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Feb 15
Reviews (Drinks), Reviews (Eats)
Beyoğlu Öğretmenevi: The Teacher’s Lounge

School's out -- photo by Yigal Schleifer
Like Atatürk statues and crescent-and-star flags etched into the sides of mountains, the öğretmenevi (“teacher’s house”) is an integral part of the Turkish landscape. Found in almost every city in Turkey, these government-run institutions serve as affordable guesthouses for educators on the road and – since anyone is welcome if space is available – for those traveling on a teacher’s budget.

For the most part, these guesthouses are drab affairs, 1970s-era concrete boxes usually painted in a shade of pink and found in some of the least interesting parts of town. Not so in Istanbul’s historic Beyoğlu neighborhood, where the local öğretmenevi is a grand, late-19th-century building, formerly a French-built hotel that – just like the more famous Pera Palace Hotel nearby – put up travelers arriving on the Orient Express.

A “teacher’s house” since the 1980s, the building received a complete remodeling two years ago, which resulted in the addition of a top-floor restaurant and bar. We walked by the building on a recent afternoon and were intrigued by its sign, which looked more like that of a boutique hotel’s than of a state-run institution. The lobby smacked of a Miami Beach retirement home, but a quick trip up the elevator took us into a modernish dining room that had several tables with fine views of the waters of the Golden Horn (the poor man’s Bosphorus, some might say) and a cozy, five-stool bar at one end.

Curious, we returned for dinner to find out just what Istanbul’s teachers are up to at night. We were initially met by a stern maitre d’ who, treating us like a bunch of students who had arrived late for detention period, informed us that no tables were available. Apparently, reservations are a must on most nights, especially if you want one of the few tables with a view. Fortunately, the bar was empty and the friendly bartender – dressed in a white shirt and satiny black tie, like the rest of the waitstaff – was happy to let us eat there.

The menu held no surprises – the usual mezes and kebabs, along with grilled fish – but the prices (most main dishes were around 12 TL) were unheard of for this swanky part of town, especially for a place with a view. The lamb chops we ordered were not exceptional, but, like the meze, no worse than anything you get in any of the meyhanes along Beyoğlu’s touristy Nevizade Street. “Mexican steak,” a fillet of beef covered in a tomato-mushroom sauce and melted cheese, seemed like a high-concept take on school cafeteria food, but was surprisingly good.

The truth is, more than the food, what might keep us coming back to the öğretmenevi is the unpretentious bar and its wonderful view, especially come summer, when the restaurant’s big windows will be opened up. It may not be the finest dining experience in Beyoğlu, but it is certainly one of the more memorable. At one point during our dinner at the öğretmenevi, the lights dimmed, a one-man band at his keyboard started playing Turkish favorites, and the full house of teachers started singing along, for a moment forgetting that come tomorrow, another school day begins.

Address: Meşrutiyet Caddesi 58, Beyoğlu
Telephone: 212-252-4343

(photo by Yigal Schleifer)

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7 Responses to “ Beyoğlu Öğretmenevi: The Teacher’s Lounge ”
  1. Pokerci Hoca

    Feb 15, 2010

    Main dishes for 12 lira is a good deal. What were the drinks prices like? How much for a beer, a raki and a shot of whisky?

  2. Drink prices were also at the low end (at least for Beyoglu). 5 lira for a beer, not much more for raki. They also have wine.

  3. It should be noted that they don’t serve alcoholic drinks during iftar. Nevertheless after iftar, around 9 pm you can enjoy your raki.

  4. Marby Pimbli

    Oct 20, 2010

    I was there on Friday 15th Oct. together with 16 colleagues from 12 EU countries on a ‘Study Visit’ EU programme together with the organisers from Turkey. It was our farewell dinner and we paid 35 euros for starters, main course, dessert and drinks. The food was O.K. We didn’t really care so much about the food as for the atmosphere, the music and the dancing. We danced until closing time, everyone was very friendly, we mixed with the locals and, all in all, it was an unforgettable experience.
    The Turkish colleagues told us it was a ‘teacher’s house’ with a hotel which is always booked. Perhaps it’s worth trying to find a room there if you can book it well in advance.

  5. I would like to make a reservation. Anybody knows if they speak English and if it is possible to make a reservation for the tables outside (the ones with the view?). We will be there in a month so I thought why not book way ahead…

  6. Elles,

    I don’t think they speak English there. If you’re staying in a hotel in Istanbul, you might ask your concierge to book a table for you. The hotel itself is probably one of the best deals in town- less than $100 for a room right in the best part of town, but they are booked way in advance.
    On our last visit, we ate at the bar but saw some outdoor seating. So unless something has changed you should be able to get a table on the terrace. I think Marby Pimbli’s comment is 100% correct. This is less a place to go for excellent food but the atmosphere and prices make this place special, particularly for large groups. Enjoy and please let us know how it goes.

  7. probably someone speaks English there as they are dealing with teachers. I stay at another Ogretman evi and usually there is someone on staff who has adequate English.

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