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Garden City, Cairo, Egypt.
Chocolate Lounge: Garden City's Quiet Chocolate Affair
In search of some novelty dining in Cairo’s impressive array of eating options, we recently happened upon the Chocolate Lounge in the Kempinski Nile Hotel. The restaurant and café is said to blend high-grade imported chocolates with an exclusive European experience.
The Chocolate Lounge is at the end of a straight walk through the small hotel lobby, with a spacious ceiling and overhead skylight, and glimpses of the hotel’s two restaurants Blue and Osmanly from overhanging balconies.
The hotel is quaint, although the lobby-like design lacks any intimacy: at the time of our visit, the open entryways prompted several guests to stroll through the vacant tables in search of somewhere else.
The two waiters on duty formed a duo of impeccably prompt service, keeping a watchful eye on the few occupied tables throughout the evening. Our choices of a steak sandwich (around 55LE) and a house burger (around 65LE) arrived in dainty arrangements, with coleslaw and fresh green salads lovingly placed onto porcelain side plates.
While the items appeared standard on the menu, the food itself was above average. Sophisticated flavours of onions and black pepper paired with sautéed shitake mushroom and delicates slices of braised beef made the steak sandwich memorable to the last bite.The house burger was accompanied by a fried egg, pickles, onions, tomatoes and spring greens, with crispy-thin cut fries wrapped in paper on the side.
Having proven itself an adequate contender in the business of entrées, it was now time to move onto the desserts. Several samples of the lounge’s namesake products can be found in the display cases, where whole bricks of white, dark and milk chocolate are on show. Flavours of chocolates vary from anise to lavender to Clementine. Behind the double bar, copper hot chocolate devices gleam next to espresso machines and at least one chocolate fountain, which was out of commission at the time of our visit.
Aside from the pure chocolate squares; tortes and cakes were also spotted, from a decadent flourless chocolate cake to mini-fruit and custard tortes. Upon our waiter’s recommendation, we ordered servings of the Cairo opera. The multi-tiered chocolate cake confection consists of fine layers of dark chocolate, cocoa cream, chocolate cake with a marbleised chocolate shell. Samples of the lavender and Clementine chocolates yielded a curious mix of herbal infusions; while the dark cocoa nearly but not quite overpowered the hints of citrus and lavender.
With the full-course meal costing a little less than 300LE, we deemed the Chocolate Lounge a novel, albeit a somewhat solitary dining experience. While the atmosphere was lacking, the cuisine was excellent and light and the chocolates were pleasant. The Chocolate Lounge is missing a little spark and spice, perhaps; but it is most definitely worth a visit, perhaps during daylight hours.
Remember when Cairo was crazy for cupcakes? Nola was one of the first and main names behind the trend; but as with all trends, people can quickly get tired of them – something that has seen Nola introduce cheesecake, brownies, and cronuts to their menu over the years and this year, they’ve added even more
Nola’s newest items has seen the bakery introduce mini sandwiches, chocolate stones, truffles, cake pops, mini lava cakes and Belgian hot chocolate, though not everything was available when we paid the Mohandiseen branch a visit.
We started our way to out sugar coma with a Mini Chocolate Volcano Cake (27LE); a chocolate cake that’s cooked and served in a bowl, with a valley in the centre that’s filled with thick chocolate pudding, before it’s all dusted with cocoa powder. Despite the very basic, un-Nola presentation, the cake had a great spongy texture and handled the luscious melted chocolate pudding perfectly, while the cocoa powder reduced the overall sweetness to a nice balance.
We also tried the white chocolate version (28LE), but found that it wasn’t exactly what was promised. What should have been a white chocolate cake had no white chocolate flavour whatsoever, but the white chocolate shavings on top and the melted white chocolate pudding pool in the middle took care of that. Although it was overly sweet compared to the other one, there was a little bit more to the flavours and textural contrast.
For many, two cakes would be more than enough sugar intake for one day, but we also left the shop with a Chocolate Pop (9LE) and a Red Velvet Pop (8LE). Wrapped in a plastic cover with a mini bowtie, and served on a lollipop stick, the chocolate pop was moist chocolate cake with a fudgy texture, coated with chocolate shell. We enjoyed the flavours, but we’ve tried better in Cairo and there was nothing remarkable about it.
The red velvet pop had a different problem, though; the red velvet cake is coated in red velvet chocolate and had a very strong artificial flavour, which most likely came from the red chocolate shell or the red food colouring in the cake.
We also tried Nola’s hot chocolate (12.50LE) from the serve-yourself station and it’s possibly the best we’ve tried in a long time. Made with Belgian chocolate, it boasts bold flavour and a perfect thick consistency, too.
We’ve come to consider Nola as the maker of the cutest and most colourful cupcakes in town, but the new items don’t follow suit on that front. Luckily, the items we were able to try made up for it when it came to the most important thing flavour. The new items are fun, varied and ever so chocolaty.