Review: Marmara Cafe, Beyoglu, Istanbul Turkey

I have tendencies towards vegetarianism. While I love bacon and foie gras too much to ever become vegetarian, it’s not unusual for half of our home-cooked meals in Australia to be vegetarian-friendly as I often find that eating too much red meat leaves me with a heavy feeling in my stomach.

Preferring to have less red meat in your diet does make it difficult when you’re travelling in a country like Turkey though! Doner kebaps are on every street corner, lamb durums are a go-to fast and cheap food, and most main meals in restaurants will consist of giant chunks of meat and bread/rice with a minuscule side salad as an afterthought. It’s not a particularly vegetarian-friendly dining destination.

Going to a cafe is your best bet for a lighter meal, and K and I dropped into Marmara Cafe in the Beyoglu area of Istanbul (close to where we were staying) for a much lighter meal – for him because he was feeling sick and had lost his appetite, and for me because I needed something that wouldn’t sit as heavily in my stomach.

Lentil Soup, 4 Turkish Lira
Lentil Soup, 4 Turkish Lira

K ordered the Lentil Soup, which was unfortunately not quite as well-spiced and tasty as the one he had ordered at Ortaklar Iskender Kebap. It did seem quite a bit creamier though, which makes me suspect that they bulk the soup out with a spot of cream – not great if you’re lactose intolerant like K!

Toast with salami and kasar cheese, 5.50 Turkish Lira
Toast with salami and kasar cheese, 5.50 Turkish Lira

A classic toastie is a go-to comfort food for when we’re sick, so K also ordered the Toast with Salami and Kasar Cheese. Kasar cheese is usually made of sheep’s milk, which makes it quite a bit stronger in taste and flavour than our usual cow’s milk cheeses. This made it a particularly excellent toastie for a sick person who was losing their ability to taste – the stronger-flavoured cheese and meaty salami managed to cut through to his tastebuds. For vegetarians, you can skip the salami and just have a kasar cheese toastie which is still delicious!

Jacket Potato with Chicken, 12.50 Turkish Lira
Jacket Potato with Chicken, 12.50 Turkish Lira

After seeing other diners eating baked potatoes, I had to order one. There’s nothing better than a hot roasted potato! While I ordered the Jacket Potato with Chicken, there are vegetarian options available as well. This was a real monster of a meal, topped with marinated roasted chicken, butter, kasar cheese, Russian salad, Italian salad, corn kernels, pickle slices, fresh green peas, sliced sausage, olives, red cabbage, mushrooms and bulgur salad. There really was just too much going on, I would have enjoyed it even more if they’d only used half the number of ingredients!

Fresh Orange Juice, 3.50 Turkish Lira each
Fresh Orange Juice, 3.50 Turkish Lira each

We also ordered two Fresh Orange Juices, which interestingly were delivered to our table well after we received all the other dishes. For a while we thought that they’d actually forgotten about our juices as they really should have come at the start of the meal…oh well, an orange juice is an orange juice! This was actually a particularly sweet glass of OJ, so I suspect they may have sweetened it with some sugar syrup.

If you find yourself sick of eating kebaps and other grilled meats in Istanbul, you can go to Marmara Cafe in Beyoglu near Taksim Square for a more cafe-esque meal. Do your digestive system a service and have a lighter meal!

Marmara Cafe is located at Evliya Çelebi, in Istanbul.

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