Is this the best baklava in Istanbul?

It’s easy to fall down a cake hole of sweets in Turkey. Before you know it you’ll be finishing every meal with a plate of syrup soused pastries or a tower of pastel cubes as soft as a toddler’s cheek.

If you fancied, a piece of baklava could pose as a metaphor for time spent in Istanbul.  It’s layer against layer of colour and interest, contrasting stickily sweet with grit (some of which is nuts).

When it’s bad, it can be all too much. There’s too much noise (sometimes it’s from the pastry, sometimes from the crowds). It can be chaotic. But when it’s good, it’s sublime.

If you’ve made it to Istanbul, you owe it to yourself to seek out some of the best.

To me it comes down to balance. Great baklava needs to be sweet, but not tooth-achingly so.  It needs a good proportion of nuts, which still taste fresh. And then there’s the texture of the pastry – you want structure from a base that’s heavy with syrup, but you also want some discernible crunch from the layers of yufka pastry (phyllo).

If practice makes perfect there’s a good reason why the examples at Karakoy Güllüoglu stand so proudly. Open since 1949, their 7000 square meter factory  is now the largest baklava producing and distributing site in the world.

Becoming a baklava maker and learning the process can take up to 6 years . Like the rigorous training for making soba, it helps ensure the pastry is rolled thin enough to puff and wrinkle like starched sweet tissue.

At Karakoy the pistachio baklava proved my favourite, using luridly green nuts from Boz Antep, which are picked at a certain time of year to maintain colour of freshness.  Though the walnut is also very, very good.

The cafe is  brightly lit with seating both inside and out. It’s open late and early. The staff stand tall in their button down shirts and aprons- and are charming.

Karaköy Güllüoğlu is within strolling distance of the fish market and the river. It’s an easy walk before or after a few hours at the extraordinary Istanbul Modern (n.b, the terrace cafe there is also worth having a drink at).

Inside there’s plenty of space to wander around and peruse the options out for display on broad metal trays. Order first, then get a receipt and go to the front to pay. If you want even more indulgence there’s kaymak (clotted cream) and ice cream to accompany the pastries. And the tea is very good.

But really, it’s all about the baklava.

N.b, to get the best textural experience of the baklava, try eating it upside down, so the flaky cap of the pastry first dissolves against your tongue.

Karaköy Güllüoğlu
Rihtim Street, Katli Otopark Alti
Karaköy, Istanbul – Turkey
Tel: +90 212 293 09 10

  1. Wow, that baklava sounds amazing! I’ve been following your Turkey adventures on Twitter, and it sounds like you’ve had a great trip!

  2. To me baklava was one of those things I thought I didn’t really care for until I had a really good one… then you just can’t stop!

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