When stuck in an airport for 10 hours, eat, drink and be merry. When it’s also 4am and you’ve just come off of a 7-hour flight, start with coffee.
If you’re going to be stuck in an airport for the good part of a day, Istanbul Ataturk is possibly one of the best airport’s in which to be stranded. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants to choose from, whether you’re looking for authentic Turkish fare, a light bite, a burger and artisan beer, or fine dining on caviar and champagne. Or alternatively, you could just wander around the duty free floor grazing on samples of sugar-dusted Turkish delight!
In great need of caffeine, I was drawn to the brunette shades of coffee beans, proudly displayed in grand copper and glass cylinders that encircled Selamlique’s cafe counter, imprisoning the baristas in their earthy aroma. The café’s coffee menu reads like a wine list, boasting coffees of various strength, body, acidity and finish, as well as a selection of flavoured varieties, including cinnamon, cardamon and chocolate. I chose the Damla Sakizh Mastic. Mastic is the resin obtained from the mastic tree, which is sun-dried into translucent, brittle pieces. It’s a celebrated Aegean flavour, and imparts a fragrant, woody taste that enhances the earthy, smooth and balanced roasted beans. Made in the traditional way – by boiling finely ground coffee beans with sugar in a copper pot – the coffee has a velvety texture, resulting in a luxuriously velvety beverage when served with a splash of creamy milk. And the accompanying rose-scented bon bon was a sweet touch.
One would usually begin a meal with the savoury course, but I went straight in for the cake. The fig and walnut poundcake was the perfect match for the coffee, standing up to its deep roasted flavour. The dark sponge was sweetened with fruity dried fig – quality, local figs, rather than the overly sticky, flavourless kind you get in UK supermarkets – and rich molasses, while walnuts added a sharp and buttery note.
Sweet tooth satisfied, I moved into the main course; an open-faced sandwich of delicately-sliced smoked salmon, avocado, mixed leaves and olives, garnished with fresh dill, caper-berry and zingy lemon, on coarse rye bread that was packed with the robust flavour of nutty mixed grains.
This was the perfect meal to energise me for the next few hours of waiting. But just to be sure, I picked up a box of colourful Turkish delight before leaving, just in case I got hungry!
Istanbul Ataturk Airport