Hafiz Mustafa 1864 in Istanbul
The building in which Hafiz Mustafa 1864 inhabits dominates its location in Eminönü, Istanbul, so much so that paradoxically I failed to see it. I literally went past the confectionery a couple of times a day but I was far too busy either straining my eyes in the hope of discovering hidden gems or giddy with the excitement of going over towards the Galata bridge and beyond.
However, on one fateful evening Hafiz Mustafa 1864 was brought to my attention kicking and screaming and I had no choice but to take notice.
A few hours before that evening I had walked right past it to visit the Galata tower, spent some time strolling around Taksim square and had finally managed to locate my number one must see in Istanbul – The Rainbow steps. My mood, naturally, after a 6 hour non-stop trek as good as the trek was, was not the best. A good meaty doner kebab with plenty of cab-tastic rice was what I craved to replenish my depleted energy levels and a restaurant a few steps away from Hafiz Mustafa 1864 obliged. I had the Iskender which was lavished with a good doze of melted sheep butter and yogurt and headed back to my hotel to rest. The problem with having dinner a couple of hours earlier than usual or lunch a couple of hours later than usual is that you tend to get caught up in no man’s land come dinner time. You don’t feel particularly hungry but also simultaneously feel you need to gobble something before sleep beckoned.
This was my dilemma as I was bullied out of my hotel by my girlfriend who was certainly not in no man’s land and needed to eat! We left in a hush and for once I actually neglected to bring along my camera. I expected a quick bite perhaps from a street food vendor or a quick jaunt to one of Sultanahmet’s restaurants. The evening before I had had an incredibly authentic Turkish kebab at one of the few rooftop restaurants in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul. None of these ideas materialised for one reason or the other. Instead I was ordered unceremoniously to try out Hafiz Mustafa 1864. I reluctantly walked in after my girlfriend and totally, in my dark mood, ignored the smiling waiter handing out samples of what I later learned was either baklava or Turkish delight as a welcome gift. As my girlfriend quickly seized a menu my pleas to get a take away were ignored. Instead I was ushered upstairs where there were other diners seated with smiles on their faces.
Admittedly my mood began to brighten up as we were led to the only two empty seats by the terrace. Views.Views. Views! They just have a way of lifting spirits. I began to realise I had made a mistake by leaving that camera in the hotel, but that mistake was soon put right when my girlfriend kindly offered to run back to the hotel to get it whilst I held our seats.
About 15 minutes later we were looking attentively at the menu deciding what to order. She went for a chocolate cake whilst I went for the baked rice pudding or fırın sütlaç, the crème de la crème of Turkish deserts. Apparently during the ottoman era fırın sütlaç, was flavoured with rose waters in the kitchens of the Sultans. Other items on the menu included were a huge variety of baklava, Turkish delight and other traditional Turkish sweets and pastries.
As we waited for our orders, I quickly read, as part of the menu, a one page historical account of when, how and who started Hafiz Mustafa 1864. It turned out that the 1864 in the name was significant. It was the year of Hafiz Mustafa’s establishment by an Ismail Hakkı Zade as a candy shop. The real star though was his son, Hafiz Mustafa, who transformed the original concept into a confectionery shop of note. I believe there were about 4 other Hafiz Mustafa shops dotted around the city. This was indeed just as historical as all the places I was bypassing it to see.
Our orders arrived in no time. My girlfriend’s cake was so large that she eventually took it back to the hotel and for some reason brought a piece of it on the flight to London 48 hours later. The cake must have made some impression. My baked rice pudding was creamy and sweet with an almost crunchy top covering that had to be broken through to unearth it’s contents.
Naturally I began to take more notice. The manager was friendly. His staff all in red caps were busy ferrying various drinks and pastries from the ground floor to the upper floor. We spent most of the time admiring the splendid views across the street. I noticed a couple I had earlier seen in town. They were drinking Turkish tea but I had a feeling they’d been sipping that tea for an eternity. Maybe tea does take an hour to drink for some, but I had a feeling their’s was an attempt to take in as much of the views that Istanbul at night had to offer from the open terrace of Hafiz Mustafa 1864. The fact that folks were being turned away from the upper terrace for lack of space, on this busy evening did not bother them at all and perhaps more importantly not once did the staff at the restaurant display any frustration towards them. That is creditable.
The inside decor as I went up the stairs to the terrace caught my eyes. It was tiled and was reminiscent of the Ottoman era. The atmosphere was warm and informal. Even though I happen to chance upon a rather large party of silver haired American tourists on my evening at Hafiz Mustafa 1864, there were folks of all ages there as well. Locals as well as tourists. On our way down to the ground floor after I had gorged on my baked rice pudding, we said thank you to the manager and staff at the counter, one of whom must have been taken in by us, that he asked where we were from. Ghana but live in London was the response. The waiter at the door stretched out his tray of Turkish delight once again and this time I managed a smile in his direction.
Hoca Paşa Mah.
Muradiye Cad. 25/B, Eminönü/cağaloğlu/İstanbul – Avrupa, Türkiye
Phone: +90 0212 527 6653