One of the great joys of spring and summertime in Istanbul is the chance to get away for a day to one of the Princes’ Islands, the car-free and forested archipelago that is a short ferry ride away from the city. The only downside to an island hop is actually getting there.
As soon as spring makes its first appearance in Istanbul, the hordes descend on the mainland’s ferry terminal, filling the boats to beyond capacity (at least on the weekends). With your neighbor’s picnic basket sticking into your ribs, the boat ride to the islands is usually less of a pleasure cruise and something more resembling those scenes in natural disaster or science fiction films where a frantic population is forced to huddle together after barely escaping their city’s demise.
Fortunately, most of the people on the ferry are heading for Heybeliada and Büyükada, the last two stops on its route, allowing you to step off earlier on Burgazada, the smallest and least visited of the Princes’ Islands. The island has few easily accessible beaches and picnic spots, but what it does have is a laid-back atmosphere and several charming waterfront restaurants and cafés in the harbor. Better yet, Burgaz is home to Kalpazankaya Restaurant, an out-of-the-way, open-air meyhane on the island’s backside that will quickly help you forget about the crowded mass of humanity left behind on the ferry.
Getting to Kalpazankaya is easy: take the road that leads to the right when leaving the ferry terminal and continue walking along that road for about 30 minutes until it comes to an end. In front of you, sitting in splendid isolation on a hillside overlooking the blue waters of the Sea of Marmara and a small pebble beach below, is the restaurant, a collection of vine-shaded terraces with rickety wooden tables and chairs.
The meze tray holds all the classics, plus a few surprises, such as a ceviche made with sea bass tossed in a sort of mustard vinaigrette. Kalpazankaya also serves up a wide variety of fresh fish, either grilled or fried, and different types of kebabs and meats, including the house specialty: lamb slow-roasted in a clay oven. Everything we tried was delicious, the flavor enhanced by the bottle of rakı we finished, the tranquil view and the cool breeze blowing in from the sea.
Save for buying an airplane ticket to some remote destination, a meal at Kalpazankaya is the easiest way we can think of really forgetting about city life for a day. That is, at least until you have to take the crowded ferry back into town.
Editor’s note: It’s Beat the Heat Week at Culinary Backstreets, and in this week’s stories, we’re sharing some of our favorite spots to visit when the summer temperatures soar.