“ Address: Kemalpasa Mah. / Fethibey Cad. Tashan / Bodrum Kat / 34134 / Laleli / Fatih „
Tashan Arkat is a themed restaurant, bar and nightclub aimed at tourists in Istanbul and is in an amazing situation. Originally it was a Byzantine water cistern (storage area) that is 800 years old before the Ottomans dried it out and used it as a type of inn for guests and later barracks for soldiers. Nowadays it is underground in the 'Old Bazaar' (which is nothing special) and there is a courtyard café here, which must be lovely in the summer. The location is quite hidden and not easy to find if you don't know where you are going, but a number of our party had stumbled in it by accident whilst wandering around the area near our hotel and thought it might be fun for the Saturday night. It is a minute or two walk from the Laleli tram stop, if you are not in the area.
As you walk down the steps the layout of the restaurant looks different and special with its stone pillars and atmospheric lighting. There is a dancefloor to one side. It has capacity for 220 people, and this is definitely a place for parties and groups, rather than a romantic destination. Whilst I was slightly squished by having a pillar behind me, generally there was enough room to move between tables without having to squeeze.
The toilets are as you come in, and despite being busy are kept pretty tidy and clean.
You have a number of choices when dining here. You can order of the extensive a la carte menu or order from the set menu. The set menu is TL60 (£22) and represents very good value if you are drinking and it includes two free drinks. Alcohol is quite expensive in Turkey, so this is a worthwhile deal, and includes spirits such as vodka and rum. Some of our party chose just to have the al a carte menu, and the restaurant were happy for people to have different things.
The set menu included a meze or cold starters and they prepared a separate plate for me as a veggie. The plate included hummus, which I had expected to come across more often than we actually did. I didn't find it as garlicky as the versions I am used to at home. There was also an aubergine/baba ganoush type dip, bread (not pitta), borek (cheese filled pasty - very yummy), and stuffed vine leaves. Meat eaters also got some pieces of grilled chicken and a fish dish.
For my main I had a veggie casserole full of tomatoes, aubergines and lentils. Other Set menu options included fish, chicken and lamb. A la carte options were greater in the choice of fish or steaks and beef. My casserole was hearty and I enjoyed it, but I found it a bit boring after a while as every bite was the same. All set mains came with a salad but it wasn't a particularly inspiring salad under the pile of cucumber chunks... Included desserts were a fruit platter. Turkey isn't reknowned for its desserts but a few were available for those ordering from the a la carte menu, but I don't recall anyone ordering any. The food wasn't the greatest I have ever eaten, and no one really raved about their dinner, however, equally there were no complaints.
After dinner is when the entertainment starts. First up were too men with their T-shirts pulled up over their faces with a face painted on it, who danced around energetically. I think it is fair to say that we were all slightly baffled about what was supposed to be going on. This was followed by a belly dancer and she was excellent. That lady could shake it! Some bits were moving left whilst others were going right. She makes the belly dancers who come to the Turkish themed restaurants back home seem woefully poor. She did a small amount of audience participation to a chap in our party seated next to the dancefloor, but nothing that would make someone uncomfortable (I think they can tell who is up for it, the table next to us was very quiet, for example). This was followed by a knife thrower who used his teeth and one of our party as a target holder. Fortunately she is still with us, with all necessary limbs attached! After this was a sort of folk dancing which I thought quite weak. At the end they encouraged the guests to join them in a few simple steps danced in a circle, not dissimilar to the Zorba dance. This followed by the disco until late. The music in the disco was quite cheesy, they started with some older tunes, some local(ish) music like Opus (anyone remember Live is Life from the Eighties?) and Tarkan's Kiss Kiss and modern day chart stuff such as Will.i.am and Britney. It isn't going to win any prices for taste, but it got people up dancing and having fun.
These theme restaurants are not to everyone's taste and I didn't really know that was what I was going to at first (I was sold by the idea of dining in 800 year old cisterns, if I had known at the beginning I may have declined thinking it isn't my 'thing') but I did have a lot of fun here. I do recommend going as a group of like minded people to be able to enjoy it fully. The food is nothing special, but the set menu offers good value. The entertainment was marginally more hit than miss (and that is down exclusively to the belly dancer) but good fun was had by all in the end.
Kemalpasa Mah. Fethibey Cad.
Tashan No:55 Bodrum Kat No:1
34134 Laleli / Fatih
Tel:+ 90 212 514 48 30