Nişantaşı, the posh district located on the European side, seems to be in the middle of a re-birth. New hip restaurants and coffee shops are now popping up at an increasingly rapid rate. A younger group seems to be emerging and socializing. The area around Teşvikiye Mosque is certainly benefiting the greatest with the most recent addition being Grandma. I am always excited when something new opens, so when I drove past in a taxi one evening and saw Grandma was operating, I immediately walked on over. Stalking back and forth across the shop windows, I was delighted to see piles and racks of enticing artisan bread.
Bread, or ekmek as it is called, is the lifeblood of Turkish culture. Songs are written about it, poetry has been inspired by it and on one of my expat websites a lengthy debate ensued about why our Turkish counterparts require bread at every meal. No matter the reason, the fact remains; it is a bread culture. In my husband's small village there is actually a 24-hour bakery, in case of a bread emergency at 3 a.m.? Bakeries can be found on virtually every street, but the diversity is almost non-existent. The bread of choice being airy loaves of white bread. So needless to say, I was thrilled to see something different on offer. The next morning I marched on over and bought myself zeytinli ekmek, a loaf of olive sourdough. I asked the cashier how long the loaf would last and his response was 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. It turns out this was an absurd question, the bread was finished within the hour. On the 4th day in a row when I found myself shamelessly walking in to buy yet another loaf of olive bread, I knew it was love.
So, on our first sunny, 65 degree (18 C) day of spring I decided it was time to dig into their menu and see what else Grandma had to offer. I wasn’t disappointed. Walking into the cafe, tables on either side are set up with daily selections of various sweets, cookies, cakes and tarts, as well as savory quiche, scones and croissants. Everything is labeled in Turkish and English which comes in handy for those of us still struggling with the language! At the counter you can choose from 3 fresh grain and vegetable salads or a variety of unique snack sized sandwiches, one of which with beets, proving this is not your standard bakery. it was really refreshing to see a cafe trying to do something unique to Istanbul’s current culinary scene. Everything looked great, but rather than ordering from the counter, we opted instead to choose from the menu.
We tried the classic Turkish breakfast dish menemen, with stewed tomatoes, green peppers and two eggs with yolks the color of the sun, topped with a dollop of labneh (a strained yogurt cheese) and of course served with toasted sourdough bread. We tried the bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, mostly because Grandma is one of the very few restaurants in Istanbul that serves actual bagels rather than the Turkish version called simit. They were happy to accommodate our request for a bit of dill to top the salmon. We tried an open faced roast beef sandwich with housemade caramelized onions and housemade roasted garlic aioli, topped with some rosemary to cut the richness. Don’t expect to smooch anyone after that! And finally, we finished off the brunch with a Grandma’s mild tasting roasted coffee and an aromatic house blended tea.
Grandma is a bakery and cafe which stays true to its name. The bright, warm, quirky and inviting interior with all their sweets and comforting smells truly draws you in, the quality of their products will keep you coming back. The small outdoor seating area overlooking the picturesque Teşvikiye Mosque doesn’t hurt either! Transportation is a breeze, it is located just a stone's throw from the Taksim - Teşvikiye dolmuş stop. (Location: Grandma Foursquare)