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Mohandiseen, Cairo, Egypt.
British Community Association: British Pub Culture in Egypt
Where in Egypt can you find billiards and football, draft beer and steak pie under one roof? With three branches in Cairo, the British Community Association (BCA) offers the best of British pub culture in Egypt. The Mohandiseen branch is the perfect spot for a relaxing night out with a few friends.
There is not much to the decor of the Mohandiseen club house. The atmosphere is less about the interior decoration– think simple dining tables with cream walls on the first floor, and wainscoting with perennial Christmas decorations upstairs– and more about all that the location has to offer.
A garden in the back of the club house hosts occasional dance parties as well as weekly cookouts, the first floor splits its space between a dining room, a bar and a dart board, while the second floor is the sports zone and features a second bar and a dart board, a billiards table, big screen for football matches and high-top tables. On a regular night at the BCA in Mohandiseen when quiz nights or karaoke aren’t the main event, the club house is laid-back, the music is easy and the food is delicious.
The double-edged sword of the BCA is that it is not entirely open to the public. To enjoy the club house and other privileges of the British Community Association, such as renting out books and videos, a yearly membership fee of 250LE is required. Membership is not necessary, though, if you have a card-holding friend; members can bring friends along for dinner, drinks, and pub games for a 20LE-entrance fee. Once you’re inside, you can buy drink tickets for 50LE or 100LE, and bartenders will mark off about 20LE for each mixed drink from the well-stocked bar and 16LE for a Sakkara.
The club house menu features everything from full English breakfasts to hot dogs and BLTs. Sandwiches range from 15LE to 28LE and are simple yet sizable. A chalkboard featuring the day’s specials usually features items such as fish and chips, roast pork, steak pie and other British comfort foods, which are mostly priced under 40LE.
For an entirely laid-back evening of British comforts without pretentiousness, the British Community Association’s Mohandiseen club house is a perfect spot in Cairo.
On a quiet square, off the busy Mohy El Din Abu El Ezz Street, a mysterious, dark, basement door conceals the loud buzz of excitement from the crowded bar beyond it. The gold walls contrasted with deep reds and blacks exudes a majestic aura and the large mirrors and gargoyle type masks adorning the walls continued to add to the otherworldly atmosphere.
We swiftly headed to the monumental, fully stocked bar and picked up one of the thick, maroon and gold menus. The pages were printed on textured, organic paper and the writing was accompanied by detailed, supernatural illustrations. The first page was dedicated to an introduction, comparing the chef's and barmen to alchemists as they are able to transform standard, raw materials into 'gastronomical gold'.
With the intention of ordering food, we decided to first order a couple of cocktails; one fruity Cinderella (30LE) and a slightly bitter Virgin Mary (30LE). As their hot drink section is almost non-existent, Alchemy is not the place to haunt if you're hoping for a cosy cup of tea – not that we're complaining.
The food menu is full of inventive, avant garde dishes with an assembly of 'brews' (soups), 'sprightly greens' (salads), 'virtuous temptations' (small bites), 'golden fantasies' (mains) and 'heavenly sins' (desserts).
We requested vols-au-vent (30LE) to start, followed by veal chops (140LE) and stuffed chicken breast (75LE). Although a little tepid, the vols-au-vent were superb; crispy, soft and smooth in all the right places. The chicken also arrived slightly cold, but the stuffing exploded with a medley of flavours. This dish was served with a fresh, spicy salad which was indeed, too spicy to consume.
The veal chops didn't materialise for a long time, either because they were forgotten about or because of the kitchen was overwhelmed with orders. However, when the dish did arrive, we were impressed by the colossal, tender veal chop and the tasty dressing but dismayed that its bed of chunky chips was stone cold.
Alchemy is an original, incomparable and bewitching venue which is unquestionably worth visiting. This places encourages a young, vibrant and sophisticated crowd and would be a great place to socialise at the weekends.