Arada Beyrut Cafe - Istanbul

A Review in Cuisine - 02/11/2022

Breakfast for two - 152 Turkish Lira per person (around £7 each)
Beyoğlu, İstanbul, Turkey

Fancy a breakfast where each individual ingredient comes on its own plate or bowl knowing that you're not the poor person that has to wash about 100 billion of them before the end of your shift? Then head on down to the hustlin' and bustlin' Arada Beyrut Cafe in Istanbul where you can fill every square inch of a table with items of food!

A fairy chilly Saturday morning didn't hamper the hordes of people waiting to be let into the Arada Beyrut Cafe, Istanbul, and nor did those people hamper my mood like similar scenes normally would elsewhere. The thought of 'an amazing breakfast' brought a magical tingle to the blood flowing through my impatient body. I was curious, excited, and filled with awe from the future memories I was creating. I was also a little apprehensive to cement these feelings, as for many things I've tried in my life, they are never quite as good as someone says.

The staff would regularly come outside to the queue with freshly made nibbles and offer them to everyone and anyone who was around the vicinity and eventually, once we heard something that resembled our names, we shot to the front of the gathering and were escorted into the trendy depths of the restaurant and placed at a large table. Inside, the decor was brimming with antique lamps, funky tiles on top of the tables, random books on dusty wooden bookshelves, street cats sitting outside the top-storey windows atop the awning, and a Narnia cupboard leading to the toilets. The mix of seemly random styles bled together to create something wholly unique, much like Istanbul itself.
The reasoning behind why all the tables are so big soon became clear once our order of 'breakfast for two, please!' finally arrived. Brought by two people with trays the size of a 1:1 scale cross-section of the moon and unloaded onto our table by another, our table soon became a whats-what of ingredients and spices.

Served with traditional Turkish tea, I had already lost my mind about the potential food combinations I could create. Cheese with honey? I am Greek royalty. Tomatoes dusted with exotic spices? I am a Mediterainnian millionaire. A doughnut with my coffee? I am an uncouth American. Snapping food pieces together like edible Lego filled me with such wonderment that I felt as if it was Christmas Eve and that I was 9.

Turkish falafels resembling tiny brown millstones sat on a wooden board with various fried items such as halloumi and tiny Turkish savoury pastries which in turn were stationed by a dish of Turkish menemen (a kind of scrambled egg with tomatoes and peppers). Other regions in this munchable metropolis of nibbles included chickpeas in seasoned yoghurt, more varieties of hummus than any sane man would know what to do with, a brigade of dips (apple sauce, Nutella, sesame, some sort of oil), roasted and seasoned potatoes that tasted like eating the softest pillow you've ever slept on, honey and cream cheese, non-creamed cheese without honey, street-food style pizza bases, freshly made doughnuts, and an endless supply of flat bread which was refilled every time a waiter would walk by slam-dunking them into a basket like deflated basketballs. Each bite was like an experience that you never taste where I'm from - flavour. And lots of it. The tomatoes tasted like tomatoes I've never witnessed, the pastries had ingredients you could individually taste, unlike the bland mush you get living in the UK, and the spices were more than just greasy salt and pepper shakers I'm used to seeing.

Along with all of that would be a huge selection of wonderous jams I've never seen before, extended to us by more passing waiters again on huge trays (the jams, not the waiters). You could choose to have them all, but I didn't want to feel any more luxurious so we selected some of the most unfamiliar ones presented.

Jam village within Breakfast city

We went slightly unhinged and selected a carrot jam and an eggplant one, along with the much more reserved options, apricot and kiwi. Eggplant is not a vegetable that has any flavour to it whatsoever without having to season it like a line cook on their last day, so I can see how it, as a somewhat textured material, would work well as a 'jam solid'. In the context of this jam, it tasted just like a holiday season mince pie filling (see my review on some shite mince pies for an idea). I suppose with enough sugar and spice, you can reduce down a public door handle and it'll still taste great. Conversely, the apricot and kiwi jam was exactly how you'd expect it - standard, normal, and unoriginal. I soon slid that shit far far away in favour of the funkier jams.

After spearing everything with my fork and silently pretending to be a medieval king at a banquet put on in my honour whilst also trying to minimise food waste by near-comatosing myself from eating as much as I could, I had finally deemed the feast complete.

Empty tiny dishes lay scattered about where artists previously painted the landscape of rolling hills of food. The odd cucumber strip strewn across a wooden board like a felled tree abandoned next to small boulders of cheese. Hummus sat at the bottom of some bowls like a drained swamp. The battle was over, but ultimately, who won? 

I did. That's who.

It's like an edible Build-A-Bear workshop but much tastier.