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The Bar: Expensive Drinks at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza
There comes a time in your life when you decide to live dangerously for one night, and in Cairo, there are plenty of ways to do just that. Eager to find the most expensive drinks in Cairo, we opted for the Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza in Garden City. The Four Seasons is synonymous with upscale luxury and way-out-of-our-budget prices; so the Bar was an easy choice for a quiet, expensive drink.
Located between Zitouni and Bella on the third floor, the bar talks up a dimly lit corner of the hotel with a killer Nile-front view. Although this reviewer visited on an early evening, the bar filled up pretty quickly and the comfortable Louis XIV chairs and oak tables facing the Nile were always occupied. The plush carpeting and floral art deco lighting make an intimate, refined atmosphere, while a pianist plays away through the evenings, adding to the elegant but still hotel-like atmosphere.
The bar’s menu is extensive and features black-and-white portraits of Samia Gamal and other Egyptian icons next to the drinks list. Why these portraits were chosen remains unclear; neither the menu nor the interior decor is particularly Egyptian-centric. Nonetheless, we were happy to locate a few pricey drinks, including the sake wine at 380LE per glass, champagne cocktails at 240LE per glass, and a glass of Johnny Walker Blue Label blend for 400LE.
Even cocktail shots are exaggeratedly expensive at 90LE. This reviewer tried the Tahrir Square shot (90LE), which consisted of Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Passion. The shot was served in a paltry portion for such a price, and was far too thick and sweet for our liking. You can also opt for a martini (80LE) including the intriguing cigar lovers martini. Our order of spiced watermelon martini, which is served with chilli vodka, was promptly returned to the bar as it lacked any watermelon flavour and was overpowered by the face-punch of the chilli.
Service at the Bar was great, as is expected from a five-star luxury hotel. Our waiter swiftly exchanged our drink without any argument, and apologised profusely when our order of Absolute Vodka (75LE) with cranberry juice (24LE) came with bland and sugary cranberry syrup instead. Additionally, the fact that we were charged for the cocktail's two ingredients irked us.
After munching on their complimentary bowls of pickled olives and nuts, we ordered two dishes off their snack menu for 150LE. Our order of spicy shrimp fritters arrived mild as per our request. The breaded and fried shrimp balls were served on a sea of lettuce with barely a drizzle of an indiscernible sauce. Our companion’s order of foie gras was served on crunchy toast with a side of jam, but its fried texture overpowered its rich flavour, killing the foie gras experience.
Our companion’s order of a glass of merlot wine was sent back to the bar, as the wine tasted like it had been open for a while. Our waiter acknowledged this and served a freshly opened glass of Terre De Soleil Merlot wine (120LE) instead. Our glasses of 12-year Glenfiddich single malt scotch whiskey (300LE) and Chivas Regal 18-year blend (150LE) were accompanied by ice pitchers, and our waiter complied with our request to match the servings, as one was less generous than the other.
Overall, this was an enjoyable though excruciatingly expensive night out, as we relaxed by the Nile view, took in the piano music and fantasized about the cigar collection (a Coheba will cost you 210LE while a Montechristo will set you back 180LE).
With many of the most frequented bars in Cairo located in the city's international chain hotels, the lesser-known inns are understandably overlooked when it comes to nightlife. However, such hotels develop a certain, charm while enduring the test of time, and manage to establish themselves as the city's best kept secrets.
Located on the corner of Tahrir Street in Dokki, El Tonsy Hotel boasts a rooftop café-bar that has grown in popularity as a result of its moderate prices and magnificent Nile view. Stepping out of the elevator on the 18th floor, visitors must walk through what appears to be the venue's shisha storage space, before reaching the terrace. The view is undoubtedly the highlight of the place and it certainly provides relief from the immediately obvious shortcomings of Brown Lounge.
Requesting a menu, the waiter handed us a flimsy and greasy booklet which appeared to be on the verge of collapsing into single pages.
The menu seemed full of a wide variety of meals including cheese burgers (14LE), beef or chicken shawerma (11LE-18LE) and taamia (7LE). Salads include green (9LE), Greek (12LE), chicken Caesar (14LE) and an assortment of local dips (6LE/each). The menu also offers a variety of tagines, along with meat and chicken platters.
At first, we were intending to order lentil soup (10LE) and stuffed vine leaves (14LE). However, we were visited numerous times by the waiter to be told that these, and the majority of other options, were in fact unavailable. Spring rolls (11LE) were recommended to us, and we opted for Arabiata pasta (14LE), with penne rather than spaghetti.
With local beers (15LE) and a small selection of wines readily available, it appears food is rarely ordered at Brown Lounge, with most patrons opting for a good drink and smoke by the Nile view instead. Rather than alcohol, we finished our meal with an enjoyable cup of green tea (8LE).
The simple dishes of pasta and spring rolls took almost an hour to arrive; unfortunately, the long wait came to no avail. The pasta was both undercooked and chewy whilst the red sauce topping was tasteless and overly salted. Generously sized, the four, large spring rolls were stuffed with carrots and lettuce, and although the better of the two dishes, they would have benefitted from a dipping sauce of sorts. But in the end, this is a bar, and we're always grateful for cheap beer.
Brown lounge is evidently not a place best suited to fill an empty stomach. However, if you’re ever in the mood to enjoy a relaxing drink with a gorgeous view, this is the place to be.