the Harem of Topkapı Palace
And just like when I went into Izmir Agora on my own, instantly the Harem felt more 'real' than the rest of the palace, and even a bit spooky. It seems lots of people had opted not to pay the 15 TL entrance fee so the crowds had thinned further still. Walls 10 feet thick in places, beautifully tiled as they are, made me feel quite claustrophobic, and, straight away, you're transported to wondering what life was like for those in this section of the palace. 
Harem Area, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Walkways and gilded entrances around the Harem
No bed of roses, that's for sure. In earlier Ottoman days, the sultan who wanted to make sure he kept the throne obviously didn't want any meddling brothers hanging around lest they themselves fancied being in charge. Fratricide was seen as the best method to reduce the threat of the annoying sibling. Later, however, a change in strategy meant the potential threat of ambitious siblings was reduced by effectively imprisoning brothers within a section of the harem. If anything happened to the sultan then the sibling could be released to take up reign of the empire.

All of a sudden, you can see how these walls become imposing and claustrophobic and, indeed, by the time their services were needed, some of these siblings had completely lost the plot - quite literally, they had gone stir crazy - and were unfit to rule. 
Harem Rooms, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul
Rooms are smaller than you might expect but fantastically ornate in decor
Anyway, back to the living quarters. The Harem of Topkapı Palace is quite a large area and only small sections of it are open to the public. In days gone by, if you wanted to visit here as a tourist, you needed to get to the palace ticket office early and book your ticket for a guided tour at an allotted time. Once the tickets were gone, that was it. In 2013, that had changed and you can now just buy your ticket at the Harem entrance and wander around at your leisure.
The fountain of the privy chamber of Murad III
There was restoration work going on when we were there and, from photos we've seen in the past, there were parts of the Harem closed that have previously been open to visitors. That's why repeat visits to places like Topkapı Palace are never boring - you can remind yourself of why you enjoyed it so much in the first place, see things you missed first time round...and if you're anything like us, you enjoy it more than your previous visit. That was our experience, this time.

The fountain in the photo above is from the oldest room in the Harem; a room designed designed by Mimar Sinan. The sound of the water flowing from the fountain prevented nosy people in the palace from eavesdropping on private conversations.
Modern Istanbul From Topkapı Palace Harem
View of modern day Istanbul through a centuries old grill of the Harem
In the ten years since our last visit, we've done lots of reading on both modern day Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. We're also older and (hopefully) a tad wiser. No two visits are ever the same because you get different experiences each time.
Harem Section, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul
You almost feel like you're intruding on someone's private space as you wander the Harem
And that's why Barry preferred to sit on a bench in the gardens and wait for me while I entered the Harem. We'd both forgotten how much we'd enjoyed the gardens on our first visit...but I really wanted to see where the sultan, his eunuchs and his ladies spent their time. And rather than rooms being few in number and spacious, it's surprising how numerous, small and intimate they are.
Valide Sultan Dairesi, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul
Apartments of the Queen Mother - Valide Sultan Dairesi
As you can see here. This is the courtyard of the apartments of the queen mother. These apartments date from the 1570s and were the living quarters of she who gave birth to a son who ascended to the throne. Of course, room for her entourage was necessary, too, hence the size of this area. 

I was in the Harem for perhaps 90 minutes or so. It's a bit of a maze and signs guide you around the site...and the entrance and the exit are two completely different doorways in two completely different parts of the palace gardens...and I have absolutely no sense of direction. Poor Barry had another wait on his hands while I tried to negotiate my way back to his bench! 

Look out for our next and final post in this series about Topkapı Palace where we'll give useful links and practical information for visiting. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Topkapı Palace Part 2 - Let's Go Inside

Yes, we're up to part 2 of our little Topkapı Palace mini series. In part 1, we were wandering around the grounds of Topkapı Palace, just enjoying the gardens and the views along the Bosphorus. We did go inside, too, of course, so this post is just really a mass of colour. The Ottoman rulers loved a bit of pattern it seems.
Topkapı Palace Interiors, Istanbul
Gilded globes hang in many of the rooms, a symbol of the sultan watching over the world
And when you're walking around each of these rooms in the palace - usually with a stiff neck from looking up all the time at the ceilings and stained glass windows - it's hard not to be in the present day, mentally, dreamily, decorating bits of your kitchen and bathroom; not that the tiles in our kitchen or bathroom remotely resemble any of these tiles - but, you know, one day...
Circumcision Room, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul
The circumcision room in Topkapı Palace
But let's get back to the palace and a little bit of history - more interesting than our kitchen and bathroom! The tiles in the photo above, for instance, are decorating the walls of the Circumcision Room, which is a separate building in the palace grounds, built in 1640. 
Topkapı Palace Rooms, Istanbul
Many rooms in Topkapı Palace are quite small and in some places, walls are 10 feet thick
Topkapı Palace and the grounds were almost a world within a world - and, apparently, at full size, the whole complex could host up to 4,000 people. Topkapı Palace was not just a home to the Ottoman rulers but also the centre from which the Ottoman Empire was run; where battles were planned, where politics was discussed, where the administrative affairs of the empire were organised, where religious affairs were organised and laws created and foreign dignitaries hosted. And, of course, there was much intrigue, paranoia and betrayal as those with ambition attempted to climb the power ladder.

Ahhh, to be able to drop back in time a few hundred years and spend a day - invisible - just watching, watching. Fascinating. 
Kubbealtı, Topkapı Palace, Istanbul
The Kubbealtı
This chamber here, for instance, is the Kubbealtı in the Imperial Council building where the Imperial Council would gather to meet. The sultan of the time needed to be able to trust his viziers and other chief staff...but it didn't always work like that. See the Golden Window just above the sofa? The sultan would sit behind this, discreetly, so he could watch and listen to what was going on in the council chamber. As the plotting of the downfall of various sultans and others in the palace happened throughout Ottoman rule, this plotting was either done very cleverly or it happened elsewhere.
Imperial Divan Secretarial Chamber, Topkapı Palace
Gilded globe in the Imperial Divan secretarial chamber
So, what have we missed out so far in the Topkapı Palace experience? Well, quite a bit. There's centuries of history here, there are chambers closed to the public and there are chambers where photography is forbidden - that's a good thing because it means you can go to see for yourself - and there are photos that have just not made it into these posts...but we've not finished yet. What is it that interests so many people who visit Topkapı Palace? In our next Topkapı Palace blog post, we're taking you to the Harem. 

The Ottomans and the Ottoman Empire are fascinating subjects. If you're interested in this topic, we can highly recommend Caroline Finkel's book, Osman's Dream

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