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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Amici: Trendy Nightspot Prevails a Year Later
Leather jackets aside, Amici is a decent option even if the bar is empty and you couldn’t care less about trendy people. The bar’s forte is its expertly mixed and creatively named cocktails and shooters, including stand out names like the horreya cocktail (‘made for Egyptians by Egyptians’), f**ked up, sex on the pyramids, man antom?! and many more. Cocktails range between 40LE and 60LE, and the menu includes the standard list of beers, wines, aperitifs and champagnes.
This reviewer’s favourite has always been the excessively girly but delicious kiss-me-tini (45LE), a cocktail of strawberry cream with vodka and chocolate sprinkles. It tastes just like strawberry ice cream; but with an evil twist. One year later, we were impressed to note that the cocktail has the same flavour, quality and serving portion as it did in 2010; a feat that few other Cairo bars manage to pull off in the long term.
Equally tasty was the amalfi coast sour (45LE), a light cocktail with a crushed pepper topping that contrasted nicely with the tangy flavour. If you prefer something heavier on the liquor, you can always try the whiskey mixed with fresh cinnamon and mint.
Amici has imposed an irritating 200LE minimum charge per person, which prevents you from stopping by for a quick drink, and so we decided to eat our money’s worth. The creamy chicken soup (25LE) definitely didn’t live up to the expectations conjured by the menu’s promising description. It was your basic, bland chicken soup found at generic restaurants.
The Amici salad (35LE) fared better with its creamy pesto sauce covering slices of beef and chicken with shredded bell peppers in the centre, though to be honest its flavour was forgettable and overshadowed by too much seasoning. The tiger shrimp konafa portions (50LE) were excellent; served steaming hot, the shrimp were wrapped in fried konaf but a little difficult to remove off the sticks that they came on. Nonetheless, they make for a light bite and work nicely with the spicy sweet sauce on the side. The mussels a la crème (40LE) were supposedly cooked in white wine, but we could only discern the garlic, although the mussels’ meat was chewy and well-cooked without being too dry. We also recommend the pizzas and the smoked salmon.
Based on our experience at Amici, we predict another good year ahead for this popular spot, which keeps changing up the game with new cocktails, occasional DJ nights, regular karaoke nights and a consistent influx of young and, yes, trendy Cairenes.
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.