Çengelköy (meaning “hook village” for some odd reason) is a small, cozy neighborhood on the Asian side, rarely listed in the guidebooks or mentioned in the “Istanbul Top 10” lists. Although it’s famed among the locals for the small cucumbers that used to be grown here and its extraordinary view of the Bosphorus Bridge –from the side, that is-, it’s one of my favorite spots in the city because of its çay bahçesi, tea garden.
Istanbul’s tea gardens are very humble, inviting places with the simplest décor; preferably under trees, with a gentle breeze in the afternoon, and a view of the Bosphorus is without a doubt, the cherry on top. Fortunately Çengelköy’s İskele Çınaraltı Çay Bahçesi has it all – age-old plane trees, good tea, soft breeze, and the water runs just a couple of meters away from your table.
It’s absolutely one of my favorite places to go to after a long day, even the quick ferry ride from the central pier of Beşiktaş is enough to remind one that this city has no match. Although Çınaraltı has indoor seating and a quiet large snack menu, your aim of visit should be the alfresco seating and tea.
Plus, this tea garden also keeps the tradition alive by letting its customers bring their food with them. Not elaborate meals of course, but fresh pastries and simit from the neighborhood bakeries to go with your tea will definitely not be frowned upon!