Visited: 30 September 2022
Address: Alemdar, Ticarethane Çk. No:11, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Rumeli Restaurant Review
On an autumn trip to Istanbul, Türkiye, my friend Michael and I happened upon Rumeli Restaurant on the street outside our hotel. Our morning Sultanahmet Square was very hot and we discovered that the Blue Mosque is closed for Friday prayers. I was just thirsty and by 12 noon, all of the restaurants were filling up. One man was assigned to drive custom towards the empty seats and the Rumeli guy was less forceful that others. I respect that kind of low energy.
Michael looks very relaxed and glad to be in the shade. It was working towards 90 degrees in the sun.
Rumeli Restaurant: Hot Bread
I wanted to keep my lunch order simple and Rumeli’s menu veers towards good basics: roast chicken or lamb, cheese pastries, stuffed vine leaves. I ordered lamb cutlets and within a few minutes, some bread hot from the oven was carried with aplomb to our table.
The bread was served with Turkish yoghurt, seasoned lightly with oregano (I can take a lot more flavour). The salty sourness of the yoghurt helps out the poppy and sesame seeds on the featherlight bread.
Rumeli Restaurant: The Music
While we were waiting on our grilled meats to arrive, three musicians made their way into the restaurant. I didn’t know if this might be a kind of table to table Turkish Mariachi band, but as the musicians gathered around one large table, it was clear they had been chosen to entertain a group who must have been celebrating a big event. The band were fantastic and before long, everyone at the table was UP and dancing like good-oh!
With the band in full swing, more theatre was to come! Look at the picture below! The waiter is preparing a Testi Kebab, a sealed clay pot which has within it (more than likely), lamb cubes, onions, tomatoes, various other vegetables in a rich sauce. This was brought out on a tray of burning sand for maximum drama (I think they are just cooked in the oven)! You can see that he has knocked off the lid with a large metal implement (the lid is falling onto the tray below). This dish is particularly familiar in Cappadocia, but in its single-serve version as seen here, has become something of a national phenomenon!
Rumeli Restaurant: The Lamb Cutlets
Then it was our turn! My lamb cutlets have been treated nicely and presented with some care.
This dish is pretty typical (as we discovered) in general Turkish cafes in Istanbul. Meat served on a little flat bread to catch the juices, a small amount of vegetables and a serving of rice. The seasoning here was salt. Only salt, no herbs or spices beyond a colourful sprinkling of paprika, more for effect than flavour.
Here, Rumeli served a roast tomato wedge, a small handful of chips/fries, some raw onion salad, a non-spicy pepper and some grated red cabbage. I was in the mood for roast meat. This was nicely charred and had some flavour. However, the cutlets were quite small/thin and so were well-done. I do prefer lamb chops to have that lovely roast outside but be medium rare-medium inside and that can be hard to find!
Rumeli: Summary & Budget Tips
This was an average meal served with good grace by the Rumeli staff. However, it was the music and atmosphere that made our lunch feel special and we could see every time we left our hotel that this place was always busy. One point that budget-conscious visitors might consider: this restaurant is in a prime position and is comparatively expensive by Turkish standards. Moving a street or two away from the main tourist trail will save you 20-40% for a similar meal.
Don’t forget you can see this restaurant on video, in Part 1 of my guide to Istanbul – click here.
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