Not just for Bond: Istanbul, where history and home cooking have the licence to thrill
SEBASTIAN LANDER, Daily Mail
Twists and turns: The elegant towerpresides over the historic streets around the Beyoglu disrict
As a fearless 007 is scaling the rooftops of Istanbul in Skyfall, I am up to my elbows in flour.
It is something of a less risky mission to create a Turkish meal under the guidance of Arzu Gurdamar, the owner of modish restaurant Dai Pera. Well, Arzu does rhyme with Q, at least.
Here in the city's arty Beyoglu district, just across the poetically-named Golden Horn waterway, bubbly Arzu is championing her creative version of Istanbuli home cooking. She offers impromptu instruction for those who need only ask.
'This is like my house,' Arzu says. 'What I cook here, you can eat at my mother's place.' For starters, kebabs aren't on our menu. 'Not Istanbul,' she is definite.
I want to argue that there are an awful lot of restaurants in this city that sell them and tourists to eat them, too, but I am occupied by the task of rolling minced beef into vine leaves spread out like starfish on the table.
Whatever we create now, we will eat later. That includes the two types of fritters made of dill and courgette or carrot and spring onion. It makes you at least feel like you are being healthy.
Not so the deep-fried king prawns wrapped in kadayif, a fine, shredded filo pastry, which we dip in a soy, apple cider and honey sauce. Washed down with a very drinkable white Turkish wine, it more than beats a kebab which, if we're honest, most of us associate with the country's cuisine.
It is good to spend time with Arzu in Beyoglu, where we have retreated after some splendid, but rather hectic, sightseeing around Istanbul's Sultanahmet district. But more of this later.
In Beyoglu you will find a less touristic angle on this incredible city. Young Turks, preened into perfection, stalk the wide (clean) streets, and locals browse the aisles of brightly-lit clothes shops. Piles of Turkish delight and baklava glisten in windows.
We slip into the award-winning 360 bar and restaurant (www.360istanbul.com). You wouldn't know it was even here, located at the top of a 19th century apartment building, but the views are magnificent, particularly with cocktail in hand.
The roads narrow as you head down the hill towards the Golden Horn. Cobble stones challenge your footing. The medieval Galata Tower, built by Genoese traders, soars above as you pass, surrounded by a halo of light. Istanbul does grand gestures with ease.
The Galata Bridge, linking Beyo?lu with the area that was once Constantinople, gives the visitor a sweeping view from which to understand the geography of a city that famously straddles Europe and Asia.
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