I have a new favourite restaurant. It’s early on in our relationship and I’m in that dizzy stage of love at first bite. Don’t you just love discovering new places that speak to you on a scrumptious, spiritual level? The atmosphere, the culinary offerings…you feel like you’ve found a piece of your soul in a tasty little corner that caters to your every delicious whim.
But there is a bit of a problem. My new favourite restaurant is in Istanbul, Turkey. I live in Melbourne, Australia. There are some fundamental logistical issues here. I fear it will be a long time between bites *sigh*.
Kantin is a restaurant in the Nişantaşı district of Istanbul, which focuses on quality, seasonal produce. They prepare clean, wholesome flavours with care. It’s a dream. Kantin has been described in guide books as the ultimate destination for ladies who lunch, and I do so love a ladies lunch date. After hearing this description, I decided I wanted to show Ben what a ladies’ lunch entailed. Men do not tend to be privy to such lady business, and I thought I would introduce him to our world. Heck, I really just wanted an excuse to join these lunching ladies at Kantin.
And so on our third and final day in Istanbul (our first stop on our 5 week European honeymoon ) we visited Kantin. We sat at our little table for two surrounded by sleek coiffed gals and their LV bags. There was a darling flower pot on our table. The scene was set.
Ben was intrigued by this new world…
Our incredibly friendly, spruce waiter translated the daily blackboard menu for us and brought us bread. Let me state it simply, this was the best bread I devoured on our entire European honeymoon. Stunning sourdough…in Turkey. Who’d have thought it?
To start, tabbouleh, Kantin’s version. This was definitely a tabbouleh with a twist. My man is mad for tabbouleh, it’s a thing. Ben declared this beautiful, delicate serve to be his most favourite version ever. The pickled onions and candied almonds offered a happy zing with every bite, and it was all just ridiculously scrumptious. We were obsessed with this salad.
Boy, it can get hot in Istanbul in July, so naturally refreshments were in order. Any place that has homemade lemonade on offer gets major points in my book. We were given a choice of watermelon, ginger beer, lemon or melon – we chose the latter two. They were supremely refreshing, very very sweet and wholly satisfying.
For our lunch date, we shared two dishes. The first was a greedy plate of salmon patties. On top of the simple and plump patties sat a proud little dill mixture. Oh do I adore dill. This dish was divine. The roasted tomatoes were delicious and the mash incredibly buttery and rich. And the patties…perfection.
We also shared some meatballs with eggplant. Roasted eggplant is always a winner in my book, and these meatballs were really lovely. There was nothing dazzling about this dish, so our affectionate forks tended to gravitate towards the salmon patties. Nevertheless, this second dish was subtly satisfying.
We left out lunch date at Kantin on a lemonade cloud of dill deliciousness. Ben now knows what shall ensue when I state I am off to lunch with my ladies. And I dare say he shall be forever jealous.
Doesn’t Kantin sound like a beautiful restaurant? It really is. Let’s meet there for lunch, shall we? How does tomorrow suit? (let a girl dream…)
Kantin’s excellence doesn’t stop there, either. Downstairs, in front of the kitchen, they have a take-away style shop. Here you can grab pre-made salads, falafels, dips and more, as well as loaves of their beautiful, house-made bread. Oh, and sweets too. Here’s the loot we picked up on our first visit.
Their brownie was dangerously rich, with a gorgeous, gooey yet still somehow fluffy texture.
Their chocolate chip cookie was possibly the best I have ever eaten. The perfect texture, bordering on a little too sweet, but just so darn delicious it didn’t even matter. I couldn’t handle it, really. It was too much. Too good. Sensory overload.
It was really hard to share this one.
This soft pillow was filled with a cherry mixture and was really lovely. Although after that cookie I felt a bit blaze towards this dear little pouch. Nothing personal.
And their biscotti? Oh, no big deal, it was just the best biscotti I’ve ever eaten – completely jam-packed with nuts and fruit, with a brilliant prominent hit of cinnamon. Super thin, crunchy goodness. I hope to replicate the recipe myself, and if I even get slightly close to the deliciousness that is Kantin’s biscotti, I shall be ecstatic.
Ben and I ended our 5 week honeymoon in Turkey, for one final night. On that night we visited Antiochia and drank a little too much pear-infused vodka. It was amazing. The morning after, we headed straight to Kantin to stock up on goodies for a picnic meal at the airport. I was determined that my last meal in Europe was to be fabulous. And it was.
Leaf salad with tahini yoghurt dressing, tabbouleh, roast beef slices, hummus, ead, köfte and falafel.
The best falafel I’ve ever had (well, a tie with a dreamy falafel wrap we ate in Notting Hill three years ago…) Heavy on the chickpea and not too fussy, just how I like it.
We boarded our plane very full, very happy and very much in love with Kantin.
We’re home now, back in chilly Melbourne. And missing our European travels just a pinch. So for lunch over the weekend I decided to surprise Ben and re-create the salmon patties, tabbouleh and hummus. It took us straight back to Istanbul. We were very full and very happy.
All that was missing was Kantin’s beautiful bread and luscious lemonade. And that cute pot of flowers on our table. Perhaps come Summer I’ll make some Kantin-inspired lemonade? Yes, that would be lovely. For now? Try these recipes and put a little simple and wholesome Kantin-inspired beauty on our plate.
Makes 6 patties.
400g tinned Wild Alaskan Salmon
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped Dill
2-3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you might need only 2, depending on how non-stick your pan is)
Salt and Pepper
1. Drain the salmon well, ensuring there is no free liquid.
2. Place the salmon in a mixing bowl with the dill. Season generously with salt and pepper and use a for to mash the mixture together.
3. Whisk the egg and add to the salmon mixture. Stir to combine.
4. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot (check by flicking some water droplets on the pan – if it’s hot enough, they’ll dance on the pan) add the patties to the pan (form patties by moistening hands with water and forming into a pattie shape). Cook for 4-6 minutes until golden brown, then flip, press down slightly with a spatula and cook for a further 4-5 minutes until golden brown.
5. Place patties on paper towel and dab away excess oil. Serve.
Makes 2 large servings or 4 side salads.
1/2 cup Pearl Barley
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1 cup Water
2 handfuls Spinach Leaves
2 handfuls chopped Parsley
1/3 cup chopped Cucumber
1 stick chopped Celery
1/2 a Quick Pickled Onion (recipe link – LOVE this)
2 handfuls Candied Nuts (recipe link – I cut the sugar down a little, Make extra nuts and give them as gifts in cute little jars)
A squeeze 1 juicy Lemon
Salt and Pepper
1. Cook the pearl barley by adding the barley, stock and water to a pot. Bring to the boil then simmer down for 20-30 minutes until cooked. Add more water if necessary. You don’t want to overcook the barley, you still want it to have a bit of bite. Drain any remaining water and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, cook the pickled onions and candied nuts as per their recipe instructions.
3. When the barley, onions and nuts are done, you can start assembling the salad. Place the spinach leaves, parsley, cucumber, celery and onion in a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine then scatter the nuts over the top. Serve.
Makes ~1.5 cups hummus.
This recipe requires a hand blender. Alternatively you can be enthusiastic with your masher.
1 x 240g Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons Unhulled Tahini
2 teaspoons Garlic-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil (substitute: Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 1/2 Garlic clove (add more or less garlic to your preference))
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
A pinch of Salt
1. Add all the ingredients to the blender and whizz to combine, stopping to stir as required to incorporate the mixture (this will be a chunky hummus so it might require some stirring).
2. Taste, then add more tahini/garlic/oil/lemon/salt as desired. Whizz again then serve.