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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.
Anytime a new bar in Cairo emerges, there’s a palpable buzz that spreads like wildfire amongst the capital’s nightlife lovers – but not many have quite matched that of the Lemon Tree & Co. Located on the Imperial Boat in Zamalek, the Nile-side venue aims to fuse a laid-back, Mediterranean summer vibe, with an air of sophistication.
Situated on the top deck, the decor is colourful in every sense, but tasteful, with sorbet-yellow shades, copious amounts of greenery and comfortable seating arrangements. Walking in on a week night, we were surprised to be told there were no available tables, despite several remaining empty for the duration of our visit.
Offered a space perched on the end of the bar, we were largely ignored by the large contingent of staff in the dining area, often resorting to shouting and waving to grab their attention.
From the vast drinks menu, we ordered two alcoholic cocktails; one Lemon Tree Cocktail (65LE) and an Apple Cinnamon Martini (65LE). Served quickly and expertly mixed, the Lemon Tree Cocktail was a bitter-sweet concoction, while our favourite, the Apple Cinnamon Martini, was fabulously sweet and fruity.
The menu boasts a decent selection Mediterranean cuisine. Split into clear sections, the menu even offers additional ‘first courses’, served between appetisers and mains, of linguine and pasta dishes.
Four our appetisers, we opted for the Brie and Fig Crostini (38LE), as well as the Shrimp and Pil Pil (60LE). Sounding delicious on paper, we were disappointed that the creamy brie slices were placed on pieces of dry toast with very slender slithers of fig. On the other hand, the fresh, juicy shrimp pieces were unusually served in a frying pan, marinated in a flavourful garlic and herb sauce.
Immediately after we set down our forks, our main courses of cranberry chicken roulade (92LE) and Moroccan veal (88LE) were served, without the gesture of clean cutlery. However, the Moroccan veal impressively arrived in a terracotta tagine with a tall lid; a bed of fluffy couscous surrounded a pool of rich gravy, infused with pieces of tangy lemon, soft onions and sweet apricot chunks. The veal cubes were chopped a little on the small side and, while we found one piece to be purely gristle, the rest were perfectly tender. In our second dish, two generously-sized chicken breasts were stuffed with a meagre amount of cranberries, but complimented by a fruity pink sauce and a side of soft peppers.
For dessert, we opted for their signature Lemon Cheesecake (44LE), which transpired to be a thick, creamy slice, with a sugary biscuit base. Although it certainly hit the spot, the lemon flavour was almost nonexistent.
Almost ruined by the sloppy service, the ambience and Nile view at the Lemon Tree & Co. is it’s saving grace – along with a well-thought out menu and excellent cocktails.