Istanbul is a fascinating city. It is rich in history and culture, uniquely located on the Europe-Asia border. So it is natural that those who travel on a budget, whether they start from Europe or Asia, would end up in the Turkish capital sooner or later.
Opened by brothers İdris and Namık Çolpan in 1957, the Pudding Shop originally started under the name of the “Lale Restaurant.” It was (and still is) located in the Sultanahmet district, not far from the city’s popular tourist spots such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Basilica Cisterns.
During the 1960s, the Lale Restaurant became a popular meeting place among beatniks as well as hippies traveling along the famous “hippie trail,” between Europe and South Asia. While enjoying their meals, the customers conversed with one another about their experiences. At this time, the restaurant was a go-to place in the area where travelers could get direct transportation to Asia and tourist information on Turkey. Seeing this, the owners put up a bulletin board to handle messages from people offering or hitching rides, as well as communications between family members, friends, and lovers. One well-known example was a love letter from one “Megan” to “Malcolm,” in which she apologized for “the business down in Greece.”
The reputation of the restaurant spread by word of mouth, but many travelers failed to remember its name and simply referred to it as “the Pudding Shop,” as it was famous for its wide assortment of puddings, especially tavuk göğsü—a stiff, milk-based pudding with pounded chicken breast and a hint of cinnamon. The nickname stuck, and most people today know it as the Pudding Shop. It remained in business mostly unaffected by the end of the hippie era, its fame increased by the Istanbul-set 1978 film Midnight Express.
The Pudding Shop still displays its old bulletin board and serves its famous puddings, along with a selection of traditional Turkish cuisine. Almost as charming as it was in its golden days, this old hippie hangout is a can’t-miss when you’re in Istanbul.