Tünel vision: a passage to Istanbul’s coolest quarter

I’ve just returned from Istanbul where I stumbled across a fabulous corner of the city situated around the northern entrance to the Tünel, the old underground funicular railway that connects the Galata Bridge with the city’s main shopping street. Opposite the entrance and you find the gate to the Tünel Pasaji (Tunnel Passage), a handsome courtyard filled with plants, antique shops and tables from the assortment of cafes that line its edges. We ate at KV an eclectically furnished restaurant serving hearty local cuisine and later returned for lunch at Hevetia, a cafe serving modern meze which you order buffet style.

The Passage is also connected, by another gate, to a long, narrow street where the city’s trendy folk hang ot outside fine restaurants next to walls filled with political graffiti and some admirable stencil art. There are vegetarian cafes and traditional meyhanes (raki houses). Rose sellers and waiters, carrying trays of sweet Turkish tea, add to the throng.

Nearby is Coffee and Stories, one of the most beautiful coffee shops I have ever visited. Featuring floor-to-ceiling prints of the photographer Hasan Huseyin, who I believe owns the place, it is worth a visit to the area alone.