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Old Habits Die Hard in Istanbul

November 2015

By Selcuk Koruturk, Istanbul

The phrase “old habits die hard” doesn’t really apply to me, at least when it comes to brands.  So many brands have proliferated in the Turkish market in the past ten years that we don’t need to ask friends going abroad to bring back certain tid-bits that didn’t exist here anymore because we can easily find them in one of the thousands of shopping centers that have sprung up around the country in the last decade.  So with so many options readily available, I happily try out new things.  Some of them stick and some of them fall in the ‘been there, done that’ category.  Recently however I’ve found some brands that may very well turn into habits.

Some people call Turkey a “little America” in respect to consumer behaviors however can it also be because we are infatuated with hamburgers as well?  When McDonald's opened its first store here back in 1986, there were queues stretching outside the restaurants.  Meeting people in McDonald's was almost a show of social status because it was ‘cool’.  Now in 2015 there are dozens of burger joints to choose from.  Aside from your regular McDonald's and Burger King, the cool New York burger chain Shake Shack opened its first restaurant in Istinye Park shopping center in 2013.  A few years back local Turkish gourmet burger chains such as Burger House and Burgerlab who approach making burgers as a science, started springing up around town.  However out of all the fancy options to choose from I stumbled across a small burger place tucked away in a food court of Cevahir Shopping Center a few years ago: Carl’s Jr.  A collage of flickering images pouring from the LED screens consisting of models, firemen and pseudo celebs taking bites out of massive mouthwatering burgers literally pulled me in.  I sat down and waited for the server (yes they serve to your table!) to bring me a Big Carl burger and after that it was love at first bite! I have to say that you are at risk of dislocating your jaw in order to take a bite from Carl’s Jr. massive burgers and therein lies the reason why I love their burgers.  Even though Carl’s Jr. is a fast-food chain the ingredients used in their burgers are abundant and incredibly fresh but the quality of meat is what seals the deal for me.  I know I shouldn’t be gorging on burgers aged 30 but still whenever I feel like indulging, my guilty pleasure of choice is definitely Carl’s Jr.  Oh and did I mention that they are the first and only place that have introduced the free refill in Turkey? Add another item to the ‘pros’ category!

In one of my previous entries I mentioned using a new La Roche moisturizer.  Well after being introduced to Clarins Men skincare products, La Roche flew out the window along with the more simple moisturizers I’ve been using such as Nivea and Neutrogena.  A woman’s touch can improve many things and so it was thanks to my fiancée that I found myself browsing the aisles of Sephora’s pricier men’s products.  Having turned 30 this past summer I decided it was time to take things more seriously in terms of looking after myself.  With all types of skincare brands such as Yves Rocher, Clinique, Murad, Shisheido and the lot available in stores I decided to stretch my wallet and try the Clarins Men Super Moisture Gel and I can easily say that it was worth every penny.  I’ve finally found a product that suits my sensitive skin and doesn’t make my skin shiny like the previous products I’ve been using.  At this age, changing my priorities and adjusting my budget accordingly to fit my lifestyle is a worthwhile investment.

This goes hand-in-hand with my new drink of choice, gin and tonic made with Tanquaray gin.  I’ve always had an affinity with gin, perhaps because my grandmother is British, however it was only recently that I tried Tanquaray gin and fell in love.  Bars in Turkey had a poor selection when it came to alcohol with local lard liquor brand Tekel being the only choice for Gin, Vodka and Raki, while Efes dominated the market for beer.  All this has changed in recent years as foreign brands started infiltrating the shelves of Turkish bars.  Jägermeister became very popular for example and now when you’re handed a menu at a bar, such as Coupe, located on the Asian side of Istanbul, the beer selection is a full two pages long with a big selection of beers from Belgium, Germany and wines from South America.  When a friend of mine visiting from London ordered a Tanqueray G&T while having drinks at Kozmonot Bar in Topagaci, I followed suit out of curiosity.  I must say I’ve tried Hendrick’s gin along with slices of cucumber, and even though it’s regarded as one of the best brands in the gin category it only ranks second best next to Tanqueray.  It’s now a regular sight to see people sipping their G&T’s in different venues such as a small get together with friends in Zeplin Pub in Kadikoy or while they’re shuffling around to the cool rhythms banging from the speakers of Reina, quite possible the best club in Istanbul right by the Bosphorus.  Having a brand of choice for a drink does indeed give a sense of class and an appreciative nod from the bartender!

So out with the old, in with the new in some cases for me! Let’s see how long these brands will last, perhaps a lifetime or perhaps until I discover something better right around the corner!




Carl's Jr.: Love at first bite!
Revolte Bar - Kadıköy Merkez
Reina Club on the banks of the Bosphorus

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