OUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK IN BISHKEK
There are many countries in the world I would travel to just for the food. Kyrgyzstan is not one of them. While a good laghman, plov or manty is quite delicious, there are, sadly, far too many bad ones out there. Or at least so my stomach tells me. With a week in Bishkek planned, I was determined to hunt out some top quality local cuisine, international eats and maybe even a craft beer or two.
I wasn’t left disappointed.
If you too are headed to Bishkek, here’s our take on the best places to eat, drink and hang out in this pleasantly green capital.
All the places mentioned in this guide are marked on the map below.
A large, traditional Kyrgyz restaurant, split over two adjoining buildings, Faiza is great value place packed full of locals where you can enjoy high quality favourites like Laghman, Pelmini, Manti, Shorpo, Borscht, etc. Their impressive shashlik is all cooked over a wood burner.
It’s clean and modern, done in a traditional style, with hanging mosaic lights, decorative tiles and features on the wall. The waitresses are attentive and the service is quick and efficient. If you have to wait, it shouldn’t be for long, and it’s definitely worth it!
Another great shout for Kyrgyz and Central Asian cuisine in general, plus a few internationally inclined dishes. This place is more upmarket than Faiza, with prices to reflect this, although it’s still reasonable. It’s an attractive place, with Central Asian textiles, tiles and crafts on display and a nice outdoor terrace.
BAAN BAAN THAI CAFE
A delightful surprise, tucked away down a side street in its own little courtyard haven. The food here is fantastic, as is the atmosphere. Authentic Thai curries, homemade ice cream and a great selection of vegan, veggie and gluten free dishes make this an all round winner.
Shrimp Pad Thai at Baan Baan Thai Cafe
We visited twice in a week, unable to resist another helping of tofu satay skewers and shrimp green curry. The ginger ice cream went down a storm, too. Super friendly staff make you feel very welcome. One of our absolute favourites. Plus, it shares the space with Save the Ales, so you can hit up both places in one trip!
Stepping into Pur Pur is like travelling back in time. With The Ink Spots and Charleston Chasers serenading you, traditional lampshades emitting soft light and bookcases full of old suitcases, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in an antique shop. But Georgian cuisine is on the menu here, and it’s as delightful as the surroundings. Aubergine and walnut paste wrappers, succulent dolma and a clay pot of aromatic lobio entertained our tastebuds to start. On our first visit Beef Ojahuri followed, on our last night Lamb Ribs Pur Pur, all washed down with a nice bottle of red.
Even if this place wasn’t conveniently located just a few doors down from our hostel (Interhouse) we’d still have returned for a final farewell, to both Pur Pur and Bishkek.
Lamb Ribs Pur Pur
If you’re craving Turkish food, this is the place to satisfy those urges. The photos in the (extensive) menu don’t do this place justice. Popping in for an early lunch one Sunday, I wasn’t expecting much. One taste of their olives and a sip of Turkish tea though, and I was grinning for the rest of the day.
Turkish Tea at Taksim Cafe
Our hummus, lavash and Turkish breakfast was one of my favourite meals in Bishkek, and great value too.
Turkish Breakfast, Lavash and Hummus at Taksim Cafe
Strolling past this place, all soft lighting and wood, our curiosity was immediately piqued. The name, complete with corkscrew opener for a ‘T’, left no doubt to what could be expected inside. Jamon Iberico brochettes, a cheese platter, prosciutto and rocket pizza, all washed down with a carafe of Rioja. I was in heaven.
The ambience is warm and cosy and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable (without any pretentiousness that a place like this back home might have.) A treat for your tastebuds!
Funky, friendly and with a variety of weekly events, Chicken Star is a real all-rounder. Korean style fried chicken is the namesake here, but other staples like bibimbap, kimbap and tteokbokki kept us happy. Our first taste of Korea since leaving months earlier and it didn’t disappoint. The streetside terrace is ideal for hanging out, the art-filled interior bright and buzzing most of the time. Open from mid-morning til late every day, this place is equally good for a coffee or a beer. Just be sure to get the drip coffee – the best I had in Bishkek (Del’s standard Americano was the worst!).
Bibimbap and Kimbap at Chicken Star
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We were actually on our way to Taksim Cafe when we walked past Chili Peppers, Frida Kahlo and a mariachi man beckoning us in. The promise of guacamole made us stay and it was so yummy we ordered a second round. Complimentary nachos and salsa accompanied our burritos, my asado pork pipping Del’s veggie feast in the taste test.
Unfortunately it was too early for us to crack into the mango chili margaritas, but they looked mighty fine. A good shout for Tex-Mex in a region largely devoid of any such offerings.
SAVE THE ALES
Save the ales, indeed. Stumbling upon this quirky craft beer bar and garden we were instantly transported to another land. The kind of place we hadn’t been for months, and the last thing we’d expected to find in Central Asia. Colourful bunting and fairy lights welcome you to the outdoor space, shared with neighbouring Baan Baan Thai Cafe.
The entrance to Save The Ales, hidden a little down an alley
The beer menu features around four home brews and a couple of guest ones. We tried them all and they were excellent. The Pale Ale went down smoothly, the guest Stout rich and warming. They do food too, and based on the nibbles we tried it’s good quality. But with Pad Thai awaiting next door, we didn’t delve too deep into the menu. If you only have time to check out one bar in Bishkek, make it this one!
The other main craft brewery leading the way in the Bishkek beer scene. What this place lacks in charm (compared to Save The Ales anyway), it more than makes up for with top quality brews. They even have a cider on tap! We happily whiled away an evening here, working our way through their beer menu and reliving our youth thanks to the tunes (the barmaid’s husband is from Manchester). The pub grub is good here too.
We were left a bit disappointed with the coffee scene in Bishkek. We kept searching for a good cafe to hang out in, but never quite found it. There are plenty of places, they were just a bit too chain-like for our tastes. We did however, find some great cups of coffee, so here’s our pick of the best.
A Danish influenced cafe located on the open ground floor of the coworking Ololohaus building, Hygge is a minimal, stripped back space, all exposed concrete and floor to ceiling windows.
The friendly staff serve up excellent coffee, housed in delightful ceramics along with light, airy cakes (the pumpkin cake had a subtle complexity with just the right amount of sweetness). They have a few different brews, the Brazilian beating the Costa Rican in our taste tests. The Nickelback and accompanying barista sing-along was what drove us to leave in the end…
Since our last visit the team have opened another Hygge Coffee at a second location which looks pretty great too! Let us know how it is if you get a chance to visit.
After a trip to the post office and multiple customs slips to fill in, we were in desperate need of a pick me up. We popped our heads into a couple of nearby cafes (all style and no substance by the looks of it), before settling on Owl Coffee for a quick cup. This small place is nothing to write home about, but they do serve an excellent mug of coffee. If you’re nearby, it’s a good shout.
I’ve mentioned it already, but just in case you missed it this place serves an excellent drip coffee. It also comes in a delightful little ceramic tumbler, all the way from Thailand apparently. Del was not impressed by the standard Americano one bit, so be sure to specify the drip coffee! It’s also a nice place to hang out.
A fine cup of drip coffee at Chicken Star
To be honest we couldn’t quite decide what we thought of this place. It’s a bit of a Bishkek institution and certainly spans a wide demographic and even wider menu. It boasts a huge outdoor space, covering an entire street corner. There’s no shortage of cushions, overly elaborate decor and trippy wall patterns. As far as the coffee goes, Del only tried an Irish one so can’t really determine how good a regular Americano or such would be. The Irish coffee was average.
Outdoor seating at Social Coffee
IF YOU’RE IN THE AREA
We seem to have developed a bit of a Georgian food obsession since first tasting it in Almaty. This was our second Georgian meal (of three) in Bishkek and the food was excellent. Succulent and flavourful slivers of aubergine and red peppers stuffed with walnut paste and scattered with pomegranate seeds, plus a variety of lobio and veggie balls were the highlight.
If we had to choose only one Georgian place in town though, Pur Pur would be it thanks to its wonderful atmosphere. But, if you’re in the area and as big a fan of Georgian cuisine as us, Mimino hits the spot for sure.
DOLCE VITA PIZZERIA
If you happen to be nearby (checking out a Soviet mosaic perhaps?), this place has decent pizza and a low key buzz about it. Ever busy, Dolce Vita has fast service and a huge choice of pizzas, plus other standard Italian fayre (our lasagna was disappointing though – stick to the pizzas!).
Pepperoni pizza at Dolce Vita
ON THE GO
OA KYRGYZ ORGANIC
If you’re looking to stock up on snacks for trekking or long marshrutka journeys, look out for OA Kyrgyz Organic! They have a great range of bars and biscuits, plus yummy granola if you’re self-catering for breakfast. They have their own shop, but you can also find their products at various locations around town, including Chicken Star and Apple Hostel.
A tasty OA Kyrgyz Organic granola bar
We hope you’ve enjoyed taking a little culinary tour around Bishkek with us, and can check out some of these fine establishments for yourself in the near future!
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