Istanbul: When Köfte (And A Nice Man) Comes To The Rescue

If you’re a regular reader of Turkey’s For Life, you’ll know it’s not the norm to see ‘people photos’ in our posts. We did a post on our favourite Fethiye helvacı back in May but that’s about it. Well, today, we’re happy to be able to add to that and double our tiny tally of ‘people photos.’

Durak Rumeli Köfte Salonu, Edirnekapı, Istanbul

It was our last day and we’d just got off the tram on the hunt for Kariye Museum; my definite must-see of this year’s visit to Istanbul. As it was my definite must-see, I’d taken charge of finding out how to get there (normally Barry’s job) and if you know me, you’ll know I’m not the best when it comes to ascertaining where exactly we are in the world at any given time. I amaze myself at my inability to point in the general direction of well known landmarks!

We were in Istanbul to take part in the Eurasia Marathon and the weather theme of our whole 5 days there was cold, wet, grey, damp. So, in our quest to reach Kariye Museum we battled the elements. We were getting tetchy. Neither of us were sure where we were but Barry was completely at my mercy and I would have found that amusing had the weather been in a friendlier mood. As it was, we marched uphill in silence (in the direction I was hoping was right), following Istanbul’s ancient city walls on the right and a multi-lane, fast-flowing ring road to the immediate left. It wasn’t pleasant.

Durak Rumeli Köfteci in Edirnekapı

The exterior of our the Edirnekapı köfte salon

From looking at online maps, my thinking was, ‘If we get to Edirnekapı‘ (one of the famous gates in the Istanbul city walls), we can ask around when we get there and someone will help us.’ 30 minutes of walking later, we’d tried and failed to cross a huge, busy main road, found and walked under its subway, negotiated a larger-than-we-envisaged terminus of tramlines and passed a couple of blocked city gates under restoration. Neither of the gates were labelled with their names.

Stick with us here. You can picture our moods. We’re not a couple who argue a lot, hence the silence. Hands in pockets, hunched shoulders, hoods up, me having a rough idea where we were (but then I always have a rough idea where we are and it’s usually completely wrong) and Barry having no idea where we were.

As we’re trudging up the pathway, we pass a bus shelter. YEHEY! There’s a sign inside that says Edirnekapı Otobus Durağı (Edirne Gate Bus Stop). Surely, Edirnekapı is along here somewhere…A few minutes later, we come to an archway. Again, it’s not labelled but we head on through it anyway. It’s got to be Edirnekapı.

A mini bus station greets us and a brown sign that reads, Kariye Müzesi. It’s a road sign, pointing to the left but yes, I’m feeling mightily pleased with myself! We’re in roughly the right area. Barry realises too and suddenly feels hungry. ‘Let’s just get some food in here before we carry on.’ All of a sudden, the cold and the stress has disappeared and we head over to Durak Rümeli Köfte Salonu – a bus drivers’ eatery.

Köfte Cafe In Edirnekapi

The interesting interior of Durak Rumeli Köfte Salonu

We see ‘Köfte & Piyaz’ written on the window. That’s us. A man, wrapped in numerous layers and woolly hat smiles a warm, friendly smile as we go to sit down at the outdoor tables and then points us inside. You never know what you’re going to get when you go inside these smaller Turkish eateries. This guy just wanted us to be warm – and guided us to their makeshift storeroom just so we could be inside, out of the cold.

Köfte At Edirnekapı

Köfte, piyaz and chilli relish

We wouldn’t have come across the fabulously spicy, home made chilli relish had we not come to sit in here. After sampling it, we were getting excited about our köfte and piyaz. We were alone; the main kitchen and outdoor seating being next door to us. It was far from attractive but these are the places we get hopeful about.

By and by, our friendly köfteci presented us with a plate each of juicy, char-grilled homemade köfte, rice, barbecued pepper and tomato. Thick (even for Turkish standards) wedges of fresh bread followed, along with a serving of piyaz and two large cartons of ayran. I mixed a dollop of chilli relish into my rice and we both enjoyed a fantastic köfte meal. It was that good! Maybe even the best…?

Our Friendly Köfte Man In Istanbul

This Istanbul köfteci made our day

And here he is. This area of Istanbul doesn’t see the throngs of tourists usually queueing outside Aya Sofya and, of the tourists who make it to Kariye Museum, I don’t think too many take the unorthodox route we chose. We’ve got no idea if this guy speaks English – we spoke in Turkish and he replied in Turkish (a rarity for us in Fethiye) and he was really happy to have a couple of foreigners in his joint. He was extra happy when we asked for a photo of him, too!

We did have a moment where we realised we hadn’t asked about the price of anything. Our fault – we were too hungry, relieved and cold. Nothing to worry about anyway. Before we left, we were presented with a bill for 20 lira. A tasty, satisfying lunch and a bargain!

A few minutes later, we were wandering around Kariye Museum – but this episode sticks in our minds just as much as the museum experience…and Kariye Museum is special! We’ll tell you in the next post…

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  1. I am drooling, Julia. Drooling. That is *exactly* the sort of food and the kind of cafe that I dream of when I dream of Turkey.

    (I’m still drooling)

  2. Sounds like a perfect Istanbul moment to me! =) The little joys of getting lost around here. lol

  3. Isn’t it exciting to find, unexpectantly, a little cafe with fabulous food. The kofte and peppers look so delicious- I’d love one now!

  4. @ Tony S: These are the places you always want to be good, aren’t they?! This was perfect. 🙂

    @ Joy: Yes, although not necessarily lost. I was in complete control of the situation. 😉 Glad we went through the gate there, though.

    @ Jenny: The köfte and the peppers were soooo good – but the chilli relish left a lasting impression too. 🙂

  5. Hey Julia. Good to know you’re ok and also most of Turkey isn’t too affected by the earthquake.

  6. @ ping: Yes, we’re all fine here, thanks. We didn’t even feel a tremor, it was so far away. Obviously, that whole area is a mess and thousands are affected. Thinking of them all.

  7. I dread to think of the circuitous route you took to get to Kariye so good thing you found this great little place!! The weather was absolutely awful, wasn’t it?

  8. Kaya Koyu Walker says

    You forgot to tell us what’s special about Kariye Museum. Should I add it to my list of “must sees” the next time I’m in Istanbul ?

  9. @ A Seasonal Cook in Turkey: We’ll do almost anything to save money so we didn’t want a taxi or a guided trip. Good job we enjoy a little stroll – and this guy felt like our saviour! The weather wasn’t the best all the time we were there. Nevermind. 🙂

    @ Kaya Koyu Walker: All in good time. 🙂 We’re doing a photo post on it tomorrow. It should be on everyone’s Istanbul lists. Very special. 🙂

  10. Love life’s little surprises.

  11. @ [email protected] Us too. Places like this don’t usually disappoint in Turkey. 🙂

  12. What a wonderful story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about such a real life moment we all can so well relate to while out and about… and I so love a good food bargain. Cheers!

  13. @ Mark: Thanks. It’s funny, looking back on it now but at the time, we were very relieved to find this friendly face – and the bargain köfte meal. 🙂

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