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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).
While the number of bars and clubs in Cairo is always on the increase, the nightlife scene in the capital is somewhat cliquey congregations, some with expensive minimums and tough door policies.
Not blessed with a bar scene to speak of, the Korba district of Heliopolis has recently welcomed the Garden.
Having suffered at the wrath of Facebook-users of Cairo for an alleged screening process that pries into Facebook profiles, we were glad our photos were up to par, managing to secure our group a table mid-week. Situated at the end of a small alley, right next to the Coffeeshop Company, the Garden is spread over a large outdoor patio and an indoor – but open fronted – bar area.
Complete with bare-brick walls, hanging Edison light bulbs, copious numbers of potted plants and charming bright red shutters on the exterior windows of the building above, the Garden has been meticulously designed to be chic, contemporary and stylish for its mixed-bag of fashionable clientele. With DJ Hishram Zahran on the decks at the time of our visit, the place was filled with chilled out dance beats, at a decent level so that conversation was still a possibility.
Despite being mid-week, the bar was packed, with most of the crowd standing inches away from one another and the staff running around like headless chickens. Choosing from a fully stocked bar and a long list of cocktails, we ordered several Smirnoff vodka (70LE) and Red Bulls (35LE), as well as a glass of chilled, Omar Khayyam white wine (50LE). We also took our own bottle (250LE for bouchon), and were afforded ice buckets to keep it cool.
Whilst we could appreciate the place was busy, waiting around 45 minutes – and having to nag constantly for our drinks every time – seemed a little ridiculous and the same gruelling process applied when ordering the check.
From a full menu of international appetisers, main meals and desserts, we opted for an Oriental sampler as a sharing platter (80LE). Also taking forever to arrive, and served cold, the best thing about the herby sogo’, crisp cheese and meat sambousak, and rich liver, was the attractive presentation on a wooden chopping board. We also spotted a number of impressive-looking, thick hamburgers floating around, whilst hearing complaints regarding long waiting times from a large number of diners.
While the Garden’s energy is buzzing, and the aesthetics are undoubtedly fabulous, the service most certainly is not – yet.