It can be hard to capture the Italian flavour outside Italy itself. Restaurants worldwide have attempted to do so with varying degrees of success, and even those which don't quite achieve it can still be very popular. Kazakhstan is home to a number of establishments which have decided to go Italian, understandably, because pizza and pasta are about as well-known globally as any other food. But at the same time, as Italians will tell you, when they are on the road it can be very hard to get food as good as that they grew so fond of back home.

Al Fresco is a relatively new restaurant which shares a building with the French-style Eclair downstairs making this a truly European stop. The menu is a good representation of the range of Italian food loved the world over, which when served does not let the side down either. The pizza is well prepared and quite promptly served, and the other options also popular with many of those eating here regularly, including politicians and VIPs. And as the location is very well-placed for those who do work in the Civil Service, it might be fair to say that the food here has no choice but to come up to standards.

Breakfast deals are available too, with the price set at 1,050 Tenge for the four choices, Russian, American, English and French, served from 08:00 till 12:00, at which time lunches take over. The options here range from the Economy Lunch at 1,090 Tenge, with the Business Lunch costing slightly more at 1,290 Tenge.The lunch menu is packed with meat and fish including steaks, duck, sea bass and tender veal. Last ordersfor lunch are taken at 16:00.

General opening hours are 10:00 till 00:00 and the seating area holds 80 people, with different areas offering varying degrees of privacy. The main area is quite open while there are secluded tables and also a small balcony although obviously not used all year round because of the harsh Astana winters. It adds to the choice anyway. Tables seat either couples or up to six or seven with seating comfortable and the atmosphere relaxing. Service is pleasant and the menu is available in English if necessary.

There may be face control applied and an evening dress code, but the ambience is warm and with the free Wi-Fi, people come here for many different reasons. Bring the children for a party and book some of the live entertainment provided for them. Or bring some colleagues, or foreign business visitors for a buffet or a simple coffee break. Al Fresco can easily be on your list of things to do when visiting Astana - maybe a nice break from a day's shopping - or a regular port of call if resident here, simply because as described above, it achieves that Italian essence, to a greater degree, that makes it genuinely feel like an Italian restaurant, not just a place serving pasta.


14, D. Kunayev Street, RC "Nursaya-1", Astana

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