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Feb 26
Reviews (Eats)
Kale Cafe: Escape from Beyoglu

With its outings along the Bosphorus, one thing that the recent Istanbul-centric episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” television show made us realize was how much we tend to get stuck in our own little Beyoglu bubble. Granted, Istanbul’s “downtown” zone has enough restaurants to keep all but the most jaded eater happy, but it’s never good to get into a rut.

We were particularly intrigued by one of the places featured in the show, Kale Cafe, a cozy-looking spot in the Bosphorus-side Rumeli Hisari neighborhood, that specializes in serving up a bountiful Turkish breakfast. The images of kaymak – the Turkish clotted cream that is the crack cocaine of dairy products – being scooped up with pieces of steaming fresh lavash left us drooling in front of our TV set. A trip up the Bosphorus was certainly in order.

So, on a recent morning, we got over our fear of traffic jams along the narrow Bosphorus coastal road and of being drowned in a sea of Ugg boot wearers and made our way up to the swankier side of town. We knew we made the right decision as soon as we arrived in Rumeli Hisari and saw the sun reflecting off the waters of the Bosphorus, as an endless procession of ships and smaller boats sailed by.

Outside of Kale, located in a house-like building right on the coastal road overlooking the Bosphorus, we found a line of people waiting for the next available table (the popularity of the cafe, which started as a small bakery in 1982, has forced it to expand into the restaurant next door, while an annex is being opened some 200 meters away). Once we sat down, we ordered the upgraded serpme kahvalti (“breakfast spread”), which turned out to be a table-breaking bounty: along with the standard items – olives, tomato, cucumber, etc. – there was an assortment of cheeses, including fried helumi (a pleasantly rubbery and salty cheese from Cyprus), several types of börek and gozleme, fried eggs with sausage, and, of course, the very tasty kaymak, topped with honey.

Along with the food, one of the joys of Kale is the service, with a team of roving waiters who always seems to show up just at the right time with a fresh glass of tea. After finishing our leisurely breakfast, we repaired to one of the Bosphorus-side benches across the street, where one of the waiters graciously brought us a Turkish coffee.

Kale’s menu also features other items, including manti and the usual grill dishes like kofte and kebab. But it’s that breakfast, combined with the view of the Bosphorus, that just might get us out of that Beyoglu rut.

Address: Yahya Kemal Caddesi No: 16, Rumelihisari
Telephone: 212-265-0097

(photo by Jonathan Lewis)

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7 Responses to “ Kale Cafe: Escape from Beyoglu ”
  1. “…being drowned in a sea of Ugg boot wearers…” nice one 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you guys finally tried and liked Kale 🙂

  3. If you decide to visit the neighborhood, I encourage you to walk 30m in the direction of Bebek and try “Lokma”. Same basic breakfast spread, more choices in the extras such as fresh fruit juices and a spacious seating arrangement instead of being squashed between a sea of hungry people. The paçanga is better by far, too.

  4. Hmmm, I think we must have gone to the wrong Kale Cafe. Is there an imitation “Kale Cafe” on the same strip??? The one we went to was elevated a few steps up from street level. Looked nothing like the picture in this article.

    If so, people beware… Sunday brunch at the fake Kale Cafe was a disaster… the breakfast “Koy Kahvaltisi” was miserly and misleading (just supermarket cheese, olives, tomato, cucumber and nothing else), the service was tediously slow (we only got 2 cups of tea in 1.5 hrs), the bread basket looked like leftovers from the previous table, and the bill was miscalculated. Topped off by an apathetic waiter when we complained. I read your article, but wish I’d checked the photo more carefully.

  5. istanbuleatsenglish

    Mar 22, 2010

    An impostor? We’ll look into it. There is an annex down the street from the original, but it does sound like you ended up somewhere else.

  6. To much for breakfast. They request 10 TL for parking whitout any bill. I will not go there anymore.

  7. My experience resembles that of ^ Sophie’s. I am pretty sure I had the right location seeing as how I had the address marked down from Anthony bourdain’s travel channel website and also had the hotel concierge look up the address. Regardless I was underwhelmed by the food. Bourdains segment made it seem a lot better. I did enjoy the honey with cheese dish. The view and location were great! I would recommend the area as there are plenty of other restaurants and the walk along the seawall is very pleasant!

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