To say that The Bosphorus Brewing Company fills a massive dining gap in Istanbul is like saying that an active case of leprosy is going to get you turned down on a first date. Having an English-style pub on the scene caused ripples of excitement in the ex-pat community that haven’t been seen since Dubb Indian Restaurant showed up back in the early noughties. Just as we can all recount where we were when the Twin Towers fell, every ex-patter in Istanbul will recount their whereabouts when The BBC first opened its doors to sounds of angels playing double guitars with the wha wha peddle on.
It is THAT important.
Various members of the Istanbulletin have visited The BBC. The decision to go twice before a review would appear on the blog was taken at executive level because of a fear that the sheer giddiness of having access to pub food and micro brewed beer would skew the review so badly that it might not be objectively scientific. We strive.
In broad terms, The BBC is the brew pub equivalent of a young Wayne Rooney. The importance, vision and genius are all there. You know he is going to loom large in the discourse of the field for a long time to come. But there is also this sense of rawness, a puppy-like exuberance which will need to be tamed before true legendary status can be deigned by Allah’s beneficent and totally blinged right hand.
The beers are reasonably priced considering what they are. Brewed both on site and in what I assume is a laboratory slash warehouse, they have pilseners, ales and lagers. A stout was being promised, and may be on tap by now. When we were there within the first week of opening, and there was a variability in the beers which will be ironed out in time but for now might they feel a little experimental. The Turkish palette for beers is generally pretty conservative, and hopefully this won’t pressure the BBC’s brewmeister into narrowing the range, which is an especial risk if foreigners don’t embrace the more esoteric of the brews. My favourite was their Pale Ale, which had that flatness you want in an ale as well as the murky mystery.
Like the beers, the potential on the food menu is screamingly obvious. Pub grub is all about a few quality ingredients coming together. Fish and chips, bangers and mash, Sunday roasts…there should be a rule that pub dish titles can only consist of two words (and an optional conjunction). They do simple well at the BBC and are delicate in how they substitute local products for the ones more readily available in Britain. One of the helpful waiters informed us that they brought sausages in from overseas and took them to a food science lab so they could best simulate the taste. Accordingly, they are on the delicious end of the taste spectrum, especially when smothered in their caramel coloured gravy.
The Sunday Roast is so large that two plates are required in the serving, which sets it apart as an event meal. The beef is succulent, a good test of the kitchen as roast beef often comes out the consistency of a bundle of A3 paper that has been rained on and the left in the sun to dry. When I make it. Once.
The atmosphere is buzzy and cool. The owners were smart and opted not to make it into a themed bar, so thankfully you won’t have to sully your night with antique chamber pots hanging from the ceiling or photographs of long dead moutaschioed tossers wearing top hats who were probably on their way out to shoot the local native population while complaining that he couldn’t get a decent cup of tea and it was dastardly hot. Still, there is enough dark wood in the place to make it homey and cozy in winter.
Returning to the rawness of the experience, there are a couple of areas that need to be addressed. The bathrooms are limited to one per gender, so even on a quietish night there can be a line for the ladies’. Given this is a beer establishment, not having enough room to drain the python is a bit of a pain. And while the service is super kind and friendly, they lack a little smoothness and dexterity which means there can be clunky timings between courses.
The BBC is right on top of its short-comings and have a feedback sheet attached to the placemats. When you get there, fill one in to help them help you. I did, and my thesis was pork-related. If there is one venue that needs a pork dish, it is BBC.
In summary, The Bosphorus Brewing Company is something we all have an interest in investing in. There should be active support for this business coming out of the international community. We give money to all sorts of do-gooding NGOs…screw the pandas. There are like 50 of them in the wild. How many brew pubs are there in Istanbul?
I give it four spotted dicks out of five.