Everytime I encounter Lenin’s famous words “Every society is three meals away from anarchy” I think of my meal at Pandeli. There is definitely an association between a state leader talking about food and Pandeli’s track record of hosting a red carpet of state leaders, actors and all kinds of celebrities (the late Queen Elizabeth II being one of them).
But perhaps the part that really reminds me of Pandeli is that the meals at this restaurant are quintessential Turkish food. None of the dishes could be categorised specifically as a restaurant dish. It’s the cultural essence of the cuisine cooked at homes, however made with such expertise that is only achievable at an establishment striving for perfection decade after decade. By Turkish I naturally mean belonging to the cultural amalgamation that is Turkey, rather than etnically Turkish. Pandeli’s founder is a Rum, Turkish citizen of Greek descendant.
What to order: The hünkar beğendi, a slow roasted lamb on aubergine and roux spread is perhaps the best in Turkey. The aubergine börek is, as far as my experience goes, unique to Pandeli and worth being ordered. But the meat and pastry dishes aside, I think Pandeli excels at cold appetisers. The olive oil braised vegetables. The produce here shines like in no other place.