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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
ACE Club: Maadi’s Expat Hangout
The Association of Cairo Expatriates, or the ACE Club for short, first opened in 1998 and is located on a side street next to Victoria Square in Maadi’s Degla neighbourhood. The two-story, cream-coloured villa is surrounded by tall trees and a spacious garden. Inside, a few high-top tables and bar seating are available; but taking a space outside is much more relaxing. Chairs and tables line the garden pathway while the rooftop terrace provides a chilled atmosphere.
The ACE Club is a little more laid-back than most expat clubs; here, the only criteria for membership is a foreign passport of any kind. A year’s membership will cost you US$120 (approx. 700LE) or US$30 (approx. 180LE) for three months. Because the club serves up imported spirits at low prices, if you’re looking for a good drink, it’s a steal.
Serving up the typical pub grub, menu items include some of the following: an all-day breakfast platter including an egg, sausage, bacon, and potatoes for 25LE, a plate of fish and chips that will set you back 30LE, and burgers and pizzas starting at 20LE. The pizzas are usually spot-on crispy, and don’t stray far from the café-style thin-pan crust. Equally as tasty are the burgers with your choice of vegetable toppings and melted cheese.
Most imported liquors and spirits are available at the ACE Club at 10LE a shot. If you’re looking for a mixed drink, expect to pay a little more. For approximately 15LE, a vodka tonic comes poured relatively strong, chilled and with a bit of fresh lemon. When it comes to beer, a Stella costs around 10LE and they do have Heineken on draught. Shisha is also available for 5LE with traditional flavours including apple, grape, and mint.
The ACE Club also hosts private parties including birthdays, wedding receptions, conferences and more. Event catering can also be arranged and discussed at your time of booking.
Bars in Cairo are a dime a dozen these days and have to stand out in order to pull in the ‘right’ clientele. Despite the current economic – and political – climate, Graffiti Bar and Lounge has gallantly opened its doors in the esteemed Four Seasons Nile Plaza hotel in Garden City. The hotel itself is both plush and luxurious, with marble staircases and sumptuous carpets leading the way to the bar’s grand double doors.
After walking down a small corridor lined with colourful aquariums – yes, aquariums – the space opens up and is split into several different sections. There are two different bar areas, one much more impressive than the other, whilst the décor is quirky throughout. From the graffitied walls and unusual chandeliers, to it's huge menus plastered with cartoon-drawn faces of pop culture icons such as John Lennon; it’s quite the sensory feast. In addition to the interesting interior, full length windows show off a mesmerising Nile view.
There are several seating options; high and low tables, as well as large, comfortable leather sofas await you. Our group was allocated a high table with high stools which unfortunately only lined one side, leaving half the party standing – although this did encourage dancing. The crowd seemed to be a mixture of both fashion-conscious youngsters and more mature patrons – the type who might frequent the hotel for business meetings and such.
Throughout the evening, table service was swift and the nibbles – crunchy crisps and salted peanuts – were topped-up regularly. Free jelly shots were also passed around our group once we’d all arrived, before the menus were delivered quickly – though they proved a little difficult to read in the light, which was changing periodically from red to blue.
The drinks menu is vast, as is their exotic-sounding bar food and sushi menu. The bar offers up all the usual and unusual cocktails, along with shots, spirits, wine and a selection of beers. Shared pitchers are also available for 250LE. There is only a small selection of non-alcoholic cocktails – or mocktails if you will – and sodas, although ordering a normal cocktail minus the alcohol isn't be a problem.
On the occasional visit to the bar, we didn’t have to wait long to be served, although the bar staff seemed a little confused when giving prices off the top of their heads.
We ordered a piña colada (75LE), a margherita (75LE), a glass of Omar Khayyam and Cape Bay white wine (55LE/each), several tequila shots (70LE/each) and multiple Sakara Gold beers (35LE). The white wine and beers were served cold, as they should, while the tequilas came with the mandatory salt and lime pieces. The piña colada was deliciously sweet and creamy with a subtle aftertaste of rum. The margherita was also mixed well, with the alcoholic kick blending in with the lemon flavour; however, the thick salt rim around the glass was too much and enough to make our eyes water.
Early in the evening, the music choice was far more chilled than we had anticipated, but began warming up before the main attraction during our visit, Vio Cello. The female Lebanese trio is made up of two extremely talented electric violinists and a cellist, which drew in a crowd of mature men – which made us question what crowd the bar is aiming for. In between their fast paced performances, the DJ took over with up-to-date commercial tracks which most of the younger crowd seemed to enjoy. Like the eclectic decor, however, the overall atmosphere seemed to be one of confusion.
We commend the efforts in originality of Graffiti, and this, coupled with well-mixed cocktails and fabulous service, could well land this bar in a competitive spot for cliquey Cairo crowds.