Garden Cafe – Winter hangout

3 ***

To find this place you must have been inducted by someone else who has, in turn, been brought by another insider. Tucked away between apartment buildings just behind Mecidiyeköy’s noisy crossroads, Garden Cafe takes its theme seriously. Plastic frogs croak and stuffed cats miaow as you open the bamboo door, a fake tree forms the centre of the bar area and plants and butterflies abound. It manages to err just on the right side of kitsch and the covered winter garden is so well heated and protected from the elements it doesn’t matter if the weather prevents you from sitting outside.

The Turkish and English menu is comprehensive, covering all the salad, pasta, meatball, steak, pizza, fish and chicken combinations you might expect but the only real surprises here are the cheese and chocolate fondues. Throwing culinary caution to the wind, I recklessly ordered chicken curry pizza. They solved the problem of the awkward marriage of Italian and Indian cuisine by only mildly flavouring the chicken and swamping it with cheese on a bread style pizza. It was neither good enough to be excited about nor bad enough to complain. The Börek platter was standard fare and prices are reasonable at 5-12 ytl for starters, 8-20 for mains.

There were fewer dessert options, or so we thought until discovering the separate icecream menu. Banana Splits and Peach Melba feature unabashedly, but then this is a restaurant with a plastic wishing well in the garden. The icecream is a UK based brand, Schöller,  and was full of satisfyingly, non-synthetic, Real Flavour. A pomegranate cream and sponge dessert in patriotic red and white came with a Turkish flag just in case you missed the point, yet was otherwise unremarkable other than for my own personal aversion to the fruit. İ can never not think of fish eyes when crunching down on the seeds.

I’d come back here for the ambience more than because the food excels, but I will definitely be coming back.  Something about it seems to suggest girlie gossip sessions and private conversations even though the restaurant is open plan and I can’t think of anywhere else with the same vibe in the city.  Perfect for lunch or post-work drinks with a full alcohol menu that even features cocktails.

Open 10-11 everyday except Sunday.

Ortaklar Caddesi, Bahçeler Sokak, Somay İş Merkezi C Blok 1-2, Mecidiyeköy

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