Will you be feeling hungry after a day at the Baku 2015 European Games? The capital boasts a varied selection of eateries and international menus providing a wide choice of dining options. We recommend you try local classics pilaf (plov) and kebab, tuck into an authentic Italian carbonara or enjoy a juicy Argentinean steak, and here is our guide to the best restaurants located close to the European Games venues.


The City Cluster venues (Baku Sports Hall, Freedom Square, Tofiq Bayramov Stadium, Heydar Aliyev Arena) form a loose ring around Baku’s central Fountain Square. The popular meeting spot has McDonald’s glowing at one end, KFC at the other, with trees, fountains, paved walkways and European fashion chain stores in between.

Cobbled streets and narrow roads branch out from here, leading to several bars, restaurants, pubs and clubs, where locals, expats and tourists flock for food and drinks. Street vendors serve blinis, qutabs and kebabs for those on the go. If you prefer a sit-down mean, you could have pie and chips at Finnegan’s Irish pub (8 Abdulkarim Alizadeh), Lebanese at Beyrut (19 Taghiyev St) or a superb curry at the … erm … Mexican-themed Panchos (24a Tarlan Aliyarbeyov Street). Those below have made our top ten.


(15a Mardanov Qardshlari, +994 51 488 62 82; Traditional Azerbaijani and European) For your first taste of Azerbaijani food, come to Masa. The menu features some of the country’s best-known dishes with fresh, clean flavours, well presented cuisine and served by some of the most attentive and respectful local waiters. We recommend the mangal salad (chopped, smoked-vegetable salad) to scoop up with the warm bread selection, before dushpara (tiny meat-filled pasta parcels served in a clear herb broth – add a dash of the apple vinegar) followed by a juicy lule kebab (lamb kebab), accompanied by a tart pomegranate dip. Here, the national cuisine shines in its authentic form with a relatively modest bill to pay at the end.


(Rasul Rza 47A; +994 55 629 91 27 or +994 55 969 45 64; Georgian) It’s got to be the best Georgian this side of the border, a popular choice among the expat crowd who count it among their firm favourites. Not least because of the ever-cheerful waiter Emin breezing happily between tables and Ilia strumming on guitar. Try the tbilisuri salad (radish, chicken, herbs, cream), lobio soup (bean soup served in a clay pot), and comforting and filling kachapuri (stuffed dough with a choice of fillings). Oh, and have at least one khinkali (dumplings) – eaten by the plateful by Georgians. Wash it all down with traditional Saperavi wine, Natakhtari beer or fizzy Natakhtari lemonade, which tastes more like liquid pear drops.


For the next set of restaurants head east along the boulevard and you’ll reach Sahil Tower, a trio of Saffron-owned restaurants housing a different theme and atmosphere on three levels. We like: TOSCA CAFÉ & ENOTECA

(34 Neftchilar Prospect, Seaside Boulevard, level one; +994 12 404 82 12; Italian) At the bottom of the tower, you’ll find Tuscan and Umbrian food in a chilled-out setting inspired by olive groves, fig orchards and Sangiovise vineyards. Tosca gathers mothers with buggies, friends meeting for a casual catch-up and city workers winding down post-work. Sit inside the cool, airy interior or outside on the decking in the shade of huge umbrellas.

Pizza is popular here, the wood-fired oven pizza delivering perfect thin and crispy crusts. For a quick caffeine fix pop over to the Espresso Bar, and for a sweet, cool treat head to the gelateria, where an ice-cream chef mixes sweet and zingy gelato flavours with nuts and fruits on an iced marble slab. Add a little more decadence with an authentic Italian classic aperativo : Negroni, Bellini or Sgroppino.


(34 Neftchilar Prospect, Seaside Boulevard, level three; +994 12 404 82 12; South American) Take the lift to the top floor of Sahil Tower and you’ll step into the Amazonian plane of Pasifico. Featuring wooden tribal figurines, an iridescent green-tiled bar snaking through the centre and aquamarine lighting, it’s late to open (7pm Fri, Sat) and equally late to close (4am Fri, Sat) with a nightly DJ whirring up a glittering dance crowd both inside and out, on the wood-decked balcony overlooking Baku Bay.

Steak-lovers will be in for a treat, with an Argentinean Head Chef Martin Quintana barbecuing cuts of meat the South American way. The menu is also inspired by Peruvian sushi, Brazilian salads and Chilean seafood, combined with fresh-grown flavours of local herbs and fruits. The imported produce from South America and Europe, and quality preparation, means prices are at the higher end here.


On the other side of Fountain Square is top of the tourist list Icherisheher (Old City). If you have a spare few hours between Baku 2015 events, don’t miss the chance to wander its maze-like streets, visit the UNESCO heritage site of Maiden Tower with it’s many myths and fables, and the 15th century Shirvanshah’s Palace, with souvenir sellers trading carpets, scarfs and local artwork. The wooden cabins near the Double Gates are a great – if busy – place to grab a quick chay (tea) and warm, tandoor-baked lavash. But for something fancier, our Old City favourite is:


(Sultan Inn Boutique Hotel, Boyuk Gala 20; +994 12 437 23 05 10; Azerbaijani and continental) Head up to the rafters of Sultan Inn Boutique Hotel and gaze out over the picturesque Icherisheher and Caspian Sea while you dine. With soft furnishings and plenty of natural light coming through its retractable walls, this is a comfortable spot to while away the hours.

A pricier option for traditional Azerbaijani cuisine than Masa, it’s worth the money for both food and view, with a varied menu from appetisers of hummus and chicken pâté to chicken breast ala provençale with eggplant, and duck confit with potato gratin and orange sauce. We recommend the steaming fisinjan pilaf with chicken, walnuts and tangy plums. It also offers a selection of seafood including sturgeon straight from the Caspian Sea, with cherry plum, pomegranate or tomato and garlic sauce.


The Flag Square Cluster comprises two concentrated venue spots, with the Baku Aquatic Center, Water Polo Arena and Beach Arena south of the flag pole and the Basketball Arena and Crystal Hall right next to it. There are two top choices for food here:


(Gurban Abbasov Street, The National Flag Square; +994 12 404 82 17; Spanish) Don’t be put off if you can’t find it at first but this warm, vibrant Andalusian restaurant is worth making the effort for. The uplifting sunglow colours combined with the classic wood barrel tables and solid roof beams provide a Spanish haven (imported directly from Spain, this is a replica by Jesus Mancho of his Marbella restaurant) for an instant holiday feel – and taste. The endless, varied menu offers reams of tapas ranging from king prawns, octopus, goose liver and traditional Spanish ratatouillle, with plenty of meat including lamb, veal and oxtail on the chargrilled main courses.

Lighter offerings include a delicious “el pisto tradicional” (ratatouille) and “ensalada mixta de la huerta” (mixed salad) with lots of chorizo and cheese, but the star of the show is the classic chateaubriand (for two people). On top of that there is an abundance of specials with ingredients ranging from black pudding to spider crab, and the wine list nods to Malaga and Priorat. It’s heavy on the wallet, but serves to lighten the spirit providing friendly staff and a vacation down the road. You might even catch them hosting a flamenco night.


(Shivkat Alakbarova Street 1; +994 12 404 82 11; Pan Asian) Chinar trees have sheltered this well-known meeting place for decades. The original trees are preserved on an outdoor terrace, while the rest of the décor has been revamped by London’s Blue Skies Hospitality into a contemporary dragon-themed, fiery-lit sushi restaurant, with an open ‘theatre’ kitchen featuring a steam and noodle station, charcoal satay grill, wood-burning oven, duck oven and Chinese turbo woks.

Recline outside between bamboo screens and the tinkling water feature in the Bamboo Bar and Tea House with Asian tea, snacks and delicious pastries. Main dishes include Atlantic black cod in spicy miso, wok-seared Angus beef with Asian greens, and seafood hot pot with shiitake mushrooms and truffle soy, as well as curries, noodles, sashimi and salads. The Dragon Bar offers premium spirits and the speciality Mar-Tea-Ni cocktail. Upstairs on the DJ mezzanine British singer Craig David has spun the decks a couple of times.


As there isn’t an abundance of choice in this north-east area of Baku, home to the National Stadium and National Gymnastics Arena, why not try out the Soviet-era metro opened in 1967 with its rickety carriages – only 20 qepiks (0.20AZN) a ride – and breeze straight down to: 28 MALL, FOOD COURT, 4TH FLOOR (Intersection of Azadlig Avenue and Shamsi Badalbeyli Street; various cuisines) Hop on Line 1 (red) at Koroglu towards Icherisheher and go five stops to 28 May, right beside 28 May mall. Once inside, head to the 4th floor and you’ll find yourself in a packed food court with 16 casual dining counters forming an oval, so even if you and your friends or family are divided on choice you can all eat together at the chairs and tables in the centre.

Fast food options span Asian (Asia), Lebanese (Le Beirut), Georgian (Piro Smani), Italian (Fresh Italian Kitchen) and Russian (Kalinka). Brightly lit with high ceilings it’s busy and bustling, with additional seating on the wide balcony often taken by chattering groups of friends and young children. It’s also a great spot for a shopping pit stop - at coffee shops Second Cup or Gloria Jean’s - once you’ve browsed the 70 or so international and local fashion chains, electrical, department and homeware stores below.


Along the Bibi Heybat coastal road, past the old ‘James Bond’ Oil Fields (beneath the Bibi Heybat mosque) and towards Qobustan, is the BMX Velo Park. It is situated close to the dramatic Bibi Heybat Mosque - which boasts as beautiful views of the Caspian waters as it does of the emerald and gold tomb inside - and also an acclaimed fish restaurant nearby:


(57 Namig Guliev Street; +99450 753 47 47; European) Opened in 2008, Derya Fish House is going strong as Baku’s best-known fish restaurant. Relaxed and often crowded, Derya offers fresh fish and other seafood dishes either pan-fried or cooked on a charcoal brazier. Non fish-eaters can enjoy chicken and other meat dishes with chips on the side and a choice of salad appetisers to start.

With capacity for hundreds of people in three halls, including Panorama Hall and Pier Hall which stretches out into the sea, the views of the Caspian are front-row and fabulous. Seating is outside at benches in the open air or, for more privacy, in a private booth. Kids have fun in a colourful play pen and boats are available for a trip on the sea. Aim to go when the sun is setting. Service can be slow so best to go when you have time. Near the Shooting Centre and the Mountain Bike VeloPark you are right beside the Titanic-shaped “Avtovokzal” (International Bus Station). Here, your best bet for choice might be to hop on one of the centre-bound buses, where you’ll find plenty of different options to satisfy your hunger, in more up-market fashion (see The City Cluster section). A taxi to the same place should cost no more than 5AZN.


Alternatively, 12 km north-east of Baku sits Bilgah Beach where the Triathlon and Cycling Time Trial are taking place. As the months heat up, the city-dwellers hot-foot it by the bus- and carload to this part of the coast, namely to either of two retreats – one of which is the glitzy Jumeriah Bilgah Beach Hotel, the other has just opened a new, creative solution to restaurant and private dining:


Amburan Beach Club and Winter Garden The Amburan resort boasts the best beach in Baku, and is the perfect city escape with fresh air, a cooling sea and relaxing beach and poolside area. On the food front, the beach resort offers the contemporary Lemon Bar & Grill, Bianco Café & Lounge, and Amburan Restaurant, but on a more theatrical level, we love the year-round Winter Garden. Not only does the subsection house a theatre and cabaret in classic style, and ‘arty’ café, it also offers 10 private dining rooms whisking you to five stylistic realms: Morocco, classic Azerbaijan, France (chic), France (birdcage) and Soho – perfect for small parties and gatherings. Backed by Saffron Hospitality (Tosca, Pasifico) you’ll experience the same thematic intrigue and high quality food and service that sets all their restaurants apart.


The Canoe Sprint is taking place in Azerbaijan’s fourth largest city Mingachevir, 18km west of Baku. When we visited, eating options were limited to traditional teahouses – with equally limited menus – lining the Kura River. Dining here might be a more haphazard, less refined experience than in the capital, but embrace the chance for a closer taste of regional life, sink your teeth into a lamb kebab, white cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, fresh greens and bread, and wash it down with one of Azerbaijan’s most celebrated pastimes: drinking home-grown chay (tea) over a spoonful of sweet preserve - made with white cherry, plum, blackberries or other fruits - while the boaters battle it out for the race.