ISTANBUL - Nişantaşı’s breezy new Den Cafe and Restaurant promises a return to the traditional and non-corporate type of Nisantasi cafes from the good old days. The Den Cafe just might be what Nisantasi locals and artsy folk are looking for: a new old House Cafe
Back in 2002, when House Cafe’s Atiye Street branch was just the House Cafe, the first and only, it was the gathering spot of choice for photographers, advertising agents, yoga teachers and locals in general. When it exploded into the big, popular franchise it is today, many felt the House Cafe lost its authenticity, and some of the flavor of its original dishes. Today there’s a new up-and-comer on the Nişantaşı culinary scene that is bringing that old spirit back to life: With its hip dcor, sunny rooftop and attractive, though limited, menu, the contemporary Den Cafe and Restaurant might just be the new old House Cafe.
Cozy on the corner
The Den is located on the corner of Vali Konağı Street and Mim Kemal Öke Street, where the legendary Cafe Keyif, and, more recently, Panin Cafe once stood. The gastronomy and entertainment-focused Keller Group, founders of the notorious Corridor Bar in Nişantaşı’s Milli Reasürans Pasajı, launched the Den in November 2008. The romantic and sunny cafe and restaurant is open for breakfast and all day until 1 a.m. on weekends. At breakfast-time, a variety of breads and egg dishes are available, along with sandwiches and salads. Seating is primarily around the large, but cozy bar and wooden communal tables.
Small but varied menu
Though Den’s menu is limited, the food is substantial. Daily specials include everything from traditional Turkish dishes like stuffed dried eggplant to mantı (Turkish ravioli) to schnitzel. On the regular menu, the spinach avocado salad is a meal in itself, containing broccoli, asparagus, carrots and boiled eggs. The octopus yahni stew serves as a starter for two people, but can be a feast for one. Among the main dishes, the grilled sea bass is very fresh and surprisingly tasty for cafe fare. The grilled lamb chops are a popular dish highly recommended by the staff for their tenderness.
For dessert, a variety of cakes and muffins are displayed on the bar, including wet chocolate cake, apple crumble, berry muffins, and sweet daily specials. The cafe’s fine Italian coffee helps keep good conversation brewing.
In the evenings, the large bar is filled with a hip crowd fresh from yoga, the gym (Mac Maçka of course!), the nearby movie theater or out on a date. Along with cocktails and wine, the bar dishes up finger foods like mini-hamburgers, cheese plates and tavada hamsi (corn-fried sardines). Candlelight and an attractive staff set the scene for a pleasantly calm yet stylish evening.
Another positive aspect of this charming cafe is that although it is in the center of Nişantaşı, its prices are much more affordable than at many neighboring establishments. Time will tell if the Den can become part of Nişantaşı’s cafe establishment, but from the looks of things, the Den is here to stay.
Den Cafe & Restaurant
Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi 1/D, Nişantaşı
(0212) 224 24 70