Edit 2016: sadly this place is no longer the same – just shit without the comedy value
The Pasha Hotel has always fascinated me. When I first moved to London I would rattle past on the bus marvelling at this dodgy looking hotel thinking it would be about the last place on Earth I’d ever want to stay. Six years later and not only have I er, woken up there after an er, particularly messy evening, I’ve eaten in their restaurant.
The decor in the place is hilarious, a labyrinthine network of neon lit corridors and rooms including a Turkish baths. I give you a particularly fine example of their approach to decor in the photo below. I love the red rope protecting the mannequins from the punters; at first I thought it ridiculous, then I realised I’d totally be trying on their outfits, so fair enough.
And so to the restaurant. There’s no sign on the door to say that it actually is the restaurant, so we tentatively open it filled with fear we might walk in on someone’s bedroom. The decor here does not disappoint either. It’s a vast room with the option of low tables or ‘proper tables with chairs’, in the words of the waitress. We of course sit cross legged on a low table. Halfway through the meal I am reminded of AA Gill’s comment that every country which eats their food at such tables has a national dress without a waistband. As it turns out this doesn’t pose much of a problem, because sadly (and it does make me genuinely sad), the food was disappointing.
I wanted to love Kazakh Kyrgyz so much, not least because the restaurant is divided in two by a small pond with a bridge twinkling with blue fairy lights. So ridiculous it’s brilliant. All evening we watched the Russian waitress bob up and down over the curve to music of the kind that is played to accompany Russian dancing, interspersed with Euro pop.
The food looked promising, if spectacularly random. I recognised Turkish, Georgian, Russian and total curve ball dishes. It becomes clear where the restaurant got it’s name; Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were both on the Silk Road, which in turn explains such varied influences in the food. The most exciting for me was the khachapuri, a Georgian bread stuffed with cheese, something I couldn’t get enough of when I visited Georgia earlier this year. Georgian cheese is incredibly salty, we don’t have anything like it here. Even halloumi isn’t as salty as Georgian cheese. I’ve since had a bash at making khachapuri with Kerstin Rodgers, when we cooked a Georgian meal together for her supper club. It wasn’t bad, in fact it was very tasty, but it wasn’t quite right (I note Ottolenghi has a recipe for it in Jerusalem, which I must try). I’ve tried it at Colchis restaurant in Notting Hill, but it wasn’t right there either. At Kazakh Kyrgyz, it was different again; the bread was replaced with a sort of flaky pastry, filled with cheddar, sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with raw onion. Despite its differences to the real thing it was really pleasant and the best of everything we ordered.
From then on it was a bit sad really; an imam bayaldi was half hot, half cold and rather slimy. I struggle to remember what was inside some sort of kibbeh shaped things. Lamb shashlik was a major workout for the jaw. Stuffed vine leaves had clearly been waiting a long time to be eaten but worst of all was a dish of kisir (bulgur wheat with parsley and tomatoes) which immediately fizzed on the tongue. We ummed and ahhed about whether or not that was normal, decided it clearly wasn’t supposed to be fermenting and sent it back. They apologised and admitted the mistake.
And this is the problem faced by a place like Kazakh Kyrgyz; it’s not busy enough to serve such a large menu and some of our food had clearly been prepped for a while. The wine was okay, some Georgian wines on the list, just not very exciting examples. One was VERY sweet and weird (my wine writing is coming on in leaps and bounds I think you’ll agree). All that said, it’s such a hilarious space I’d actually go there just to drink and eat their version of khachapuri. Oh and on Fridays there’s belly dancing and live music. Of course there is.