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The sun is fierce throughout the day in Istanbul, and once it sets, the residual heat takes a while to dissipate, making the roof top dining room of Café Byzantine an ideal spot to catch a breeze. Gauzy curtains and clean white canopies ensconce the diners without blocking out the warm night air. Flickering lamplight falls on polished brass, blood red cushions, and cool white linens, harkening the diner back to antiquity without effort.


The menu is traditionally Turkish, a wonderful melding of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes prepared by a chef that learned to cook at her mother’s knee. The air is rich with exotic spices, and water and ayran are served chilled right on the table. The menu is extensive, from simple soups and spreads served with sliced pita bread to elaborate shwarma and kebab dishes. Very few leave the café still hungry; in fact, the chef would take it as an insult if diners didn't enjoy several courses.


Low walls surround the rooftop café, and the diners almost feel as if they are dining on a cloud, albeit a warm, cumin-scented one. Propped against one wall is a pile of ragged carpets that almost seem to twitch in the wavering lamplight. Upon closer inspection… the antique rugs are twitching, eagerly awaiting their passengers before soaring off into the night sky. Magic carpets are illegal in the United Kingdom, but they are very common sights in this part of the world. Once dinner is finished, diners are encouraged to work up an appetite for dessert by taking a short ride over the ancient and beautiful parts of this lovely city.

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