Downtown Cairo never surprises us with its random selection of baladi bars. From one end of the neighbourhood to the other, you can always stumble upon hidden watering holes and hotel night spots where you can have a quiet evening and knock back a few.

On the ground floor of the rustic Excelsior Hotel on Talaat Harb Street is Excelsior Bar, a small, dim-lit bar laden with a cursive glowing sign and big windows looking out onto the street. The bar covers an entire corner of Talaat Harb Street and Adly Street, making it difficult to miss.

Taken over what this reviewer can only assume was a 1950s diner, Excelsior contains dozens of small tables and replicated street lamps for lighting. The old Polaroids lining the entrance left this reviewer wondering about the bar in its heyday and the patrons that once frequented it.

By the looks of things, a few patrons seemed to be everyday regulars, just there for their beer or cup of coffee. A few couples were scattered around as well, so Excelsior is indeed women-friendly.

Waiters are dressed in traditional black-and-white uniforms and are quick to serve you without any hassle. Setting the title of ‘bar’ aside, Excelsior’s still got that diner-esque atmosphere, where the menu primarily consists of food and caffeinated options, including sandwiches (12LE to 15LE), salads (7LE to 12LE) and coffees (7LE to 12LE). If you’re just looking for a snack, bowls of complimentary peanuts and seeds are available on the tabletops.

The drinks menu lists juice and alcoholic beverages including Stella (12LE), Heineken (15LE), Meister Max, ID Edge and Omar Khayyam wine (18LE per glass). Beers come served with the appreciated addition of a nicely chilled glass on the side, while our glass of wine was just cold enough.

For 12LE, we had to help ourselves to a banana split; served in a quintessential dessert bowl and filled with strawberry, mango and vanilla ice cream. A little iced over, the ice cream didn’t do much for us but the baby puffs of cream for decor and banana slices were more satisfying to devour. Other ice cream options included milkshakes and sundaes.

After all is said and done, Excelsior reminded us more of a lunch spot than a watering hole. If a late lunch and beer is your thing, you might really like this venue; just don’t judge a book by its cover.