Istanbul Restaurant

Istanbul Restaurant, Kampala

I recently had my first encounter with the newly renovated and reopened Istanbul Restaurant and let me tell you this: It won’t be my last! The food was authentic and the menu, extensive. I can’t vouch for the former Istanbul Restaurant, but now there’s a new owner, a new chef, and it’s definitely worth a visit.

Let me be the first to say that I avoid downtown Kampala like the plague or, in expat-recognizable terms, like “catching Bilharzia.” However, a delicious Turkish meal at Istanbul Restaurant might be one of my new (and few!) excuses to head into town! Though I tend to lump all of hectic “town” into one giant banned area, this restaurant is in a surprisingly convenient location directly off of Kampala Road just past the Nakumatt Oasis turnoff and across from the Bank of Baroda. Look for a large red sign on your right! Don’t stress about parking either. They have several spaces right in front and also offer valet service in the adjacent parking garage.

This delightful Turkish restaurant reopened about a month ago under new ownership. We were actually able to meet the owner who was a really nice guy and stopped by our table to check in on us! Though the overall ambiance isn’t exactly my style, everything in the restaurant is new and very clean. White linen tablecloths, comfortable leather booths and chairs, lots of natural light coming through the front windows, but also some very bright white bulbs in the light fixtures. The layout is pretty neat. There’s an upstairs seating area ideal for private parties or large groups that looks out over the downstairs portion of the restaurant. Soft pan-flute renditions of familiar songs play in the background so expect to play a few fun games of “name that tune” with your fellow dinner guests.

Istanbul Restaurant, Kampala

Istanbul Restaurant offers traditional Turkish dishes in the 20,000 – 28,000 UGX range that are crafted around beef, lamb, chicken, fish, and vegetables. The menu also features several non-Turkish items such as pasta, pizza, and even fried chicken a la KFC. My friends and I were impressed by the food and delicious menu options but I must mention one major disappointment: They only offer doners, also known as shawarmas or gyros, on select days during the week! On Wednesdays, they have chicken and on Saturdays, they offer beef. Having visited Istanbul, my favorite thing was to stop by the street vendors and order a doner, made fresh right in front of me. It kind of broke my heart when I couldn’t order one!

Our group of four started our meal by sharing the Mixed Meze Plate. At only 15,000 UGX this is a huge portion of various starters and comes with a small basket of bread, which I must note can be shamelessly refilled as many times as you’d like for only 2,000 UGX per basket. The Mixed Meze Plate is the best way to kick off your Istanbul Restaurant experience! You get to sample the following: eggplant salad, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, haydar, mutebbel, and cacik. If most of those words look foreign to you, just trust me. Everything was amazing! The group favorite from the mixed plate was the eggplant salad, which my friend creatively described saying, “It’s kind of like a Turkish version of salsa!”

Istanbul Restaurant, Kampala - Pide

It’s so nice to review a restaurant with a group of friends! You get to try all of their food. For my main dish, I ended up sampling one of their Turkish pizzas which feels like a sin ordering anything containing the word “pizza” at a Turkish restaurant. I ordered the Pita with Chicken Mince. The flavor was okay and I liked the flaky, buttery, pastry crust but, overall, I found the dish to be a little oily. Actually, I much preferred the chicken in the Chicken Shish dish that my friend ordered. Food envy! It was charbroiled, marinated in Turkish spices, and grilled on a skewer. The flavor was spot on! Another friend ordered the Beef Kebab and noted that it also had nice flavor and was made from good cuts of beef, nothing chewy or fatty. Finally, the seasoned ground lamb, on the menu as Adana Kebab, also got nice reviews from the table. Top off your dinner with a Turkish coffee for 5,000 UGX and an order of baklava (10,000 UGX) or rice pudding (9,000 UGX).

The staff is incredibly nice but you can tell the servers are still learning the ropes a bit, which is understandable since they just reopened last month. They were well staffed when we visited, which was nice. There was always someone available to clear plates, refill drinks, and prepare our bill.

If you like Turkish or Mediterranean food, you will enjoy Istanbul Restaurant. Keep in mind that it’s also very close to the National Theatre so consider it a fun date option for dinner and a show!

Hours: Monday to Saturday: 9 am – 10 pm, Sunday: 11 am – 10 pm
Address: Plot 4, in the Social Security House building, Kampala Road
Phone: 0414 692 233
Email: ebilecan@gmail.com
Website: http://www.istanbulrestaurant.ug
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/istanbulrestaurant.ug

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About Lauren McBride

Hey, I’m Lauren. I’m what you’d call an “expat by marriage.” When my husband and I stepped off the plane in Entebbe in June 2012, I had no idea what I was in for: the breezy traffic on the open road, enjoyable boda rides through the heart of town, or the gentle, lingering smell of exhaust blowing in my face. I continue to be amazed by the strong community in Kampala, the arts, the delicious food, and the fun hangs around this town. I’m committed to sharing the very best of Kampala with you through this website. Contact me anytime with your ideas, feedback, or jokes at lauren@livinginkampala.com.