This is exactly what happened to me too. I even roamed the Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi) for years without knowing about this unique restaurant that exudes history.
When I finally found this ”pearl”, I felt complete stupid, wondering why I still don’t know Istanbul’s history in more detail. This is a question that often bothers me in Istanbul. I feel that my one life is probably not enough for me to know and experience this city sufficiently. But perhaps this is exactly why Istanbul is always interesting; you will make endless new discoveries.
Restaurant Pandeli (Pandeli Lokantası) is one of the city’s culinary institutions that has existed for over a hundred years.
Restaurant founder, Pandeli Çobanoğlu, was an Anatolian Greek, the son of shepherd, who came to work in the Old City of Istanbul at a young age in the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar area. After first doing a variety of odd jobs, Pandeli eventually also started selling bean and onion salad (Piyaz) and meatballs (Köfte) in his small eatery.
His place soon started to attract journalists, writers and politicians including Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. After surviving the hardships of two world wars Pandeli moved his restaurant to its current premises on the second floor of the Spice Bazaar, just opposite the Galata Bridge (Galata Köprüsü) on the European side. Today, the restaurant is managed by the third generation of his family.
Pandeli’s menu includes all-time favorites of Istanbulites. I personally tasted the delicacy of the Sultan called ´Hünkar Beğendi´, i.e. a traditional lamb stew, which is served on top of roasted eggplant puree. Plain and simple – and the best ever!
It has been said about Mr. Pandeli that it would not be accurate to think of him as an ordinary chef: ”Pandeli was a true explorer of flavors, a master who made cooking an art”.
Famous guests and fantastic customer service
Pandeli Restaurant has always been a tourist magnet and hosted many celebrities from Queen Elizabeth II and Audrey Hepburn to Sean Connery, Robert de Niro, Roman Polanski and Sarah Jessica Parker. You can still admire photos from these visits on the walls of the restaurant.
In addition, you get fantastic customer service. If you wish, you will be told about the history of the place with such dedication and friendliness that you will feel like you are the first and only customer of the restaurant. Although these stories have probably been told already tens of thousands of times before you, if not more.
Please note that Restaurant Pandeli is closed for (Turkish) dinner time, i.e. it is only open until 19:00. On Sundays, the restaurant is completely closed. I recommend making a table reservation in time.
Enjoy both the history and the delicacies.”Afiyet olsun!”