The Survival Guide to Kabul©

Published internationally in July 2003 as Kabul: The Bradt Mini Guide.

First published in Kabul in September 2002 as a pamphlet.

 

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Restaurants

Last updated December 3 2004

 

In Kabul you can eat almost anywhere – there are kebab stalls on every corner. Restaurants were slow to open after the Taliban fell but there are now several places that serve good foreign and Afghan food and no doubt more will begin to open, mainly serving the large international community. You’ll often see richer Afghans celebrating birthdays at the Golden Lotus or Khyber Restaurant.

 

Consider your security when visiting some restaurants. In February 2003 the British Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG – www.baag.org.uk) issued a warning in one of its regular bulletins: ‘In the light of possible hostilities in Iraq, international staff should be aware that, if they are attending parties and consuming alcohol, they may be under observation. A number of restaurants, including B's and the Indian are considered to be “soft” targets from the security point of view and DfID, (the British Government development and aid agency) has already placed a ban on its own staff using these.’

 

One of the best ways to enjoy Afghan food and hospitality is of course to accept an invitation to dinner with an Afghan family.

 

December 3 2004

Pictures: Restaurant Update.

 

July 2004

Restaurants Update article from AFGHAN SCENE MAGAZINE.

Flower Street Catering menu.

Mediterraneo Club menu. CLOSED

 

April 30 2004

Pictures: Elbow Room Restaurant and Bar.

 

February 17 2004

New restaurant: Taste.

 

December 30 2003

New website for the Deutscher Hof Restaurant: www.deutscher-hof-kabul.com.

 

November 10 2003

Menu: The Zadar Croatian Restaurant.

 

Everest Pizza takeaway and delivery.

 

November 6 2003

New opening times for the German restaurant – open on Saturday and closed on Tuesdays.

Achtung neue Öffnungszeiten!!! Dienstag Schließtag!!! Samstag geöffnet! Mittwoch – Montag 12:00 - 23:00 Uhr 12:00 - 14:00 Mittagstisch 18:00 - 22:00 Abendkarte

Attention new opening times. Tuesday is off day!!! Saturday open!

Wednesday to Friday 12:00 – 11pm open

 

October 14 2003

Restaurant update There’s a new Croatian Cuisine place, the Zadar Restaurant, on the left hand side of the main road to Taimani just before IOM. The German restaurant starts a new and cheaper menu this week with a buffet on Thursday nights. The Gandamak Lodge, now linked to the Frontline Club in London (www.thefrontlineclub.com), has taken over the property across the street and has 8 ensuite rooms and a new restaurant is being built. The Global Guesthouse has a nice small bar with large TV screenings of the Rugby World Cup. The Kelt’s Irish Bar at the Mustafa Hotel is no longer Irish but is still open and serving draught beers; the pizzas are still good here.

Check the new menu for the German Restaurant.

 

ARTICLES

July 16 2003 ABC News: Thai-ing One On in Kabul A Restaurant Thrives in the Chaotic Capital City of Afghanistan.

May 10 2003 Wall Street Journal front page: The Spoils of War in Kabul Now Include Thai Restaurant.

The Spectator: The place to stay in Kabul is beyond a doubt the Gandamack Lodge.

Get your cakes and bread from the Women for Women International bakery in Qali Fatullah.

 

 

The following is a by-no-means-comprehensive list of places to eat in Kabul.

 

July 2003 Info on Kelt’s Irish Bar at the Mustafa Hotel.

June 2003 Info on new Haji Baba Restaurant.

May 2003 Info on new German restaurant in Kabul.

 

 

Anaar House 6, Street 4, Kolola Pushta, behind the UNICA Guesthouse; tel: 070 28 4315, 070 29 1857.

The Anaar offers a wonderful, warm dining experience. It’s located down a lantern-lit alleyway. The restaurant reception and dining-rooms are hung with beautiful Afghan carpets. In fact all the décor is local. A magnificent, carved wooden doorframe in the far restaurant room is a fantastic work of art. In this room, diners can sprawl on Afghan cushions and eat from low-level tables, but elsewhere there is seating and at the far end of the seated dining-room there is a vast fireplace. The cuisine is described as Indian, Chinese and Thai. Indeed the restaurant is co-owned by an Indian and Afghan who have brought their culinary experiences to play here very successfully. The Thai green curry is particularly good. The place is open for lunch 11.00–15.00 and for dinner 19.00–23.00 (though one friend of the authors was at a party until 03.00). Dinner costs around US$12 a head. There is no alcohol served here, but you can bring your own as long as you are discreet about consumption and request permission from the management first. According to one diner it provides ‘the most relaxing and intimate restaurant yet in Kabul’.

 

 

Bs Place The guesthouse in Qali Fatullah; tel: 070 27 6416.

The food is more expensive than many of the other places listed, but the menu boasts Thai green curry and shrimps flown in from Dubai. Pizzas cost US$6–14 and a pepper steak costs US$7. The menu also includes Greek salad, hoummus, steak and chocolate fudge cake. During the winter months, there’s a typical Afghan sandaly room. (A sandaly is a heated low table with a thick table cloth. Food is placed in top and the diners sit as snug as bugs with their legs under the table.) Outside, there’s a lovely garden with trees, lanterns and a flower shop. It’s better to book tables and food in advance. You can buy alcohol with your meal, or bring your own. B’s also has a free delivery service for customers in their immediate area ordering take-away.

Get your cakes and bread from the Women for Women International bakery in Qali Fatullah.

 

 

Chinese Restaurant Ansari Square, Shahre Naw just before the Chicken and Flower Street junction; tel: 020 2201618.

There’s space here for 60 people downstairs and 40 people upstairs with three private rooms with tables, sofas, TVs and karaoke systems. There’s a free salad buffet and the usual Chinese food. A hot and sour soup will cost you US$1.50, sweet and sour chicken US$6 and beef in oyster sauce US$6. The restaurant has permission to serve alcohol but not to Muslims. Open 11.30–23.30.

 

 

Delhi Darbar House 1, Muslim Street, Shahre Naw tel: 070 27 7566.

The Delhi Darbar is an Indian restaurant and has just moved from Qali Fatullah to Shahre Naw near the Assa 2 guetshouse. There’s US$6 buffet at lunch and dinner with good popadums and great garlic naan bread. Delivery is available.

 

 

Gandamak Lodge Number 5 Passport Lane; tel: 00 93 (0)795 69904 Email: Fatema11pk@yahoo.com

Gandamak Lodge is open for breakfast (US$10) and dinner. Book before midday and for US$20 you can enjoy a three-course meal of mostly imported food, full English breakfasts and the cheese plate. Drinks will cost you extra. A menu for one night in March 2003: Appetizer: quiche Lorraine with tomato chutney; Main course: poached plaice with lemon-butter sauce, herbed risotto, stripped courgettes sautéed with balsamic vinegar; dessert: hot lemon-curd soufflé.

Photo.

The Spectator: The place to stay in Kabul is beyond a doubt the Gandamack Lodge.

 

 

German Restaurant & Biergarten Deutscher Hof Kabul House 60, Street 3, Qali Fatullah; tel 070 28 8134; email: casa-blanka-kabul@web.de.

This German-run restaurant serves classic dishes in a light and comfortable setting on the first floor of this Qali Fatullah vila. It is also the most expensive place you can eat in Kabul at the moment. The menu changes every day. Lunch is served from 12-2pm and the evening mealtimes are from 7pm-11pm. Typically the menu offers soup (Tomato soup with cream 4 euro). The main course runs to Ostrich steak under roasted onions and jacket potato with herb butter (15 Euro) and Duck leg a l’Orange with apple red cabbage and dumplings (18 Euro). As you would expect, there is a wide range of schnitzels. The lunch time menu includes chili con carne (5 Euro), spaghetti Bolognese (7 Euro) and potato gratin (7 euro). There is a wine and beer list. A bottle of Medoc (18 Euro), Draught Becks (5  euro for half a litre/ 3 euro for a third). German bottled and draught beers cost more. The selection of puddings is more restricted. However, it includes a choice of apple pie and whipped cream (3.50 Euro), ice cream ((1 Euro) and ice coffee with Baileys (7 Euro). The chef and restaurant manager are both German and the quality of the food indicates high standards in the kitchen. The establishment also has a beer garden on the ground floor. One thing to bear in mind is the euro to dollar exchange rate. If you want to pay with green backs, prepare to see a significantly more expensive bill at the end of the meal than you may have bargained for.

More info: German restaurant in Kabul.

 

 

Golden Lotus Across from the German Embassy

The Golden Lotus serves Chinese, European and Afghan food. It opened in the early 1970s and was the first Chinese restaurant in Kabul. Surprisingly, the Taliban did not close it down. The restaurant was one of the first to open early in 2002 attracting a number of foreigners who have now moved on to the newer restaurants in the city. Prices are cheaper than other places but the food is very rice-based. CLOSED

 

 

Kabul International Just before the Marco Polo Restaurant in Shahre Naw; tel: 020 2201124.

The chefs from India serve a daily lunch and dinner buffet of curries for US$8 a head and promise Italian, Chinese, Mexican and continental food is on the way. There’s a large roof terrace that should be a great hangout in the summer.

 

 

Kabul Restaurant Part of the Hotel Kabul with an attractive garden and terrace that once served a variety of food. The hotel is being renovated so we await developments there.

 

 

Karwansara Situated within the Karwansara Guesthouse compound, 117 Interior Ministry Road, Next to Malalai High School; tel: 070 29 1794.

The restaurant is being described by many of its habitués as simply the best dining experience in Kabul, thanks largely to its fantastic setting. The décor is beautiful and the views at night over the city lights on the hillside opposite are stunning. Karwansara is the old name for the traveller’s inns on the Silk Route and the restaurant does justice in recreating some of that old atmosphere. There’s a traditional cushioned Afghan area where you can stretch out and take chai and off the main seated areas there are little cushioned dens for those looking for greater intimacy. The menu is described as a mixture of Afghan and some Western cuisine. There is no alcohol served here, but you can bring your own as long as you are discreet about consumption and request permission from the management first. A meal for two costs around US$15. Perhaps the most attractive thing about this place is the fact that 50% of the profits from the venture go to running an orphanage housing 16 children (Khorasan House, a project of the Khorasan Charity Organization, which is a registered charity in the UK). The other 50%, says the management, goes back into the local economy. The Karwansara is run and owned by an Afghan woman who has returned home after 30 years in Britain, and is staffed front-of-house by a cheerful group of young waiters.

 

 

Khyber On Pashtunistan Square in the centre; tel: 020 2101840.

The Khyber is one of the many reminders of the city’s heyday. Back in the 1960s this is where Kabul’s cosmopolitan city dwellers converged for chai (tea) and coffee at the pavement café. Now tatty and dilapidated, the pavement outside is used for parking and the inside is used mostly as a conference hall. However, the Khyber does still do a popular buffet lunch. There are three kinds of food on offer, Italian, Chinese and traditional Afghan all for US$6 a head, not including drinks. The restaurant has seating for 150 people in the main hall and room for a further 45 in the second smaller salon. There is a third room at the back of the restaurant that is rather dark and dusty that can seat 130. Special parties can be accommodated provided the management is given advance warning. Ideally you should let the general manager, Satar Formoly, know a good three days in advance. The Khyber Restaurant only has a local landline so you may be better advised to drop around to make any arrangements in person. CLOSED

 

 

Lai Thai Wazir Akbar Khan, Street 15, second road on the left, House 124; tel: 070 297557.

Within days of opening in April 2003, the Lai Thai established a reputation for excellent food and service in a pleasant, tastefully furnished setting. The waiters and waitresses are dressed in traditional Thai clothes, the furniture has been especially designed in Pakistan and the attention to detail is visible in the décor, right down to the beautiful cutlery. The spring rolls (US$4 for a plate of four) are possibly the best outside Bangkok (where the chef and restaurant owner come from). Lalita Thongngamkam is the dynamic owner and has extensive experience of running restaurants. She has run similar establishments in Kosovo, East Timor and Australia and personally supervises all the cooking in the kitchen. There is seating for 40 people downstairs and, once work is finished upstairs, there’ll be seating for another 30. A main course costs around US$7. The fried ginger chicken and coriander is superb, as are the deep-fried vegetables; the giant prawn soup at US$5 is simply mouth-watering. The Lai Thai is open for lunch and dinner 11.00--22.00.

The restaurant also runs a catering service for parties, office dos and any other special occasions. Lalita also runs a traditional massage service. This is a serious health and beauty massage done by a professional masseuse using traditional techniques.

July 16 2003 ABC News: Thai-ing One On in Kabul A Restaurant Thrives in the Chaotic Capital City of Afghanistan.

May 10 2003 Wall Street Journal front page: The Spoils of War in Kabul Now Include Thai Restaurant.

 

 

Popo’Lano Part of the Insaf Hotel in Shahre Naw; tel: 070 28 8116.

Popo’Lano was one of the first restaurants to open in Kabul in the summer of 2002 and is probably the most popular restaurant among internationals. This Italian restaurant has a reasonably priced, good menu. Pizzas cost US$5, with take-away and delivery available. There’s also a carpet and Afghan souvenir shop here. The manager is Abdullah.

 

 

Shandiz Iranian restaurant on Wazir Akbar Khan Street 10; tel: 070 28 4026.

The Shandiz opened in March 2003 and is one of the newest buildings in Kabul, serving Iranian food. Shish kebab with rice will cost you US$9. The Shandiz opens at 09.00 as a coffee shop, is open for lunch from 11.00–15.00 and dinner from 18.30–23.00. Delivery is available.

 

 

Other restaurants you might like to try are the Marco Polo and Herat, two typical kebab and rice restaurants. The Marco Polo is near Chicken and Flower streets. The Herat in Shahre Naw is an attempt at a fast-food restaurant with the guys running around in baseball caps. Chief Burger opposite the Cinema Park does a variety of fast-food and burgers. The Sitara’s Afghan Food Restaurant, just of the park in Charahe Ansari, is promising to be a great place for Afghan food and currently has seating spaces for 500 people for conferences and seminars (Amnesty International held a press conference here in March 2003). To book a place, speak to Meraj on 070 28 0584. The Khalid Restaurant, just past the Emergency Hospital, is closed now but it used to be a typical kebab restaurant in 2002 and before that a cinema which was closed by the Taliban. There are numerous kebab and mantu stalls around the Cinema Park in Shahre Naw such as the New York Restaurant. Pizzeria Milano on Shahre Naw Park also comes highly recommended by the authors of this guide.

 

 

NOW CLOSED

The Irish Club Opposite the NGO, FHI in Taimani, tucked away beneath Bibi Mahro Hill not far from Bs Place; tel: 070 29 6698.

Open 07.00 until late, the Irish Club opened on St Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2003 and instantly became a big hit in the city. Here you can find everything you would expect from a good Irish establishment, including a fully stocked bar, draught Guinness brought in from Dubai, and Stella Artois on tap. There’s an Irish farmhouse breakfast for US$5 every morning. Lunch is a buffet meal and the evening meal a la carte with an international chef cooking up dishes ranging from Irish stew to a traditional T-bone steak. The owner is Irish-Australian, Sean McQuade, who has been working in Afghanistan for the past 11 years. (Another bar, the Mighty Quinn, in Perth, Australia, is the sister bar to the Afghan set-up.) There’s a fabulous veranda here where you can get a cappuccino during the day and dance at night. Every so often there are Australian barbecue evenings where you buy a plateful of meat for US$6 and cook it yourself over the huge grill in the garden – with help if needed! This club does have a membership policy. A full year costs US$300, though shorter-term visitors can get monthly membership for US$10. If you are in town for a matter of days you can pay a one-off entrance fee at the gate. The club also boasts an internet café, a satellite TV room, and a private room for up to 12 people. There are also limited guesthouse facilities, which are likely to be expanded. The bar has no fixed closing time. As the owner himself says, ‘If there’s a good crowd in, we won’t throw them out!’ Currently a room is around US$50 a night.

Irish Club info and photo from this guide on website of Asian bars.

April 26 2003 BBC Threats close Kabul’s Irish bar (photos provided by this guide used).

April 26 2003 Canadian Press Irish Club, Afghanistan’s only bar closes after terrorist threat.

April 25 2003 Reuters Kabul’s Irish Bar closes doors after terror threats.

April 17 2003 Associated Press: The Irish Club, Kabul. And on CNN.

April 5 2003 The Irish Club features in The Times, courtesy of this guide.

July 31 2003 New Irish Bar opens in Kabul. More…

 

 

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The Survival Guide to Kabul©

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