ASTANA – No matter what is happening in Kazakhstan – financial crisis, political uncertainty or Barys bowing out of the Continental Hockey League’s (KHL) playoffs, pubs in the capital are crowded and busy come Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“People will always be going to bars and pubs, because it’s become a culture to have a drink or two after a work day. It removes worries and stress, so you could say it’s even healthy,” said 28-year-old temporary resident Sergei Shalygin, a regular on special occasions, in his interview with The Astana Times.
“Just about seven or so years ago, Astana didn’t have much of a bar culture or a pub culture; it all is happening now,” he added. “Olympics – we hit a bar; Universiade – we hit a bar; Golovkin match – we are at the bar; World Cup, guess what, we are in bars and pubs. I can’t remember this type of commotion around pubs before. Just look at the Chechil Pub or Draft, for instance; you won’t find a place at these pubs on weekends.”
Shalygin, who lived in the U.S. and Europe since childhood and often travels between North America and Eurasia, frequently compares Kazakh pubs with western-style bars.
“Today, there are pubs in Astana that can easily beat any western one. The difference is the loud live music in Kazakhstan that almost all pubs have. Surely, it is fun to dance after a couple of shots of tequila. One doesn’t expect a pub to be a place for naps, but it can get annoying when you lose you voice after a trip for a drink or two and for good conversation,” he said.
People have different needs and preferences depending on what each wants on his or her night out and Shalygin shared his pub experience.
Pubs for talking
For quiet conversations, Shalygin prefers such places as the Irish Pub at the Rixos Hotel on the left bank.
“This place is by far my favourite for talks and conversation. It is located at the Rixos Hotel and the service is great, but the administration lets their customers smoke inside. I am a smoker and it’s ok with me, but for non-smokers this isn’t the place to be,” he said.
Number two on his list is Barley, located at the intersection of Valikhanov and Imanov streets.
“This place has everything one needs: good food, live music and even a night club just around the corner. So, whatever you want to do you will find it here,” he added.
Pubs for quality beer
When good beer is on tap, Shalygin and his friends choose O’Hara. The pub is located along the right bank at the bottom of the Grand Alatau residential complex.
“This place will have a demonstration of all sorts of beer upon customer request and there’s always a good choice of beer to accommodate any mood. The live music is very good, but it will make you move, not just listen,” he said.
Shalygin’s second choice is Pivovaroff on the left bank along Saraishyk Street.
“The name of the restaurant is Pivovaroff, which means ‘beer brewer’ in Russian, and this place doesn’t disappoint. A good variety for beer lovers,” he said.
Pubs for dancing and loud fun
The next two pubs are quite affordable and fun, said Shalygin.
“Draft on Tashenov Street rocks the floor and is always packed to the roof on weekends. A great place for random meetups and networking. People at this place are always in a good mood and ready to have fun. This place does have rude administrators; keep that in mind, but not all of them are,” he said.
His second choice in the category went to Chechil on Kabanbai Batyr Avenue.
“Chechil often doesn’t have tables, but to us, the regulars, they will always find one. Very cheap beer and food, loud music, dances and random meetups – this is what this place is about. I would highly recommend it,” he said.
“Third in this category comes Bochonok on Respublika Avenue. This place has decent beer, good food and loud live music. However, it doesn’t always get as busy as the other two, so I would give it third place, but it needs to be mentioned here,” said Shalygin.