Name: Deraliye Restaurant, Istanbul
Note: Deraliye Terrace is a different place.
Address: Alemdar, Ticarethane Çk. No:11, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Website: Click here
Visited: 30 September 2022
Deraliye Restaurant, Restaurant Review
Deraliye Restaurant, Istanbul: At the centre of the old city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople and Byzantium) lies the district of Sultanahmet. Away from the hubbub of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern, old streets run at odd angles in a maze of hotels, restaurants and high-end vendors selling Turkish Delight in thick viscous cubes dusted with powdered sugar.
The Matter of Authenticity
After a day of exploration and an average lunch grabbed between sites, my friend Michael and I wanted something close to our hotel, that served an ice cold gin and tonic and something a little lighter to eat than roast meat and, whisper it, a touch more authentically Turkish. The question of authenticity sets hares running whenever I mention it. What is authentic cuisine? Perhaps the young people of Türkiye love fast food as much as anywhere else. Maybe the famous clay pots used in Testi Kebab (see here) sell just one vision of Turkish deliciousness. Also, authenticity can’t be fixed by history or nostalgia but is measured in popularity.
Deraliye Restaurant: The Decision
Sometimes picking a restaurant doesn’t get a lot of research. This place was at the entrance to our hotel and had been just crammed at lunch when we walked past, so clearly they were doing something right. There were quite a few members of staff and, at times, much more chatting going on than attention. However, I can’t complain about the friendliness and detailed approach of the team, once their heads swivelled in our direction.
Deraliye Layout & Decoration
While I can’t speak to the authenticity of Turkish decoration, I can admire the fact that every surface had been stencilled, tiled, painted and considered. The ceiling had a fantastic Anaglypta wallpaper, the windows dressed with a geometric, possibly Islamic pierced fretwork. A clothes rack (on the right, see below) was piled with ‘authentic’ costumes, presumably for events where the restaurant sells something of an experience.
Although we were only fixing for a snack, the menu was quite extensive, billed as “Foods at the Time of Ottoman Palace Cuisine”.
I’m not sure if I look impressed or not in the picture, but I was! It had been so hot all day, I felt blessed to be sitting underneath the air conditioning unit! However, unlike North America (when the air conditioning is switched on), all of the window/doors along the street were open to welcome in the evening breeze, when it came. However, the open doors succeeded in letting in cigarette smoke from outside diners and, more gratifyingly, strains of the 3-man street bands who sold their wares along the busy restaurant strip of Sultanahmet.
Deraliye Restaurant: Hot Bread
After trying out some Turkish hot bread at Rumeli, I was much more impressed with the astonishing puff ball of bread served here at Deraliye. I’ve tried to determine if this type of bread is called Lavash or Bazlama. If you have the inside knowledge, please leave a comment below! This was absolutely piping hot from the oven, brushed perhaps with oil or ghee and studded with black poppy seeds.
I am going to say something controversial. This bread does not have strong or discernible flavour. To be authentic, perhaps it should not have much taste – it’s seasoned with salt and seeds. It did come with a black olive paste (perhaps a dry tapenade) and this had bundles of pungent umami taste. So no complaint here, just a musing that nigella seeds or even some sesame might lack authenticity but add an allium or nutty note.
Before long, a tall glass of ice-cold gin and tonic was served. Sometimes that cocktail is just the ticket. The server brought bottled water to the table, cooled in the fridge and starting to frost as he arrived to pour the first glass. I mention this only because bottled water is often free at Turkish restaurants and so it was at Deraliye. It feels like an act of hospitality, a welcoming in, when so many places would happily charge €4-5 for a large bottle (at least).
That ceiling decoration really is something. It strikes me as I write about it now that it may draw on some of the Ottoman heritage for inspiration, the Topkapi Palace is, after all, just a few hundred metres from the restaurant.
Deraliye Restaurant: Authentic Food
With such a long menu (find it here), it can be hard to focus the mind and we were not especially hungry. We ordered some hot appetisers to share and figured if we needed more, we could simply ask.
These meatballs are a real staple Turkish dish and I wanted to try them out in a proper restaurant. The filling is minced meat with a crunchy exterior dressed with finely ground pistachio nuts. I could not entirely discern if this was beef, lamb or a mixture of both (which is common). The mince contains nuts (almonds?), sweet currants, herbs and spices, but the spices are not particularly dominant (I could make out cinnamon and a little cumin). They were served with a thick sour yoghurt also dressed with pistachios.
Sailor’s Roll with Honey
Our second hot starter is called (I believe) Ballı gemici böreği or Sailor’s Roll. At a large counter top behind us, a chef was stretching out huge sheets of filo pastry and scattering it with crumbled cheese. It was only when this starter arrived that I worked out that he was preparing Sailor’s Roll – a fried pastry created from layers of thin pastry strewn with cheese (similar to feta). This was crunchy and quite sweet, daubed with honey and served with large moist currants (to Michael’s chagrin).
I do like a sweeter dish and think honey goes particularly well with salty cheese, so I was fan of this dish.
After all that sweetness, I don’t know how I found room for a dessert, but I did. To be honest, I fancied a small piece of baklava with sweet tea, but they didn’t quite have that. This hot dessert combines the elements of baklava without the delicious crunchiness that makes it appealing. This was like a filled crepe, the filling a sort of pistachio mush that was all sugar and little flavour. This dessert was, frankly, a fail. The ice cream was almost entirely melted by the time it reached the table. A small side dish would solve the problem of the cold scoop melting twixt kitchen and table.
Hot tea was served as a ‘free treat’ at the end of the meal. This is apple tea. It’s rather like heated up store-bought apple juice with a little spicing and that is not a bad thing, in my book. It rounded out the evening meal on a fruity note with no caffeine. Perfect before an early night and getting ready to explore Istanbul again next morning.
Deraliye Restaurant, Istanbul: Summary & Budget Tips
At its busiest (later in the evening) this restaurant has excellent atmosphere and it’s thrilling to watch the staff navigating the floor with those huge hot breads and their silver service approach. This is not an inexpensive restaurant by local standards but in international terms is very inexpensive. Cost might be something I need to write about more!
Don’t forget you can see this restaurant on video, in Part 1 of my guide to Istanbul – click here.