The legend of Istanbul night life: Zihni Bar

HDN | 12/5/2010 12:00:00 AM | FULYA ÇİMEN

Zihni Bar, long a fixture in Kuruçeşme, has come to Nişantaşı, bringing its dedicated clientele with it.

At the entrance to Nişantaşı when coming from Taksim, you can see a historical building on the left side that seems to exude a charming aura; It’s Zihni Bar, also known as just Zihni, the the new Nişantaşı location of legendary night club Kuruçeşme.

Zihni Bar, which was previously located in Kuruçeşme – the heart of Istanbul’s night life by the Bosphorus – was an urban legend for 14 years, drawing large crowds until it was closed in 2005.

Everything started when owner Zihni Şardağ put a bar he had purchased into his gallery 30 years ago.  He was an interior designer back then. All of a sudden people started to come to the gallery for the bar, music and drinks.

Şardağ and Zihni Bar are now in Nişantaşı where his heart belongs. His longing to Nişantaşı, the fashion heart of Istanbul, led him to go back there again after his Kuruçeşme adventure.  

“Nişantaşı used to have a special identity in 1980s – although it still does now,” said Şardağ.

Zihni is one of the few night clubs in Nişantaşı since the area is a place of cafes and shops. Zihni Bar is in a historical building with a historical atmosphere and design that is matched by the ceiling, the furniture, the bar, the piano and the food.

There is live music – popular music, mostly foreign songs – at least two nights a week. It’s open until 2 a.m. weekdays, and 4 a.m. weekends, but is closed on Sundays. There is also a balcony for smokers so they don’t have to go downstairs to the street to light up.

The atmosphere is sensational and makes people feel as if they are living in a different era. Because Şardağ is an interior designer, he renovated the venue just like the way it was in 1900s. The building was the house of Vedat Tekin, the architect and the relative of Ottoman Sultan Reşat in 1913. The building still seems like there is no decoration; it’s in its nature, historical, the live version of an old era.

Besides the night life concept the cuisine is assertive in Zihni too, with its strongly recommended bar menu.

Pate de foie gras, peanut-butter sauce, crab crackers with relish sauce, chicken or meat with coconut sauce all feature on the menu designed by Elif Edez Tapan and Şardağ. One can have a nice dinner and a glass of wine for 50 Turkish Liras, Şardağ said.

The wines are selected by Şardağ himself. He is the kind of a manager/owner who does everything himself.

“I have never been the one that just opened the place and leave the work to the people working there. I always taste everything myself first. If I am happy with the experiment then I serve it to my guests,” said Şardağ.  

The main menu changes every two months, he said, adding that sometimes new tastes are also taken onboard. It’s a world cuisine but you can always find Eastern cuisine in the menu. Besides the bar menu, the fresh-fruit cocktails are a must at Zihni too.

The place has its own line and became a classic.  “It’s totally a new customer profile now. I prefer to stay as a classic; like Samdan. Not every trendy thing should be followed. New trends are consumed so quickly these days, like fast food. Some places are special, classic. Zihni is one of them. We have special regular customers from the age of 25 to 50.”

He also recommends coming on Friday nights to listen Güvenç Dağüstün, a young artist and musician from Ankara State Opera that was the leading character in the recent “Puss in boots” opera.

Valikonağı Cad. No.39 Nişantaşı

Tel: 0 212 248 80 33




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