June 10 2011
On a recent trip to Istanbul, I ended up going to the same restaurant several times. Everyone I met wanted to take me to Münferit, and I was perfectly happy to comply, as this meant I could sample a different assortment of mezze on each visit. By day three, I had earmarked some clear favourites: baby octopus skewers served with wafers of marinated courgette, an oozing parcel of hot truffled cheese with a sprinkling of porcini, smoked eel and bottarga drizzled in caper and yogurt sauce, and monkfish with creamed sweetcorn. But I never managed to get past the first dessert on the menu: the sage ice cream with plum sauce was so divine, I ordered it again and again. (Chocolate lokma in brandy sauce also has its devoted fans, apparently.)
Münferit bills itself as a “modern meyhane” – the Turkish taverns where shots of raki are knocked back over rounds of mezze. Backlit bottles of triple-distilled Beylerbeyi raki, produced by owner Ferit Sarper’s family, adorn the basement dining room and sultry street-level bar (although most patrons seem to prefer passionfruit martinis and ginger mojitos). All smoke and mirrors, polished mahogany and mottled marble, the interior is both gleaming and intimate. No wonder it works: the space was designed by Ferit’s glamorous girlfriend, Seyhan Ozdemir, one half of Turkey’s hippest design duo, Autoban.
Most meyhanes are named after their owner. Münferit, which means “one of a kind”, is a witty twist on this practice. But Ferit’s trendy hangout is anything but traditional.