Kadinlar Pazari, a pleasant, pedestrianised square in the Fatih neighbourhood, is the closest Istanbul has to a “little Kurdistan”. This superb restaurant specialises in büryan kebab; a kind of Turkish version of the Texas pit barbecue. A side of a small lamb is slowly cooked over coals in a deep hole in the ground, resulting in exceptionally tender meat covered in a thin layer of crackling, crunchy fat.
Be sure to also try the perde pilavi, a fragrant peppery pilaf made of rice, chicken, almonds and currants wrapped in a thin pastry shell and baked until the exterior turns golden and flaky. And their homemade ayran. • Itfaiye Caddesi 4, Fatih, +90 212 635 8085, , mains TL10 (£4). Open 10am-11pm daily
Hunkar Restaurant, which takes its name from the classic dish of creamy aubergine purée and lamb. Mim Kemal Oke Caddesi 21; 011-90-212-225-4665; entrees $11 to $15.
This Istanbul institution was founded in the neighborhood of Fatih in 1950. The Fatih location has since closed, but the restaurant’s loyal following ensured its survival in Nisantasi, with a second branch in Etiler. Istanbullus wax lyrical over the traditional Turkish and Ottoman cooking served here. Hünkar is famous for it’s begendili kebap and roast lamb. Their warm irmik helvasi (semolina dessert) is the model for all others. The Nisantasi location fills up with local professionals at lunchtime; the homey Etiler location has an outdoor trellised sidewalk cafe.
Develi’s success may have translated into a blossoming of sister locations around the country, but no matter how good the others may be, this Develi maintains a level of consistency and fabulousness worthy of more than a simple star rating will allow. For their regional specialties, they follow outstanding recipes from the Gaziantep region of southeastern Turkey — this translates roughly as blisteringly spicy.
Adventurous eaters should order the fiery çig köfte, beefy meatballs combined with every spice in the book, served raw in a soothing lettuce leaf. Other notable menu items include the muhamara, a delectable purée of bread, nuts, and chickpeas; the findik lahmacun, a thin-crust pizza made Turkish-style with chopped lamb; or the lamb sausage and pistachio kebap. Leave room for the künefe, a warm slab of baklava dough oozing cheese, dipped in syrup, and covered with crushed pistachio nuts. The rooftop terrace is stupendous in the summer, and there’s a nonsmoking room for indoor wintry evenings.
Gümüşyüzük Sok. No:7 Balik Pazari Meydani Samatya, istanbul