On one windy and chilly day a few weeks back, a friend introduced me to a petit café in the backstreets of Beşiktaş. We met at our usual corner landmark, the Alkım bookshop and headed down Ortabahçe Caddesi. After wandering for 400 metres or so we took a left at the orange shoe shop heading toward the Beşiktaş Hamam. Just a few doors down from here sits the quaint Loving Hut Vegan Restaurant /Café.
From the fast growing international vegan chain of restaurants (over 120 worldwide), Loving Hut Istanbul oozes with home kitchen style and everything that exemplifies the slow food movement. Not since leaving Australia had I been in such a restaurant that reminded me of the wonderful non-profit vegetarian Melbourne institution called Lentil As Anything.
My friend greeted the owner and cook Gizem Schwabe, with the obligatory kiss to each cheek and we ordered some hot drinks to get us started. I opted for mint tea, which was lovely and fragrant with fresh mint and a welcome break from the traditional Turkish çay (a range of teas available.) The other cute thing was that the tea came served in Turkish çay glasses with the addition of small handles to hold onto, funky and a first for me in Turkey!
With this cute establishment the choice of tables is limited, two inside with a small area for singles to sit on tall stools and two tables outside. We chose to be slightly chilly outside with more space, than cozy inside and in the thoroughfare of the waitresses. The menu came out and the specials were read to us.
The soup du jour was Miso broccoli soup. Mmmm how long had it been since I eaten miso? I was sold! With the soup ordered, we perused the menu, breakfast and lunch offerings were listed.
The breakfast dishes range from the typical Turkish breakfast plate Kavaltı tabağı (7TL) to a Vegan soy milk and whole wheat flour crêpe with jam and fresh fruits. (3TL) A potato tortilla with dill and spices (3.5TL), warm porridge with walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and oat flakes (4TL) and muesli with soy milk, dry fruits and nuts (3.5TL) complete the list. I will definitely be coming back for brekkie!
Lunch choices included Makali, a vegie type dürüm wrap with humus, zucchini, eggplant, garlic and tomato and Thai curry style vegetable soup with organic pumpkin and other garden vegetables, red lentils, coconut milk and spices. The Mushroom Quiche with chard, tofu and leeks came next and a Vegan Green Lentil Burger with vegan mayonnaise, fresh parsley, green onions, tomatoes and pickles on a roasted black bran or white sesame bun sounded very tantilising. My eyes couldn’t go past the Falafel while my friend selected the other special, the Wheat Meat Şiş. With three salads and everything at an affordable price of between 4-6 Turkish lira, I was feeling very excited gastronomically and financially.
The arrival of the Miso soup was welcomed as a way to warm up my ‘cockles.’ The organic broth was hot and flavoursome with onions and a slight zing of chilli. The addition of the broccoli gave the soup more ‘grunt’ and the spiciness didn’t overpower the taste at all.
All wrapped up in an easy to hold paper blanket, the falafel made its appearance. These big ‘tasty balls’ of falafel were a wonderful balanced blend of chickpeas and herbs. The best surprise was the creamy red pepper chutney that arrived upon request, complimenting the mixture of tomatoes, parsley, cucumber and pickles perfectly. The bread was flaky thin, caramelised on the outside and had a desirable slight chewiness, not doughy at all.
My friend’s Şiş was presented in the same manner as the falafel. This marinated wheat meat was tasty and very satisfying with the accompaniments of green pepper, red onion, parsley and tomato completing the wrap.
On this occasion we were disciplined enough not to need dessert but daily baked goodies such as fruit muffins and carrot cake are the norm.
If you are expecting fast service at the Loving Hut you will be mildly disappointed. All the food is prepared with fresh ingredients and a great deal of love, so expect to enjoy your conversation with friends or bring a book to read… trust me the wait will prove worthwhile!
Amatrice de bons crus et grand cuisine
Loving Hut Istanbul
Şair Veysi Sokak. No:4/B