I always like to check where my favourite food critics have eaten when visiting a new city for the first time, and so was delighted to find an article on Istanbul by Marina O’Loughlin (Food Critic for the Sunday Times) where she recommended Mezze by Lemon Tree, and my father very kindly booked us in for dinner on our first night.
Beyoğlu is easily accessed on the tram, from Sultanahmet where we were staying, and after we hopped off the tram in Karaköy we made the short but steep (oh, SO steep!) walk up to the restaurant via a series of pretty, winding roads.
Mezze by Lemon Tree was definitely the most contemporary of the restaurants we visited during our stay, offering both an A La Carte menu, and 2 set menus; one of mezze and one “degustation” with additional main courses. After much debate, we eventually settled on ordering both set menus (for 4 people) to share amongst the 6 of us, along with a couple of extra main courses as we were having a hard time with what to choose – it just all looked so good!
Whilst the warm mezze are listed on the menu, I suspect they frequently change the cold mezze selection and it is on display for you to go and choose with the waiter. Naturally, being the bossiest, I was given the task of selecting the cold mezze for us to share and I was determined to cover as many of the classic dishes as I could, whilst adding in some other dishes that I knew (well, *hoped*) my family would enjoy.
I hope I get the Turkish names for these right (please do correct me in the comments if not!) but here are the cold mezze I ordered;
Yoğurtlu Patlıcan Salatası – Yoghurt and Aubergine Dip (similar to a babaganoush with yoghurt added)
Cacik – Turkish “Tzatziki” made with yoghurt, cucumber, dill & garlic
Kabak Mukveri – Zucchini fritters
Nohut Salatasi – Chickpea salad
Fasulye Ezmesi – A white bean dip
Pastirma – Dry Cured Beef
Levrek Marin – Seabass “Ceviche”
Palitican şakşuka, – Aubergine Cooked with Tomato
For our hot mezze, we chose Börek – pastry filled with aubergine, cheese and mushrooms, and what I assume is the house version of Karides Güveç – Stewed Shrimps in a lemon and tarragon sauce.
Our main courses were nicely split between seafood and meat (and I’m going to lose the Turkish translations here as I suspect several of these were house signatures and not classic Turkish dishes) and everyone else ( I was pleasantly full after all those wonderful mezze) shared 2 fish mains of Monkfish Stewed with Cheese, Vegetables & Red Wine, and a Seafood Pilaf with Sea-Bream, Mussels, Shrimp and Saffron, as well as 2 meat main courses; Butchers Meatballs with Vegetables and Pan Roasted Beef, Fried Shoestring Potatoes & Yoghurt.
Whilst everything was good, the monkfish (which sounded a little unusual to me!) was considered one of the top dishes of the holiday by a couple of our group, and I believe the meatballs were similarly well received too.
We probably could have finished there, however those set menus included desserts so we shared Bananas toped with Honey, Almonds, Pistachios & Clotted Cream with Chilli – yes chilli!! and Hazelnut Pudding with Tahini & Mulberry Molasses, both of which we enjoyed, but honestly didn’t need!
The set mezze menu for 2 included 6 cold mezze, 2 warm mezze & a dessert and was 210 Lira or approximately $30, whilst the Degustation menu for 2 included 6 cold mezze, 2 warm mezze and 2 main courses and was 275 Lira – $40 for 2.
Wines were reasonably priced at $5 a glass, Efes beer was $3, and a 200ml carafe of Raki was $11 and dinner (I believe, the most expensive meal of our trip) was around $25-$30 per person all in
I really enjoyed Mezze by Lemon Tree, with the exception of the cold mezze (which are similar everywhere) we had some dishes that we didn’t see elsewhere during our stay. I thought the atmosphere was wonderful (and looked as if it were only going to continue to improve as the night went on) and it was a delicious evening – definitely one to visit!
Mezze by Lemon Tree
Asmalı Mescit mah,Meşrutiyet Caddesi, 83/b, Beyoğlu, 34430 Istanbul
Online bookings here