The place: The Galata House (Galata Evi), or commonly known as the British prison restaurant
The offerings: Georgian food & wine; Russian and Tatar dishes
Price range: 25 – 30 TL for main entree; wine starting at 18 TL/glass
The pros: LIVE MUSIC & it’s open late
The cons: Tucked away on a side street, this restaurant can be a challenge to find
The Galata House is a real treat, and if you can find it, it will surely be an unforgettable experience. My friend Olivia and I went on a weekday evening, and even though I had called ahead to make a reservation, it wasn’t necessary. Only a few other groups came in the entire evening. The Galata House is not the sort of restaurant where you eat and get up and leave. Think of it as a restaurant where you plan to spend the whole evening – similar to meyhane culture.
With a selection of seasonal mezzes and several stew and manti-style entrees, the menu is very short and simple. It also indicates where each dish comes from with the majority of dishes being Georgian and a few Tatar and Russian dishes. I tried the lamb stew in plum sauce (Georgian) and Olivia tried the saffron chicken dish (also Georgian). We passed on the mezzes since the eggplant one we were eyeing wasn’t in season. The menu’s timeline also lays out the restaurant’s history, and indeed, it was a British prison at one time, although briefly.
The restaurant has a nice selection of alcohol (raki, wine, beer) with the highlight being the Georgian wine. Although I didn’t try a glass (a bit pricey at 26 TL), I did have a glass of Turkish red wine. The lady came to take our food and drink orders and we were shocked when her husband came to pour the wine and filled our glasses to the brim. He kept chatting away, and meanwhile, he poured until our glasses were completely full. He was a charming man who told us about living in New York where he had worked on community development projects in an Italian neighborhood many years ago.
We had just finished our meal and had started to entertain the idea of going to Sensus Wine House to continue the evening when the lady that she would start to play piano. The table of Turks next to us ignored the announcement so again, she said somewhat sternely ‘kizlar, I’m going to start playing’. We had no idea what we were in for, but we were utterly shocked when she started singing. Her voice was absolutely beautiful, and that beautiful music recording that had been playing all night in the background? I’m sure it was a recording of her. Everyone in the dining room got up and went to the opposite room to watch her play.
We no longer had any intentions of leaving so we ordered up a Georgian chocolate cake so we could enjoy the music for longer!
A hint on finding the restaurant: When facing the Galata Tower with Istiklal Avenue towards your back, walk on the right side (the side with Senus Wine House), and continue to the back of the Tower. Take the street leading towards the church (see map). The Galata House is very close to Rapunzel Hostel which locals will probably be familiar with if you ask. I asked several people for Galata Evi and no one seemed to know it by name, so I’d stick to asking for the hostel. Ring the doorbell at Galata House and you’ll be welcomed at the front door. You can also get there by taking a side street leading up from Bankalar Caddesi in Karakoy.