I was very excited recently, when Costa Coffee finally arrived in Kazakhstan! Not that there aren’t other coffee shops here, but I took it as a sign that international chains were finally becoming aware of Kazakhstan and that this may mean better eating opportunities and the beginning of a customer service culture, an area seriously neglected in this country.
Unfortunately at present, although there are nice places to eat in Astana, there is only one or two types of international cuisine available.
Considering Kazakhstan borders China and is classed as Central Asia, there are only a few Chinese restaurants in the city and I am yet to find Thai or Malaysian. Restaurants tend to offer a variety of cuisines and it is not unusual to find pizza alongside Turkish and sushi. One of the two Indian restaurants in the city offers both Chinese and Indian dishes alongside Mexican!
Now that the temperatures are reaching the high 20s , the river banks and streets are starting to finally show signs of life. Last Friday was a warm, sunny evening so we decided to check out a place a bit off the beaten track.
During the week, I had been reminded by a colleague of the fun we had had on the US embassy’s scavenger hunt in our first year here. I cast my mind back and remembered one of the questions had been about called Paradise Corner or Everest, a restaurant on a boat, with the added interest of an old Soviet plane.
I suggested to the group that we try this place out. We all caught separate taxis and none of the drivers knew where the restaurant was and seemed rather puzzled when they were told about the plane. My driver refused to believe me as we drove through he industrial side of town, until we passed through the gates and the plane appeared in front of us!
We were the only guests at first and we got the prime table on top of the boat, although you could also eat downstairs in one of the converted cabins. We wanted to eat on the plane, but it appeared to be closed up. It had a typical Kazakh menu with some salads and shashlik, as well as cheap beer and vodka.
Apparently the owners of a nearby hotel created the large pond, installing the boat and plane there. The pond is surrounded by reeds and ducks swim happily around on it. Little chalets are dotted around the edge of the ponds, which we were told we could rent. The waitress added that the lake would be cleaned in the next few weeks and in the summer we could come back to swim in it!
Next to the boat was a rather large pyramid structure which had tables on it which we had climbed to discover what it was! It wasn’t really clear.
The service turned out to be great. The waitress was friendly and efficient and even tried a few words of English (I always find this funny as I am often the only British person there and can speak Russian). The prices were low and the shashlik tasty. Everyone loved it and the only problem, I could see with this rather unique experience, was the 20 or so mosquito bites I couldn’t stop scratching through the night.