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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Chit Chat: Simple Bar at the Safir Hotel in Dokki
After Safir's main bar, Gossip Lounge, closed earlier this year, Chit Chat, which was originally a café, took up the mantle of the Dokki hotel's bar. From outside, the bar looks sophisticated and omits a sociable atmosphere with large parasols shading tables big enough to seat a family gathering or a celebration with friends. Inside, however, the bar turned out to be very small, with a corner allocated to a drinks area, and a room for about six separate parties to sit.
Chit Chat is stocked with spirits, wine, beer and soft drinks – of both local and foreign brands. Beers cost 30LE and spirits will cost around 55LE, while a glass of wine goes for around 45LE. We were in the mood for cocktails and ordered a Latino Long Island Iced Tea (65LE), a Planter's Punch (65LE), a Bloody Mary (65LE) and Cuba Libre (65LE).
The drinks took a suspiciously long time to come, so we were expecting wonders when they arrived. What turned up eventually didn't look incredible, but upon first sip, the Planters Punch proved itself; crushed ice floated on a blood-red orange juice which tasted sharp and fresh – the zingy taste was well complemented by the dark rum. The iced tea also left an impression being a fizzy mix of vodka, rum and tequila on crushed ice. However, the Bloody Mary did not impress and was too heavy on the Tabasco, while the Cuba Libre (65LE) was bland, but refreshing.
By about midnight, the entertainment kicked into gear and overpowering loud music burst from the speakers, meaning any 'chit chat' we were planning on having was cut short. While Gossip Lounge had been known to host the odd event, Chit Chat only seems to offer a singer who belts out a few songs to a CD backing track, looking just as awkward as the few tables of hotel guests listening.
The place was freezing and many customers were wearing coats – something we hadn't counted on needing. However, this meant the bar was well ventilated and didn't suffer from a fog of smoke. The bar is neat, if bland, and looks executive, although the atmosphere is quite relaxed. The service was not very accommodating and it took a painfully long time to have an order taken or a drink served, despite the bar not being very busy during our visit.
The hotel itself is huge, but the bar feels forgotten. A few of the hotel guests will make the trip down for a quiet one before bed, but it's not a place to go out of the way for.
A perfect hangout spot can be hard to find in Cairo. Though there’s certainly no lack of cafes, restaurants and bars, it’s simply difficult to find a place that balances entertainment, food and a sense of comfort all at the same time with venues often sacrificing one aspect to keep the rest as high as possible.
Hidden away in the Walk at Beverly Hills,6th of October City, lies Bricks; a simple venue with an emphasis on being a hangout spot with good food. The outdoor area is filled with modernised version of Ahwa chairs painted in white along with wooden top tables with metal centres offering cosy setting.
Bricks also boasts a relatively small indoor area with the same previously mentioned chairs and a ‘PlayStation Corner’ for anyone who’s into gaming – for free – alongside a huge black graffiti-decorated wall quoting famous Beatles song, Come together.
With a relaxed atmosphere, Bricks offer a chilled out mood their seating arrangements, while the availability of playing cards and backgammon, as well as a screen to show matches, it certainly checks two of the boxes for an all-inclusive hangout spot.
After taking a seat outside and looking through the menus we opted for the Mozzarella sticks (35LE) as an appetiser, as well as the Classic Burger (45LE), the Mushroom Burger (55 LE) and a Chilly Hotdog (40LE) with extra cheese (5LE) for our main dishes.
Arriving only a few minutes later, the appetiser came as four mozzarella sticks with a mayo and sweet chilli sauce; the sticks had a satisfyingly crunchy outer shell with a tender gooey cheese centre that was enhanced even further after dipping it into the sweet chilli sauce for an extra spicy sweet aftertaste.
Our main dishes arrived moments later in wooden framed plates accompanied with a small bowl of pickles, alongside some fries. The Mushroom burger had a large burger patty on top of some lettuce and mayo, topped by Swiss cheese and large mushroom pieces and had some curly fries on the side (4LE).
The curly fries were well seasoned and would rival that of Hardee’s, with a crispy exterior and tender hot interior making us uncontrollably eat one after the other. As for the burger, it had a high quality, pure beef flavour with a barbequed aftertaste, working well with the slightly tangy cheese and the saltiness of the mushroom, making it a well-rounded sandwich.
The classic burger followed the same pattern as the mushroom burger in quality, and had lettuce and tomatoes, but was a bit dry. However, that was quickly solved by adding the mayo and sweet chilli sauce.
Moving on to the Chilli Hotdog, it came in a large hotdog bun, topped with some mustard and smothered with chilli, extra cheese and slices of onion alongside some French fries.
Although the fries lacked a bit of seasoning, it was easily fixed with a bit of salt, and were great, similar to ones from other fast food restaurants like Burger king or McDonald’s; crunchy on the outside, soft and hot on the inside.
As for the hotdog itself, it had the traditional familiar hotdog taste with an extra kick from the mustard, while the onions made the flavour of the chilli pop, making the sandwich one of the highlights of the evening.
We also tried the Peanut Butter Milkshake (30LE), which arrived in a tall glass with a straw. Though rich with peanut butter flavour, it was a bit light texture-wise, and could have been all round better if was a bit thicker.
Overall, our visit to Bricks was a pleasant one. With great food and excellent, attentive staff, it makes for a good hang-out spot for both groups and individuals by keeping things relatively simple and letting the atmosphere and food talk for themselves.