Fool for France

So, it was my last full day here in Istanbul. Christmas is coming and that means major cooking. I figured I’d better get to the spice market, which I did. I’m glad to say the bird will be covered in pretty red harissa paste and there will be saffron in the mashed potatoes. Life is good.

The big news is that Pandeli has reopened. For those of you thinking ,”Oh? And so?” This is the story.

Long ago, when the spice market first opened, merchants would come into town to do business. Maybe it was “business,” I don’t know, but the wives came too. They would shop, maybe hit the hamam, and then they would go to rooms upstairs in the spice market and wait for hubby. These rooms were covered in beautiful tiles.

Over time this ritual ceased and the rooms became a restaurant, Pandeli, favoured by expats and tourists. Then one day it was decreed that the spice market was to be renovated. As part of this, Pandeli was closed. The thing is, the spice market reopened with its new paint job and all, but Pandeli remained closed, for years. I have no idea why.

All I can tell you is that it has reopened and the tourists are gone. In their place are super-wealthy Turkish people. Unless people were talking to me in impeccable, educated English, I heard only Turkish. I don’t know where they live or where they go when they leave — they look nothing like the people on the street — but I’d love to know where they buy their clothes. I’m thinking Milan or maybe everything is tailored.

Seriously, where do they live? Too much of Istanbul is still crumbling away, like the building above. A guide told me that there are often inheritance disputes that keep buildings in this condition. You can’t see the pretty 1920’s detailing, nor can you see that only the ground floor is inhabited. Maybe you can still tell that this is a neglected gem– in a great location, too. I’m renovated out. Somebody else will have to rescue it.

Actually I think they live in an area called Nisantasi. It’s pretty but kind of a cultural dead zone. I bet there are good tailors there and shops that import — from Milan, I think. Paris clothes are fussy and fit tightly. Milan is more about elegant wool and the perfect funnel-neck sweater.

Okay. Enough. I’m just glad that I decided to step my own travel wardrobe up a notch, so at least I didn’t embarrass myself.

Today it’s home again, home again, lickety split. I’ve got to get down to the house and get Christmas dinner on the table. I might even get Jacques to look a little less miserable when I put on his elf hat. Anything is possible.

Merry Christmas, all.

17 Replies to “Pandeli”

  1. I pulled up the Pandeli menu and decided I could probably eat myself into a Turkish coma without much problem! Yum. Love that old building…Istanbul always makes me think of espionage and spy vs spy intrique and that facade fits into my fantasy. But, yes, get home to your puppy and your Christmas preparations. Sounds like it was a great trip.

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    1. When were you here? My first visit was in 2001 — no space odyssey, just a quick but gorgeous tour of the coast. The city has changed so much since then and so has spycraft. My guess is that those guys do leave their computers and board rooms and head off to Pandeli from time to time, just to get the nostalgia going.

      Now I have to pack. I didn’t show you guys most of the loot. Where am I going to put it all?

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  2. I too looked at the menu…but the interior was even more appealing.
    I refuse to show that dilapidated building to Leo….he would be so frustrated that he could not get his hands on it. It was difficult enough to tear him away from likely projects when we were there in the 90s…
    Good luck with the packing!

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    1. OMG, Helen. That’s a project. On the plus side, it is in the middle of a busy shopping area and an easy walk to the Spice Market and the « Orient Express » train station. On the negative, it’s what, six stories high? It needs total replumbing, rewiring, insulation, both heating and cooling, probably an elevator and probably some earthquake reinforcing. I know the feeling, though. I’d put retail on the ground floor, then two stories of offices, with apartments above. It could be stunning, but would it ever pencil? I think not.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. You guys have connections to Turkey, as well? You’re right, you’d have to be especially careful today — as in, just don’t. But I’d love to hear those stories. Istanbul used to be a much more interesting place than it is now. Just looking at the era of the most interesting buildings — basically between the world wars, while Ataturk was still alive — I think I missed the best of it.

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          1. Through our builder in France, whose family in Turkey had ‘connections’….and a Turkish friend also in France whose family also had ‘connections’…
            Erdogan changed a lot of peoples’ plans…

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  3. That sounds like a very tasty bird with harissa!

    Merry Christmas!

    Apologies for any typographical errors – sent from a small mobile device.

    >

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    1. Gerard, I’m home now. I can attest. The bird is huge. I may stuff it with rice, apricots and pine nuts — lots of cinnamon, of course. It’s going to be a good meal.

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  4. I agree with Maxwell the Dog, the building evokes a good B&W spy movie, perhaps based on a Graham Greene novel. The problem of inheritance disputes leading to buildings staying empty and falling into ruin is common in France, too, though perhaps not in a hot market like Paris. I had my eye on a three-story building here, sans problème d’heritage but owned by an old guy who couldn’t keep it up and wanted to get rid of it. The price was low but the cost to rewire, replumb and redo everything (all those windows), plus the restrictions of the Bâtiments de France, would have made the renovations more than 10X the purchase price. Hard to be worth it.

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    1. I paid three or four times the purchase price for renovations. Even that was killer. The sad thing is that BdF will let the building fall into ruin rather than adjust their requirements from « reverential and museum-quality » to simply respectful. I talked to an architect who said he had learned how to deal with them. So he had BdF wired, I guess; after that, wiring the building would be easy. If you want, email me directly and I’ll try to find the guy again. I definitely would not try to deal with them on my own.

      To get back to that building, Helen’s comment is also appropriate. Erdogan’s cronies are in construction. Once you waded through the hassles to get clear title to that building, I think you’d find bureaucratic hassles manufactured just for you; think in terms of a BdF that tells you which contractors to hire. Or maybe one fine day a realtor might appear with a well-connected buyer offering a price that represents only a slight loss. Okay, maybe a major loss, but even so, you would be wise to sell. Bottom line is, if you want to renovate in Istanbul, make sure your project is too small to be interesting.

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        1. Unfortunately Fortune won’t let you see the article unless you agree to cookies. I did the whole opt-out thing and still, no, no cookies, no article. I’m sure it’s amazing.

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