Café Markiz, Istanbul, Turkey

A century ago, when İstiklal Caddesi was still Beyoğlu‘s Grande Rue de Péra, the Lebon pastry shop was among the most fashionable places for the genteel ladies of Péra to meet for tea and cakes.

Designed by Alexandre Vallaury, architect of the Pera Palas Oteli, and so many other signature Istanbul buildings, its fine decorative Art Nouveau faience panels depicting the Four Seasons (1905) are the work of J A Arnoux. Produced in France by Ch. Boulanger at Choisy-Le-Roi, all four panels were apparently shipped to Istanbul, but only Spring and Autumn arrived intact. They were installed here in the 1920s.

Bought and renovated by Avedis Ohanyan Çakır in 1940, it re-opened as Markiz and served as a gathering-place for prominent writers, intellectuals and society for decades.

Though sadly down-at-heels when I first arrived in Istanbul in 1968, Markiz was still open and serving, but it closed in 1977, and was shuttered for 26 years, just sitting there, looking forlorn as legal battles raged over its fate.

Declared a valuable work of art by Istanbul’s historic preservation authorities, it was ordered preserved in its original design. Good! But this would take money—lots of it—and that didn’t come along until the Aksoy group of companies put up US$6 million during the 1990s as a benevolent gesture to a symbol of Istanbul’s storied past.

Late in 2003, its exquisite Art Nouveau interiorbeautifully restored, Markiz was again open to all and hosting Beyoğlu‘s genteel society with delicate éclairs, petits fours, and fragrant tea.

Alas, it was not to be. The new Markiz didn’t prosper as a patisserie. It is now a fast-food restaurant called Yemek Kulübü (Meal Club), with papers stuck to its front window advertising cheap daily specials of hamburgers and french fries.

No matter, at least it’s open, the luscious interior is intact, and you can still enjoy it. Look for it on İstiklal Caddesi near Tünel Square, opposite the Hotel Richmond and the palatial Russian Consulate.

Cafe Markiz (alias Yemek Kulübü)
İstiklal Caddesi No. 360-362,
BeyoğluIstanbul, Turkey
Tel +90 (212) 245 8394

—by Tom Brosnahan


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