Istanbul, Asharq Al-Awsat—Making yourself comfortable in the same chair where a head of state once reclined at table would be a rather unique experience. At the Beyti restaurant in Istanbul every customer gets to rub shoulders with famous personalities from the past and present.
Since it was founded in 1945, the establishment has seen many politicians and celebrities enjoy its menu and plush surroundings. Today, the restaurant continues to host princes and Hollywood stars, along with tourists seeking out some faded glamor.
Huge chandeliers hang from the ceiling, copper flowerpots dot the room, and luxurious carpets cover the floors under the soft leather seats.
Photographs of illustrious customers decorate the walls: Jacques Chirac, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, musician Leonard Bernstein, playwright Arthur Miller, and French singers Sylvie Vartan and Johnny Hallyday.
Arab notables have also passed through, including former secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, and Saudi royals Prince Turki Bin Faisal and the late Prince Abdullah Bin Faisal.
Tokens of appreciation left by customers are kept in a huge glass cupboard resembling a museum exhibit where military decorations, medals, swords and Gulf Arab garments adorn the shelves.
More modern offerings have also been donated—United Arab Emirates pop singer Ahlam left a signed copy of her most recent album. She also posted pictures of her visit to Instagram saying: “Every king, head of state or VIP who visits Istanbul must dine in this restaurant.”
At the door, a huge wooden box is full to the brim with business cards dropped in by customers. “There are millions, and the box is emptied every year,” says one waiter. Many of the cards in the box belonged to Arabs.
Such luxurious surroundings are reflected in the price tag—the restaurant is classified as the most expensive in Istanbul, and is located in Florya, one of the city’s most expensive districts.
Beyti Güler, the restaurant’s founder, is one of Turkey’s most celebrated cooks. He carefully selects his own meat, which he cooks in his signature style.
“Since the restaurant was founded until today, I attend in person on a daily basis. My job comes before anything else,” Güler told Asharq Al-Awsat.
One of Beyti’s waiters commented: “From time to time, we receive kings, princes and princesses, heads of state, ministers, movie stars, and social dignitaries. We are happy to serve delicious meals to them as well as to hundreds of [other] guests daily.”
The restaurant consists of several floors. On the first floor is the dome hall with a seating capacity of 100 and designated for business and official delegations. There is also the “Al-Qaboul Hall” which displays the large collection of international prizes awarded to the restaurant’s owner. A third hall contains unique tiles and traditional Turkish and Ottoman decoration.
The restaurant is a mere 40-minute drive from Istanbul’s famous tourist sites, close to Istanbul Atatürk Airport. A meal at the restaurant is best enjoyed en route to the airport, which not only reduces transportation costs, but is also a superb last memory to have of Istanbul.