Lacivert - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Lacivert

Feast on the freshest of fish by the Bosphorus. 

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Istanbul is a city deeply attached to its food and drink rituals: çay from dainty tulip-shaped glasses in leafy tea gardens, sizzling skewers accompanied by pomegranate-laced salads at a smoky kebapçi (kebab house). 

One of the most honored city traditions during summer—and in most seasons really—is eating local fish by the Bosporus. This mesmerizing 20-mile strait with one shore in Europe and the other in Asia connects the Black Sea in the north to the Sea of Marmara in the south, and has served as the lifeblood of the city since forever.

Historically run by Christian minorities, the balikçi (fish restaurants) on both Bosporus shores tend to be endearingly old-fashioned affairs staffed by veteran white-jacketed waiters. Here, diners always observe a ritual format: cold meze to start (feta with cubes of green melon; fluffy garlicky dips), then hot appetizers (fried calamari or small earthenware casseroles of butter-cooked shrimp). Then, after protesting that no one has room for main course, regulars still order delicate fried barbunya (red mullet) or the luxurious fatty lüfer (bluefish) in season.

Among Istanbul’s more storied balikçi, Lacivert, which originally opened in 1999, has always been a favorite spot for special occasions, with its swooningly picturesque setting right under the Second Bosphorus Bridge, northward on the less-urbanized Asian shorefront where the air is more bracing. 

Closed for a year, then reopened under new management, the sprawling place, with tables that almost seem to float on the water, has lost none of its magic—and the food is better than ever. Begin your balikçi format here with cold meze of stuffed grape leaf sarma laced with sour cherries in the Ottoman style, and fat medallions of buttery lakerda (cured bonito) presented with sharp pickles and peppery greens. 

The warm meze selection includes a deliciously charred octopus tentacle, and deep-fried zucchini flower dolma filled with ricotta-like lor cheese. A main course is must (skip the ritual protests) whether it’s bugulama, a soupy Aegean-style steamed fish preparation perfumed with bay leaf and fennel, or an enameled pot of fat local mussels, or cipura (local branzino) perfectly grilled and accompanied by mastic-scented eggplant.

The best part? Eating it all as the gigantic spans of two of the Bosporus bridges, Second and First, light up in different colorsas the muezzins’ cries echo across the dark, oily water, and huge tankers come gliding past public ferries and evening cruise boats glowing like paper lanterns. Looming across the water on the European shore? The lit-up turreted eminence of the 15th-century Rumeli Fortress, from which the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II launched his conquest of Constantinople.

Know Before You Go

For its guests, Lacivert can arrange a free private boat transfer from the European shore of the Bosporus.

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April 3, 2024

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