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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Kings Bar: Hotel Bar with Baladi Vibes in Downtown Cairo
The borsa area is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas in Downtown Cairo. It's clean with even pavements, the buildings are well-preserved and the area is rarely crowded. Exactly how we like it. One of the landmark buildings in this area is the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It was designed by Baehler, the architect of the La Bodega and Aperitivo building in Zamalek.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel is one of those former Cairo landmarks once famous for their grandeur and glory. Nowadays, not much of that grandeur remains. Kings Bar is located on the ground floor right after the reception. The reception is actually pretty nice and the library next to the bar looks quite tempting for an afternoon read.
At the time of this reviewer’s visit (weeks before Christmas) the hotel was wrapped up in tacky, shiny Christmas decor including a Santa doll in the beak of an eagle. If we were children we'd probably have recurring nightmares about Santa being devoured by an eagle. Speaking of nightmares, the Kings Bar's interior is a little disturbing with its brown yellowish decor and guns hanging on the wall next to extremely dark paintings in desperate need of cleaning.
Kings Bar is easily comparable to a baladi bar but then located in a hotel, which means it’s not as crowded but prices are still very reasonable. Unfortunately, they only offer beer, whiskey and vodka - all local. A bottle of Heineken, served with an ice-cold glass, costs only 15LE.
Excited about the low prices, we decided to go all out and order a vodka and apple. Never in this town have we received less vodka than in this bar. It was a measly drip and not worth the 12LE we had to pay for it. The apple juice was served on the side in a Juhayna carton, which we squeezed out into our drink through the straw. Because we are people with a great sense of humour, we saw the fun in all of this and actually enjoyed our stay. As soon as we sat down we were presented with a bowl of termis. The more drinks we ordered; the more food arrived at the table such as cucumbers and cheese.
However, we didn’t enjoy our trip to the toilet. The staff seems to believe that flooding the toilet with water and then not drying it up will keep it clean for more time. If this were an actual baladi bar, a toilet like this would have been great, but we expected more from a hotel.
If you’re in the area and crave a cheap, low-key and hassle-free drink, then Kings Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel is a perfect spot. However, if you want something more sophisticated, or something more baladi, then lots of other options are available in the area.
With the wide array of restaurants and eateries to choose from in Cairo, it’s always interesting to see how some of these venues adapt to Ramadan requirements and schedules. While some adopt special set-menus for the Holy Month, others transform themselves into full-on kheyam for that extra edge in the Ramadan dining experience. However, with so many out there, what separates one from the rest?
Zamalek favourite, The Lemon Tree and Co, doesn’t lack for buzz and has proven to be a heavyweight in the Cairene nightlife scene. Their Ramadan kheima, Lemonada, located atop the Imperial boat, shares that very same buzz, so we couldn’t resist going there for sohour.
As we walked in, we were taken aback by the bewitching décor and alluring air to the place. Gorgeous lanterns and potted plants were strewn around on ceilings, tables and walls creating a dimly lit, yet irresistible, aura. Pieces of fabric cascaded overhead, which, in addition to the mesmerising music – which they have mixed exclusively for them – completes what we loved the most about Lemonada: the ambiance.
We were seated at a high table, which proved to be a bit uncomfortable as time went by, with a great view of all the colourful lights of the feluccas in the Nile. Whilst browsing through the drinks menu, we thought to ourselves, we can’t be at Lemonada and not order lemonade. So we opted for just that (20LE) and some peach ice tea (28LE), too. The lemonade was a perfect balance of not too sweet, and not too sour, a match surprisingly hard to find these days. The ice tea could have been a little colder, but it was quite flavoursome nonetheless.
As we were being handed the food menu, we couldn’t help but notice how attentive and friendly the staff was; we were quite apprehensive that, in the sohour hustle, they wouldn’t be and, fortunately, we were proven wrong. For appetisers, we chose the Kobeba Lava (42LE), Classic Falafel (26LE) and Butter Paprika Sweet Corn (32LE). The Kobeba, stuffed with cheese, was a delightful twist on a Ramadan favourite and we very much enjoyed how the cheese didn’t overpower the Kobeba – as we thought it might. The Falafel, on the other hand, were a bit bland and lacked that classic Falafel crunch, but were good once coupled with warm bread. The Sweet Corn was as it should be, buttery and golden, and though the paprika was subtle, it definitely added to the overall flavour.
For the main course, we decided to sample some of their Feteer. With so many options, we picked the Chicken Rosemary Feteer and the Soujok Feteer (78LE each). The Chicken Rosemary was delectable, with hints of rosemary marrying nicely with the chicken and cheese. The Sojouk was equally scrumptious; the pomegranate reduction on top was strange at first, but proved to be a great flavour pairing with the bell peppers and sojouk.
Before dessert, we were craving some shisha, so we ordered some Bluemist (35LE) from the hilarious and amiable designated Shisha guy, and he did not let us down with either flavour or coal-maintenance. Now, for dessert; we had Zalabya Yonani (48LE) and Mixed Berry Madness (52LE). The Zalabya, though we would have liked it to be a little warmer, was quite delicious, the ice cream adding a nice, cool, element and completing the dish. The berry concoction, meanwhile, was an explosion of sweet berry heaven over a bed of meringue, topped with a scoop silky smooth ice cream; we would definitely recommend it if you have a sweet tooth.
Overall, though the prices were a bit steep, the night was quite enjoyable, and we would definitely go again.