Hawthorne’s time is now. Downtown Istanbul is one of the first venues to occupy a new dining destination that came with the long-awaited boutique Cineplex development on Hawthorne Road.
Owned by Eddie and Ulku Isik, Downtown Istanbul was borne out of the couple’s desire to open another Turkish restaurant after closing Ahmet’s on Oxford Street.
“I think people are a little bit over Oxford Street,” says manager Luke Stringer of the neighbouring precinct, a weekend go-to for couples and families. “It’s a nightmare to get a car park, and some of the restaurants there are a little bit overrated. New blood is a good thing.”
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Those acquainted with Stringer’s venues (Ole, The Sangria Bar, Mister Paganini, Mucho Mexicano – a group that the Isiks co-own) will feel comfortable here. The fit-out is steel and wood paired with clean, crisp lines and flashes of greenery. Subtle Turkish touches – handpainted ceramics and a few long tables of mosaic tiles – create the feel of a lively bazaar. The space is largely open, with two smaller covered dining spaces wrapping around a central kitchen and bar.
The Isik-Stringer partnership is evident most in a series of menus that pair classic elements of Turkish cuisine with more modern, familiar touches. “We’re not trying to educate people,” Stringer says. “It’s just really tasty, comfortable food that people enjoy eating.”
A mezze menu offers trios of traditional Turkish dips and bread, and small plates made for sharing, such as falafel. There are pides and traditional gözleme courtesy of Ulku, who also runs her own market-stall business.
The char grill peddles various meats served with rice and salad, the King’s Mixed Grill (lamb, chicken, Adana shish and prawns) already a crowd favourite.
Elsewhere, there are Ottoman burgers for the lunch crowd, a small array of desserts, and a bar serving wine, beer and some Turkish-inspired cocktails. You can take away Turkish delight and a selection of teas and coffees, as well as Turkish homewares.