A Place in Üsküdar Zahir Art Cafe

Ekmek Teknesi Tv series that millions watched with interest in the 2000s was shoot here…Then it is operated as cafe…Zahir Art Cafe is now used both as an Art Cafe and Art Gallery.

Streets of Kuzguncuk have witnessed many life experiences. One can follow the traces of  retroactive dreams here.   Births, deaths, sadness, joys…You’re thinking more about the streets, the cobblestone, the walls…You need to go Kuzguncuk…

It is a Greek house in Kuzguncuk in Icadiye Street… A historical building built in the 1890s… It has witnessed many experiences…It still maintains its cozy environment. There is the grave of Marko Paşa next to it, İlya’s vegetable garden. And a historical church. Ekmek Teknesi TV series that millions watched with interest in the 2000s were shot here. Zahir Art Cafe is now used both as an art gallery and as a cafe. Being an art cafe its first feature. But what make it even more interesting are the flavors it offers…But the best food you can taste here is mixed breakfast and fried calf’s liver in oil…It deserves Zahir (it means apparent) name. Mr. Rahmi, who is the owner of this restaurant, says that people still come and visit because of the Ekmek Teknesi TV series. He says “Although it has been about 15-16 years, there are still people coming here from abroad. It is a second-degree historical building.” And he is talking about his past: “A family lived here in the past…After the death of the family members, another person bought it. Therefore, it is not a building belonging to the Foundations. The most important factor that makes the building a special and beaten track is “Ekmek Teknesi” TV series. Of course, the interest of people and its historical story are also the factors. People come and enjoy breakfast in this historic place and have a very good time like in their own home. After a while, we see that there are people who bring others to this place.

Mr. Rahmi says that for the transformation of space into an art cafe, the effect of a Syrian art lover is undeniable…and says that”In fact, space is not initially thought of as an art cafe. It was opened in the normal cafe concept. Then this idea has be developed. So I took over the art Cafe version”. He says that the transformation of the art cafe is a proposal for a Syrian art lover. And he is talking about the developments related to the process: “Mr. Adnan is a painter whose house was bombed in Assad regime. He took as much of the historical artifacts as he can in his home and came to Istanbul in very difficult conditions. He hired a store here and then brought his family. He becomes a bridge between Turkey and Syria for the art from that date.  When we first met, Mr. Adnan recommended that we consider Zahir Art Cafe as a museum. “Although not a museum, we are constantly exhibiting the works of different painters here. We also do sales. Because we have very famous local and foreign visitors.

Marinated Fried Calf’s Liver
Zahir Art Cafe is an art venue, but the tastes that they are assertive are: “We have fried calf’s river as a special food. We have also chicken foods but fried calf’s liver is famous. We have also mixed breakfast. This place has been serving breakfast for six years and has certain customers for breakfast. There is no place in Kuzguncuk serving nixed breakfast like us.  Specialty meats are different from normal meats. We work with a very special butcher and we use suckling veal. First lamb or calf to get good liver food? You must look at that. Lamb becomes a little strong; its smell may not favorite for every person. We are using liver of suckling veal from Balıkesir region. Liver of calf after it going dry become very different. We already have a maximum of three days of stock. It must not be waited for a week. The liver is marinated with a special sauce and it is rested for 24 hours in this sauce. After resting, we cut the liver thin like bacon. This process is done by hand, not by the machine. Because the meat on the machine become burn out. We apply very little flour and fry with the oil. It’s a totally different flavor like Döner Kebap. Of course, we also use spices with our special formulas… We have four kinds of cheese in our mixed breakfast, we offer salami with eggs. We have honey, cream, and butter. Especially cream and butter is not a fabrication. But we don’t say organic, because it’s hard to find organic products.

Ilya’s Vegetable Garden
Mr. Rahmi says “There are many synagogues and churches in Kuzguncuk.” But another feature that makes Zahir Art Cafe different is its surrounding features.” He is talking about Ilya’s Vegetable garden, Yanık Mektep, and others: “Ilya is a Greek woman who lived in Kuzguncuk. The vegetable garden you see back is known as Ilya’s vegetable garden. It is said that Ilya has grandchildren but she does not live in Turkey. Meaning of Ilya’s vegetable garden is that you must have a home or workplace in Kuzguncuk to take care of this vegetable garden. Every six months we have a lottery draw by our headman. As a result of the draw, you are allocated a place and you are planting this area…Approximately 50 people can benefit from the vegetable garden in the same period. The municipality provides services such as infrastructure, irrigation, landscaping. There is an Armenian cemetery on top of this vegetable garden. It is the grave of Marko Paşa. Other than him, many famous names lived in Kuzguncuk. For example, we had a world-famous painter next to us. Yusuf Katipoğlu… He dies a few months ago. We have famous poets. Across the way, there is Yanık Mektep. The building, which was formerly a school, was burnt, but after the fire, there was no restoration. So it was called Yanık Mektep (Burnt School).”

By: S. Bahar Alban / Photo : Okan Sivri

*This article was  published in the  January– February issue of Marmara Life. 


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