Eat like a pauper, pay like a king
Konyali Restaurant Topkapi Palace (Istanbul, Turkey)
Member Name: koshkha
Konyali Restaurant Topkapi Palace (Istanbul, Turkey)
Advantages: Nice views
Disadvantages: Everythng else
The Konyali Restaurant and Cafe is located inside the Topkapi Palace, one of Istanbul's leading tourist attractions. You can only access it if you've already paid the 25TL entrance fee (about £9) to get into the palace first. We'd been to the palace on an earlier trip to Istanbul and knew that the Konyali would offer a great place from which to look out over the Bosphorous and have our lunch. I expected it to be a little more expensive than a place outside the palace but I didn't expect it to be stupidly over-priced. Perhaps we should have taken the hint from the prices in the small café outside the palace entrance where my poor sister nearly fell over at paying over £20 for six orange juices but we were on our first day in the city and still living with past remembrances of the city being cheap the last time we'd visited. The Konyali isn't cheap at all unless you think paying five pounds for a cup of Nescafe is some kind of bargain. The trouble was that our visit to the palace was going to take a couple of hours and we didn't want to rush it through hunger, but it was a long time since breakfast and we really hadn't planned our meal times at all well. We learned our lessons and took food and drink to the next palace we visited a couple of days later.
The Konyali has a captive audience because there's nowhere else inside the palace to eat or drink which is a shame as it means they can pretty much charge whatever they want to. We had drinks with us and should have thought ahead and taken our own food as there are places close to the cafe where you could sit and eat your own food and which offer views as good or better than those from the cafe.
~Take your pick~
The Konyali has three places to eat; there's the self-service cafeteria, the a la carte outdoor restaurant and an indoor restaurant that serves mostly tour groups. Being skinflints we picked the self-service option and even that was stupidly expensive. If you need to use the toilets, you'll find these inside the building beside the cafe where they are spotlessly clean. I was also impressed by the toilet attendant who spotted that I'd dropped my lens cap and kindly put it aside until I came out.
Whilst my husband joined the slow-moving queue to choose food, I was assigned the task of finding somewhere to sit. You're paying well over the odds for the location so you want to be sure to actually get a seat with a good view. And since the line moves so slowly and everyone else is hunting for somewhere to sit on a sunny afternoon, the tables turn over very slowly. I spotted a group of Japanese tourists about to leave and swooped to grab my prey - two seats right next to the wall with great views of the Bosphorous. During the twenty minutes or so during which I waited for my husband to get served, none of the many staff could be bothered to clear the table. In fact the dirty plates of our predecessors stayed in place throughout our meal, shoved to one side by me but far from attractive.
I was glad to have covered myself in really strong sun-block as there was nowhere to sit with any kind of shade. It's probably a good thing that it was a warm day as the service was so slow that the food would have been cold by the time it arrived after my husband stood so long waiting. The hot food - we had two spinach pastries and a portion of fries - was served at the beginning of the food counters, with all the cold dishes (salads, sandwiches, cakes, fruit, juices etc) following after. I suspect they were struggling to make coffees as these were the last part of the counter and seemed to be slowing everything down even more.
~A puff of hot air~
My husband looked quite shocked at what he'd paid for two pastries, a small portion of fries and a strawberry cake. He'd skipped the drinks as they were equally ridiculously priced. The spinach pastries were large, very puffy and collapsed as soon as we cut into them. The flavour and texture were dull and I only ate half of mine, forcing poor hubby to finish off the rest as we'd paid so much for it that I couldn't see it go to waste. The cake looked beautiful, piled high with bright red strawberries, layered on top of by then rather warm custard with a dull chocolate sponge cake at the bottom.
The food was dull, overpriced and poorly served. By the time my husband had got to the cash desk there was only one knife left and this had to do to cut both the pastries and the cake. This was really rather shabby. The cost was around £25 for little more than a snack and without any drinks.
Having such a long time to wait, I had plenty of opportunity to take photographs of the Bosphorous and to watch the boats - large and small - heading up and down the river. You can see both Europe and Asia, watch the water buses shuttling across the river, massive commercial ships heading to the Black Sea and little tourist boats filled with excited visitors. The hillside below is lush with fig trees and the view is very pleasant indeed. However, if your reason for going to the cafe is to take advantage of the view, there's a free-entry park beneath the palace with a pleasant little cafe and views that are just as good. Alternatively, just follow the tram tracks down the hill and you'll reach the waterside.
Summary: If you want to eat at the palace, take a picnic