Astana, formerly known as Akmola, became the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997. Since then, the city has experienced a boom in restaurant openings, ranging from fine dining venues to quirky restaurants and cafes serving regional dishes. Here are ten places to dine out in while you’re here.
A recent newcomer to Astana’s restaurant scene, Marrone Rosso is one of the few European-style cafes and restaurants in the city. With a sister branch in Almaty, Marrone Rosso specializes in light meal options such as sandwiches, salads, and delicious pastries and cakes. The restaurant also offers a large variety of fresh coffees, ranging from simple cappuccinos to strong Turkish brews, a rarity in a country where almost everyone religiously drinks instant coffee.
Situated in the old city centre of Astana, Line Brew offers some of the best steaks in town, meaning a lot in a country where meat is part of every meal of the day. Line Brew specialises in modern European cuisine, while also offering traditional staples of Kazakh and Russian cuisine such as beef stroganoff, pork shashlik, mushroom julienne and beef tongue with horseradish. Menu highlights include beef on stone, a selection of raw cuts waiting to be fried by the guests on hot stone plates, and the horse meat steak with ‘Rose’ sauce, accompanied by a glass of Line Brew microbrewery beer.
The kitsch and rather strange Epocha restaurant is essential to visit, especially if you’re staying in Astana on Friday and Saturday night. Decorated in the old Soviet style, the restaurant showcases an excellent collection of Soviet memorabilia, ranging from an old Soviet motorcycle on a dance floor to busts of Stalin and Lenin. The guests can even choose to eat traditional Kazakh and Russian cuisine in special dining rooms decorated as prison cells, where they are served by waiters and waitresses dressed in Soviet school uniforms and wearing the red neckties of the pioneer movement. On weekends, Epoha has live music, and the band plays an impressive range of cover versions, ranging from Ricky Martin to 1970s’ Soviet pop music.
A permanent staple of fine dining in Astana, Astana Nury restaurant features modern European and traditional Russian, Kazakh and Caucasus cuisines. The covered terrace of the restaurant offers wonderful views over Astana’s main promenade alongside the Ishim river, thus providing plenty of opportunities for people-watching and relaxation. Eat while listening to jazz music, a rarity in Astana’s restaurants which are usually filled with LCD screens playing Kazakh and Russian pop music videos. Patrons can choose from a variety of dishes, ranging from classic Caesar salad and grilled salmon to a hearty Georgian dish of khachapuri, a bread filled with cheese and egg.
The elegant Barley restaurant is beautifully decorated with chandeliers, silver egg chairs, Buddha statues, old fashioned photographs and art pieces. It has two floors, with a stage for a live band and a dance floor situated on the first and a fine dining seating and lounge on the second. Here it serves up contemporary international and European cuisine, from juicy grills and steaks to fresh Thai salad, as well as several traditional Russian and Kazakh dishes. The restaurant also holds regular karaoke nights.
Located on the curve of the embankment of Ishim river in the old city, Ali Baba is a wonderful closed terrace restaurant, featuring traditional Kazakh, Caucasus and Russian food. It is beautifully decorated in nomadic style, and the classic seating in the middle of the terrace has several wooden huts, with low dining tables and pillows for seating.
The lovely restaurant Tiflis is a real find, especially for those who are new to the delights of Georgian cuisine. Located in the old part of the town and situated on two floors, Tiflis specialises in traditional Georgian dishes, ranging from kharcho soup, made with beef, rice, plum tomatoes and walnuts, to pork and beef shashliks, accompanied by traditional Georgian red wine. The speciality of the restaurant, however, is khachapuri,traditional breadwith fillings, ranging from cottage cheese to potato and egg.
A fine-dining restaurant and meeting place for diplomats and Kazakh politicians, Cafe Star is a beautifully decorated restaurant featuring contemporary international cuisine, from European-style grills to Asian noodles and stir fries. The crystal chandeliers, mezzanine lounge and the velvet purple seating contribute to the ambience of a glamorous old-world bistro.
Alasha is one of the best Uzbek restaurants in the city and proudly displays different aspects of Uzbek culture. The restaurant itself was built to look like a Uzbek palace and there are traditional decorations inside, including carpets, pots and ceramic plates. The restaurant also hosts cultural shows with live music and traditional dances every night. To eat, guests can choose from a variety of different regional Uzbek plov, a rice dish, and order a shisha to relax with after the hearty meal.
One of the few places to offer Uyghur cuisine in Astana, Turfan is a charming and always busy restaurant on the embankment of the Ishim river. The restaurant charms its guests with a lovely wooden décor, staff dressed in traditional Uyghur and Uzbek dress, and simple, yet delicious traditional Uyghur, Turkish and Uzbek dishes. These include hearty langhman, a broth of pulled noodles, beef and fresh vegetables, tasty manti, steamed dumpling with fillings that range from pumpkin to beef and pork, and Uzbek plov, a delicious and filling dish made with rice, beef, grated carrots, chickpeas, raisins, and onions.