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The Han Restaurant (Istanbul, Turkey)

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Traditional Turkish restaurant in Istanbul.

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      18.06.2012 10:43
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      I will be able to tease my sister over this poor choice for years.

      ~Sisterly Selection~

      The Han Restaurant was my sister's choice for lunch on our second day in Istanbul. This really surprised me because I thought she'd have had the sense to not fall for a tourist trap or to have at least checked out the prices on the menu before being lured in by the gimmicks and tricks of this unpleasant place. I took one look and thought "We will get conned in here but it's her choice and I don't have anywhere else to offer as an alternative". My instincts were correct - we would be conned, patronised and ripped off.

      The six of us had just been to the Hagia Sofia which is one of my husband's absolutely favourite places. If you lined up the Hagia Sofia and the Taj Mahal he'd go for the first of the two - that's how much he loves it. As on most days during our trip, we rather messed up our timing, heading into the church-turned-mosque-turned-museum just after noon and emerging around 2 o'clock. It was prime time for finding something to eat and as our next plan was to head down to the waterfront, we were looking for somewhere along the way. The Han was to be that 'somewhere' that day.

      ~Hook your Tourist~

      The Han is full of gimmicks. There's a lady in a headscarf sitting in the window rolling out flat breads. Inside there's a large room which offers the choice of sitting at a table or reclining on cushions on the floor and eating off low coffee tables. I asked for a proper table, fearing that several of our party wouldn't ever be able to get up again if they got down on the floor. As a result of walking in off the street without being 'lured' in, we weren't able to indulge in our usual favourite trick of negotiating a few 'extras' before agreeing to go in although the Han didn't strike me as the type of place where such techniques would have much success. This place wants tour groups who won't notice the prices and will eat whatever they put in front of them.

      The room is lushly decorated with rugs, embroideries and other textiles hanging off the wall. There were further embroideries, photos and odds and ends tucked under the glass topped tables. My mother rather liked the décor and the abundance of bright colours and we picked up a few tips for future presents based on what she pointed out and cooed over. The waiter swooped for a drinks order before giving the menu and we ordered two beers, three diet Pepsis and a bottle of water for me (I LOATHE Diet Pepsi).

      ~They're set on selling set meals~

      Looking at the menus it was clear that the restaurant doesn't really want to sell snacks. It doesn't even want to sell light meals. It wants groups of people off cruise boats who don't understand the value of the local currency to march in and spend 60 to 100 Turkish Lira (say £25 to £40) on a set meal. We knew we'd be out for dinner fairly early and we weren't looking to eat a lot at 2 in the afternoon and we were not what the Han was Han-kering for.

      My husband and I both went for pasta - Penne Arabbiata for me and Mushroom Tagliatelle for him. My sister ordered a mixed mezze plate and the other three each asked for pancakes. The waiter sneered at them saying "They are very small, really only a starter". My mother was adamant and not about to be bullied. She may be small but she's feisty - "We're really only after a snack" she told him and he harrumphed off.

      The food didn't take too long to come because we were eating quite late. My sister's mezze looked like a good full plate, but only because it was served on a rather small plate. Dollops of various brightly coloured 'stuff' were arranged around the plate and she received some bread to go with it. The pancakes were not pancakes at all - they were more like stuffed breads. If you've had thin stuffed Indian breads, that's the closest comparison I can make. Certainly they were dough based and not batter based and were strangers to eggs. I suspect these were something to do with the lady in the window rolling doughs. They were not enormous but certainly big enough and bigger than a 'small starter'. Mum had mushrooms in hers and the others had various combinations of cheese or spinach. They were apparently ok but nothing special.

      My pasta dish was well cooked and well spiced but it was definitely on the small side though the quality was fine. Let's be honest it's hard to mess up a dish like that. My husband's tagliatelle was actually spaghetti and was similarly starter sized but apparently tasty.

      ~Service with a Shrug~

      We got nothing in the way of 'extras' - no free bread, no nibbles, and certainly no smiles from the staff. We had the impression they just wanted us in and out as quickly as possible unless we wanted to have a big expensive meal. We decided not to bother with coffee or puddings because the staff were so grouchy. The bill came to 143 TL - approximately £50 for the six of us - which was more than it should have been given the small amount of food. I paid on my credit card and when the waiter handed over the pin machine, I asked him what it said on the screen, especially as I'd not seen him enter the amount. Mostly I just wanted to know if I was supposed to enter the PIN or if I had to push the enter button first since many countries have different processes and I don't like to assume. As a result of me asking and him getting ratty, the time limit expired and he had to do it again. He went to enter the amount again and suggested putting 149 lire to include a tip. I pointed out that he'd already added 10% for service so 143 would be just fine. It's enough to be patronised without being asked to tip your patroniser too. He grudgingly handed over the machine, watched me enter the number and then stomped off.

      The service in this place is horrible. The food is very ordinary and I cannot recommend it. We had many much better meals and better service everywhere else that we ate.

      Please note this is not the only restaurant by this name in Istanbul. My review refers to the restaurant in the Sultanahmet district between the Hagia Sofia and the waterfront. Others by the same name may well be lovely but this place is not:

      Alemdar Cad. SoÄYuk ÇeÅYme Sok. No:20
      Sultanahmet, Fatih, Ä°stanbul
      Tel - +90 212 526 62 62

      http://www.thehanrestaurant.com

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