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K ABUL

98 KABUL •• Eating

alone, plus there’s the Hare & Hounds pub in the cellar. At the entrance there’s a sim- ple memorial to peace activist–aid worker Marla Ruzicka.

Intercontinental Hotel (Map p80 ; x020 2201 320;

reservations@intercontinentalkabul.com; Bagh-e Bala, Karte Parwan; s/d from US$90/100; is) This ven-

erable institution was Afghanistan’s first international luxury hotel. It’s a 20-minute drive from the centre of town if the traffic allows, but the hilltop location gives great views of Kabul. The recent refit has lifted the rooms considerably. ATO and Ariana have offices here. There’s also a gym, much needed after sampling the fare of the three restaurants. The pool sometimes has water, but don’t bother looking for the bikini-clad swimmers still sunning themselves in the old 1970s adverts.

Kabul Serena Hotel (Map p93 ; x079 9654 000;

www.serenahotels.com; Jad-e Froshgah; s/d US$120/140;

ai) Formerly the Kabul Hotel, the Ser- ena is now owned by the Aga Khan and has undergone a massive renovation to transform it into Kabul’s swankiest hotel by some stretch. The public areas are all light and space, while rooms have all mod- cons and a sprinkling of traditional Afghan decor. Security on the door is unsurprisingly strict, while the pastry shop’s brunch (p101) was the place to be when we dropped in. As we went to press, they’d just cut the ribbon on the hotel spa.

Golden Star Hotel (Map p85 ; x075 2004 787; goldenstar_hotel@yahoo.com; Charahi Haji Yaqub; s/d

US$100/140, ste US$200; a) One of Kabul’s new- est hotels, this literally towers above all oth- ers from its vantage point attached to the Kabul Business Centre. Rooms are exceed- ingly comfortable and well-appointed with all facilities. The deluxe suites even come with their own sauna, surely a first for Af- ghanistan. The Khosha restaurant and bar ( opposite ) sits on the top floor, overlooking Shahr-e Nau. Generous discounts can bring this easily into the midrange bracket.

Safi Landmark Hotel (Map p85 ; x020 2203 131; safilandmarkhotel@yahoo.com; Charahi Ansari; s/d US$200/

250; i) You can’t miss the Safi, part of the Kabul City Centre tower block in bright green glass. The lobby speaks of understated service and a glass elevator whisks you to your room, many of which overlook the shopping mall. Everything is laid on, but for the money the rooms are a bit small and

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cramped. A 50% winter discount makes things better value, although at that time you’ll miss out on the rooftop coffee shop.

EATING

Kabul has the best range of restaurants in the country by some degree, with eve- rything on offer from traditional Afghan meals to Thai and Croatian food. Many restaurants aimed primarily at the expat community open and close on a regular basis so we can’t hope to be comprehen- sive – check Afghan Scene magazine or the

What’s On in Kabul newsletter for the lat-

est developments. In addition, many of the guesthouses and hotels listed above have attached restaurants worth checking out. Restaurants serving alcohol are noted in

text, but see the Drinking section on p101 for possible legal complications.

Restaurants

AFGHAN

Herat (Map p85 ; Cinema Zainab Rd, Shahr-e Nau; meals

60-150Afg; h10am-10pm) A really great Afghan place which positively bursts at lunchtimes, as half of Kabul appears to eat here. The mantu (steamed meat dumplings) will set you back 80Afg, but save some room for the sticky sweets at the end with your tea.

Kulba Afghan (Map p85 ; x079 9210 143; Muslim St,

Shahr-e Nau; mains from 200Afg; h10am-10pm) This

restaurant is almost two in one, as it sits on the third floor above the also popular Rose Restaurant. What makes this more of a draw is the live Afghan music from 6pm to 10pm, and booths with cushions to tuck yourself into. Stuff yourself with the huge Kulba special (300Afg) which has a bit of everything – pulao, kebabs, mantu, chips, qorma (stewed vegetables), plus salad, yo- gurt and a soft drink.

Sufi 2 (Map p85 ; x070 210651; Muslim St, Shahr-e Nau; dishes from US$4; h10am-10pm) A sister branch

to the original Sufi, this was just opening during research. With the decor and serv- ice borrowed from its sibling, lunch is a big thing here, with lots of delicious dishes like pumpkin boloni (stuffed pancakes), sa- mosas and some great sweets like gosh-e fil (elephant’s ear) pastries.

Sufi (Map p80 ; x070 210651; near Aryub Cinema,

Bagh-e Bala, Karte Parwan; meals US$5-11; h11am-

10pm) Sufi is a little way out of town, nestled beneath the Intercontinental Hotel, but it’s

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worth the trip. Beautifully decorated with prints and fabrics, guests eat Afghan style, seated on cushions and carpets around low tables (though there are some tables and chairs too). There’s a wide variety of Af- ghan dishes, nicely served up – we par- ticularly enjoyed the kofte chalau (minced kebabs with dried fruit and saffron).

Khosha (Map p85 ; x079 9888 999; in Golden Star Hotel, Charahi Haji Yaqub; dishes from US$6; h11am-

2.30pm, 6-11pm) This place was freshly minted when we visited and looked a treat. The rooftop setting gives great views over Kabul, while the interior is decorated with Kuchi textiles. As well as Afghan favourites, there are some good vegetable dishes normally found only in the home, like banjan borani (aubergine with tomatoes and yogurt), plus a great lamb qorma with chickpeas.

Delhi Darbar (Map p85 ; x079 9324 899; Cinema Zainab Rd; mains from US$5; h10am-10pm) A popu-

lar choice for Indian food, and successful enough to create a mini-franchise, with branches in Mazar-e Sharif (p153) and even Tajikistan. The focus is on north Indian cui- sine, plus some fiery curries and lots of vege- tarian options. The one-dish-fits-all thalis remain a prize attraction, washed down with a cold lager.

Samarqand (Map p85 ; x079 9234 646; near Pan- alpina, Qala-e Musa; dishes from US$6; h10am-10pm)

This relaxed restaurant was one of the most popular in town when we dropped in, serv- ing a mix of Central Asian food – beautifully flavoured rice and meat options – and in- ternational dishes. The regular theme nights liven things up, with Chinese food on Fri- day, and salsa dancing on Wednesday and Saturday.

Jaisalmer (Map p85 ; x079 9200 570; Street 1, Qala-e

ASIAN

Alcohol is served at all the restaurants following.

Fatullah; mains from US$7; h11am-10pm) Another

good Indian restaurant, with great and highly spiced tandoori dishes. It’s slightly hidden away and not brilliantly signed, but don’t despair: they offer a home delivery service.

Lai Thai (Map p85 ; x070 297557; Street 15, Wazir

Akbar Khan; mains from US$7; h11am-11pm) Is there

an expat left in Kabul who hasn’t eaten here? We doubt it. With wonderful food in a tra- ditional Thai setting, the owner has made a

KABUL •• Eating 99

habit of opening in war-torn areas – there are sister outfits in Kosovo and East Timor. Tasty spring rolls and satay are US$4 each.

Baku (Map p85 ; x079 9083 918; Lane 5, Street 15, Wazir Akbar Khan; meals from US$7; h11am-10pm)

What do you eat in an Azeri restaurant? It turns out to be a mix of Afghan and Turk- ish food, with hearty shashlik (kebabs) and plov (pulao) balanced out by dolma (stuffed leaves) and other treats. With regular flights from Baku to Kabul, it makes sense to give this place a try.

Silk Route (Map p93 ; x079 9654 000, ext 4554;

Kabul Serena Hotel, Jad-e Froshgah; meals from US$8;

h6-10pm) Southeast Asian food mightn’t be quite what you were expecting at the Serena Hotel’s flagship restaurant, but it delivers with some aplomb, with a variety of tasty Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian dishes – however incongruous. The setting is immacu- late, so dressing smartly is a good idea.

Shamiana (Map p85 ; x020 220 3131; Kabul City Cen-

tre; meals from US$8; h7am-11pm) The Safi Land-

mark’s rooftop restaurant tries its hand at a bit of everything Indian, Chinese and Af- ghan, plus a dash of Italian and anything else they can think of. It mostly works, and its plush surroundings means that you’ll be dining next to some extremely rich Afghans at the next table.

Anaar (Map p85 ; x079 9567 291; Lane 3, Street 14, Wazir Akbar Khan; mains from US$8; h11am-10pm)

Recently relocated to new premises, Anaar remains one of Kabul’s lovelier restaurants. There’s a wide selection of Thai, Indian and Chinese dishes with vegetarians particu- larly well-catered for. Thankfully, the new premises still feature a lantern-hung garden for al fresco dining, otherwise withdraw to the cosy interior, decorated with traditional Afghan crafts.

Golden Key Seafood (Map p80 ; x079 9002 800;

Street 10, Wazir Akbar Khan; meals from US$8;h10am-

9pm) Of the Chinese restaurants, this is our favourite, despite the old adage of never eating seafood in a land-locked country. Flown in from Dubai, the fish and shellfish (and meat dishes) are actually excellent, and come with as many noodle and rice options as you could wish for.

MIDDLE EASTERN

Taverna du Liban (Map p85 ; x070 210651; Lane 3, Street 14, Wazir Akbar Khan; mezze from US$3, mains from US$8;

h11am-10pm) Several Lebanese restaurants

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