Kebabs & Cocktails Part II

Best meal I had in Istanbul

Best meal I had in Istanbul

I felt a little bit bad about my Irish exit the night before, but Y was understanding, and sometimes these things are necessary. In the morning, I slept in for a bit. When it was time to check out of the W, I had them ring a cab for me, and then I set off for my next stop. 4 Floors Istanbul, in the Galata area of Istanbul. I had been chatting with the manager of 4 Floors for a week or so prior to my arrival, and I was planning to write an article about the hotel. Everyone knows about the big options in Istanbul, so I was hoping to find a quality boutique hotel that I could pass along. This was not to be.

After a lengthy cab ride, we ascended a steep hill, then turned right onto a small dead end street. As we got to the bottom of the street, I scanned the numbers, and found the address. There is basically nothing to distinguish the 4 Floors from a rental apartment. I rang one of the “hotel” employees who was in the area, and he showed me into the building, up to my room and gave me my keys.

The room itself, was nice, if a bit poorly thought out. Immediately through the door to the right was a full kitchen, which I did not have occasion to use, outside of the fridge. There was a large and comfortable living room area, with a balcony overlooking a courtyard. This was probably the best feature. The bed was rather uncomfortable, and the bathroom (shower AND toilet) were visible from the bed, and from other parts of the room unless you closed all the doors to the bedroom. This would be ok if you were staying alone, but N was coming to meet me the next day. Even coming with a girlfriend would be a bit weird as no one wants to watch their significant other on the toilet…well perhaps SOME people do, but i’m not into that.

There was no aircon at 4 Floors, but with the door to the balcony open, there was a pleasant breeze, and the room was never too hot.

I unpacked my bags, plugged some gadgets in to their chargers and took off. First it was a hike up the steep street the hotel is located at the bottom of, then more uphill climbing to reach the large pedestrian way. I made my way along that street (I believe Kumbaraci Yokusu) in the direction of the Hyatt, as a friend had recommended a particular kebab place in that vicinity. After 15 or so minutes of walking, I decided I would instead hit the next kebab place I saw and then do some sightseeing.

Konak Kebab was my first try. The meat was a bit dry, and overall it was just so-so. With this meal in the books, I decided to check out the one major tourist attraction I had missed on my last trip to Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern. It was a couple of miles from my location to Sultanahmet,  but I had a rough idea of where I was going, and the maps feature of my iPhone was there to back me up.

I found my way to the bridge across the Golden Horn, got some good photos, then worked my way up to the attractions. I won’t say the Basilica Cistern blew me away, but I am one for completeness, and I needed to cross this off the Istanbul to do list. After finishing up, I walked around the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque before heading back home. I decided to wander down through the Grand Bazaar and then the Spice Market on my way to the water. They still have amusing signs for Turkish Viagra in the market but it no longer has the catchy tagline “Turkish Viagra: 6 times in the night!”

I took a new route the rest of the way home, and I must say Istanbul is a lovely city to wander around, although it seems more polished than it did when I was last here in 2008. Almost as if there isn’t much of an “edge” anymore.

Around the time I got back to the 4 Floors, I got a text from a Turkish friend asking me if I wanted to meet him and some friends at Frankie, a bar on top of the Sofa Hotel in the Nisantasi area. I was pretty tired, and I knew that N was coming the next day, so my first instinct was to go to bed early and rest. It was still light out, and they didn’t want to meet until 10:30pm, so I had time.

A friend of mine (who shares my enthusiasm for kebabs) had been in Istanbul perhaps two weeks earlier, and kept raving about a kebab shop caddy corner from the Hyatt. He said he went there several times during his trip because it was so good. As darkness fell and I continued to wrestle with the issue of going out v. staying in, I decided I would trek the 2.5 km from the 4 Floors to the Grand Hyatt.

When I arrived, there was a line, which was promising. I ordered my food, waited, then went upstairs and took an empty table to eat…it was wholly unimpressive and perhaps the worst kebab I had in Istanbul. I suppose my friend has lousy taste.

Since it was getting late, post-kebab I tried to grab a cab back to the 4 Floors. The cabbie told me it was only 2.5 km away and that he didn’t want to waste his time on such a short fare. I figured I would walk the meal off, and trudged back to the hotel.

As I neared the 4 Floors, I told my buddy I was kind of tired and thinking about staying in. He peer pressured me and said just to come to Frankie for a drink and not to be such a baby. I am very susceptible to peer pressure.

Once I was showered and dressed, it was back up the dead end hill from the 4 Floors, and lucky for me a cab was on the way up the major hill, so I was able to snag it without having to walk the 5-10 minutes to the closest taxi collection point. After a typically long and traffic filled Istanbul taxi ride, I was deposited at a hip looking hotel.

The bar is on the top floor of the hotel, so I hopped on the elevator, entered the bar and ordered a shockingly overpriced double jack and coke while looking for my buddy and his group. When I say shockingly overpriced, I am talking like $30 USD / drink or thereabouts. My friend H texted me, and I went over to his large group. Apparently it was someone’s birthday. At Frankie on this particular night, there was a band playing. I think it was supposed to be karaoke, but some woman who they told me was the Turkish equivalent of Barbara Streisand fortuitously happened to be there, and she had co-opted the mic.

Everyone seemed very into her performance, and apparently she is incredibly popular. I don’t speak Turkish, so I have no idea what her songs were about. After she finished, another (as related to me) famous Turkish singer (though not quite as famous) who also happened to be there hopped up and decided she wanted her turn on the mic…this was also well received by the crowd.

After midnight, it started thinning out at Frankie, and some people, including my buddy decided they were going to go home. The other half of the group was going to continue out. Since I was already dressed, in another part of town, and partways drunk, I figured it was my duty to soldier on. Some Turkish girls told me to ride with them to the next party and I obliged.

We waited out front for their driver, and in no time we were once again on our way. Our first stop, was the same Sunset Bar & Grill I had visited the night before. This was a very brief stop, after, we went down to the waters edge to Anjelique. I remembered visiting this club (with the same guy who dragged me to Frankie) in 2008. I remembered this, because I hated the music. Still, I was along for the ride and I’m not one to complain, so on we went.

The door people seemed to know the girls I was with and we walked right in. I didn’t know these people all that well, and I didn’t want to drink their booze, so I went to the bar and grabbed my own drink until I was cajoled into going to the table we were all hanging out at and drinking the booze displayed on it. They told me it was the owner’s table. Then I didn’t feel so bad. If the guy owned the club I doubt he was paying for the booze. He was a nice enough guy. It ended up being a long, long night.

N was set to arrive the following day. He was flying ORD-FRA-IST I believe. He told me he had been stuck at the office late the day of his departure and that he was coming right from work. I thought this was hyperbole, but true to form he showed up at the 4 Floors still in the suit he had worn to work the previous day with his carry on in tow.

N and I planned this trip together, but his portion was flying ORD-FRA-IST, spending one night in Istanbul. Flying IST-CAI with me, spending one night in Cairo, then seeing the pyramids the next afternoon before taking a night flight CAI-SSH, going diving the next day and then returning SSH-CAI-LHR-ORD. That’s a hell of a whirlwind. Hats off.

Anyway, after the journey in N was in need of cocktails. He dropped his bags in the room, changed out of his suit, and we crossed over the pedestrian way to a divey looking shot bar called Montreal Shot Bar.

It was too early for shots so we had beers. After four or five rounds, we decided it was probably time to head back to 4 Floors, formulate a plane and get on with the evening. I texted all the Turkish people I knew, but everyone was either knocked out from the night before, or out of town.

N and I made reservations for dinner at Nusret, and figured we would sort it out from there. We got to the restaurant massively late, but weren’t made to wait very long before we were seated.

Nusret reputedly has the best beef in Istanbul. You are seated at communal tables and you don’t order. The waiters ask you some basic questions and then they bring you beef…lots of it. We had a number of courses from hamburger to various cuts of steak and all of it was incredible. On top of the great quality, the price was very reasonable, much less than you would expect to pay for fine dining. I highly recommend this place and would definitely go back next time i’m in IST.

After stopping in a few smaller bars, I asked N if he wanted to try Anjelique because I had been there the night before, it was pretty fun and presumably the door people would remember me. He didn’t have any objections, so off we went.

The door people did in fact remember me from the night before and we were quickly inside. Once upstairs I found an employee and asked about getting a table. His opening bid was 1 bottle of champagne, 1 bottle of vodka and 1 bottle of whisky. I flatly refused. He then offered 1 bottle of vodka and 1 bottle of champagne. I again flatly refused. He then asked what I would be willing to do. I told him 1 bottle of vodka, mixers complimentary and he said ok and let us pick the table we wanted.

Hours later, towards the bottom of the bottle of vodka N and I had been doing a number on, we decided perhaps we should check out another bar someone had recommended. As we drove away from Anjelique in the taxi, N and I realized neither of us had paid for the table. Normally places like these pre-authorize your credit card to avoid stuff like this, and at the very least the servers should be watching you like a hawk, drunk people are not incredibly reliable. Anyways, thanks for forgetting about us Anjelique…we enjoyed the free booze. Sorry.

The bar we were looking for turned out to be closed. We decided to walk from there and look for bars near the hotel that were open, since Beyoglu is a pretty big nightlife area. We drank beers served to us by a kid who must have been about 12 at a streetside cafe, then finally found a strip of bars that looked decent. It was around 4am by now, and a good number of them were closed or closing. We walked downstairs to a packed bar, ordered beers and just as we began a conversation with some Turkish girls who were telling us how great this particular bar was, because it stayed open pretty much all night…BOOM…the house lights go on and they tell everyone the bar is closed and we all have to leave.

After that final blow, no one could think of a place that would still be open and serving, so we decided to call it a night and hope we’d be chipper when it was time to wakeup and fly to Cairo in a few hours.


4 Floors Istanbul Report Card

Pros: The “rooms” are big and there is free wifi. The kitchen and fridge are convenient.

Cons: Located at the bottom of a steep hill on a dead end street a decent walk from any normal taxi collection point. There are literally NO hotel services. No one to call when you have an issue, it’s like you are renting a serviced apartment (maid service only every other day) in a building that is all serviced apartments. Not really right to call this a hotel at all.

Verdict: While the manager was very nice and I wanted to like this place, there is just absolutely no way I would ever stay here again or recommend that anyone ever stay here. The rates aren’t much better (if at all) than actual hotels with services and amenities. It was a swing and a miss.


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