Set on the riverbank, Khanstvo Manas brings food and cultures from across Central Asia to Tashkent | Courtesy of Khanstvo Manas
Uzbekistan’s capital city is fast becoming one of Central Asia’s leading foodie destinations. Situated at the heart of the Silk Road, the city’s merchants have traded with China, South Asia, and Persia for centuries, swapping spices and inspiration. Tashkent is home to a vibrant dining scene – from traditional restaurants specialising in plov to Russian fine dining.
Tashkent, Uzbekistan has all the ingredients for a burgeoning restaurant scene. During the Soviet Union times, new culinary ideas — plus chefs and diners with varied appetites — settled here from as far away as Ukraine and Korea. Now, as Uzbekistan experiences a long overdue tourism boom, it seems that a new restaurant opens its doors every week. You can eat your way around the world without going beyond the Tashkent Metro lines.
Gril’yazh is among Tashkent’s premier dining spots Courtesy of Griliaj
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In a nation of avowed tea drinkers, it took a while for Tashkent to cotton on to the nectar that is barista-made coffee. Today you’ll have no trouble finding your caffeine fix, however, and Breadly Bakery draws a young and fashionable crowd doing just that. The espresso is dark and powerful, the croissants are good enough to pass as French, and the WiFi connection is free and reliable. Arrive at Breadly mid-morning, catch up with friends, or work at your laptop in the laid back, air-conditioned surroundings.
April Verdant's menu combines European, Uzbek, and Japanese elements | Courtesy of April Verdant
“A new generation of chefs has started a bold experiment with Uzbek dishes,” explains Jamshed Safarov of Veres Vert, a local tour operator offering a Cuisines and Cultures themed itinerary in Uzbekistan. “The cosmopolitan menus at April Verdant — European, Uzbek, and Japanese — allow you to enjoy local favourites (often with a twist) or to try something new.” April Verdant has long been a family favourite in Tashkent, and the elegant surroundings and on-the-ball service make it a popular choice for birthday celebrations and romantic dates. Jamshed’s top pick from the menu is the mouth-watering quince cheesecake.
Caravan is beloved among tour groups and therefore often people’s first introduction to Tashkent’s restaurant scene. Like a Silk Roadcaravanserai, it’s a partially shaded courtyard surrounded by several rooms, all of which are beautifully decorated with Uzbek handicrafts. The fresh bread is divine, there is a wide menu of salads, and then you can treat yourself to meat-filled samsa (triangular pastry) and juicy lamb or beef kebab straight from the grill. Wash down your meal with a refreshing bottle of Baltika 7 beer.
BBC Russian presenter Ben Tavener has a deep affection for the Central Asian Plov Centre. “I liked that it’s run by people who love their craft and take pride in their plov, with a cheeky sense of rivalry between the different kazans (vats) as to who can sell out first. They plate up theatrically, tossing chunks of meat into the air and onto the plates for the waiting crowds.” The final flourishes of quails’ eggs and slices of horse sausage are the proverbial icing on the cake. You can try varieties of plov from all over Uzbekistan.
Khanstvo Manas is as famed for its ambience as it is for its food | Courtesy of Khanstvo Manas
Khanstvo Manas looks like a fairytale palace set on the riverbank in central Tashkent. In the palace, garden, and authentic yurt, staff bring together food and cultures from across Central Asia, presenting them in an interactive way. Co-founder Sadam Matchanov wanted to create a space where “you can forget the grey urban jungle… travel back in time and feel what it was like to be a guest of the Khan”. He’s adamant that Khanstvo Manas isn’t just a restaurant: “It’s a condensed cultural experience. We position ourselves as a theatre, museum, and an art restaurant.”
Both devour and learn how to make sweet treats at Cookbook Workshop | Courtesy of Cookbook Workshop
Teach a man to make eclairs, and he’ll be baking patisserie for eternity. This is the premise at Cookbook Workshop, where the open kitchen doubles as a cookery school. Rainbow-coloured macarons from the counter are a decadent treat, but when you have spent the morning making them yourself under the guidance of Nigina and her team, you’ve undoubtedly earned them. Cookbook is often busy with kids’ parties at weekends, but the rest of the time it is a chilled hangout spot for amateur cooks and cake lovers.
Georgian food has a cult following, and rightly so. The best place to eat it in Tashkent is Gruzinskiy Dvorik, which translates as “Georgian Yard”. There are multiple kinds of khachapuri cheese bread, pkhali vegetable salads, and khinkali dumplings to choose from, plus a good selection of Georgian wines. Here, singing and dancing are almost as important as the cooking, and in the evenings the restaurant often hosts live performances. Diners who are onto their second bottle of Saperavi wine are encouraged to get up on the dance floor: it’s certainly the most fun way to burn off some of the cheese!
Gril'yazh specialises in Russian cuisine | Courtesy of Griliaj
Stylish Gril’yazh brings Russian fine dining to Tashkent. Start your meal with a glass of dry white wine and an appetiser of attractively presented forshmak (a tower of red and white fish tartare topped with caviar and rocket). Slather the treacly black bread with plenty of salted butter, then tuck into medallions of veal served with spinach and draniki, a grated potato pancake akin to a latke.
Upmarket Qanotchi is a feast for meat-lovers who expect their cuts butchered, seasoned and cooked to perfection. Tashkent-based influencer Alina Hasanova claims that just thinking about the eight-hour stewed lamb at Qanotchi can wake her up in the night. “The thought makes me wildly hungry!” she laughs. “It’s unbelievably tasty meat.” Vegetarians probably ought to sit this one out!