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New Cairo, Cairo, Egypt.
Blue Rose Bar: Gaudy Bar at the Dusit Thani Lakeview Cairo
Like some kind of abandoned post-apocalyptic wilderness, Road 90 in Fifth Settlement isn’t the warmest area in Cairo. Half-finished buildings and a distinct lack of foot traffic on the roads might wane on the draw to visitors, but there are a few attractions that out-of-towners, so to speak, should make the trip for.
One such place is the Dusit Thani Lakeview Cairo. The Thai hotel group has several chains across Thailand and the Philippines, and the Cairo branch hosts a number of impressive bars and restaurants. We were very impressed with restaurant Ruen Thai, and so we were excited by the sound of the Blue Rose Bar.
The lobby of the hotel is large, bright and airy, and is accentuated by several pieces of peculiar post-modern sculptures. Taking the corridor to the right of the entrance will lead you to both aforementioned spots.
Stepping into the Blue Rose Bar is a little bit of a shock; the subtle whites and beiges of the lobby and corridor are blown out by the bar’s dark and aluminous colour theme. The space is anchored in the middle by the square bar, which is surrounded by stools. Seating areas are spaced out, and flanked by giant glass panels featuring abstract rose-images, and almost-ceiling-high mirrors and curtains.
At one end of the room, four small screens collectively show scientifically questionable animations of the earth and the moon shifting in space, in the company of twinkling and shooting stars. On the other wall is a much more impressive wall-instalation, where a giant carved rose dominates the whole space.
The long, thin menu opens up like an accordion to reveal a whole host of options. Beer is available from 26LE upwards; with Corona setting you back at 65LE and a glass of Heineken draught at 32LE. A range of mocktails are available at 30LE, and every type of spirit is available, although no wine is listed on the menu.
A rather strong helping of gin made the dry martini (60LE) very strong – exactly how we like our drinks – while Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite drink the Cosmopolitan (70LE) was pretty pedestrian and had an unbalanced taste.
A cranberry margarita (70LE), while completely unobjectionable, made the salt on the rim as dangerous to its drinker as pretzels are to George Bush. There were some unpleasant choking fits, and the salt also found its way to the bottom of the glass, which in turn led to more choking. At the time of visit, the bar was completely empty during an 11PM visit, and the hotel as a whole seemed pretty deserted.After the initial shock of the decor, the feel of the bar winds down to a pretty unexciting mood. There was little to keep us there for longer than a few drinks, and we doubt that we would be anymore infused at the idea of spending a whole night there if more people had been there. The layout and feel of the whole place wouldn’t invite you to mingle; you can’t really see more than featureless figures at a few metres away and clumsily placed pillars in the middle of the room would make it difficult to be the social butterfly you might want to be. This is much more of a place to relax in than it is a hopping, happening nightspot.
It’s a pretty psychedelic setting for a drink, and the slightly confused decor is a charm; the warm orange/brown lighting of lamps is peculiar in the context of the colour scheme, and the square-patterned carpet will look like a moving optical-illusion if you stare at it after a few drinks. Prices are generally reasonable, though; and the hotel as a whole has a decent relaxed ambiance.
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.