I like art nouveau. I like coffee. I like baklava. I like the Markiz Pastanesi on Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul.
The art nouveau "Le Printemps" (spring) ceramic pictured above can be found in the Markiz. Designed by Alexandre Vallaury, architect of the Pera Palas Hotel, the cafe is also home to a panel representing autumn. There is an interesting family link between Vallaury and the patisserie business - his father was an accomplished pastry cook! The panels were designed by J A Arnoux and produced by Ch. Boulanger at Choisy-Le-Roi in France in 1905. Four panels were produced but only these two arrived intact and were installed in 1920.
The cafe started life as Cafe Lebon in the nineteenth century - the exact date of opening is not clear, but it soon became a magnet for the city's most fashionable and bohemian individuals and a place in which to see and be seen. The Lebon's patisserie was known for its high quality, employing the best pastry chefs and having what was considered to be the best pastry oven in Istanbul designed in Paris by Leumenier. The Lebon reputation became so good that patisserie was shipped to all parts of Europe via the Orient Express!
Monsieur Lebon died in 1938 left the cafe to his apprentice who in turn sold it to an accountant called Avedis Cakir in 1940. Cakir had ambitions for even greater opulence and imported a Meunier chocolate oven to keep the pastry oven company and to produce truffles and chocolates to rival those made in France. He also had display panels installed and wooden wall panels manufactured, whilst limoges china was used to serve the patisserie to the customers.
In 1970 Cakir sold the shop to an auto parts dealer which provoked outrage from the long time clients who campaigned long and hard to have it declared a protected historical monument in 1977, along with the adjoining passage. However, the cafe closed and was boarded up in 1980, not re-opening until 2003.
It is now part of a fast food chain selling kebabs, burgers and other assorted fried monstrosities but the ground floor has been retained as a cafe and retains come of the period charm of the old days. The two panels remain as does the beautiful stained glass windows that give on to the adjoining passage. The many luminaries who patronised the cafe throughout its best years including poet, author and politician Yahya Kemal, actor and film director Haldun Dormen, and writer and traveller Pierre Loti would probably not approve of the new menu, but at least the building is still there - a number of other art nouveau buildings along the Caddesi have been lost.