Amongst the trendy bars, boisterous meyhanes and ‘in’ places to eat in Asmalı Mescit, Helvetia is an unassuming, almost unmarked, place that beckons you in with a warm hug rather than a ‘Daahling! Mwah, mwah’.
A holidaying New York Times journalist stumbled across it, ate there every day, wrote it up on her return home, the Turkish food press then got wind of it (the New York Times rated it after all, daahling) and the word spread.
It’s easy to see how a foreign woman, dining alone, uninterested in the fusion cuisine nearby, eager to sample Real Local Food but not quite able to face a full-on meyhane every night, would feel drawn here. Conjuring up a farm house kitchen, with its red tiles, crooked wooden cabinets and brick walls, Helvetia is wholesome, cosy and welcoming.
Dishes change daily and are to be picked out, with the universal language of pointing, from under the glass counter. Mainly vegetable based, but with some köfte , dishes can be taken as individual portions or as a mixed plate.
A nice, light starter of smooth, creamy soup of chard with corn, was followed by standard fare zeytinyağlı (olive oil cold dish) leeks and broad beans, chard with yoghurt and a vegetable gratin that were the highlights, as long as you like bechamel, and the mucver (courgette fritters) were good although could have been crispier.
Dessert is either tiramisu or muhallebi (milk based pudding). My Turkish companion was quite happy with the latter until, in telling him how all those desserts are ectoplasm for me, I explained ectoplasm with reference to the green slime monster in Ghostbusters. If your dining partner has better table manners you will more than likely enjoy yours.
Good but not amazing, Helvetia’s Time Out Food and Drink Award for Best Ev Yemekleri perhaps owes more to its discovery than its food, but at such reasonable prices in this location, it’s worth checking out.
General Yazgan Sok: 12, Asmalı Mescit, Beyoğlu